When you hear someone speak of a ‘school leader’ your mind normally goes to images of superintendents or principals and conjures up some jumble of paperwork, meetings, and administration of people and programs. What may not immediately jump to mind are teachers as leaders: the people in the school building without the official title of 'leader' that affect change and motivate others to achieve what they would not or could not on their own.
For three days at the end of June, school leaders of all kinds converged on Hurricane Island for the second annual Leadership Retreat, which was led by a team of skilled facilitators including Dr. Linda Bowe, Dr. Richard Ackerman, Dr. Gordon Donaldson, Dr. Doug Babkirk and Hurricane Island’s own Barney Hallowell and Dr. Jenn Page.
The weekend allowed significant facilitated time for leaders to collaborate on critical school initiatives mixed with dynamic activities designed to increase leadership capacity in attendees. Exploration hikes, gigging (boating) challenges, and collective post-meal time discussions were all part of the experience, which served to both empower attendees and improve their ability to work and communicate effectively.
No comment on the activities of the Retreat would be complete without mentioning the boat ride out to the island! Pelting rain, 30mph gusts of wind, and a small craft advisory only seemed to strengthen the resolve of the participants to make it out to the island that first day. They were immediately integrated into the Hurricane Island culture when they hit the dock and were met by our capable interns who schlepped bags and showed the leaders to their respective cabins or bunks before sitting them down to a hot meal prepared by our chef Micah.
Most attendees came with other teachers and administrators from their schools or school districts, comprising small, 2-3 person groups all the way up to a massive 15 person unit that hailed from various levels across the Camden-Rockport School District. Some teachers even came as individual ambassadors from their schools and were linked to other participants as necessary to help them meet their personal goals. Everyone left the experience with a renewed sense of purpose and a much stronger vision regarding the challenges they brought to the Retreat with them.
In many ways it is really not my place as a facilitator to say whether the Retreat was a "success" or not as that really is determined by individual participants. Luckily, we were joined on the last day of the retreat by Dr. Roland Barth and Dr. Tom Edwards who visited with groups and helped crystalize the experience in a final participant circle. They posed the question, ‘What aspects of the environment here made it so incredibly conducive to your success during this retreat?’. As the question made its way around the circle participants were allowed to duplicate answers by others before them but, remarkably, almost every participant came up with a new facet of the environment that made the experience so valuable for them. The list below captures the retreat far better than I ever could in pages of blog posts:
- Trust and risk
- Dedicated people
- Freedom from distraction
- Support (personal and professional)
- ‘Island-time’ (everything slows down)
- Salt water & granite
- Common goals
- Skilled facilitators
- Experiential learning
- Input/feedback from others
- Connection to the natural world
- Physical activity
- Developing relationships
- Disclosing your learning
A big 'thank you' to all those who participated in the Leader's Retreat this year and we can't wait to build on this success with future retreats!