Before Rolleston College opened we realised that there was a need to have some anchors. that would provide our base core vision as we developed.
Some core values and concepts that we could return to would serve to secure us and refocus us. Some key concepts that defined who we were and who we were becoming.
As the year progressed these anchors were called upon at various times to remind us of what our vision, purpose and goals were and continued to be. They ensured that we were being true to our initial intention and our founding vision. As a new school we didn’t have any default positions so these anchors became our back up, our reboot position.
Often these anchors were seen in a metaphorical from or as an analogy, two of the more obvious being the concept of the seed and that of the hive, both of which I have discussed in earlier posts.
In the last term of our first year another analogy became very pertinent and valid and if there is one thing that I can do it is to milk a metaphor to within an inch of its life. The concept of the wolf and the wolf pack resonated with where we had arrived at after three terms and were at the stage of starting to reflect in order to look forward. At the risk of sounding disturbingly new age, the wolf became something of our spirit animal.
The quote below goes some way to explaining why the wolf has become an appropriate symbol for the school, the learners and the teachers.
“Dogs and wolves are the same,except for one difference: dogs live at home, food and water are provided and they sleep in their owner’s bed. Wolves meanwhile, live on mountaintops, have to find their own food and somewhere to kip…I want a team of hungry and ambitious wolves.”
Maljkovic is a Croatian born Serbian former professional basketball coach and current president of the Olympic Committee of Serbia.
Reading this quote made me realise that in many respects what we are expecting our teachers to be, what we are expecting our learners to be is wolves. Not safe domesticated dogs that wait to be fed and wait until someone puts a lead on them to take them for a walk but wolves who have a hunger and a drive and live on the boundaries. Not a safe secure and controlled life but an adventurous challenging one.
When I was appointed the Establishment Board explained to me that they wanted a school that walked the boundaries. Not a school that always played safe but one that looked at the horizon and wondered. Wolves walk the boundaries. To survive there they need two main attributes. First, an inner strength, an inner resilience, an ability to stand alone and strong, they need to be brave. Secondly they need to be able to work together as a pack when collective strength is needed. They need to know that they will, at times, depend on the pack for support. These are the attributes that I saw daily in those worked with. Fierce independence and self belief and determination, a capacity to roll the sleeves up and get stuck in. An ability to ensure that when they stumbled and fell that they they fell forward. They were also very much a pack, fiercely loyal to each other and the school. They needed to be, the work was relentless and hard. They had to be able to laugh and celebrate but also scrutinise and reflect. So like wolves they were sometimes fierce, they sometimes bit [metaphorically] and they wouldn’t be tamed…thank goodness. Individuals but also members of a strong and determined pack. To teach in a collaborative setting you need to be both. You need to know what honest discussions look and feel like, you have to know what honest professionalism looks like.
If the wolf was an important symbol for the staff then it was an is just as important a symbol for our learners. We will never be a school that creates labradoodles, timid, manicured and submissive but we will create wolves, hungry, confident, determined, strong individuals who know the value of the group and aren’t afraid of the sometimes harsh world that faces them. We don’t want the easy path to be the only path, we want our learners to look at the horizon and wonder what is just beyond it.
Nothing gets me more excited than when I see these attributes daily. Sometimes on the sports field, where in our first year we were often in games where the odds were well and truly stacked against us and never did I see a team give in, but more often in the classrooms. I could fill pages with examples, from the academic and highly competitive sportswoman who discovered and fed her creative and artistic streak through to the learners who had a history of negative learning experiences and were now designing and forging sculptures and were proudly presenting their learning at exhibition nights.
Yes I know all schools have similar stories, our schools are full of wolves, but that doesn’t detract from my pride in the pack that I belong to, far from it I am just prouder to know that we are just one pack amongst many. Its just that I believe we are claiming ownership of the wilds and the new quicker…but then again I could be biased.