So Many Firsts!
Opening a new school offers 365 days (or perhaps more!) of making decisions for the first time in this school, with these students, with these teachers, in this context, at this time...There is no 'how we used to do it' to fall back on at all! And while this is extremely freeing, it can also be quite exhausting.
The first ten minutes of today....
Where/how/who will store supplies? Oh wait! Who ordered them (or didn't!) and for what purpose? What are the protocols for field trips and volunteers? Who is on kitchen duty (is anyone on kitchen duty??) How will we start/end staff meetings? What are the modes of communication for this school community? Do the phones work yet? Why are the items we ordered from Germany arriving before the ones we ordered from the supplier down the street?? What are our strategies for helping our children love reading? Writing? Mathematics? Do we have any common mindsets across the staff - do we all understand what a mindset is? Where are the pencil crayons? How do I make a long distance phone call? Oh never mind - that order has already arrived from Germany...
Fortunately, there are 365 days in a year - maybe only 200 actual school days, but 365 beautiful sunrises and sunsets - to bookend all the decisions that will eventually evolve into an amazing new place of learning in our community. And, also fortunately, there is no one single person - not even the principal - who has to make all these decisions alone!
One of the professional texts we purchased and gave to our new teaching staff at the end of June was Creating Cultures of Thinking: the 8 Forces We Must Truly Master to Transform Our Schools by Ron Ritchhart. Exploring the purposes, nature and impact of these forces in schools provides our staff with a lens for launching a school culture that will honour and foster creativity, innovation and respect while ensuring our students build significant competencies in literacy, math, inquiry and critical thinking. We are at the very beginning of the journey of creating a school that simply did not exist except in imaginations until now, yet this work is still truly transformative - with every 'first' decision we make, we initiate the process of transforming the lives of the students we'll encounter from this first day forward.
Ritchhart notes in his book that expectations, language, time and modelling are the four primary focus areas that require attention when beginning to transform school culture. As a principal now opening a new school for the second time, I have come to understand all 8 forces need immediate and thoughtful attention - opportunities, routines, interactions and the learning environment must also be in the spotlight when you have no landscape to begin with - like any grand adventure, there are many strands calling for our attention that must be carefully woven together to generate a purposeful school culture. It is imperative to consider the impact of all 8 forces if we are to truly establish a school that embraces a culture of thinking, of positive mindsets, of innovation, problem solving and experimentation and, perhaps most importantly, a culture of respect, acceptance and deep caring.
It is easy to set lofty goals for a new school, and to be enthralled with the possibilities of shiny new spaces and resources. It is a much greater challenge to acknowledge the imperative of the 'firsts' in a new school - the ways in which we will come together to consider, ponder and act as we craft an environment that intentionally looks and sounds like a school where transformation is not only possible but inevitable for every child who enters our doors.
Our new building is still under construction - we will be happily sharing spaces in our gracious 'sister school' for at least the first few months of this school year. Schools are not so much about the buildings, however; they are about the people, the actions, the relationships and the culture of learning we build together regardless of the size of the space or colour of the walls. As excited as we are, contemplating moving into a beautiful new learning space, it is the foundation we begin today that will ensure the first days that our school exists immediately honour a culture of thinking that will become a lasting legacy for students, families and the community.
Every day this school year will present another 'first' for Eric Harvie School - a calendar date our school has never experienced before. And each day will offer opportunities unknown and experiences unlived - yet - for our children. The potential is awe-inspiring as we come together these first days to consider our dreams and how we can thoughtfully bring expectations, language, time, modelling, opportunities, routines, interactions and the environment together in one absolutely amazing new school!
Lorraine Kinsman, Principal
Eric Harvie School