I teach in a bubble.
A cosy, all-girls, day and boarding, decile 9 school bubble; with beautiful environs, involved parents who care about education, and happy, well-nourished, thoughtful students who strive to gain Excellence.
We have site specific language to describe our Hogwartian landscape. There are no bells, the girls wear their uniforms described as ‘tablecloths’ for juniors (think the red and white chequered Pizza Hutt tablecloths of the early 80’s) and ‘nuns’ (long, down to the ankle, grey skirts) for the seniors. *Disclaimer: we are in the middle of a BIG uniform review, prompted by the culture of change that now exists at the school. We have ‘sticky’ (a provided morning tea) for girls and staff, the students do ‘prep’ rather than homework, and our buildings all seem to get affectionate nicknames.
I visited a nearby school recently for football and as my team filed off the bus I was struck by just how similar they all were. They looked like an advertisement for health supplements, hair-care products, personal grooming, and the best boots, footballs, and other gear that money can buy.
Established in 1894, in the same site now since 1911, we are a traditional school that embraces innovation. I am acutely aware of my position. Teaching at a school like this is a privilege. I did 15 years at an all-boys, decile 4 school, with a good number of students who presented daily with behavioural problems, so the differences I see are stark. I have colleagues at other schools who present those war stories of students and their problems that sometimes make me feel guilty about my own practice.
In 2015 we recorded NCEA pass rates of 100% at Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Nowhere to go from there but down I guess!
But I am busier here than I ever was at my last school. The culture is one of innovation, risk, and change. We have taken our traditional heritage, our 100+ years of customs and we have added the constant challenge to be ‘better than before.’ Our school culture encourages risk-taking both from the students and the teachers, and I am in an environment that makes that possible.
Senior management (the top 3 positions have undergone a complete change over the last two years) encourage professional learning groups that are working independently on issues we raised as areas to be ‘better than before’ at a staff focus session. Those areas are broadly defined as: Staff Well-being, Curriculum Delivery, Innovation, Global Community, and Communication.
We are pushing for ways to make our school a place of constant, positive change. I think we recognize the trap of allowing ourselves to be complacent and permitting our teaching and learning ‘muscles’ to atrophy.
I teach in a bubble. But it’s a bubble I love, and the culture of ‘better than before’ makes it a bubble that doesn’t look likely to burst anytime soon.
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