Karen Boyes has been a colourful, hugely valuable consultant around Westmount School campuses for over a decade. Her seasonal contribution has been to deliver her world-renowned Study Skills workshops for students.
Now she is taking on a full-time role as Director of the Teacher Academy, and will become a perennial feature of our teaching and learning system.
It’s a big change for an educator who has developed wide-ranging expertise and business interests. Karen is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the highest international accreditation for speakers worldwide. She has worked with over 200 organisations worldwide, and presented in 18 countries. She is an author and the creator of the Teachers Matter Magazine, Teachers Matter Conference, Kids Matter Conference, Study Smart Workshops and the Habits of Mind Bootcamp. She is also CEO of Spectrum Education, Affiliate Director of the Institute for the Habits of Mind, NZ Educator of the Year 2014, NZ Speaker of the Year 2013, NZ Business Woman of the Year 2001. Her success has been fueled by early work as a teacher, watching how the excitement, passion and wonderment of a six-seven year old starts to die.
“I wondered what we were doing to turn them off, and I wanted to turn it around.”
Now Karen sees the opportunity to have greater impact on best education practice, in building the Teacher Academy as a model for world-class teacher development.
“I’ve been like a one hit wonder. I go into schools and inspire teachers and students. Now I can do something more long term. I can see practice changing.”
Karen has a vision for an end result that she describes as Excellence and likens it to Sir Peter Jackson’s private theatre in Wellington. “It’s not something you know until you walk in there. It just oozes excellence.”
The challenge of the vision is that “we don’t know what we don’t know”.
Her plan is to focus on personal and professional development. The foundational guideline is we are all Learning to Learn, teachers included.
“I have a very wholistic outlook on teaching. Understanding of Self is extremely important. As adults we all go through highs and lows, as our learners do. Personal development is important, and there are always opportunities for growth.”
Professional Learning Groups established in the Teacher Academy in 2016 will be structured to deepen practice, to get better results. Masterclass formats will enable teachers to learn from each other, and for learning to be personalised and responsive to needs.
The priorities are Self-Directed Learning, using Languages of Learning and Cultures of Thinking, and preparing students to be workplace-ready.
The three strategies are:
Karen says all schools have a burning need for new skills, but the will is dampened by fear of failure and an inability to take risks. “That’s partly the Tall Poppy Syndrome and partly it’s the bell curve that says half will fail. But if you want students to take risks, then the teacher has to as well.”
To provide guidance on risk-tasking, she references an American military philosophy, where soldiers are trained to work between the rumble strips. “I like that analogy for teachers too – how can I further my practice and stay within the rumble strips?”