New Minds, New Ideas

The first branch of Street Light Schools is up and running. Jeppe Park Primary looks and feels like a primary school now. We have spent the first month and a half of year one finding our rhythm.

In the spirit of modelling the sort of behaviour we expect of the little ones, collaborative problem-solving has been the name of the game. We are focused on the vision of what we would like Jeppe Park Primary to be like, but just like a child needs to learn to walk, talk and create, we had lots of things to figure out and problems to solve.

It has taken some time to adjust to the larger team. However we have been transitioning gradually over the past few years. In the first year there were three permanent staff members and it was really intimate. We cried and laughed together. I often joked about not knowing what my job description was. Boundaries were limited in that regard. We did it all ourselves. The teaching, organising the library, the cleaning, the student recruitment, the counselling, taking pictures, writing for the blog, sourcing building materials, shopping, carrying heavy things, painting the new space, and the list goes on. We had a taste of a slightly bigger team for a couple of months when some lovely ladies from Italy and the States joined us as interns. By the end of that year I swear I could have taken a seven-day-long “power nap.”

The next year, was not very different. Except we had a few more helping hands. So we were able to share the load. The idea of having “my lane” started to come into our lives. Instead of doing everything under the sun and the moon, I knew what my job entails. We had a few new people, so we were able to now focus on all classroom related things. “Happy days, happy days!” A lovely social worker joined the team, and her presence took a huge load off of our emotional heavy lifting. Communications and social media has been taken over. Our project manager took a huge load off of the physical heavy lifting and other things that made it easier. And last but not least, our School Leader joined us and brought much inspiration and structure to the team. But of course, we were preparing to open a brand new school, so there was much to do for everybody.

This year, with the new school that has a person for everything plus some, we have to be reminded that there are people to help deal with all the challenges that we are dealt on the daily. We are learning from each other through observation and conversation. Although our conversations take much longer now that there are more opinions to be considered as we deliberate over decisions. We are all getting used to the different spectrum of personalities and communication styles. Our days are organised with space for individual and group planning, preparation and professional development slotted in between all the fun learning and exploration we are experiencing with the children. The innovative aspect of our school calls for many a debate over what we should try in our trial and error phase as we find our feet. More minds, more ideas, better solutions and greater growth.

-Dionne Mankazana

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