A team of people from my school visited the Northern Beaches Christian School today, courtesy of their research arm the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning. Our goal was to reflect on the relationship between the built environment and teaching and learning; I am confident that all of us found it to be tremendously stimulating.
A core insight that emerged from listening to the principal, Stephen Harris, is that learning for students takes place in the context of physical space, virtual space, culture and professionalism (which entails the pedagogy, commitment and capacity of the teachers). I particularly appreciated his point that school culture needs to be 'aggressively' cultivated, in that young people receive aggressive enculturation from the world around them, shaping their thinking on any number of fronts. If we want to reframe culture in the school, such that it is distinctively different to culture elsewhere, then we will need to be intentional, purposeful and deliberate about it.
At NBCS I was struck by the engagement and the ownership of learning that was demonstrated by the students. While recognising that NBCS sees itself as on a journey, rather than having arrived, the culture of the school - inasmuch as it is student-empowered and self-initiating was clear to the observer.
In our context, school culture is articulated in our values and in the outcomes to which we are working - that is, our Inaburra Learner Profile. These things describe both what matters to us and where we are going. In order to be effective shapers of our culture, these ideas need to be explicitly embodied in words and tangibly enacted in deeds as a matter of everyday life. I wonder whether these aspirational articulations of our identity, purpose and culture are equally clearly recognised to the visiting observer ...