Ronse. The heart of the Flemish Ardennes. Leaning against Wallonia. Campus Glorieux Secondary is a school with spiritual DNA. That of priest Stefaan Modest Glorieux (1802-1872). Find your way around Ronse, and you will look 'Glorieux' in the eye, in big facade letters on the hospital, as a street name, as a school, and as a bust in the school. Stefaan Modest Glorieux did a lot in the 19th century for Ronseans who were less fortunate. On the school's website, I read that as an educator and didactician, the man was a forerunner of humanities education and also of specific vocational training. That inspiring influence remains. "Giving everyone regardless of ability as many opportunities as possible, from that drive we make our education every day," says Eva Lamon. "Glorieux's ideas can be summed up in three words: 'head, hands, heart'. Those three levels are also in our new mission and vision statement."
A new mission and vision statement ... The words are there. "Why was renewal allowed?", I ask. "Our management wanted to reinvigorate the school," Eva Lamon explains. "Three years ago, Nele Furniere joined as deputy, alongside headmaster Eddy Moreau and deputy Michèle Lammens. Our management has been rejuvenated a bit. So we have been triggered to look to the future with the new ideas of the young teachers and the expertise of the old guard."
The world is changing. Teachers change. Young people change. Insights change. "What used to be there was good," adds Kenneth Labiau. "But what worked well pedagogically in the past therefore does not do so today. And as a school, you are there for the future. The management wanted a new platform from which to make school. We wanted to put goals first, make it clear who we are as a school and where we want to go, with a vision and mission and a strategic plan."
‘We wanted to clarify who we are as a school and where we want to go, with a vision and mission and a strategic plan.’
From the start, it was clear that outside guidance would be needed: to break out of their own cocoon, get new handles and work efficiently. "Why did you choose StreetwiZe's coaching?" I ask. "The management scanned a number of organisations," replies Eva Lamon, "but very quickly ended up with StreetwiZe, also because of the 'Mobile School' work. The feeling was: the people of StreetwiZe can help us, and we can help them give street youth new opportunities through Mobile School. That attention for youth ... Our purposes are connected. There is a fit in DNA."
READY, SET, GO!
The teaching staff at Campus Glorieux Secondary comprises about 100 teachers. Teachers work together in teams or by subject. Together with the school staff, you get a fairly heterogeneous group of people and opinions. "Everyone knows the colleagues inside the subject group quite well, but outside ... we don't really chat about education ...," says Kenneth Labiau.
I ask how the mission and vision process started.
Eva: "With putting together a group of representatives, seventeen people ... management, teachers, school staff ... on an entirely voluntary basis. Everyone in the corps was given the chance to sign up. We all knew that a long process would follow - about six months' lead time."
Kenneth adds: "The management reached out to some extra people to participate, not mandatory, but to ensure that every knowledge and background, young and old, would be represented. To ensure that the core team was representative of the staff team, the management monitored the balance between colleagues from different grades, teaching styles, age groups and areas of study. It is a very heterogeneous group that came together."
Eva: "Arnoud Raskin came to talk about the world of street youth, about how they survive, about street skills, about the work with Mobile School. I had heard and seen Arnoud before. That keynote and images were again very emotional and inspiring. In September 2018, at the impetus of our StreetwiZe coaches, we started making our SWOT analysis ourselves."
StreetwiZe's coaching was completely customised, tailored to the needs, tailored to the (sponsor) budget, and respecting the 'self-reliance' of the teaching staff. In other words, what could be kept out of budget was tackled that way.
Kenneth: "We still finished the SWOT analysis independently. First we drew up the questions ourselves, checked them, and then we started surveying as broadly as possible, with students, parents, former students, general school staff, as broadly as possible..."
Eva: "That SWOT did take us a lot more time than expected. Not because it was so difficult, but because we received a lot more input than expected."
Kenneth: "Yes, We seriously underestimated processing all that data. Lukas Bauters, a member of the core team, volunteered to do this and sacrificed many hours of his free time. The results were finished only in February, when our mission and vision had actually already been written out. We can now fine-tune our strategic plan based on the SWOT, and check whether the weaknesses are being properly addressed."
In between, work started on writing the new mission and vision statement. The three 'sprint sessions' intended for this purpose took place in October and November 2018, under the guidance of StreetwiZe coach Tessa.
Eva: "Throughout the entire process, the right questions were asked. Tessa kept us in tow, structured and prepared all this time."
