We sat around a table in a small room at CBO with stacks of data in front of us. Literally, the table was covered in piles of chart paper, sticky notes and Google form data. As we sifted through we were looking to weave a common thread, find the connections, beacons to guide the work ahead. Amazing ideas popped out from ‘Starbucks like’ classroom to design tasks before we knew what design tasks were. How could we make sense of it all? As we sat around the table we realized we needed something to ground us. Something that would stand the test of time 10 years, 20 years from now that wouldn’t change as educational jargon evolved or interests shifted.
What did we need to agree upon would stay true through all the innovations ahead? What were the beliefs that were driving us to innovate?
Click HERE for a quick animation of the belief statements.
- It is all about the learner – Seems simple really. It’s why we got into this job in the first place – a belief inspired by Mandela quotes that education can be the change. All we do comes back to one thing – the learner. This one came easy as the Kindergarten Program Document captured it so well. The choice of learner was deliberate as we saw ourselves as reflective practitioners moving between the role of learner and educator.
- Open and responsive educators – So if our learners in all their beautiful diversity are curious, competent, capable to take an active role in their learning we needed to be flexible. It would be hard to accept that we could do the same thing more than once. Each year, grade, class, learner may need something slightly different as we foster a lifelong passion for learning. This is definitely not the easy way to do it but definitely the better way as we had each experienced ourselves by the great educators that modelled it.
- The environment as the third teacher – Even without saying a word, we have a sense of what the lesson is. The environment is more than just an extension of our work, it is a teacher in and of itself. From our use of space to our use of time, materials. The feeling and safety we establish in the space. Who is valued, who is not?
- We educate as a community – This one was a late addition and I can’t imagine it not being there. We were sharing the draft with the larger writing team when an administrator colleague made this vital point. We don’t educate in isolation. We educate as a community of stakeholders. Fancy language really but of course we are only one small part of a greater community that believes number 1 that children are curious, competent, capable to take an active role.
When I’ve introduced the belief statements people often nod. Sometimes you will get a statement of “of course, isn’t this obvious”. It definitely feels like it doesn’t it. When you pause though you realize how hard these are to live. How we constantly need to check back in and reflect on where we are and what we can do better. If I’m being completely honest, it’s much easier for me to believe 6-year-olds are competent and capable. A bit harder as you are arguing with a 36-year-old. Being open and responsive as an educator means often things will be harder, not easier. I will often be standing in a place of uncomfort as we stand in that active learner stance. How does our belief about community reframe my interactions with the family I’m struggling to connect with?
Although they may seem simple, these are our roots. They are the cornerstone we come back to when we need to evaluate our progress. All our pursuits for innovation are in service of these beliefs. We reflect, learn, innovate all so that we can empower a generation of globally compassionate citizens that may just make that Mandela quote a reality.