Sam Honey - Tertiary Teaching Excellence Teaching Profile
Teaching profile from Sam Honey (Senior Academic Staff Member, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic) - a Sustained Excellence winner 2009
Senior Academic Staff Member, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic
Because Sam is responsible for the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic’s preparation programme for aspiring police officers, her curriculum is strongly contextualised and based on an understanding of student purpose. She believes that as a teacher she must embody what she is asking for from her students, even going back to policing work and passing the police physical requirements with her students.
Sam’s teaching is characterised by her caring, empowering relationship with her students, and this has a deeply lasting impact on their careers and self-belief. As one student comments, “Every time I do something towards my career I think to myself, I know I can do this, and I hear Sam saying, you go girl!”
With her teaching grounded in research, Sam generously shares her expertise with other programmes. The hallmark of her teaching is communicating her faith in her students. In the words of one student: “She relates to students as if she already knows that we are going to make great police officers”.
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Henry Adams
My passion and purpose is to inspire students to achieve their goals, ensure they believe in themselves, and develop a drive for continual personal growth.
Throughout my career I have always got a buzz witnessing people positively change their life direction: as an ACCESS tutor in 1987 for women returning to the workforce, a frontline police officer then police education officer in schools from 1992 until 2001, through to eight years (and 25 classes) as programme coordinator and tutor for the Certificate in Preparation for Law Enforcement Level 3 at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.
I have had the pleasure of watching more than 250 students come through my programme and develop career skills, self belief and a willingness to keep learning, and I have been fortunate to have been a part of their academic and vocational successes as well as their personal development. Alumni continue belonging to the programme and the journey, returning as guest speakers and motivating new students.
My programme benefits from the great diversity in the backgrounds of my students. Many come with no formal qualifications from school and their educational, upbringing and cultural backgrounds are as diverse as their ages, ranging from 17 – 40 plus years. An early priority is getting to know students and their strengths and learning style preferences. The concept of Ata and its underpinning principles described by Pohatu (Forsythe & Kung, 2007) is the direction I am currently exploring as I continue to develop my teaching practice.
Extending learning opportunities and broadening horizons
Development of my formal education includes a Bachelors Degree in Social Sciences, Diploma in N.Z. Policing (1994), Certificate in Adult Learning and Teaching Level 5, Certificate in Mauri Ora Level 2, Introduction to Conversational Te Reo and working towards completing the National Certificate in Adult Literacy Education Level 5.
As teachers we are learners, and constantly reflecting on what works and what doesn’t work for my students leads to improved experiences for us both. Familiarity with programme content means I reflect on the energy of the class and have the flexibility to plan lessons yet adjust to the dynamic culture of the class that day. Research projects I have undertaken focus on improving teaching delivery to enhance student learning and engagement. Professional growth also includes contributing to the polytechnic as a whole by being actively involved in our Academic Standards Subcommittee, Learning Advisory Committee, Harrassment prevention network and other short term working groups as well as facilitating on tutor training days.
Noticing that non-European students were often hesitant in participating in classroom discussions and activities, I initiated polytechnic-wide conversational English lunchtime groups where such students meet, converse and learn colloquial language in a relaxed, nonthreatening environment. Students reported that learning, practising and questioning the meanings of even everyday sayings heard in class made them more relaxed around their fellow students and more prepared to contribute to group discussion. “No worries you guys?” now has meaning!
Cultural awareness is imperative in policing and I include units in understanding cultural differences as well as the Treaty of Waitangi. Beginning with a knowledge continuum of the Treaty, many students huddle in the ‘it’s a public holiday’ section. After 12 hours of ‘learning’, discussions and a guided trip to the battle sites and other historical cultural places around Tauranga, students comfortably acknowledge a much greater appreciation of the history of New Zealand’s founding document and its relevance in New Zealand and its laws today.
Facilitation of learning
Lessons focus on what the students need to know first, and what I need them to know second. An experiential approach to learning is used and lessons that engage student participation to enhance their understanding are achieved.
