Kaitlyn writes about the graduation of Teach First NZ's inaugural cohort from her unique perspective of being both the wife of a participant and a staff member.
It was Monday, but Monday with a twist. There was nothing mundane about this Monday, because Teach First NZ’s first ever cohort was graduating.
We gathered for lunch to start off with – participants, family and staff. The room that was ours for the afternoon held a weighty mixture of laughter, tears, and long, reflective glances into the past, as well as hearty spurs into the future. When we had eaten our fill, cohort members stood up to speak, thanking their fellow participants and staff for journeying alongside them, acknowledging their families and friends – those who paved the way for them to get to this point – each standing with a new clarity of vision, a sense of purpose, a confidence in their ability to work alongside others, and in particular with their students. In response, members of staff thanked the participants for being willing to take a risk with Teach First NZ (forming its first ever cohort), and then going on to becoming its success.
Finally, we made our way to Aotea Centre for the ceremony. The participants lined up to be seated near the stage, while the rest of us wove our way through clusters of other heavily-gowned students flanked by their proud families and friends, and found seats in the gallery. Achievements were acknowledged, and name after name was read out, until at last, we watched and cheered with gusto as our inaugural participants strode across the stage, beaming with pride for themselves and each other.
As I whooped and chee-hooed for the cohort, I felt the lasting significance of their achievement. Two weeks later, I still do. Hitting pause and taking off my Teach First NZ staff hat for a moment, I want to honour the participants from a wife’s point of view.
I witnessed Josh’s heart for his kids – his commitment and struggle. I sensed his anxiety when his students weren’t doing so well, but also the pride and relief when they did. Because he cared, everything was that much harder. He worked tirelessly for his many relationships and layers of accountability during the programme: his students, their parents, his mentor, curriculum specialists, colleagues, management, the University, his fellow participants, the Teach First NZ staff and the wider community. Each term, Josh had a bottomless pit of work – marking and planning night after night, and assignments to be completed on top of his teaching responsibilities.
But because of his hard work and perseverance, I can say with confidence (and I know that he could as well) that he has developed a deep and complex understanding of his students, their cultures, communities and worldview. He has earned trust and formed relationships that will last a long, long time. He has joined and worked alongside the wider community of teachers and leaders in Aotearoa who want to see the next generation thrive and excel.
Even though I have been describing what I’ve seen of Josh’s journey, I could just as easily say the same things about anyone else who graduated alongside him. I have probably only scratched the surface of what the 2013 cohort have been through and achieved, but it is for these reasons I will hold their graduation very close to my heart as a milestone for both the Teach First NZ whānau as well as my own.
Graduating class of 2013 and Teach First NZ staff, missing cohort members Hannah Lees, Antonia McBryde and Jo Pascoe.
Josh (2013 Participant, now Alumni) and Kaitlyn Irving (Teach First NZ's Operations and Communications Coordinator)