Like many other school and district leadership teams we marked our “official” beginning last week. For more than a decade this second last week of summer has been my start to the new school year. There are many ways to structure this time. We have been very clear in West Vancouver that we focus ourselves as learners first.
A recent post from Dennis Sparks resonated with me:
In learning-oriented school cultures, everyone is viewed as both a teacher and a learner. In such cultures, hierarchic distinctions between student, teacher, and administrator are minimized as the school community focuses on the continuous improvement of teaching, learning, and relationships. In that sense, the study of teaching is also the study of learning and of leadership.
It is easy to focus on the business of our work – there is a lot of business that needs to be covered. Topics like: staffing, collective bargaining, student enrolment, September paperwork and accounting practices can consume all of our time. We have made it clear that we will always focus on being learners first. So, just what does that look like?
Our school and district leaders spent last Thursday on Bowen Island (Bowen Island is part of the West Vancouver School District). Three administrators Scott Slater, Craig Cantlie and Matt Trask took the lead in guiding our learning. The first part of the day allowed us to explore Bowen Island. We got a taste of what students in Bowen Island’s Outside45 program get to experience – learning beyond the classroom. A solid reminder of the power of place-based experiences. The second part of the day saw us experiencing Sugata Mitra’s Self-Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) model – looking at power – what it is and who has it. We worked out way through the SOLE Toolkit in groups. The SOLE model was new to me – and is a really simple model of investigation that works for schools and also could be done by kids and families at home.
We left with a great reminder of the power of place based learning and a reminder of the nature that surrounds us in our district and also with a simple student-led inquiry model that we can share with others. And importantly – we connected as learners first.