Thursday, March 31, 2016

…and this is my story…

I want to tell you a story, a very personal story, a story from my heart…

I grew up in a rural setting, in a loving family, with a teacher mother, and could have been the classic education success story, but I wasn’t…

At the age of 5 on day one at school, the senior’s taught me how to do a forward roll, which I proudly performed on the mat as the afternoon began.  To this day I remember my mortification as the teacher said ‘show off on your birthday, show off all year round.’  A little part of me withered and died.  I remember trying to read and write like the other learners, but the letters were just black lines… and they didn’t make any sense to me, so I quickly learnt to memorise what the others said… I remember always wanting to question, but knowing that questions were not for me to ask.  Questions came from the teacher and getting the right answer was important.  I remember deciding that it was better not to answer than the shame of getting it wrong.  Another little part of me withered and died. 

I dreamt of how it could be.

I lived for the breaks when I could be outside and play and socialise.  There is a lot of gray in my memories from 6 – 8 but life in the senior room has a lot of dark and black.  Reading around in a circle became a daily terror, and my fear heightened my errors and my errors led to laughter and shame. 

I am acutely aware of the power of the memory to hold on to the highlights and the lowlights, and all the in between can become a blur. 

My highlight came in year 8, with the arriving of Mr V.  Mr V let us learn by doing.  He let us create a recipe book from all our family recipes.  He let us use the banda machine to copy the book.  He let us assemble and staple the book and sell the book as a camp fundraiser.  He let us take photos on his camera and develop the photos in the newly created school dark room.  He let us dream and believe and what’s more he let us achieve.  I have vivid memories of euphoric feelings of learning.  I developed a hunger for learning, a quest for knowledge, an insatiable curiosity about the world outside my little village.  And most of all, I learnt to read.  I read my first book – Lorna Doone at the age of twelve.  I experienced the feeling of journey into the arena that exists within the words on the page. I escaped to another world.  And I never stopped reading and wondering and questioning. 

Forever I am indebted to Mr V for giving us freedom, giving us choice, giving us power and in a way, for giving us a key to the world of hands on, active, self driven learning.

High school was a dream for me.  I had flicked the learning switch and I escaped to France through my French lessons.  So vivid were my experiences during my three years of French with Mr P, that I was overcome with emotion when I later visited France, travelled up the Champs Elyse, visited the Eiffel Tower and felt the pulse of the French people and language. 

Leaving school I was determined to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher.  I had such a strongly held belief that if I could become a teacher I could make a difference.  The first time around at College of Education, I experienced a posting with a teacher that returned me to the gray land… the land of fear, and control, and right answers, and darkness.

I just wasn’t ready for this.  I escaped to another chapter in my life; a chapter that I will devote a separate blog post to. 

Fast forward 18 years and the pull was so strong that I returned to the Dunedin College of Education, graduating in 2000 with a Bachelor of Education – Teaching.

So strong was my passion for education and desire for learning that I completed my Master of Educational Leadership in 2010, and have continued to study e-learning papers out of University of Tasmania.

Alongside my MAGICAL ten years of teaching, five as a Deputy Principal,  I have celebrated a year long NAPP journey and a CORE education e-fellowship. 

Now out of the class, I am deeply committed to my facilitation role – Learning with Digital Technologies Facilitator.  (or facilitator of happiness as my mother calls it.)

The highs and lows of my learning journey are significant.  What is it that makes this journey powerful?  What is it that aligns with learners today?


  1. Hi Ann, I enjoyed reading your story. I can really relate to your experiences with reading. I too hated reading aloud. I would try to anticipate what section of the text I might be made to read and try to read it ahead of time, thus completely missing any chance of actually comprehending what I was reading. School was all about conforming, following the rules and ticking the boxes. I'm so glad that this is changing, and that my children are experiencing school in a more positive way. They know that sometimes learning is hard, sometimes we fail but that's part of the learning journey. Perseverance and determination helps you to succeed. Their teachers really know them and support them to be the best they can be.
    Ann, I absolutely love your passion and enthusiasm for education. I'm sure your classes would have been ‘magical’ places to learn in.
    It's also thanks to your encouragement that I'm on my current journey….exploring my leadership capabilities through NAPP. You are inspiring! Thanks Ann ☺️

    1. Hi Steph,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. I found it incredibly valuable to commit a smattering of feelings. I have been grappling for a long time over my journey and need to share it. In sharing the story, I am beginning to unpack some of my assumptions and feelings of frustration. I am beginning to own the experience and see my part in it. I am beginning to build a much needed bridge that for ‘oh so many years’ has been too painful to walk over. I am beginning to see myself in the journey, rather than try to recoil from it. I am beginning to see myself as less of a victim and more of a ________ not sure of the word here yet. By the way, if anyone knows of a word to fit here I would love to discuss. My lack of speaking out at the time made me complicit in the journey. My lack of moving beyond the ‘darklands’ made me coward and passenger rather than co-driver of the journey. My lack of ‘risk taking’ made me fearful in ways I can not yet begin to explain. My disconnect with the process of learning as a young learner leaves me wondering… I am beginning to move on this….
      Thank you Steph for acknowledging my passion for education. I am beginning to value the richness of my journey and its ability to take me to places. I am beginning to articulate the very real need to have experienced challenge, real learning challenge, to be able to empathise. I am beginning to see myself in a whole new way.
      I am in awe of you Steph, in your NAPP journey. You are an inspiration, challenging, growing, learning and leading. Thank you so much for your validation, your colleagueship and your friendship.