It is always nice to start off the year with a positive little story. This blog is about what may seem like a small story but is one that I find quite symbolic and a good example of learner power and learner ownership.
When we developed the vision of the school we developed a series of images that captured this developing vision. One of these images was the Rolleston Spirit poster below. Like any school we have our set of values that encapsulates the core values that we want our young people to develop. Like any school these values are very important to us and like any school profiling them and highlighting them is a key focus for us.
Late last year I was approached by four of our Year 9 learners who explained to me in a very no nonsense way that the current poster left a lot to be desired. It was hardly inspirational, in fact, and I quote them here, it resembled a decomposing pizza.
All four of them were part of a leadership class that aimed at providing leadership opportunities for a group of interested learners. As part of their work they were looking at how to ensure that the school vision was a living thing at the school.
They explained to me that they had been working on redesigning the spirit poster so that it was a more accurate representation of the Rolleston Spirit.
They then showed me their initial sketches and provided very detailed explanations behind the various elements contained within their design.
For example they wanted the three big ideas linked with a koru type pattern to show how these elements were interconnected and also acknowledge our bi cultural heritage. They wanted the segmentation of the inner section to be given the boot as the values within were interchangeable and flowed through all three of the key aspects not confined to one, they wanted the colours of the school to be present and so on.
It was hard not to be caught up in their enthusiasm and so we arranged to visit Beck and Caul the design company that the school works with so the team could pitch their idea to the design team there. This was starting to get serious, they were working with a real designer now on a real project, this was no longer just a class activity.
The initial design ideas came back and were discussed with some changes suggested and some decisions made. Step by step they worked towards the stage where the finished design captured their vision and the result is below.
I don’t think there is any doubt that the learner’s version is infinitely superior to the original. They are now excitedly planning the launch of the new Rolleston Spirit design.
The reason I find this little story so uplifting was captured by a comment one of the learners made after a meeting.
As she was leaving she paused, thought and then said, “you know its good being at a school where you can have an idea, be listened to and then be able to make it happen.”
To me this is real learning. It is based on solving a problem, it is authentic, linked to the real world and collaborative. It developed a wide range of skills including, but not confined to, those relating to the actual design.
Stories like these are why we teach, seeing young people have the confidence to question and then solve, seeing them take ownership and have the confidence and self belief to follow through is why we teach. Seeing their pride and completing a task to this level and how they respond when they are taken seriously and given power is why we teach.
These four have just begun their Year 10 journey but for me this little story captures not only their journey last year but the journey of the first year of a school that wants to empower learners to the point where they own their learning and are comfortable about being personally accountable for their learning.
Anyway it makes me smile.