Teacher Stories

Sam Harris is a leader of education

Sam Harris was named NEXT Expert Teacher and granted $5000 for his significant leadership achievements after graduating in The Mind Lab’s Postgraduate Certificate in Digital and Collaborative Learning.

The Mind Lab helped Sam develop a critical understanding of new educational practices while boosting his confidence as a leader of education.

Sam teaches both History and Social Studies, along with holding positions of Head of History at Manurewa High School and an Across School Leader, Te Kaahui Ako o Manurewa (The Community of Learning of Manurewa). He began his journey with The Mind Lab to help him succeed after being promoted into a head of department role, just two years into his teaching career.

“Before the course, I thought leadership was hierarchical, but I now know that successful leadership is actually about developing positive and beneficial relationships. For everybody to improve their practice, while you’re working towards a common goal.”

says, Sam Harris of Manurewa High School

“Now that I can reflect on that time, what I needed was the opportunity to develop my leadership skills.  That’s one of the things I enjoyed about The Mind Lab; I’m a better leader now.”

The Mind Lab exposed Sam to different leadership styles so he could discover which style worked best for his practice.

“There isn’t one single way to do things. The course provides an opportunity to develop and reflect on your practice.”

“I love the idea of servant leadership. It’s where you serve others to improve their practice before your own, as well as building relationships by working collectively on an initiative.”

Sam believes it’s critical for teachers to upskill and evolve their practice.

“You can’t be static as a teacher. That’s where things possibly have gone wrong with the education system in the past. It was hard to create change because teachers have been teaching the same thing in the same way, for so long.”

“The world is just different now. We need to embrace change. If we don’t, it’s going to be detrimental to our kids. I can’t think of anything worse than one of our kids entering into the world of work without digital literacy skills. We’re doing our kids a disservice if we don’t upskill in those areas.”

The Mind Lab’s focus on bringing innovative technology into the classroom to facilitate digital fluency has made a significant impact on Sam’s class. Before the course, Sam wasn’t confident to introduce new technology, just in case it didn’t go to plan.

“I utilise new technology differently now.  I now realise problem-solving is all part of the learning process. Often my kids will be better at using this new tech than me and I can learn with them.

Since graduating, Sam’s been inspired to implement gaming into his practice. He’s recently utilised Minecraft within Social Studies, with a popular unit surrounding the cultural significance of different landmarks. His class built a website using Google sites and recreated the landmarks in Minecraft. One of the standout moments for Sam was with his student from Serbia who spoke little English and was able to optimise Google Translate to contribute and flourish fully.

“It showed me these digital skills my kids are building are actually a universal language and that was a cool learning for me as a teacher.”

As a result of graduating, Sam encourages critical thinking in his class and focuses not just on the task itself but how they approach it. A big pillar for Sam is to self-question, so learners don’t just accept their world, they learn to confidently challenge the status quo.

“I hope that if you ask my kids about how I teach, they would say ‘he tells us to question everything.’”

Sam loves working at Manurewa High and can’t imagine a better place to spend his time.

“South Auckland is a culturally rich amazing place with an incredible sense of community. The kids I teach are wonderful, and I couldn’t speak more highly of them. They’re hilarious,  they’re frustrating, but fantastic at the same time.

“I’ve been at my school for six years now, and I thought I wouldn’t stay at a school for more than five,  but I can’t leave. I love where I work. It has a sense of home, and I think that’s probably something that not all teachers can say.”

Find out more how The Mind Lab’s Postgraduate Certificate in Digital and Collaborative Learning can help you.

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