A Day in the Life of a Navigator (Primary edition)

One of the things people find very difficult to understand is what exactly a Navigator does during a typical day. Year 4 Navigator Rose Welsh recorded one day in detail at our Dream Partner Primary schools. Here is Rose’s story:

This morning, I am in Tikipunga Primary which is the Base for the Primary School Dream Team. This is where we have our offices for administration and preparation for after-school programmes.

I get to Base at 8.30am and I go through my emails from the team and whanau, answering any that need a response.

At 9:15am I go into my first class. This class is made up of Year 4’s only as opposed to composite classes of Year 4’s and 5’s. I go into the same class every Monday and Tuesday morning from 9.15am until morning tea at 10.20am. I always try to slip in quietly, acknowledging the teacher and trying to not interrupt any work flow. Inevitably, there are greetings from children and some questions they want to ask but I gently put them off till later. This class does maths at this time and when I go in I can already see that Joshua* is off-task and making a huge mess sharpening crayons instead of doing the work. I sit down and ask him how he is and make a connection first, ignoring the fact that he is off task. I know Joshua played rugby this season as I have watched his team play. Since the season is over, I ask him whether he is going to play a summer sport and how his weekend was. I have a look at the work sheets in front of him and take an interest in what he’s done already. Joshua is really intelligent however he has difficulty managing himself and needs a very subtle, ‘he’s in control’ guiding hand back to his work. To begin with, I ask him the multiplication questions and he figures it out and I write down the answers. We work like this for a little bit.
Joshua is tricky. He is often on report and has a report card that goes home so it is a really gentle guidance that he needs so he doesn’t feel like he’s out of control too much. Joshua continues to sharpen crayons as we work through the maths but his brain is working the numbers and I’m just writing the answers and quietly encouraging as we move through it. I leave him with the comment that he’s a good mathematician and can obviously handle the rest. Next I head to Mitchell* and take an interest in the work he has done with some symmetry. There is more to do so we do it together. The class is called back to the mat and the teacher officially acknowledges I’m there at that point. We do the ceremonious “Goooooood mooorrrnnning Whhaaaeeaaa Rose”!

We then move into maths rotations. One boy comes in late – Lucas*. What I have learned so far about Lucas (he is new this year) is that although he is well behind in all areas, he actually likes to learn and is really engaged when you sit one-on-one with him. On his own he struggles to get his thinking going and struggles to understand what he has to do which leads easily to distractions and misbehaviour. A high rate of absenteeism hasn’t helped. I actually haven’t seen Lucas for a few months. My connection with Lucas is that he came up from the same small town in the Wairarapa, where I was from. When I check in with him and let him know we’ve missed him, he explains he’s been back to the Wairarapa with his family looking after a sick family member. I always wonder what the 8 year old does during these lengthy absences. Sadly, he’s not the only one to ‘disappear’ for 3 weeks, 1 month, 1 term, and not be going to school anywhere. This is one of the biggest challenges that we, as Navigators, face, but one which does change over time once we build trust and form the relationship with child and whanau. I ask Lucas if he’d like me to work alongside him on the independent maths rotation activity next, and he says yes. So off we go. Lucas feeds off his small successes and is eager to learn with me there. At these times, I find there can be so many small ‘a-ha’ moments that you can support children with. Today it is simply about the family of facts. If 16 + 2 =18 then 2 +16 also = 18. 18 – 16 = 2 and funnily enough 18 – 2 =16! This small amount of one-on-one time allows 1, 2, 3 or 4 kids to have an ‘a-ha’ moment and that is priceless. It adds to my kete of knowledge about each kid and gives me moments I can draw on with them at a later date. Lucas is so buoyed up with some of these small successes that he doesn’t want to move on to the next rotation so I tell him he can come back after that rotation with the teacher instead of doing computers, if he wants. He heads off to the teachers group and is straight back after, foregoing his time on the computer! It reinforces to me that those connections that sound so small to us, have huge value for many kids. I have experienced this a number of times and love witnessing the moment when a penny drops for any kid.

I jump from Lucas to a few others around me to help them pull numbers apart and put them back together. So many kids just want that adult beside them to help them understand and so many miss the boat time after time because it’s just not possible. We pack up, and the teacher dishes out points for various positive behaviours and includes me in the observations of hard workers.

On my way out the door I see Jacob. Jacob is in care and I have known him for a year and a half. I check in with him as I know tomorrow is his last day at school before he heads overseas to live with his Nana – something that he has been told is happening for about a year. It seems it is finally real. We talk about his shared lunch tomorrow and him coming to our after school programme for the last time. He invites me to his poroporoaki (farewell) where he lives but unfortunately I will have a programme at another school that day. I feel for his journey, as I know there are some hard yards ahead for him and his Nana.

