I had the opportunity of visiting Northern Beaches Christian School last week and spent almost three hours with the principal, Stephen Harris and his leadership team. You could not find a team of professionals more committed to improving the learning for the young people in their care. The school runs a range of programs and research projects through the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL) to challenge thinking and transform professional practice.
Over the past few years, I’ve heard a lot about the school and it certainly meets all expectations. The focus is unashamedly on learning. Its members who learn and teach in various ways, share core goals, values and understanding. They work in collaborative partnership and share leadership functions. Relationships are supportive, structures are agile and adaptable and there is open dialogue and inquiry. Each member of the school community sees themselves as accountable to each other.
The design of learning spaces continues to evolve as their understanding of learners and pedagogy changes. It was rather remarkable to see the transformation of space and the reaction of learners to it. The school’s captain, reflected on this.
The students that I spoke to want to feel at home when they are at school, they want their environments to support their learning. Stephen and his team are in continual dialogue with students about what they want from their schooling experience. It is evident that there is a collective ownership of the spaces and the learning.
For me, the success of the school is the encouragement and support for teachers to lead professional development not only within the school but with other like-minded schools. In this way they take responsibility for their own, and other colleagues, professional growth. It is this commitment to sharing resources, ideas, and experience that builds our profession and moves us from good to great. You see good theory in action as teachers de-privatise their practice and build capacity within an agred evidence-based model.
You cannot help but be inspired and affirmed by what is happening at NBCS. What I have come to accept is that for every person that is against change, against pushing the boundary, against the idea of what might be possible, there are many others who are doing the work.
I saw a great quote on the wall in the library at NBCS – thought it was a powerful message for all of us.