Axium’s work with teachers and school leaders aims to encourage and build capacity in these key drivers of change in schools. The annual Senior Management Team (SMT) Retreat is an opportunity for school leaders from the Siyahluma Sisonke Sakhingomso (SSS) Network of schools to gather at an offsite venue for team building, sharing and collaborative problem solving.
It had been 15 months since our last SMT Retreat and the excitement was palpable in the weeks leading up to the event, with many teachers contacting us to make sure it was still happening! This was the 5th of these annual retreats and we used the occasion to invite principals from the Manyano Network – a group of schools in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, who had helped us launch our own network of schools at the very first SMT Retreat in 2012 – to return and check in on progress. Usually held in December, the long gap between events was as a result of requests from schools to reschedule to the beginning of the year in order to allow more effective follow up.
The theme of the weekend was “Effective Leadership”, building on the first of the “5 Essential Supports” for school improvement – a framework introduced to schools at the last event. Schools had identified three main areas of focus: effective leadership for order and control; effective leadership for curriculum management; and, effective leaders taking responsibility (the first of Covey’s Seven Habits). Discussions were impassioned and inspiring, while possibly lacking the focus and practical application that we had hoped for in our planning – something we’re musing over how to remedy for future events. In particular, the Manyano team left us with a strong challenge about our role in creating opportunities for the children we serve. The 29 teachers seemed to leave the weekend encouraged and motivated, and we hope this will bear fruit at the nine schools they represent.
Probably the most encouraging outcome of the weekend was the election of a very strong steering committee for the SSS Network, including several key principals and teachers – the “movers and shakers” if you like – in our community of schools. Watch this space for an update on developing a programme of action for the network, as this steering group meets early in the new term…