While the kids are eating I check in with Aidan to see if he has seen Mum lately. Mum left the family this year and life has been hard. I have had a number of conversations with Dad earlier in the year about supporting Aidan and since then he has been confident enough to join our after school programme. Aidan says he sees his Mum on Sundays for a little bit. Again, bits and pieces are popped into my kete of knowledge about that kid. Lucas sits down beside me and we have a brief chat about how he must’ve slept in this morning which leads to some conversation about what siblings he has and what mum and dad do. I hope he doesn’t disappear again.

My next class is a Year 4 and 5 composite class. Unbelievably, it has approximately 23 boys and 7 girls. The school as a whole is very boy heavy. When I come in after morning tea the kids do SSR (Sustained Silent Reading). Two girls jump on me (a year 4 and a year 5) and ask me to read them books. We sit on the floor and read together. My Year 4 girl is often absent for large chunks of time then seems to reappear, so I always make sure I tell her how nice it is to see her and that I’ve missed her. I know her Mum is quite sick at times. I’m pretty sure she has cancer. Last year, I was surprised at her reading and writing skills considering her absences. This year I can see that possibly her progress has slowed down a lot. I think the absences will start having a detrimental impact going into senior primary years. Again, I add this to my kete of knowledge and make a mental note to come up with strategies to help combat this.

The teacher calls the class to the mat so we put the books away and head to the mat. It’s on to writing time and I spot Tyrone who I know struggles with his writing. I team up with him which also gives us a chance to talk about the art class we have got him into after school on Tuesdays. Having known Tyrone for a year and a half, I know he is very passionate about art and often gets distracted in class because he is drawing or folding paper into something. A local artist and art teacher gifted I Have a Dream some places in her art classes so I managed to get Tyrone in there for the term. We catch up about how the first art class went and what he is looking forward to about the next one and then add it into his writing. It’s slow going but he’s pretty engaged since it’s something he is interested in and we manage to get out what looks to be quadruple of anything he has previously written! Tyrone hasn’t come to my after school programme so it’s great to connect with him in class. Although I didn’t get to connect with many of my other Dreamers today, we have acknowledged each other and I will see a number of them tomorrow and at our after-school programme.

The third class I visit before lunchtime only has about five Year 4’s. I say ‘about’ because this year alone, 3-4 have come and gone without really getting to know them. Of the five here now, one has incredibly bad attendance and another I am guessing has left the school as I haven’t seen him in months, yet papers haven’t indicated he is enrolled anywhere else. This has been really disappointing as he was Chairman of our Lego Club and really into it. More about that later. Reliably, out of the 5, I mostly only see two with any consistency. This is a reality of working in these low-decile schools.

When I arrive in class I get greeted with “Can I be in I Have a Dream?” by one boy, new this year. I give him the thumbs up. Even though he is enrolled and has been to my programme once, he is a little hesitant at times and I want to encourage him. I am gently nurturing that relationship. I hope he doesn’t disappear on me either.

I see one of my other boys, a dedicated lego clubber and secretary of our club. He looks forlorn in a chair at the back of the room so I head over. He tells me how another Year 4 boy has tormented him and his valued toy he’s brought from home. We quietly discuss the difficulty of bringing toys from home to school and that maybe its better for the toy if it stays at home. He agrees and cheers up a little. We check out the book he is reading (A Hands-on Approach to Science) and it shows photos of growing watercress. We talk about how it might be fun to try growing some and maybe LEGO club could also be a growing plants club! This puts a smile on his face.

Lego club, in our case, translates to ‘The Playground is Sometimes a Hard Place to Be’ Club. It came about when I entered a chaotic classroom one day and offered to take all the Year 4’s out so the teacher had less to contend with. I grabbed the Lego and we sat in the library and conversations alluded to the fact that actually playtime can be full of unhappiness for some kids. All being keen on Lego, the kids jumped at the chance of having a Lego Club. This then led to talk about committees, Chairmen, Secretaries and Treasurers. We have occasional meetings and keep minutes. We have had an excursion to the Public Library to experience their Lego Club and to see what it has to offer. I organised our own private tour guide so we could see ‘behind the scenes’. The kids watched the 3D printer in action and received a button hot off the press and relaxed in the kids area with a selection of books.

At 12.30pm our Lego Club skipped assembly and headed to the library after some time in class. We had our first meeting of the term. Our agenda being:
– Discuss new Lego (We made a plea for more Lego on our Facebook page)
– Another trip to the library (all agreed) and what we’d like to do there.
– Extra Club activities (drawing and growing watercress!)
As usual at the end of Lego Club (end of lunchtime) we photographed our Lego creations because we know we have to break them up. Photos are printed and kept in a journal along with minutes and rules of the club.

After Lego Club, I would usually get ready for an after school programme at another school however this term I’m going back from 4 programmes to 3. Today I simply print letters for parents of new children, log my time from last week and make sure I have resources and my plan set for my first programme of the term tomorrow.

The tidying up of the resource room will have to wait!

*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.


You can help I Have A Dream create successful
futures for Kiwi kids.

Donate now