Participants shared about their learning from the conference. They referred to aspects that were affirmed for them and challenges for consideration
There was a depth of feeling that there are real opportunities with the future of education in Aotearoa, especially with the strength of cross-sector collaboration being engaged. This collective strength and focus can ensure innovation or transformation, for change is possible. This was termed making a difference, having an impact and influencing the future as leaders.
Participants mentioned the challenging and disrupting that occurred or re-occurred, for them whilst listening to speakers at the conference and that the status quo must continue to be challenged across all sectors of education. This was imperative in ensuring inequities in educational outcomes are focused on, not accepting the status quo and the real impact of colonisation. The notion of colouring in the white spaces (Milne), and decolonising Eurocentric structures (Berryman), to ensure Matauranga Māori is integral to our curriculum, was seen as at the heart of being culturally responsive. Also seen as being the foundation of the mahi of cultural responsiveness was social justice and the ethic of care. This to participants meant locating and challenging those who hold power and privilege.
The conference theme Tūrangawaewae and the emphasis given by speakers created an impetus for participants. Being confronted with the evidence of disparity and hearing the reasons why, had an impact of participants. Mere Berryman placing the Doctrine of Discovery in front of participants was very confronting. A key aspect noted by participants was eradicating the whiteness in our professional learning programmes. The cultural capabilities of leaders were seen to be paramount.
Participants highlighted, in reference to the conference theme, the need to create space, to create a sense of being together, with belonging and collaborating with diverse people essential when working with others in organisations. This led to consistency of practices and was mana enhancing.
Participants reflected on the importance of teacher-leaders, of teams, of collaboration and of relationships in the focus for leaders. The act of leading was seen as pulling it all together, integrating, keeping an eye on the big picture, seeing both the whole and the parts and keeping the vision to the fore. A key aspect of the leader’s role was seen as assisting others to see where aspects fitted the direction, vision, and values. Leaders, leading in these complex times, were seen to need support, and nurturing in their role. The impact of attending the conference as a leadership team was mentioned, as this created a shared conversation.
In terms leadership growth and development, participants mentioned the power of coaching and mentoring. The meant being intentional and having a clarity of focus with coaching and not leaving this to chance. The progression of growth for coaches was emphasised as key.
Participants mentioned, in terms of the change journey, the need to celebrate the steps to see how far one has come with the change, to not be complacent, and to keep one’s eye on the horizon. Change was seen as doing things differently for learners. A key point taken was that change can happen in ways that do not take too much energy and time, if one is intentional, deliberate and as Russell Bishop would state, have fidelity with the process by following the steps.
Participants referred to the personal shifts they saw as being of great importance. This meant taking cultural responsiveness personally, focusing on their own bicultural practices, engaging in their own historical journey to open their own eyes and view things through a different lens. Participants referred to their ideals being challenged.
This personal journey for some was seen as recreating themselves when in a new role in a new context. That it was about acknowledging where they where themselves, knowing this and celebrating this. It was noted that each context has needs which determine what leadership looks like. It is not a recipe. There are ideas to take to one’s own thinking all the time. Each leader is on a journey of leadership growth and becoming in very contextualised and specific ways. The notion that leadership can be calm and considered and not charismatic or egocentric was noted. Hearing the stories of others created confidence that people were on the right track themselves and hearing these stories opened their eyes to other possibilities whilst affirming and strengthening one’s resolve. Hearing provocations was positive as it challenged participants’ thinking especially in regard to shifting away from privilege in a non-condescending manner.