As a School we are committed to bringing specialists in to drive professional learning forward. Our philosophy is clear. We value the importances of learning and growing together. The only way to impact culture and engage in meaningful dialogue is when we are all affected by a learning force bigger than ourselves.
This year has been a challenging year in terms of teaming, collaborating and connecting with one another. We needed an outside force to bring ‘play’ and ‘imagination’ and the power of ‘story telling’ back to the centre of Who we are.
Enter Neil Farrelly. An experienced performing arts teacher who has predominately worked in International Schools. He is also an author and moves around the International School circuit to lead all sorts of workshops.
Our teachers were exposed to situations where they were thrown into expressing themselves, being spontaneous and creative and most of all laughing with each other. And didn’t we do just that! Laugh. We also needed to leave our egos, inhibitions and grudges at the door as Neil pushed, nudged and encouraged us to put our selves out there and be vulnerable again.
Learning how to deepen trust and collaborate has been a focal point for us as a Primary School. Everyone had a voice during the week and there were so many lessons to dissect for different reasons.
How we ‘set up’ the conditions for learning creates the tone and climate for Who we want to become as a caring and connected community. Neil was constantly setting it up for us and together we responded in ways that energized us and illuminated the importance of people, pedagogy and place.
Conversations were elevated and the scope for being part of an audience was just as important as the presenter on the black box. This challenged our thinking in the way we value our audience and how we listen and respect one another. Knowing our audience improves interactions and promotes positive intensions. Listening with our ears does not mean we’re effective listeners. We learnt to listen with our mind, eyes and heart.
One of the things we shared with teachers is that the ‘loudest’ person in the room or the one to be ‘on’ the black box does not always equate to leadership. We stated the opposite is true. We are all leaders and this can take many forms. As long as you are part of the learning and contributing in positive ways to impact ourselves and one another, then that is leadership too.
We often hear teachers talk about ‘looking through different lenses.’ Our professional learning week was all about Who we are when it comes to collaboration and Who we want to become using performing arts as the ultimate lens to look through.
This experience put our teachers in the shoes of our students. The ideas and connections went into overdrive from there. We were constantly ‘connecting up’ and the learning felt real and raw as we shared together.
We could have easily run a workshop on collaboration and why it is important… yada yada yada. This time we were listening to our audience and decided to go a very different direction to shake it up – and it worked brilliantly!
Neil is already coming back in May.
I love change. And I have fallen for Africa, hard. Let me tell you why. Change offers something different and as international educators we are very fortunate to be in an occupation where the door is a revolving one, for those who don’t get stuck and you know who you are.
Moving from Thailand to Kenya was always going to be different – one of the main reasons I came here. The warmth of Africa is immediate. Being the ‘new teacher’ you always wonder who it is you are going to be working with. Who are the ones that I will mostly connect with or will form an alliance with? I have finally arrived at a school that values people. People first. The first two days were very different to what I have experienced. The whole teaching staff (Secondary and Junior School) went on an overnight trip together. Why? It’s simple to bond and connect. I know this sounds very obvious and a lot of schools do it in their own way, but this felt very different for reasons I am still trying to make sense of.
The school offered the space for us to be together. The staff made the effort and time to speak, really listen and connect. We played games, sat around the fire and sang songs, danced, told stories. We went hiking and put tents up together in the pouring rain, even more fun. Everything we did was another opportunity to meet someone different and learn about them and their story. This place got it right. We weren’t herded into a lecture theater and then broke away into our isolated teams for planning meetings. We prioritized what is more important – people.
I know that my interactions and relationships will be very different when the students officially arrive at school because I am comfortable with the people I now work with. This will only deepen and build a stronger, more personalized relationship, because I know more about who they are as people.
Already, I have supported teachers (with outside events i.e farewell, social drinks) because these people are my new family and home away from home. I am excited because now I know what it feels like when staff members are much more than that.
“People are people through other people.”