Who’s Learning from Who? An Instructor’s Perspective

by Bree Arnott

I’m sure you’ve all heard us wax lyrical about all the wonderful things the students have learned in their programmes – but what if you flick that round and look at that from a different perspective?

Our super woman instructor, Joni Tomsett, shows us it’s not all one way traffic on the learning front!

The things that I’ve learnt from my students as an instructor

2018 is coming to an end and soon our instructor rosters will be reading ‘on leave’ as we enjoy a well-earned rest.  I have taken the time to reflect on the last year and the incredible programmes that I have been a part of –  the different types of programmes, activities, locations but the most memorable part of my whole year has been the students that I have been lucky enough to work with.

Students come to WIO hoping to gain some new skills, have some fun and maybe gain some credits towards NCEA but my hope is always that they will go away with so much more than that. I hope that they come to WIO and succeed at those things but are also supported to explore & develop other skills such as initiative, compassion, resilience and management of self. I’m consistently blown away by the young people that come as individuals, how they come together to form a strong team to tackle the challenges that we present them with and how they support each other through these.

I’m like a proud big sister.

The young people that come on our programmes come to learn from us but unbeknown to them, I am also learning from them… Here are the five learning that I’ve taken from 2018 and the amazing students that I’ve met at WIO

journey tramping on the beach

1. The connection to individuals is paramount to growth

In the wise words of fellow instructor Kiwa, “Connection is everything” and the connections that I’ve made with students will be ones that I’ll never forget. Everyone has been so different but also so special in their own way. It’s amazing to see what each person has been able to bring to the group/programme and how most students have flourished when given the opportunity to just be themselves. Every student that has made me laugh, think or even cringe, thank you! You make my job what it is.

2. There is always more in us than we know

As instructors we very often hear “I can’t do it”, “I don’t think that I can do this”, and “No, I don’t want to do it” and most of the time… They can and they do.

Seeing students put barriers up is always challenging because as an instructor you can see the potential that they hold – and seeing this actually motivates you to push the student to step past those barriers to succeed and then grow.

This has taught me a lot about my own self and whenever I catch myself saying “I don’t think that I can do this”, I laugh, think of the students who have said the same & keep moving forward.

So if I’ve said to you this year “aww man, I’m so proud of you!” I mean it & remember that there is more in you!

3. The importance of pausing to appreciate our environment and people

This one came to me fairly recently. We had been walking for 5 hours already, everyone was tired and slightly tired. we arrived to a beautiful lookout and the group collapsed. Being quite a task focused person I started saying “Okay guys, 10-minute break and then we need to be walking again” but stopped after hearing a young man say to his friend “what’s the point of walking all the freaking time if we can’t stop and appreciate it” and you know what. He’s right.

We stopped for a long time, we took off our packs, laughed and took in the view. That moment was the catalyst for change in my instructing and really reiterated the importance of taking that time to appreciate where you are and who you’re with. That’s what it’s all about

4. Good food equates to happiness

I don’t think that I need to elaborate on this.

The fondest moments I have from this year are around a table with everyone, tired, dirty and shovelling bacon broccoli pasta into my mouth for the 30th time or at a campsite sipping on a Milo at the beach while playing mafia.

If there is good food, no matter the situation… there is happiness and I think the students can attest to this one!

5. That the students of Whenua Iti are the future compassionate leaders of New Zealand

They are. A lot of the students that I see coming through the gates of Whenua Iti are the young people who have the potential to be strong, compassionate and confident leaders. I see young people who hold themselves with pride and use this confidence to build others up. I see young people who look outwardly to see who they can help around them before thinking about their wants. I see young people who are hilarious, energetic and fun & I see young people who stand strong in themselves and their beliefs.

If the students who have been on a Whenua Iti programme continue to work towards being comfortable in discomfort and stand tall then I suspect that soon they will be role modelling strong leadership to others however that may look.

Lastly, I want to do a big shout out to all of the phenomenal students that I’ve had the pleasure of instructing. Thank you for your energy and trust in us as instructors and hope that you have left with skills that you may have no come with. You have made 2018 a great one and I’m looking forward to either seeing you next year or crossing paths with you in the future.

Stand tall and keep acting with strength and kindness

Lots of love, Joni

Want to find out more about a program or have a question for us?
Talk to one of our friendly team - we're happy to help.