Showcase: Rebekah Nathan

This week we hear from creative educator Rebekah Nathan, who credits her experience at #educampwelly for prompting her to try something new in her classroom. She is a primary teacher at Karori Normal School.

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1. What brought you to #WellyED?

I met a few of the #WellyED folks over Twitter and was so excited at the prospect of becoming more and more connected with fellow innovative and creative educators. I love how Twitter has created the possibility for our professional learning community to go beyond our schools, beyond a few day long courses a year and into a fluid, flexible and collaborative experience.

2. What’s something exciting that’s happening in your sector or in your classroom?

After seeing the little bots Jess (@jlweich) brought to educampwelly I was so inspired to try them out. I finally got the chance during our Science rotations last week and it was truly one of the most exciting times I’ve had in a classroom. The kids were just beside themselves with joy at creating something real and the sparks of innovation were incredible. All I did was give them the equipment, the freedom to explore and make their own decisions and off they went. You could hear conversations about all sorts of science and design concepts flying around the classroom (“Shall we counter balance it with another cork on the other side?”, “How much force do we need to get it to lift off, cut the propellor with more of a curve to catch the air?”) and the changes they made to their bots were so rapid as they came across problems or wanted to push what it could do further. I loved it.

The other thing I’m excited about is working with my students to figure out how we can best have them involved in designing and timetabling their own learning, when we don’t have the  freedom BYOD or 1:1 devices brings. They are super motivated to be in charge, and have been empowered in their inquiry by trying to solve really interesting problems like the water crisis in California by building a desalination plant or creating salt eating bacteria that you remove with magnets. They love the ability to really nut out a problem or work all day on a particular design or piece of art and I’m really looking forward to seeing them use this innovation to figure out how they’re going to be able to keep doing it!

3. Who or what inspires you?

Oh man, so much! Is it really cheesy to say my students? I’m constantly surprised and inspired by their questions, ideas, solutions. I’m really passionate about social justice, empathy and critical thinking, this is always woven into my classroom practice and I want my students to embrace the idea that they not only can impact the world for positive change, but should. That we should question everything and not settle for a society that doesn’t fully look after all of its members. Seeing students engage in this idea in the classroom and wider society, and challenging me to examine my ideas is what inspires me. One of my students from last year came back to tell me that she had joined the feminist group at college – I was so stoked.

4.  What’s your next professional learning goal?

To become more proficient in Te Reo Maori so that I can embed it more authentically into my classroom practice. I think it is really important to value the language as something that is precious but also a totally valid and equally important way of expressing yourself. I don’t know that we do this super well yet across schools in Aotearoa and I teach in an area where Te Reo Maori isn’t heard very often, but if we want it to be valued then we have to model it and not only include it in a tokenistic manner.

5. When I’m not teaching I’m…

Sleeping? I do love sleep but you’ll probably find me having a beer with friends, trying to tend to my little veggie garden, reading, knitting, drawing, taking photos, watching dark Scandinavian crime shows or Parks and Rec, listening to records/Beyonce, patting my cat, going for walks around our neighbourhood with my husband, and much internetting.

Connect with Rebekah on Twitter (@paradisecreated), on Google+ (+rebekahnathan), and/or follow her class on Twitter (@msnathansclass) and their blog (millionsofthumbprints).

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