Questions As First Steps (Moving Into A Shared Journey)

Faculty meetings as movement; sowing purposeful confrontation with questions – and each other.

I’ve always been drawn to the Aboriginal tradition of the walkabout; adolescent boys departing home for a period of up to six months as a rite of passage. I think what interests me most is a culture that constructs a physical and psychological experience of moving into adulthood (literally, through the landscape; metaphorically, as an internal process of rupturing with what was to discover/confront what one is to become).

Education is our Western corollary. In the bustle of each day we perhaps don’t look around to see it; we are engaged in a cyclical ceremony of learning. But are we together enough? Do we weave this experience for children

As a principal and facilitator of adult gatherings, I care a lot about making time and space for being together and feeling connected and happy (as people, as educators). I feel like these connections can and should very naturally translate into a sense of connectedness between classrooms; as students move through their daily ceremony, walking from one space to another, are they experiencing a purposefully woven thread – or a disjointed assortment of ideas, philosophies and expectations.

Cohesion is a muscle we build over time. 

Purposeful divergence is key to seeing new, fresh ideas emerge, but the foundation to any human organization will always be rooted in shared language and the memories the creation of those words and agreements engender.

Our district Instructional Coach and Buck Institute National Faculty member James Fester facilitated a recent faculty meeting grounded in a few key questions:

  • How can we continue to build connections between classrooms, departments and grade levels?
  • How can we purposefully construct opportunities for students to experience learning as a fluid continuum?
  • How can we help students engage with real-world issues and at the same time develop/deepen knowledge and skills?
  • How might we organize our collective work around central, driving questions?

We always start our meetings with presentations from students – in this case, projects they are undertaking to bring more vibrance to our campus through art.

Prior to the meeting, we met a few times to plan. We spent part of that time staring off into the void…what is the protocol for creating cohesive, interdisciplinary, project-based experiences at a school divided into subject matter departments? What about paper + pens + time + space x questions James found, reengineered or just plain made up?

This meeting was just another step in a process my district began some years ago with respect to project-based learning. We’ll put these questions up again at our next meeting, and again to start next school year. We’ll share updates on the seedlings you see here that take root, and hear from the students to see what kind of journeys can begin from a question.

For principals, coaches and other facilitators of adult organizational culture, paper and pen continue to serve as a welcome source of nourishment.

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