The photo above was taken on our very first day in our ‘home’ for 2016 at West Rolleston Primary School. A computer, coffee cup , a chair and a couple of trestle tables, this was ‘us’ in January. This same space is now ‘home’ for a total staff of 27 including senior leaders, admin and teachers.For two weeks now it has been a very busy and excited space to be in, it is now a very different space than the one pictured above, it now and feels very much like a community.
Over the weekend I have found some time to reflect on where we, as a staff, are at right now. Over the last few weeks I found myself increasingly referring to ‘anchors’ and their importance to us as we move through this term and beyond.
It is a concept that has become increasingly important to me as the year has progressed and one that I want to reflect on in this blog. An established school has certain ‘anchors’ that give it stability and a sense of reassurance when seas get rough. These could be the traditions that have built up over a period of time, the way things are done and the way things have always been done. They form part of the culture of a particular school and give it a particular identity. In faith based schools this shared belief can be such an anchor and gives rise to shared values such as the Marist man, the Shirley man or the Marist woman. Anchors in established schools could include uniform, sports, events, the house system, clubs, the school song or haka. There are countless anchors that an established school can fall back on when they are tested or when they want to evaluate their current state. But Rolleston College is not an established school, it is brand new and therefore lacks these historical anchors.
What I mean by the term ‘anchor’ when discussing a school is quite simple to explain. A school like any institution has times when it is sailing through clam seas and other times when the seas get a little stormy. In our current educational environment where change is a constant, the concept of change is often the cause of some stormy seas, as change always threatens and unsettles. When the seas are smooth then the anchors are not needed and the school can sail happily through clam waters but when the seas do get a bit rough then the anchor has to lowered. The anchor needs to be relied on to provide stability and assure the sailors that the ship will survive the storm. Having survived and as the storm dissipates then the anchor can be pulled up and the ship can sail away again.
It is important to reflect though that a calm sea never made a good sailor and we need to face stormy seas with confidence if we are to be the best that we can be.
Traditional schools can rely on their established anchors to support them as they negotiate change or any other storms that they encounter but a new school has none of these. In spite of this I do feel that over the year Rolleston College has developed a sense of identity, an awareness of who it is and it certainly has a history that is inspiring our way forward.
So what anchors do we have then. I believe that we have four key ones and over the last two weeks we have been deliberate in identifying all four and cementing their importance in our identity.
- Our vision.
- Our community
- Our individual strengths
These are our anchors.
So in our first two weeks as a full staff we spent time unpacking the vision of the school, this became a context.
The second context was to do with community and so on the first day our staff worked with our future learners and heard about their aspirations and hopes, time was spent getting to know Rolleston as a community and hearing about the history of the school from Jackie the Board chair. Liz spent two days with us providing the Ngai Tahu context for us. Staff visited the school to gain a physical context.As a result staff have been able to develop a true sense of context to anchor them as they move into the planning phase of the term.
They have also spent time working together and discovering how to bring their individual strengths to a collaborative environment. They have have undertaken challenges, unpacked their individual personality types and tested the vision and values that Rolleston College is based on. This sense of team will also be a vital anchor as we move forward as will their individual resilience and identity.
One of the artefacts that was produced during this process was a list of expectations that the staff collectively have of the Principal, the leadership team, their colleagues and themselves. This is shown below. I thought that I should do a personal expectations chart for myself but when I read the combined staff one I thought, ‘why bother.’ The expectations that staff have on themselves are identical to those that I would have of myself so why not just use them.
These expectations are another example of an anchor that will assist us moving forward.
So while it is true that we are young and do not have historical anchors it certainly has taken us no time at all to establish some of our own. They are ours and have, in a very short time, created a genuine sense of identity and culture about who we are and where we are going. Yep we have come a long way from that single chair as the photo below shows we are now community.
One other ‘anchor’ has developed for me over recent weeks and it has been crystallised by a conference keynote delivered by Michael Fullan at the recent Ulearn conference. He used the word ‘Simplexity’ to describe the solving of complex problems with simple solutions. All too often we try to solve complex problems with increasingly complex solutions and end up solving nothing. The problems are often complex but we need to focus on the key issues within these obstacles and in doing so identify the essence of any problem or obstacle. Having done so the solution is often simpler than we first thought, simplexity. I guess this is why I find so much wisdom in the words of Dr Seuss. More than anyone else he was able to say very profound things with a few simple words.