Over the December break, my school moved across town to our new campus.
It’s something I’m never likely to do again in my career.
Yet now that I’ve gone through the process, I wondered how can we keep that ‘new school’ feel alive in 10 years?
Schools aren’t the buildings or the facilities, but the community.
Yes, our brand new campus is amazing, but just as amazing is how the people stepped up to ensure our move was a success. Sometimes stepping up meant just being a good follower, other times it was pitching in to help others who needed it, other times it meant sending people home early because they needed to rest. One way we made this explicit to our learners was through them showcasing a special part of the campus to them, and talking about the people who made it special.
Make time to clear out your cupboards
One thing I love about our new learning space is that there is no clutter. Everything in the space is there for a purpose. Whenever you move house, it’s inevitable that you declutter. Packing inevitably provokes questions about the purpose of possessions in which you’ve been hanging onto. As we delved into the deep recesses of the scariest of storage cupboards – the most frequent answer to ‘would we make use of that?’ was no.
Document process – no more secret teacher business
Because of the move, our ‘winter’ break was a week longer. I knew both our learners and parents would be curious about what was happening. So I sent out little updates of the boxes being moved from our site, unpacking at the new site and gradually setting up our new learning space on Instagram account. It was a great way to show the approaches to learning being used by our staff members!
Be willing to try something new
One of our stretches in the new space was to move away from the concept of the traditional homeroom. Each class has a set area to meet each morning but we try to make use of the space due to need rather than through simply being allocated. We also decided that in the barrage of information coming through, a quick video conveying key information was needed to get the kids excited and informed about the new space.
Not everything was working perfectly on day 1… and that’s ok
Our new campus is a ‘work in progress’ – we haven’t fully set up the maker space, kitchen and art space on our floor yet. The best route to get from A to B – we were not always sure. Rather than see this as a failure on our part, we reconceptualized some of the problems as opportunities for our learners to take action. Keeping the ‘new school’ feel going forward means being comfortable with ‘ I don’t know,’ not having every detail of the year mapped out to leave time for the learners to explore.
Create time and space for inquiry
Our move took place in the middle of the school year. Rather than try to fit ‘teaching programmes around the move, we used the move as an opportunity for inquiry. We dedicated the first 3 weeks to ‘how we organise ourselves’ into our mid-year, expecting that the move would offer plenty of rich provocations and opportunities for children to take action – from helping to pack up classroom supplies to developing events to welcome our community to our new home.
Trust your learners
Our biggest challenge was moving from a low-rise building tested out by thousands of children over decades to a brand-new modern 12-story high rise was a challenge. I spent a lot of time running through a lot of worse case scenarios in my heads. There was just one small problem – I had forgotten how capable our learners are. Although there were a few questions about ‘getting lost’ and the absence of official homerooms, the kids adapted quickly to the new space.