Collaborating for sustainable practice & the role of Appreciative Inquiry

I write from Sydney airport, en route to Adelaide, returning from 3 days in New Zealand.

Over the last 3 days I have had the privilege of sharing with, and influencing and being influenced, during the dialogue that underpins the teacher only days at Epsom Normal Primary School in Auckland, New Zealand.

This was the 4th time I have been with the staff for the ‘start up’ activities for a new year. It is a school that I have been researching in terms of its organisational development from the arrival of a new principal 5 years ago. I have a publication which is ‘in press’ with the International Journal Of Organisational Analysis.

Over the last 3 days I have observed a senior leadership team which is committed to sustainable praxis. Sharing their thoughts together, and debating priorities, leads to a distribution of key tasks. The distribution of tasks is not always pre-determined, rather discussed in terms of the person responsible for an event, such as a staff meeting, and the supportive role the other team members will play during the meeting.

In another meeting, the leaders / facilitators of the individual staff member’s ‘impact projects’ were enthusiastically engaging with me about greater clarity over an ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ progress that is foundational underpinnings of these projects. I introduced the school to appreciative inquiry 4 years ago and they are running with it in their leadership, impact projects and curriculum development. I listened to teachers’ stories of children’s transformational learning experiences and their excitement in their own professional learning – so satisfying. [For more information on Appreciative Inquiry and links to relationships and relational leadership, see my http://www.relationalbeing.com website]

Staff discuss the difference between busyness and the need for perspective on their practice. They engage in a way that results in shared commitments and expressions of collegiality that excite me.

These discussions happen in other educational contexts, including Flinders University School of Education. The discussions are happening internationally. Perhaps a re-humanising of education is hope-full, given the relational call between collaborative sustainable dialogue and praxis.

I read once that the virtues of an educated person are humility and hospitality: I saw these virtues fleshed out among the staff.

Thanks for having me Epsom – very inspiring!

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