, ,

Reflections on working with a master teacher

For five weeks over July and the start of August 2023 I had the pleasure of hosting my friend and mentor Tim Taylor on a tour of the North Island of Aotearoa. We visited Whangarei, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Gisborne, Plimmerton and Auckland’s North Shore. We taught in schools, we presented workshops on our new book Try This, and we teamed up with Whakarongo Tauranga as co-facilitators of the DI Trust’s Mantle of the Expert winter school. It was a delight to connect with colleagues from around the country and a privilege to be invited into classrooms. In other posts I’ll share more detail about the content of the workshops some feedback from participants, and news about exciting new PLD opportunities and projects that have grown out of the tour. For now, though, a brief reflection on the experience of working alongside a master teacher.

I learned so much from observing and teaching Tim’s practice. I know all the teachers we worked with felt the same way – the children too. Great teachers open spaces for exploration and meaning-making that imprint in the memory and stay with you long afterwards. And where a great teacher is also a master in Dramatic Inquiry, as Tim is, something even more powerful can happen. It’s to do with the conscious conjuring of the aesthetic through embodiment and the senses; it’s about the paying of deep serious attention; it’s about authenticity and reciprocity; and it’s about sensing connection between what’s happening in the room right now and big human experiences in the past, present and future. It can be hard to put into words, at least in the English language. With my limited understanding of te re Māori I find myself reaching for kupu like ‘wairua’ and ‘ako’ to express these concepts and their transformative potential.

Great teaching is also ephemeral. While people in the room might remember it forever, the moment passes without trace. Sometimes we can capture a flavour of it through sound or visual recording. And sometimes, if the master teacher is generous and reflective, as Tim is, we can invite them to explain and demystify their practice for others to learn from. I’m thrilled that with the support of teachers, parents and tamariki, we were able to take dozens of photos and video clips during our tour. I’m also pleased to report that I asked lots of questions and took lots of notes. Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be working with Tim to craft these into learning stories, videos and other materials to share with you. Here be riches, folks … Watch this space!

Photo by Michelle Hall, Makaraka School, Gisborne