Skills Share at Trackers Earth School, Portland
This is a long overdue post. I wanted to write about a wonderful thing that I experienced in Portland, at the Trackers Earth School. It is very simple. Teachers share skills. Please note that although I refer in this post to 'teachers', I use the term for ease of reading and I'm also referring to teaching assistants, midday supervisors and all the educational professionals that make up a school environment. Everyone that works within a school has the opportunity to teach the children that surround them and create a positive learning environment which offers support in a wide variety of ways.
In typical schools, every teacher attends weekly staff training and meetings. In these we as educational professionals hash out and discuss pedagogical matters and the workings of our classroom lives. These meetings are an important part of communication across a school and will directly affect classroom practice. Yet little time is given to sharing skills from our wider lives. And teachers are wonderful creatures, with all sorts of skills and hobbies! Teaching can feel like an all-consuming profession, but it only represents one part of our complicated lives. You may be a father, mother, friend, partner, environmentalist, vegetarian, kayaker, knitter, any number of things. However, these identities of ours are often compartmentalised to discrete parts of our lives. And while these different parts of us do co-exist they may often function independently. Yet, all the different things that we do shape us and the interactions that we have. We as teachers are indeed professionals, but we are also humans with a whole host of life experiences and potential skills that can arguably enrich a school community.
One teacher was showing how you can use stinging nettle stalks to create rope!
It was whilst visiting Trackers Earth school that this really hit home for me. I was invited to visit the school in the evening for one of their weekly skills share sessions. Put simply this is a time when teachers share their skills. This was such a simplistic and beautiful idea and when I saw it in practice it was a really fulfilling experience. Teachers and staff were dotted around the school environment getting busy. The children and parents were free to wander and participate with the teachers and learn a new skill. I appreciated this act of sharing on many levels. It was nice for parents and children to access a new learning experience together. As adults in particular, it is easy to forget the vulnerability of being a learner. This could be a great opportunity for parents and carers to feel empathy with their children, to improve and hone a new skill together.
Sorting berries for jam making.
It enabled the children and families to humanise their teachers; to see their educators as real people not just teachers. Yes they were still teaching and skill sharing but they were also being open and sharing something personal from their lives that interests them. This can build connections and shared interest in the community and can offer inspiration. It was also a lovely built-in time which staff got to dedicate to their hobbies and projects. I can understand the value in this especially in a busy profession such as teaching. But most simply, as humans, we all have something to share. The skills share was a simple, lovely and accessible way to implement this. Communities and individuals can grow stronger with links such as these being forged.