I’ve had a interesting week. A proposed change in whole school focus, hosting a TeachMeet, taking a group of Year 10 students on a camp and managing a whole school voice survey. An extraordinary week, actually, and I still had my day job of leading a high school PDHPE faculty of 5.
So today, when I went to visit one of our Deputy Principals about concessional periods for 2017, our discussion turned to timetabling for 2017 and what our Year 9 PE class structure would look like. Without going into too much of the back and forth, the situation played out like this. Traditionally, we have had Year 9 and Year 10 classes come out for PE lessons in groups of 2 or 3 classes at a time (even more sometimes). This has suited us to run SEPEP units for these students. Today I learned that our Year 9 classes in 2017 will come out for PE lessons singly. While I tried to negotiate something closer to what we were used to, it wasn’t possible because of the advanced stage of planning. I think I’m a “glass half full” kind of person, so immediately my mind was running to the opportunities, rather than just the limitations this would place before not just me but the rest of my faculty. I could start to see possibilities, but in the back of my mind was a nagging thought – what will my colleagues think about it? And I must admit I was a bit nervous.
When I got back the the staffroom, I broke the news immediately, interested to hear the response. I must admit I felt proud when the general reaction was “we can work with that if we have to” and ideas then starting tumbling out about the directions we could take in this situation. I left school this afternoon upbeat and confident for the future in a lot of ways.
There are some key points to this story that resonated with me and made me reflect a little. Firstly, it reinforced to me that the notion of the “traditional” way of doing things can be a crutch for safe, repetitive and ultimately dated teaching and learning. I felt proud that my faculty rejected the safety of traditional and were prepared to consider and plan for change willingly. Mainly, and selfishly, because it’s the way I think but also because I knew it opened the road to some exciting times for all of us.
Secondly, I was proud to witness the agility of my faculty in accepting the news and immediately moving into a future focused standing. No gnashing of teeth. No sulking or hesitation about maintaining tradition. I don’t pretend that there will be some work to do in bringing the changes to fruition, but the sense I got was that they were up for it.
So how did it happen that my faculty appear to be so flexible in their thinking? Is it a natural trait, or has the capacity been built in some way by our school? Most of the literature I found online about thinking flexibility was business oriented and embedded with business spin, but I’ll summarise and paraphrase by saying it seems it’s related to accepting challenges, trying and failing, providing mentoring, encouraging incremental risk in decisions and planning. And opportunity to practice. Plenty of practice. Excellent qualities and strategies for teacher to learn, and to model to their students
So here’s a question for faculty leaders. How flexible ARE your faculties in facing changes to tradition and re-tooling their teaching and learning to move into the future? And how do you build capacity in flexible thinking?