#scil11 Study Tour “The best PD a principal can do”

This was the quote of one of the principals who joined us on the inaugural SCIL Study Tour. I am still to write posts about the schools in England we visited and other reflections, but I need to take this opportunity for shameful promotion, that international travel, with a team of committed professionals can be one of the most challenging experiences and important investments a leader can make. As the organizer, I was very grateful that people decided to come along.

About two weeks ago we met together to begin our adventure in Copenhagen. Over dinner we got to know one another, shared our expectations and those who had just arrived tried to stay awake until a reasonable hour.

The value of a tour such as this is not just visiting the places on the itinerary, it’s what we see and we learn along the way, and the value those all-important conversations that just can’t be quantified. Over dinner, at breakfast and in transit the group sharpened their thinking and challenged one another.

On our last evening together, over dinner in a small restaurant in Bearsted, Kent, we talked about the trip, the places we visited and worked through the process of “what worked well” and “even better if”.

Here are a few what-worked-wells:

The itinerary – each day built on the last (with the comment “can it keep getting better?”)

The connections between the group members

There was more than sufficient professional activity contrasted with a rest day and travel days

The rest day in the middle weekend, in a beautiful historic town and cosy hotel, provided the perfect down-time to recharge batteries

There was a great balance between the types types of spaces/activities of the tour

Bringing a couple of people from the one school/system heightened the value-add back to the school

The generosity of our host principals and their staff in sharing ideas and meeting the students and hearing their candid insight

Spending time with Stephen Harris as he shared the journey of change and brought his reflection in the context of each place.

And the even-better-ifs?

Well there weren’t that many, except conversations about the best timing within the school calendar and one of our museums was between exhibitions.

Our group experienced more than they anticipated – “I thought I was going to look at the design of learning spaces, but I found so much more, about learning, supporting teachers, assessment and standards.”

As I sit here in my hotel in Surrey, taking a couple of days to breathe before taking the long journey home, I am very grateful for the opportunity to lead a tour with Stephen Harris and such a wonderful group of people. I would encourage leaders to make this investment, join us next time and see the difference this opportunity can make to your school, your team and importantly, your students.

And one last comment…”exceeded expectations”.

My own reflections and learnings will be synthesized in the next few days, but for me the key ideas are:

Leadership: What does it take to keep and grow the vision over time?

Teachers: Not just learners, but ahead of the game as practitioners and craftsmen/women

Systems and processes: How to grow, flourish and remain fresh within a solid framework

Oh, of course. I will provide you with insight into coffee and wifi in UK and Europe… As I sit in Starbucks, with an extra shot small latte. The sacrifices I make to get this post out!

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