As the new year starts I am looking forward and looking back, reflecting on the past in order to shape the future. I started this reflective process with the hashtag #oneword2019. And I knew immediately what my word would be, it is a word given to me by my principal, the word hope.
“[Hope] rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. ‘I have a feeling tomorrow will be better’ is different from ‘I resolve to make tomorrow better.’ The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.” ~ Angela Duckworth
As I look back I see hope in everything we have done. Every risk we have taken together, every change we have been a part of, every innovation we have dreamed of, every moment we have shaped has been built upon hope.
In the past three years we have built an inclusive learning environment with integrated support in context, for everyone. We became co-teachers. We rethought homework. We brought in student led conferences. We introduced new technologies and a tech coach to guide the way. Our units were rewritten for deeper inquiry and we found our way from teacher centered units to student centered learning. We implemented planning retreats and guest teaching. We reimagined teacher appraisals. We redesigned professional development for personalized professional learning as personal learning journeys. We introduced choice workshops led for and by teachers. We restructured the timetable. Inspired by our home language programme we considered our additional language choices and increased the options from one (French) to six (Mandarin, Arabic, Luganda, Kiswahili, French and Spanish). We built a model of shared leadership. We wrote a whole school unit of inquiry. We hosted parent forums and lecture series. We found our why, how and what as we delved into learner agency. And through trust and purpose we have become a community of learners.
Our belief in hope has shaped our path and led to an amazing period of growth and change. This idea of hope continues to carry us forward as we persistently resolve to make tomorrow better.
“If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling back.” ~ Sam Waterston
In looking towards tomorrow we are working on ideas for embracing learner agency. We are considering how to work as one school across three programmes. We are inquiring into changing pedagogies, best practice and 21st century learning. We are building a wider learning community connected through purpose. We are opening up our personal learning journeys beyond just professional learning. We are adding new areas of expertise to our learning support team for inclusion. We are looking to embark on an action research project focusing on the ATLs (skills). We are discussing teacher appraisals and a culture of collective accountability. And we are constantly striving to learn, reflect and grow as a community of learners.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” ~ Alvin Toffler
It has been such an adventure to be a part of the changes brought on through this idea of hope. And it is so exciting to dream about what is yet to come. But it is also a bittersweet time as I will be moving at the end of this school year and leaving this dynamic team of lifelong learners and our hope for the future of education and learning at ISU. I will miss being a part of the changes yet to come, the reflections of where we have been and the dreams of tomorrow. But I believe, in fact I know, that this growth, these dreams, the continuous progress will continue. I know this because learning and growth is a part of who we are.
“Learning is never cumulative, it is a movement of knowing which has no beginning and no end.” ~ Bruce Lee
This realization of who we have become led me to understand that the most important change we have gone through has been about building a collective culture.
Culture is sharing a common language, common beliefs illustrated through common stories and common norms and values
(from “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, 2011).
Our culture is built on just these elements. We share a common language defined by our learning principles and the IB. With this common language we can freely communicate across classrooms, through grade levels and as a community. This common language gives life to our shared beliefs through the stories we tell. Stories about agency, inclusion and action identify who we are as a community. These stories also highlight what we value as a community. They reflect the importance of inquiry and learning journeys. And these stories with their beliefs, values and shared language provide us with the norms by which we act everyday. We expect each other to be creative and collaborative. They are the stories of our purpose. This is our shared culture.
Cultures provide the connections between people that allow for cooperation over time. They help dissolve the idea of ‘us’ and ‘them’ to create ‘we.’ We are a school of strong beliefs and these beliefs are not connected to any one individual but to the culture of our school.
In this realization I came to understand that hope is the word that guided us to build this culture which is what will continue to shape our tomorrow. It is this understanding of culture that will allow me to move on to my new tomorrow full of hope because I know that the culture I have been a part of at ISU is alive in all of us and will endure within the ISU community near and far helping each of us to shape our own tomorrow’s.