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Student Stories

Learning remotely as a rural teacher: Todd’s story

teacher Todd Gorinski standing in school playground

Todd Gorinski is a recent graduate of The Mind Lab’s Postgraduate Certificate in Digital & Collaborative Learning, and studied the course entirely remotely, from Dunedin.

The Abbotsford Primary School Teacher started the course in January 2021, during the second year in his teaching career.

Initially, 24-year-old Todd was meant to study the course with a colleague, but they ended up missing the intake, and he was left to do it alone.

“I was nervous about talking to other people, and being a beginning teacher… that I would be out of depth. But it ended up being an amazing opportunity,” says Todd.

There were certainly challenges – lots of new language, new theories, ideas – for example, the leadership theories, which Todd says he couldn’t relate to at the time.

“I thought… I’m not a leader – I’m just a school teacher! I’m not leading any new initiatives in my school. But, now I am, and it’s all working itself out. It’s awesome.”

While he felt a bit of anxiety around getting to know his cohort – especially over Zoom – the weekly sessions ended up being cathartic, and Todd looked forward to getting to debrief about his day alongside other teachers he could relate to.

“Learning entirely online was really, really good, super accessible. It was hard at times to find the motivation after a school day, but that was made easier by joining while I was still at school or going home then joining the class,” says Todd.

The Mind Lab offers flexible learning to students – whether you work better in a group with colleagues to brainstorm with, or individually around your own working schedule, you can study to your own individual needs.

As a late-night person (8pm and 2am), and the only teacher enrolled in the course from his school, Todd fell into the latter category, choosing to complete his assignments individually.

“It meant that I didn’t have to be flexible and make my time work with anyone else.”

The flexibility was great, but Todd was initially concerned about how he would fit the study and assignments into his schedule while being so busy with his Year 5 and 6 students in the classroom.

“While it is time consuming, they are meaningful assignments. They tie into the things you are doing with your students,” says Todd.

Despite it feeling daunting to have ‘fixed-time’ classes during a busy work week, Todd says they ended up making him accountable, and the group discussions allowed him to make deeper reflections about the learning material.

“If you’re implementing something new in your class, thinking: How is this actually going to work? What are the kids actually getting out of this? What could I do better?”

The course didn’t just improve Todd’s critical thinking, but allowed him to build relationships with a variety of diverse roles; team leaders, beginner teachers, deputy principals, teachers in primary and secondary.

Despite doing assignments individually, he learnt so much from the collaborative group discussions during classes. “It was really interesting to get everyone’s different perspectives.”

Despite being based in Dunedin when most of the cohort were in Auckland, Todd was still able to build up his professional network, and remain uninterrupted throughout the various Covid-19 lockdown periods.

Whether studying online or in person, students were provided with extra time for assignments throughout heightened stress periods, like lockdowns and flooding.

Todd’s message to those considering studying the Digital & Collaborative Learning Postgrad Certificate? “Just jump in and do it.”

“It is time-consuming, and you do need to be prepared to make a commitment… but the assignments are contextual and meaningful, which does alleviate time pressures.”

Todd will begin his Master of Contemporary Education at The Mind Lab in July, and received a Regional Productivity scholarship – available for learners who reside outside the Greater Auckland region – to cover his full fees.

You can read more about The Mind Lab scholarships here.

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