Monday, 30 September 2013

Karyn Gray-Lessons Learnt from Our Plants.

At the beginning of each year we hold our staff induction.

In our first year induction went for 2 1/2 weeks. We began for the first three days on the local Marae getting to know each other and the big picture vision around learning at TKAS.  The remaining two weeks were spent getting to know the area: the infamous Amazing Race around Waikohu; continuing to get to know one another: lots of team building; and planning an initial scheme of learning for the first term: concept to be highlighted- dealing with change.

The induction period culminated with a powerful powhiri led by staff and the establishment board to welcome all students and whanau onto an old site but a new school.

Following the hakari and entertainment, staff gathered back together for a closing of the induction period where I presented them each with a photo frame with images of the last fortnight surrounding  the well known words to The Power of Geese.

These words have proven true for us time after time through the last three years. In fact I closed our end of term staff reflections this term by referring to them yet again. It’s been a challenging term and there have been times people have had to step up and move to the head of the “V” formation and take their turns leading, and some of our staff have really risen to the occasion when needed.

In Year 2 our induction, on a different local Marae, focussed around developing a language of learning and a commitment to professional learning. In what was becoming time honored tradition the induction ended with a quote and song and a presentation- this time of a photo frame with some pertinent quotes for the year ahead.

This year we had committed ourselves to becoming an an Enviro school. We were on another local Marae but our approach to the start of the year was quite different. We spent time getting to know about the whanau hanging in frames on the walls of the wharenui. We went for a bit of a hi koi to some places of interest- the old Marae site, the Urupa and of course the Kokomo- the much revered local swimming hole. 

We spent most of our time digesting and exploring the charter for the year with the main task being use the new school iPads to create a visual representation of the charter to share with each other.

Music played a large role in this induction with the immersion activity being me playing excerpts from 10 songs and staff members in teams making suggestions about how those particular songs might link to our charter for the year. (And yes that was accompanied by much complaining about my taste in music.!)

Given the focus on the environment for the year the induction time was concluded with me presenting all staff with a  mini house plant and charging them with growing their plant for the year, as a metaphor for how we are charged with growing our students. 

I used the song In the Garden (Terry Kelly) to illustrate this concept:

Think of all the people in your life that have left impressions on you
The ones who never let you down and those who were there each time you lost you way
All through your lifetime do remember the ones who really cared
Coz they were always there in the garden, where the flowers grow in the garden
The future will unfold
Thank god for the rivers and mountains and the valleys down below
Thank god for the teachers of our children so the garden can grow

Without a firm and guiding hand a tender sprout is lost among the weeds
Until your roots were firm and strong in the garden
Where the precious flowers grow in the garden
Where a better future will unfold

Thank god for the rivers and mountains and the valleys down below
Thank god for the teachers of our children so the garden can grow

So.............. after three terms where are the plants at? 

Each end of term we gather for reflections of the term. It has become one of our rituals as a staff.

This year reflections have been heightened as they begin with people bringing in their plants and sharing the stories of their growth, demise or anything in between. 

Yesterday we had stories about plants being Whangai (adopted) to their grandparents for some extra TLC but being regularly visited,

We had plants that had grown beyond all recognition through nothing but being given space and water. 

We had a plant whose carer bemoaned national standards. She explained that she was feeling good about her plant- she felt it be about the right standard until she got to school and saw another plant that was very well grown and she felt inferior, but then spotted another plant which had not fared so well and then felt really superior.

We had a plant who's carer was quite blunt about not being able or willing to care for plants and told us she really ignored her plant for the first two terms. But this term, having discovered Carol Dwecks work around mindsets she has started watering her plant and is wokring on changing her mindset about being able to care for plants and it is starting to thrive.

We had a digital representation of a plant because it's carer felt it was too comfortable nestled in its home surrounded by family and friends to be uprooted at this stage.

We had a plant that had been doing fine but its carer got a bit pressured into thinking it could do better and put too much effort into shining its leaves and other well-intended but interesting caring concepts. The carer had finally realized that he just needed to give it some space and let it do its own thing and juts be there to support it.

We had  a plant that had been left to itself for a little while but had managed to find what it needed to survive within the light and water available to it in the room it was left in. A nice metaphor for some of those students who don’t always get what they need for their growth but somehow find enough from limited stores to carry on.

We had plants of staff members who have left us during the year being cared for by other staff, ensuring their legacy lives on.

We had three teaching staff members absent along with their plants. 

One was with his wife as they were welcoming a new addition to their family. 
Another two were with whanau giving support in times of need. 

And that reminds me that it’s important for us to realise that we need to support and nurture our own loved ones- whanau and friends- and ourselves, in order to be able to support and nurture our learners.

So what have we learnt from caring for our plants?

  • That they all grow at different rates and speeds- as do our learners
  • That they all need different things fed to them and to be cared for in different ways in order to grow- as do our learners
  • That we need to think about our mindsets- whether we are growing plants or people 
  • That we can utilise the power and magic of technology to help support our plants....and our learners 
  • That although it is sad when people move on and gaps are left, others will step in and up to provide the care and support needed for those left behind- whether its plants or groups of young people 
  • That is order to care for other things, we need to look after ourselves and our nearest and dearest first- we need to be healthy in body and mind to nurture and support others

As all my staff- current and previous are well aware- I am a bit of a Quotes Queen- normally managing to find and share quotes for every occasion possible. 

On Friday I came upon this beauty:

A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.  D.Elton Trueblood

How apt is this both for:

The plants we are currently caring for- which need to be brought back in at the end of the year to take pride of place on the stage for our Celebration of Achievement (what other schools refer to as  prize giving) and thereafter will be housed within our new school environment- which we take ownership of in mid December.

The young people we are currently caring for and supporting and nurturing on their learning journey. We probably won’t see the end results of what we are nurturing and that is not the point. We are here to help them as much as we can through this point in their lifelong journey.  

Helping them to read and write and become engaged mathematicians is important. Even more important is the development of an inquiry mindset. And even more is the development of positive relationships.  

For us at TKAS helping our young people develop an understanding of their identity- past, present and future, the ability to be inclusive with all other people ( accept and have positive relationships with a range of people)  and doing things differently (being innovative) is the cornerstone to what we are doing (and are the three main points on our school logo). 

“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”  Robert Louis Stevenson


  1. 'Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.' Thomas Edison

  2. I've learnt from my plant that size does not matter. Just because other plants are bigger, it does not mean it's smaller. Its still the same size it was before it was compared. I've learnt that plants, like children, are not relative. They are to be cared for, nurtured, accepted and respected as unique. That's why I don't like National Standards either.

  3. “A quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business."

    ― A.A. Milne, If I May


  4. plant is struggling now its in the real world (in the garden...) maybe growing it in a pot in a stable environment (the bathroom) wasn't the best preparation for garden life...nah no link to education at all...

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