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Student Stories

Teacher gains her voice by studying at The Mind Lab

Sara Speight is a Teacher and Year 10 Dean at Paraparaumu College and completed The Mind Lab’s Postgraduate Certificate in Digital & Collaborative Learning, then continued on to study her Master of Contemporary Education.

Sara Speight Teacher and Learner Master of Contemporary Education

Despite being a busy teacher, dealing with multiple cancer diagnoses, and raising two daughters, lifelong learner Sara Speight decided to embark on The Mind Lab’s Master of Contemporary Education.

Teaching at Kapiti’s Paraparaumu College in various roles, including as current Year 10 Dean, Sara was also juggling raising two daughters alongside her coursework.

Returning to study is no easy decision to make, but it was one that took Sara on a personal journey, giving her confidence and a “voice” in her industry.

“It was mind blowing when I learnt about servant leadership, because that was me. My values are kindness and supporting people,” says Sara.

She began by studying The Mind Lab’s Postgraduate Certificate in Digital and Collaborative Learning, which was followed by a Master of Contemporary Education.

Developing her Masters project

Sara’s Masters project wasn’t based on curriculum, but developing self-regulation strategies. Through her own daughter, she noticed how self-management was taught in primary school, but students seemed to stop developing those skills in secondary school.

So, she worked with her tūhono, a Year 9 Form Class, on integrating emotional well-being and managing their own learning into classroom activities. Sara quickly realised she couldn’t be an isolated “island” and had to integrate her learnings into the whole school.

“I really enjoyed the relationship that I developed with the kids,” Sara says. “The whole experience was a highlight of my teaching career, even though it’s been over 20 years of teaching at the same school!”

Supported by a school colleague who had done a Masters and PHD, Sara was supported in applying for grants, and was awarded the Study Award through the Ministry Of Education, and financial support for the Masters course.

Despite every student being in a different situation in regards to their home and work life, Sara says everyone was able to get the support they needed to learn, graduate, and be proud of their achievements.

“There was definitely a lot of support available, even with Covid. There were a lot of Zoom sessions offered.”

While there was support from both students and tutors, Sara felt able to make decisions about her project independently.

Reflecting on meaningful moments from her two years of study, Sara recalls getting to hear the presentations of projects from the other year group. “They have done it – I can do it too!”

Another highlight included working with her Ropu group of four – all different people, with different projects – who were able to talk and learn from each other.

“I learnt a lot about Māori values and that learning aligned with what was happening at my school.”

Being mid-way through her career, Sara discovered the empowerment that comes with studying leadership.

“My colleagues already saw me as a leader, it’s me who had the mind block. It really helped me with my imposter syndrome.”

To anyone considering signing up to the Master of Contemporary Education, Sara’s advice is to “go for it.”

“Start off with the DCL (Digital & Collaborative Learning) programme, how it goes, and maybe you’ll be like me and want to go further,” says Sara.

Despite the course being over now, she remains friends with her classmates on social media and Slack, catching up with them outside the course.

Once the programme was over, Sara assumed she would feel relieved, but actually felt a bit lost and, like a true lifelong learner, questioned what was next for her.

“I feel like I’ve done this massive project and can’t just leave it there, I’ve got to keep going!”

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