In this #coachbetter episode, Kim chats with Tara Waudby, Head of School at Riffa Views International School in Bahrain. Tara is an inspirational leader who lives and breathes the mission of her school. Kim and Tara explore one of the initiatives at her school that Tara is most excited about, Ignite Day. This non-traditional school day placed in the middle of the week provides many opportunities for all community members to engage in personalized learning. It’s also a perfect example of completely re-thinking the way learning can look in a future-forward school. Tara is also facilitating our next cohort of our COETAIL (Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy) program. Stay tuned to the end of the conversation to hear more about why Tara is so passionate about COETAIL (and why you should join our next cohort!).
Bonus! Watch the Spotlight Version on YouTube!
Started off teaching special ed, early childhood special needs. Loved HS. Overseas 20 years ago, but no special needs. EAL certification & English. Started in Taiwan, then moved to Middle East. Also did a leadership degree at this time. Special needs and EAL informed me as a strategist, not necessarily a content person.
What are you excited about at school this year?
Ignite Day. Brilliant example of co-creation. Came to the school in the middle of mission revision. Future driven vision. What does Personalization really mean in a school. Hedgehog: personalized learning, who you are when you leave, community partnerships. Move from knowing and understanding yourself, to impacting your community. Ignite Passions, Personalize the Journey, Impact through Action.
Trying to solve a technical problem: how do we move to a 5 day schedule (to get rid of 6 day schedule). Launched “Ignite Day”: Intramurals to build team, leadership, activity, confidence. Advisory & clubs and committees. In secondary, 4 week personalized learning and 1 showcase day. Students badge in stands: wellness, leadership, communication, innovation & design. Start in grade 6, earn badges, and encouraged to try every strand. Building towards a graduate showcase. Culminating 2 years of HS, with IBDP. Graduate with a showcase of their different experiences.
Focusing on personalizing the journey and giving students lots of experiences. Secondary traditionally can’t take everything, so trying to flex the schedule. ES has become so compartmentalized with specials (45m for reading, etc)
ES: 4 hours in the morning, project based learning + Arabic enrichment. In 4th and 5th they get electives. We’re a small enough school that we can try something and do it in beta mode. We didn’t understand what we were doing in August but now we’re so proud to be working here. It couldn’t be done by just one person.
Play with a future driven schedule. Always Tuesday. Let’s us bookend with a more traditional schedule. Higher attendance and less behavior incidents on every Ignite Day. Strands lead up to celebration days so it’s really integrated. Goal: as we shift to this, more students and community teaching, than teachers.
Teachers teach 3 of the 5 rotations. On the rotations that you’re not teaching, you have 4 solid weeks of planning time. Try to put the teams off at the same time so they have deep time embedded in planning. Everyone teaches – including the leadership team and business manager. Now leaders get to experience students as a teacher, assessment, etc. So much more joy that we all get to be teachers. It’s not the same as having your own group of kids.
This was a huge change, how did you manage this with your staff?
Started thinking about it Oct 2018, pitched to an expanded school wide leaders team, parent council, got volunteers to join the ignite team. 10 -12 people who met regularly and shared the workload in Secondary. ES had their own team. Lots of conversations, smaller group workshops, very few whole faculty workshops.
It was overwhelming at the start of the year. We were all overwhelmed by change. What was remarkable was how much students and parents took to it.
Annual World Cafe with a future vision, this is where we got all the feedback from parents. Hope and Dreams with students & parents. They wanted confidence, joy and happiness to fulfil their dreams. Coaches provided a lot of 1:1 support and meeting time. Permission to fail. Collecting lots of feedback, holding open forums. Fail forward.
3 Cs & an F: Communicate, Connect & Care: sending the information out often, in a way that’s meant to connect. Connection is not a raft of communication, it’s personalized. Showcasing the process and the journey, the rationale, providing opportunities for feedback.
Strategic goals: Increased Learner Agency, Increased Community Wellness: Co-creation of PD over the course of the year.
How do we get everyone to know everything? Everyone can’t know everything as deeply, and thats ok. Agility, Flexibility, one size doesn’t fit all For many you change behavior before you change belief – Thomas Gusgy We have to be brave and daring in education! You can’t go too fast that it’s disorganized, but you also can’t go too slow that you never do anything.
How did coaching team support this?
More organic from volunteers who are interested. More like teacher leaders. Great opportunity to build leadership. Finding the balance between teacher leaders & strengths? Play into people’s strengths and provide opportunities for growth.
BOOK: “The answer to how is yes” -> the question “how” has to come at the right time. We have to adopt the idea before we get to the how.
Getting feedback by doing. How do you create an environment to support risk taking? Hearing feedback is hard too. There are lots of times that you have to take that feedback in and do self reflection. This is one perspective, but there are reservations. You will only have half-hearted innovation if you’re missing compassion. Pilot is now called “proof of concept” You can lead change by trying something on a small scale.
You have to invite the feedback and consider it. You have to be super self reflective. All innovation is founded on empathy. What does a compassionate school look like: do people smile in the hallways, are doors open, do people say hello. It’s really contextualized – needs to be defined for each school community. From compassion you go to Trust. Once you have trust, you have courage, which leads to innovation.
How do you build this strong community?
Combination of small things. Intentionally being conscious of noticing where you are and greeting people and smiling.
Whether you’re small or big, you have to work in teams. Any team is working through a process, sometimes it scales, sometimes it doesn’t. The process is as important as the product, you have to get people to understand the process to be able to scale it.
A big problem is that we don’t know how to collaborate. It’s not me coming in and telling you my idea, and you adding one or two things. It’s about asking a question that has a myriad of answers or none, that maybe no one coil have thought of it on their own. How do you ask those deep & meaningful questions and then gather the input.