A few days ago we put out a few questions at TED and Architecture for Humanity’s page on LinkedIn. The questions were directed to people who in one way or another had worked with and/or for children and/or Students.

One of the first people to respond was Sandra, a teacher from New Zealand, and here is what she wrote:


I will try to answer your questions from my experiences of teaching in New Zealand. I will delete questions that I have no idea how to answer as they are not my expertise. I hope I am helpful to you. It is the second part of your questions I am interested in :)

“We have found that, just as Sir Ken Robins argues in his famous talks about the education paradigm, kids are being taught out of creativity.”

 So when you work with people who you feel have unlearned their imagination, how do you go about re-opening that side of them?
My first thought is to find out who the person is, if we don’t know who we are working with we have no hope of sharing our knowledge with them. I was taught that we need to enable students to give up a little of themselves, if that means sharing about themselves let them, because we have no right to demand learning from them if we just spoon feed from our perspective without acknowledging theirs. If we close off to a student when they are sharing about themselves we are saying ‘that is not important’ and this is really awful. Yes I am a teacher, I have learned more along my journey, but it doesn’t mean my student’s experiences are less valuable than mine.

To get imagination happening we have to enable them to gain confidence in us as professionals, yes we know what we are doing, but we don’t just expect one ‘right’ answer… Perhaps there are many ways to solve a problem?

Humour, starters, activities that involve conversation.

By being human, we all are human’s first, teachers/students second. There could be many things happening in a student’s life that we don’t know, and if we don’t know & recognise them for what they are then it is impossible to scratch below the surface to know what’s going on. Sometimes students don’t want us to answer their questions or solve their problems, they just need someone to talk to and someone who will respect their privacy and be grateful that they are willing to share. Sometimes that sharing is enough to give them confidence to step forward and give more of themselves.

When working with projects that concerns a big part of the community, how do you get them involved?
Ask community what they want to achieve, if there are mutual benefits community will get involved.  I live near a community school which does not have full time qualified teachers, but has a number of adults who have set up ‘school’ to help disadvantaged children. They have a community garden and teach the students basics of gardening and basic every day skills that are needed in the real world. That community garden services many lower income families in the community.

Please tell us about one (or more) methods of your personal favorites, when it comes to opening up the process and creating new ideas?
I love to use a soft squishy ball that gets passed from one person to the next, with people sharing ideas (only when they have the ball in hand), building mutal respect for everyone’s ideas/concepts, no rights/wrongs, just sharing of ideas, brainstorming. Having a reporter from the group to write ideas on the board, or groups reporting back to groups etc… collaborative learning experiences :)

Please tell us about a good experience while working in collaboration with users.
Using a teaching example I used…One of my favourite units was teaching about the 1960s. I taught students about various aspects of the 1960s topic, USA, Vietnam War, Clothing, language, culture, hippies etc… it was fascinating for me as well as students!! Anyway, while we were studying this I allowed students to draw a huge mural in my classroom on poster paper which I had stapled to the walls… as people were finishing work early or just felt like they needed a break from writing etc they were able to pick up some crayons and draw my classroom mural so long as it was based on the topic we were studyin. By the end of the unit there was a fantastic display of artwork that truly represented the subject we were studying. Across three groups of students (approximately 90 students) we were able to create an awesome piece of artwork that everyone had some input into. no right or wrongs, just a sharing of concepts and ideas associated with the study. This was a huge learning experience as each student drew based on the aspects they enjoyed of the unit, and it helped everyone remember more of the subject :)

What does that mean to you?
It was an awesome teaching/learning experience, where everyone’s ideas were valued, no right or wrong, mutual agreement. It made me proud of being part of that group as the teacher. Everyone enjoyed the experience and learned a whole lot along the journey (including myself). I learned what topics interested students, and how many talented artists were in my classroom :)

I don’t know if I have answered what you want to hear? I hope it is of some use, otherwise I have just had a good trip down memory lane. Have a nice day.

Sandra from New Zealand.


Reading Sandra’s answers made our day, we hope they will lighten yours as well



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