This week, the team went on retreat to the beautiful Sandspit north of Auckland. We had cabins in the local campground and had some wonderful down time together as well as being a new and vibrant backdrop for some unique learning. Our principal learning document for the week came from Julia Atkin - ‘From Values and Beliefs about Learning to Principles and Practice’. Unpacking this document proved an interesting experience. As a group, Luke led us through an interactive ‘book club’ type experience where we would read a section and then complete a task or activity and have a discussion. The main idea behind this work was to move us from ‘I believe’ - truths that we have as individuals about our own practice - to ‘we believe’ to establish our common ground as practitioners for next year when we open the doors to OJC. This has set all of us up well for our upcoming experiences in collaborative teaching. If we all have shared values and principles then ultimately we have a place to come back to in time of difficulty. These shared understandings are vital as we move forward in our larger team format.
Another one of our retreat activities included unpacking the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument. Every staff member completed an extended online survey that then outlined our dominant ways of thinking, both in times of calm and when under stress. While imperfect, what this test does is give us all a sense of not only how we work, but how others in the team operate. It’s a starting point in understanding our own strengths and weaknesses and in building respect for the skills and attitudes that the others around us bring to the table. Our own personal realisations in not only how we think, but in recognising that large scale worthwhile projects require the entire spectrum of skills and personalities to be balanced and successful. If that’s the case then we are setting ourselves up well for collaborative teaching that provides our students with sound, balanced and well rounded learning.
On the final night of the retreat we were delighted to be welcomed to the home of Michael Absalom and Mary Chamberlain - educational guru’s and two names surely familiar to us all. Not only were we regaled with some fantastic advice but Michael and Mary were warm and gracious hosts to accommodate all 15 of us with such great humour.
With the opportunity to spend much of this week outside of our ‘work space’ in Ormiston Senior School, we not only have the opportunity to witness a week of progress on our new building across the road, we also experienced our very own EOTC (that’s Education Outside the Classroom for the non-teachers among you). It’s a timely and important reminder that learning happens any and everywhere and in fact, there is power and relevance in leaving the classroom. Not only does it engage the mind and enable you to think outside of your constraints, it also offers a truly wonderful opportunity to engage in relationships in a meaningful way. With whakawhanaungatanga central to our beliefs, building our own genuine relationships is vital. How are we able to reasonably assert that relationships form the backbone of good learning if we don’t ourselves have opportunities to build those relationships among ourselves and model that practice moving forward for our young learners?
Week three is also filled with promise. With our team now familiar with each other, and having had the opportunity to work together in different groups and with different dynamics, we are ready to not only explore more clearly our own values and principles but also to start a program of school visits to start articulating more clearly our own OJC vision.