Brainy brains and emotional experiences

The third week of my journey covers reflection, brain exploration and taking values into practice.

At the end of last week I shared my story with the staff about my learning journey and values which have shaped my life.  I spent a lot of time thinking about my life, the learning experiences, challenges I faced and how I overcame them. This level of reflection wasn’t part of my usual daily routine and I found the process to be very emotional. So many aspects of the vision of Hobsonville Point resonate with me as my life would have turned out quite differently had I not been in a school were there was sufficient flexibility to allow me to take a slightly different route and personalise my learning. I found sharing my story to be very difficult – there were lots of tears (from me and others) but I kept coming back to why I believe that learning needs to be personalised – if Kavanagh hadn’t been so open, I would have left school with my highest qualification as 4 subjects School C. Now, I have just finished my masters and am in line for first class honours. I love hearing the stories of everyone at Hobsonville. There are moments of connectedness, shared experiences (especially when looking at old photos) and the sense that we are coming together as a team. I look forward to more stories today and tomorrow.

So, after that cathartic experience, we spent the beginning of the week with Julia Atken looking at learning preferences and the brain. We had all completed a Herrmann’s Brain diagnostic test earlier in the term and Julia took us through our results and the implications of our results.  This was a really interesting process. As a team we had to select dispositions or qualities from a set of cards which most reflected ourselves. Julia put limitations on these so that we had to make a choice of three cards, with the option of one which did not reflect us at all. I felt that I wanted to pick a card which reflected  an emotional way of thinking but instead chose my three descriptors as ‘flexible’, ‘challenging’ and ‘planner’ – my non-me card was ‘quantitative’. I was quite pleased with my choices but not at all surprised to see that my Herrmann’s brain diagnosis placed me as mainly holistic/ emotional in my thinking/learning preferences, followed by a practical approach with rational thinking as my least preferred mode.  This correlates to my Myers-Briggs personality profile – ENFP.  I think big picture with an emotional slant – innovation, imagining, risk-taking balanced out with structured, logical and conservative approaches – kind of like my three words.  It was great to compare and contrast our diagrams with the team – as a group we have common traits but there is diversity. I really loved the openness with which everyone shared their diagrams, their interpretations of them and the acknowledgement of our shared differences.

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I see real potential in how we use this information about our thinking preferences – both in terms of leading learning (for students and staff) but also in how we work closely alongside students to personalise learning. Personalisation does not have to be about making student’s passions the focus of their learning but instead could be about knowing preferences and challenging learners to develop their least preferred option. I also love that it doesn’t label someone as ‘being’ blue or yellow or red… or whatever. Instead, it acknowledges preferences. The diagnosis also covers how you are likely to think when under pressure – no surprises for me that my rational and practical ways of thinking take a backseat to a more emotional response. However, the only thing which proved to be a surprise was that I was more likely to be an experimental thinker under pressure – future focused. This would come as no surprise to my poor husband who sees me as the eternal optimist, particularly when under duress.

Tuesday and Wednesday has had the Leaders of Learning working on developing the ‘Hobsonville Habits’. These are the practices and principles which will underpin everything that we do. This has been a great academic exercise where we developed ‘I’ statements about what those habits may look like – e.g. ‘I stay firm to my resolve’ as a habit which underpins resilience. I have really enjoyed the robust discussion around these – not only as I love discussion and dialogue – but we are hopefully more mindful of the thinking preferences approaches we as a LOL team possess.  I love that we have time to debate and discuss the semantics of these (I am passionate about language and the power of words) but that this is balanced by the fact that we have time, a luxurious resource which most educators are not afforded. I love that we can say ‘throw all of those ideas down, we can look at them again later’ instead of having the pressure to produce something, something quite profound, and do so quickly.

My learnings from this week:

  • Good things take time
  • It takes all kinds of people to achieve, I did know this but the brain diagnosis confirmed the importance of diversity (especially in thinking!)
  • Honesty and openness allow for individual’s values, beliefs and ways of doing things to be explored