Celebration. Collaboration. Connection. A celebration of achievement, reflection on impact and provocation to build leadership for future action – those were the orders of day at the last Thought Leadership Gathering of 2019.
The SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection’s (The Connection) 25th Thought Leadership Gathering (TLG) held in late November assembled 117 educators for two days of celebration of their accomplishments in the program.
‘A community is a group of people who commit to grow together – and that’s what you’ve done,’ proclaimed SVA Director, Education Suzanne Cridge to welcome the room on day one. ‘All of you are living proof of what can be achieved when you take that intentional action.’
In 2019, there were 39 schools in The Connection from across New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria, whose three-year engagement concludes at the end of this year. Attendees’ familiarity with each other was evident, having watched each school’s progress, share learnings and built a community over the quarterly TLGs, Hub Days and school visits over the past three years.
This TLG program was deeply reflective. It gave school leaders an opportunity to reflect on their unique journeys and how they had supported each other, across communities, cities, states. Leaders split and spilled across rooms where each school presented their stories of impact from their three-year Project Action Plans. The true challenge lay in working out how to be in three rooms at once.
School leaders and teachers who were involved in the 2019 Connection International Exploration (CIE) earlier this year to New Zealand presented their experience visiting schools and organisations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Key insights from their immersive experience included the depth of cultural inclusion and connection, wellbeing focus, and inquiry-based learning in both assessment and project work.
The theme of the evening was celebration, celebration, celebration. Most notably, recognition of the hard work of each and every individual in the room in creating impact in their communities. Schools were presented with awards commemorating their accomplishments; plaques with an artwork commissioned by The Connection by 15-year-old Indigenous artist Billy Reynolds, a visual representation of the network built with and by the group of individuals present.
‘It’s about our network – and spreading our network,’ said provocateur Professor Alan J. Daly from the University of California, San Diego, an internationally recognised expert in social network theory and educational change. Alan’s call to recognise the capacity for leadership in the room and demonstration of the evidence behind building collaborative practice for collective efficacy left the room buzzing with a sense of a common goal and future focus.
This was my first TLG, having been freshly inducted into The Connection team two months prior – and what an introduction. I left two days later full of the spirit of a lifelong commitment to learning; the transformative impact of collaboration with a shared moral purpose is evident in this group of educators whose familiarity with each other only increases their individual impacts.
Above all, The Connection school leaders reported on their ability to improve outcomes for students and lead in their communities to alleviate experiences of disadvantage across the entirety of the program.
‘I met a colleague who introduced me to the notion of student voice, and it was like a lightbulb moment for me – it really opened my eyes to putting students front and centre and giving them a voice’, Principal of Blairmount Public School Greg Turnbull stated.
I look forward to seeing what the future holds for these ‘bright spots’ in 2020 and beyond.