A key outcome of my programme is students graduating with a realistic appreciation of the mahi they are getting themselves into, so it is imperative that I maintain absolute currency in my subject. I return to policing (only in an observer role now) at least every 18 months and the last two times, I was taken out on nightshift patrol by ex-students who are now police officers. Fantastic to be the tutor learning from her students!
Resources are developed so that aspects of policing are encompassed in most classroom sessions. A large portion of the programme focuses on students’ preparation for police entry testing. Police tests cover general, numerical and abstract reasoning questions in a tight timeframe. It is always interesting creating mathematical questions with a police story to them! I develop student understanding of maths without calculators – a new process for many and I also teach basic foundation skills of root words, prefixes and suffixes. I tell students that no matter how little they studied at school, they will soon be reading vocabulary enrichment books and doing maths ‘for fun’. They look at me like I’m crazy, but inevitably they fulfil my prophecy!
It is part of my practice to assess for learning so I provide many opportunities for students to show their understanding of topics covered in the programme. Many students who participate in my programme have histories of failing academically at school, so it is important that they now see assessments as a positive opportunity to show their knowledge.
Students are taught processes to be able to think on the spot, as they will be required to do in the police. Two minute impromptu speeches, scenario role plays and students presenting information to the class happen daily. Teamwork focus includes students teaming up for role plays, small group discussions, simulation exercises, poster work, study groups and inquiry learning.
A contextualised approach to teaching sees students attend police fitness testing days to experience police physical tests first hand with a police physical testing instructor, serving police officers and recruits. We also watch and report on cases the District Court to anchor knowledge of the NZ justice system. Some classes also participate in Armed Offender Squad training days.
Surprisingly to my students, at 42 I can still pass the police physical requirements! Students see that physical fitness is for a lifetime, not just for the present. Many students comment that they would never have reached their fitness goals without me training and running alongside them. Perhaps there will be a day when I get on a bike instead of running, but I am challenged by having to stay fit to keep up with them!
My philosophy and passion
I believe that if I expect the best from students then I must give my best. If I want students to be present and enthusiastic then I must be present and enthusiastic. If I want students to take opportunities offered and work hard to achieve their passion, then I must show them that I am doing that too. No matter how I feel on my drive to work, when I enter my classroom and face my students I am totally aware of being what they expect me to be – an inspiring, motivational, personable and knowledgeable tutor who has fun and is rewarded by what happens with learning.
I intend to use some of the award money to attend presentations and workshops of world recognised keynote speakers in adult education.
Peer and Student Comments
“I thank Sam largely for me being in the Police, a career where I am truly having a positive impact on the youth of my community. Sam gave me the confidence to “be somebody” and it’s this same confidence I am trying to develop with the troubled youth of my community.”
Constable Akerei Malesala, Manurewa, graduate 2005
“Sam gave a damn about our success. She helped me achieve to a high standard. After completing Sam's course I felt like my career was just beginning and I could achieve anything that I set out to do.”
Constable Amy Bateman, Hamilton, graduate 2007
“Sam’s teaching is very hands on. She took time to help me with course work outside of the class timetable. She taught me not to underestimate my ability and helped me realise my true potential.”
Jason Moller, graduate 2008, police recruiting process
“She is very encouraging and understanding. She has great knowledge of other cultures.”
Student evaluation 2008
“We never have a dull moment in our class. The lessons are organised, planned and fun.”
Student evaluation 2008
“The best tutor I have had, has great knowledge and the best support for her class, an awesome teacher for both teaching and support.”
Student evaluation 2007
“Sam delivered sessions in Poutiriako, Certificate in Tertiary Teaching Level 5, on innovative teaching and learning approaches and pastoral care activities. Sam’s student retention and success is one of the highest in the Polytechnic. Her passion, enthusiasm, humour and advanced practice are easily recognised in her delivery and we get positive feedback on (tutor) student evaluations after her sessions.”
Judith Honeyfield Team Leader, Pikiarero Teaching and Learning Development