The newly hired staff of École Sage Creek School has been given an opportunity that not many educators have in their lifetime: we are starting a brand new school from scratch. Along with this very exciting task comes many unknowns, many challenges and many uncertainties. The group has now met on three separate occasions in order to build those important relationships and start planning for what looks to be a very promising opening 2017-2018 school year!
One thing that I noticed was an activity that I usually do and how different it was with this group. It is a simple activity. After sharing some ideas with them, I ask them to share their name, position, what they want to learn on this day, and any big questions they have, but openly in a google form. I have done this several times in workshops, but this group seemed to take longer than usual in submitting their responses. I shared this with them, and based on my best guess, they really cared what they put into that document because they have not worked with one another. They are not at that “comfortable” stage yet, and they wanted to make an amazing impression on one another. I told them straight up that if you can come together as an amazing team, but still act like you are always new, you will create something truly special.
I think that George hit the nail on the head when he made that observation and offered his professional opinion as to why he thought this was happening. I can honestly say that this is exactly how I felt, not only in that moment, but in many other moments during our time together. What will the new staff think of me? I don’t want to be known as the one who thinks she’s a know it all… but I want to share my knowledge, my strengths, my passions. I want to learn from others and I want them to be able to learn from me, too. I want to feel comfortable sharing with this group, but I don’t know them well enough yet… The struggle is real when that solid base (ie relationships) hasn’t been established yet. I think it’s also easier to share with “strangers” because then it doesn’t really matter all that much what they think of you in the end, but when you know you’ll have to work with these people moving forward, there’s a lot on the line and I think we all want to make the best impression!
Fast forward to our 3rd and latest meeting which was just last week, and my experience this time was so different than compared to 3 weeks prior with George. The staff met up for an incredible 2 day retreat where we had a VERY full agenda. We had so much to cover and not enough time, but right from the beginning, the tone was different. My guess is that because we all had a voice in what the agenda included, we already reached a new comfort level. We also knew that more answers would be provided during these two days and that, little by little, some of the pieces to the puzzle were going to start coming together. (Oh, and it probably also helped that most of us carpooled to our retreat destination which was about an hour and a half drive – providing even more bonding time!)
There were so many amazing moments during these two days (too many to blog about), but I need to mention a few. I SO appreciated the bonding time that we had with one another. There really wasn’t much time left in the days for unstructured activities, but the social committee did a great job of integrating super fun and meaningful activities so that we could all get to know one another better all the while smiling, and laughing away. I also really appreciated the time that we had together to collaborate and plan for September. This definitely wasn’t an easy task, but I feel as though I left there with a little bit more clarity as to where to start in September. It truly was a collaborative effort on everyone’s part and it amazed me just how effortlessly everyone seemed to work so well together – proof of an amazingly supportive community of educators who aren’t afraid to question, voice their opinions, and push one another to greater things! Ahh, so beautiful!!!
This makes the perfect segue to my three favourite moments… which actually all made me tear up!! I am completely overcome with gratitude and consider myself so fortunate to be part of this amazing journey with these amazing people!
During the first day, we were talking about explorations, at which point, we were all invited to write our talents, interests and passions on post-its and stick them onto a big sheet of paper. Once the activity was over and we stepped back to take a look, there wasn’t any room left on the sheet of paper. In fact, people had resorted to sticking their post-its on the wall around the paper. What an amazing sight to see! We all have so much to offer to this new school – and that’s just from the staff!
During the second day, we all sat in a circle and started sharing our knowledge on various approaches, philosophies, structures, pedagogy, etc… This was a very informal activity where whoever wanted to share what they knew about various topics did so. Some of the things we covered were:
- Regie Routman Writing Process
- Responsive Classroom
- Brain-compatible learning
- Universal Design for Learning (UDL)/Backward Design
- Project-based learning (PBL)
- Inquiry process
- Flipped classroom
- New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning (NPDL)
- Accelerative Integrated Method (AIM)
- Ourdoor-based learning model
- Literacy/Numeracy blocks, Literature Circles
- Daily 5
- Reggio Emilia
By the end, I was in awe of how much knowledge was in the room. It felt amazing to be among a group of educators who were willing to share what they knew and I realized right then and there, that I was going to learn so much more than I ever thought possible, all from this great group of people! I now know who my local experts are and who can help me when I’m taking new risks! Amazing right?
Finally, at the very end of our time together at the retreat, we started to reflect on what we would want to encompass in our mission and vision. We were asked to write down three things that we would want for our students by the time they left École Sage Creek School. Then, we compiled all of our ideas by laying them out on the floor and grouping them together. It quickly became obvious that we all want the same things for our students. We are all on the same page and ready and willing to work hard to get there.
So, as George left us during our PD with him, he challenged us to make sure that we “do not create an “old school in a new building” and go and create something amazing”. Now, after our staff retreat, I think that it’s safe to say that we’ve reached a new comfort level with one another and therefor created the foundation necessary among the staff members that will allow us to create a truly amazing school for our students!
A HUGE thank you to all of the École Sage Creek School staff who have inspired me beyond belief; I cannot wait for next year!