When school leaders run their own conferences, you have a winning recipe!

The Conference Team in all their glory
Back: Juan, Rowan, Oriett, Fernall, Earl, Vernon, Shaun, Terence,
Middle: Jo-anne, Marcy, Lameez,  Cassy, Lavinia  Genine
Front: Colleen, Ronelle, Tasneem, Michele,Sharon, Gerard, Noel, Zaida.
Not in photo: Ivor, Rashida, Hilton

Yes, one would think school leadership teams can't wait for Friday so that they can rest their brains and bodies. But not this group of vibrant, energising leaders from four of our schools. After a long week of running at full steam with the new curriculum, CAPS, Friday afternoon was the start of another brain- stretching marathon - our leadership conference that boasts of disruptive thinking, interacting and having loads of fun as well
So there we were on Friday, 22 February, ready to hit the N1 for our think-tank session. From the four corners of the Lavender Hill-Retreat-Steenberg belt the cars moved towards Paarl. Here at Joie de Vivre we were going to host our 1⅟2  day leadership conference for the SMTs of four primary schools: Floreat, Prince George, Square Hill and Steenberg. We chose Joie de vivre as our conference setting again. Here the relaxed ambience and friendly staff guarantee a pleasant experience at Joie de Vivre. 
Friday afternoon kicked off with an icebreaker that revealed a few interesting niknaks. Lavinia, Head of Square Hill Primary and Shaun, Deputy principal of Prince George Primary discovered they lived a block away from each other. Noel, Head of Floreat Primary and Ivor, Head of Levana, found out they are both diehard Bob Marley fans while Michele ( “with one ‘l’ as she stressed) managed to sniff out all the unattached in the house! The scene was set for the conference with all the positive energy surrounding us.
Follow Leader Shaun, Deputy Principal, Prince George Drive
Supper time under the open skies on Friday.

The first set of presentations focused on systems thinking and Jim Collins’s “Good to great”. Lameez, the Head of Prince George Primary twisted the delegates’ dendrites with Senge’s learning organization conceptual framework. We were challenged to interrogate our mental models, our understanding of leadership and team structure. Then delegates were given a snapshot of Jim Collins’s “Good to great”, leaving them to chew on the hedgehog and flywheel concepts.

  Soon after our presenters from Lourier and Levana Primary schools took to the floor to share thoughts on the theme: ‘Is poverty a learning barrier?’. Rashida, the Head of Lourier Primary and Ivor, Head of Levana delivered a powerful action-based presentation, integrating the literature and their own practice. The critical role of the teacher was underscored as the disruptive element to break down the shackles of poverty in the classroom. The role of school leadership was interrogated in terms of its moral purpose. Hard-hitting facts were shared,yet the non-judgemental tone peppered with humorous anecdotes drawn from their real life experiences enhanced the experience for all. 

Each school too gave an input on their experiences with the new curriculum, CAPS.  Supper that was served in alfresco-style at the poolside and the windless starry night provided a calming backdrop for the delegates whose brains must have been reeling with all this information. We rounded off the evening with the Autopsy session where each SMT have their private reflective sessions which would form the final presentation slot of our conference.

Hard at work
Ivor looking on as the Floreat Team prepares for their CAPS input.

On Saturday morning, after fun teambuilding exercises of Funny soccer and Blindfolded walks, we were ready for day 2’s presentations. Cassy, the Head of Steenberg Primary, gave an overview of Fullan’s Six Secrets while Noel, the Head of Floreat High School, delivered a presentation on International Studies of Achievement and lessons we can draw from these. Here again we grappled with language because of its relevance for our Cape Flats learners.  "Mengels" ( a colloquial form of English ) dominates here.  Again we grappled with the difference of the teaching medium and the language used by our learners. 

All the way from Floreat: Zaida, Noel, Jo-anne.

The CSI from Square Hill
Then it was centre stage time: the SMT presentations.  This session was an eye opener and an energy-charged one. Each of the SMTs presented thoughtful, deep ‘brutal facts’ about their current state. The honesty, the rawness and the willingness to both affirm their successes and critique their gaps, gave us goosebumps at times. 

There was such  sensitivity and trust in the space where these open conversations were taking place – an acceptance that we are all there to learn and lean on one another to become great.  This was genuine collaboration – the real McKoy…
Oriett and Genine relaxing on Saturday.

Funny soccer had our heads donning all kinds of poses.

This conference was an amazing experience for all of us.  Rowan’s words still rang in my head long after I had reached home.  “ This was an awesome experience; we need to expose all our staff members to such moments – they have to experience this richness of learning about oneself too and how fences can be broken down…

Snapshots of dendrites in motion


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