Tuesday, 14 July 2015

How Might We share our schools' strengths so that others might benefit?

And by we, I mean the "royal we"; I'm talking about your school, my school and schools throughout our community? How might we harness each school's strengths, their point of difference if you like, and share their collective expertise so that rather than competing against each other, we are all benefitting for the greater good, ensuring quality learning for our children?

Think about it; what makes you proud to work at your current school? What things is your school doing really well? Every school has its unique culture, the things that are really important to them, the things that give a school its special flavour. Is it a wonderful kapa haka programme, exceptional pastoral care, a Dance Academy or a highly innovative mathematics programme? What is it that makes you proud of your school? Maybe there is one area where your place is a shining light for other schools; perhaps there are a number of areas your school is focusing on? What do others in the wider community perceive to be your school's strengths? What are you known for?

 Schools are by definition places where we grow talents. Our purpose is to help our learners thrive and we work hard to help every learner on our roll be the best version of themselves. But what about our duty to other schools in our communities? Do schools have a moral obligation to support each other, sharing strengths and encouraging growth? I'm not sure of the answer to this; after all ensuring our own schools are thriving is a big ask, let alone supporting others. Having said that, I have seen many times in recent years the power sharing between schools can have.

Social Media has enabled us to share and collaborate in ways we could not have imagined 10 or 15 years ago. But what about face to face? Is a reliance on social media, subconsciously excluding members of our school communities? How can we reach these people? Is there still room for doing things "old school" and sharing face to face?

I am fortunate to be one of the Te Kahui Cluster Digital Leaders here in Christchurch, lead by the incredible Cheryl Doig and Donna Frame. This experience has been inspiring and has convinced me of the incredible power collaborating in a cluster can have. I am surprised to learn that clusters are not prevalent throughout New Zealand.

I am unsure of the "history" of clusters here in Christchurch and a google search is not shining any light on this. I suspect they were a structure put in place to provide support to schools when they were suffering post-earthquakes. Belonging to your designated cluster is optional and each cluster has its own unique make-up depending on the types of school in the area. The direction the cluster takes is determined by the members of the group depending on the needs of the schools in the area. Our Digital Leaders group is currently organising a Digital Citizenship Evening for parents in our area while another Christchurch cluster recently held an unconference which was highly successful judging by the twitter feed!

I'd love to see more visits to each others' schools. School visits are so powerful and benefit both the visitors and the hosts as we see our school through fresh eyes. Taking a whole staff to a neighbouring school during a school day is obviously a logistical nightmare but why not an after school shared afternoon tea complete with a smackdown or perhaps some eduignite talks from volunteers from both schools? After all, its highly likely that both schools are facing similar challenges.

I'm not a school leader so perhaps this entire blogpost shows my naivety around issues of schools collaborating rather than competing but it seems to me the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.  

So how does your school collaborate and share its strengths with other schools in your area?  

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