I really wanted to resist the urge to have a creative coffee morning amongst colleagues. I tried. Given, however, the exhortation to get people together who don’t usually collaborate on anything creative, I thought that was enough reason to push on.
There were representatives from several different faculties at the school (Art, Design, History, the Director of Studies, English, Science, Music, Media Studies, RE) most of whom would rarely spend time together, let alone in a discussion based around creating learning spaces. Secondary schools are notorious for retaining a silo mentality but without an underlying thread tying us together, apart from the overarching assessment culture, I would say there is often more that divides than unites us.
What was surprising was the enthusiasm in the discussion about learning spaces. Everyone wanted to talk about the Library, as we had just sent out a survey about Library usage to canvas views of what will happen with the introduction of the BYOD program next year. Steering ideas into other spaces around the school eventually came back to the Library! Our school is spread out, mostly single level with little outside covered space. In a climate like Canberra’s, any space that is warm in winter and cool in summer is bound to be well-used. Some felt the communal space of the Library had so much potential. Others were very happy with the current layout. (!) Several people commented though, how there had never been any invitation to talk about the actual space before. It was a revelation. The new architecturally designed senior school building (up for public architecture awards this year) has beautiful new spaces, but some teachers are less than positive about its potential to enhance learning. They expressed the view that they had not been asked to have any input. Decisions were made that didn’t include all stakeholders, although I do know many teachers were not prepared to get on board with some of the more interesting design ideas that have been introduced. Ultimately the process is the product – it’s not so much the outcome but the opportunity to actually get together and talk about what we have in common. Perhaps there may have been more uptake in the new spaces if teachers felt included.
Note the prescriptive layout of the Library classroom as per attachment to door. The creative coffee morning created a pretext for people to get together though, and was worth it, even if we did move the furniture.
The evening event was a small gathering – a sculptor, an artist, several teachers. This time we were in the beautiful new foyer and restaurant space of Hotel Hotel, edgy and modern.
The concept of creativity was the focus. You can be creative with what you have, said the sculptor – you don’t have to knock everything over and start again. Creativity and innovation appear to be obvious allies but adaptation rather than innovation also gives scope for creativity. The creativity lies as much in what you do with what you have, as it does in knocking everything down and starting again. This way of thinking resonates with me as I have begun to see space differently. Unfortunately the noise level of the hotel precluded recording what people had to say! Shades of Julian Treasure and the ability of architects to listen.
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