Twenty teacher leaders and principals from across Maine came to the Hurricane Island Foundation’s inaugural Retreat for School Leaders in July 2013. This course offered “an opportunity to extend your own success as a leader of teaching and learning in your school.”
Over three days, the retreat blended small-group consultation, active team initiatives, and opportunities for conversation with a distinguished staff including Roland Barth, Gordon Donaldson (primary facilitator), Tom Edwards, Gloria Delsandro, and Sue Palfrey.
Hurricane Island proved a unique environment for leadership lessons. Participants brought “leadership challenges” they face at school and left with plans to address one or two of these challenges. The personal attention each received during the retreat was a highpoint for many: “I enjoyed being able to talk about issues and really focus on mine… I found similarities with others’,” one leader reported. Another said, “It was valuable to hear about other people’s challenges; it added clarity to my own.”
Participants took to the trails in a team-learning initiative, rowed in the waters of Hurricane Sound in a team-coordination initiative, and joined in service teams to contribute to the island’s learning infrastructure. "Conversation focused on leadership dynamics within teams and the strengthening of professional cultures in schools. Living together as a community of learners in the island’s camp-like setting added immeasurably to the Retreat for many. “There was a lot of motivation and energy,” said one participant. “People were very supportive,” reported another, “I was surprised by the trust given by the group.”
All declared, this first Retreat a resounding success. HIF plans to build on this experience to offer more leadership learning opportunities to teacher leaders and administrators from Maine schools. The island’s potential as a learning opportunity for leaders will grow in the future. One teacher leader said it best: “I expected I’d do more listening [when I came to Hurricane] and not as much being listened to; that made this very powerful for me and [my fellow teacher leader from my school.]”