Kenneth: "We were triggered by statements to say what we think is important and what is not. That was in groups. Afterwards, we discussed those opinions in the group of 17, plenary.
Eva: "Sometimes we had to formulate things very concisely. In a short time we got so much input. There was real thought about how to proceed... The great thing is that Tessa used techniques so that no one left feeling 'unheard'. At the start of the session, the question came, ‘How do you feel at the start of this process?' And at the end, we made the round and she asked everyone ‘What are your takeaways?' So the opinions of the quiet ones in the group were given full space. Very authentic. I use a lot of those techniques in my teaching now.
‘The opinions of the quiet ones in the group were given full scope.’
Bringing up the vision and mission was mentally tough work, Eva and Kenneth admit. "You are still concerned with how you want to be as a school. Formulating words and phrases was not so difficult, but finding a consensus on that with seventeen was ... Our mission statement was there very early on: Glorieux Secondary creates, together with you, a challenging living and learning environment that prepares for the future. On that sentence, parents, students, board and school staff were free to provide feedback ... Based on that, we would write out our vision further. All the feedback on our mission statement taught us that there was serious tension between those who wanted more quality and those who wanted more care ... Giving care sometimes conflicts with pursuing quality. Caring is about caring for everyone, taking into account everyone's personal story, also caring for yourself as a teacher. Quality is about getting the best out of everyone and certainly out of the best. Care is then quickly seen as pampering ... It seemed that one teacher was arguing for a care school, the other for elite education. We had seemingly reached an impasse."
When you hit that kind of tension, you have to get through it. Street children can take it in, get back up and move on again. They develop resilience and agility, the capacity to move quickly. Teachers love their pedagogy and don't let themselves be lectured so easily. It took two beer sessions to pry loose conversations about the 'apparent' contradiction between quality and care. Indeed, you read correctly: 'beer' sessions.
Kenneth: "Tessa recommended that we go for a walk together, to change scenery and catch up while enjoying a pint. That's what we did in December, twice. And it worked ... In our vision statement, we formulated it as: 'There is a healthy balance where we use care as a springboard to quality education'."
So there is no longer a contradiction ...
Eva: "In the first grade, care gets a lot of attention. From the second grade, we reduce it and aim for self-reliance in the third grade. Under StreetwiZe's guidance, we have also formulated some goals for our strategic exercise."
Kenneth adds: During our educational study day, we formulated ideas to work on those goals, short-term and longer-term, three hours, three days, three months, three years."
'Is there a streetskill that sticks in a special way?", I ask. "All four streetskills were imparted by coach Tessa while doing," Eva replies. "That really happened in the practice of our meetings. Tessa would just walk along between our groups and say, for example: 'Try saying it differently. Do it like this'. And so you immediately felt in practice what that different attitude yielded. You notice the effect immediately. That's how street skills crept in. Very naturally. Very spontaneously."
‘Coach Tessa would say: 'Try saying it differently.' You immediately noticed the effect.
Positive focus was an important one, to formulate things positively, turning away from the problem, starting from what you can positively build on. Agility and resilience too, to break free from the discord about care and quality. And of course, the mission and vision also had to be 'sold' to the whole school corps, the large group of teachers and management and school staff. Making school together starts with connecting to a common project. So the common had to be put clearly.
Eva: "Pitching our plan in front of the large group of 100 teachers, Tessa guided us there too. She taught us how to deal with feedback, that we should not take it personally, but note it down. For our presentation, we defused tension between quality and care by literally reenacting some situations right at the start, of one teacher being dictatorial and another pampering. There was laughter at first, but everyone also recognised themselves in the situations, and could then say for themselves, 'Yes that's true'. Thus, afterwards, our story about care quality was also correctly understood."
By now, we have been talking for a good hour and a half. The school bell rings. Murmurs in the corridors. "Whether the experience with StreetwiZe can be described in a few words?", I ask. "Professional. Authentic. Motivating Structured ...", I hear Eva and Kenneth say.
Eva: "The people at StreetwiZe know exactly what you are looking for. They know what they are talking about and they are who they are. They are very well prepared, know perfectly when and for how much to intervene. They just help you find the right answers."
Kenneth: "Inspiring. Very to the point. Together we travelled a tremendously beautiful road. We got to know each other much better. Also nice that the management gave us the chance to think with them. A teacher's audience is not an easy audience."