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bearing witness

October 26, 2013

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3 Exhibits

Exhibit 1. So you signed a 5 page-contract to participate in WACE marking this year, and bore witness as Year 12 students officially completed their secondary schooling on Tuesday, first at a Leavers’ breakfast, later at the whole school assembly where they were marched through a guard of honour led by a lone piper, then formal feting continued at a Presentation Evening with speeches, awards, high heels, waistcoats, sashes and serious expressions.

Rituals and customs came to the fore: Community traits of mateship, celebration and pride. Staff later commented that the K-12 gathering in the gym was particularly moving. Some fought tears.

An impressive send-off. Notes of pain (injuries, memorable shared-history mined), reflective banter and laughter. Storytelling magic.

You enjoyed the day.


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Exhibit 2. Passage through a performance management review schedule this week was similarly potent. Your role was bearing witness. Focus was crucial and in- the-moment.

What was aired?

  • sensitive insights to practice
  • ideals of efficacy
  • self-evaluation
  • serenity, hope and joy
  • new possibilities/ trails ahead

For you, listening skills are paramount. That means judgement is suspended.

There is no power for change greater than community discovering what it cares about (Wheatley, 2002, p. 48-49).

Exhibit 3. Wednesday’s Co-coaching session yearned to claim the same territory. Consider key ingredients: Time pressured leadership team; expense of the imported expert; high expectations for learning; interplay of a complex dynamic; and rotating classes occupy the music room next door.

Good intentions aside, being here now is a demanding art and practice. You felt disappointed.


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Here you learned that the community of practice lacked nourishment.

Tell-tale signs?

  • repetition of messages from Day 1
  • interruption to group processes
  • timing miscues
  • flip-flops
  • lack of attunement
  • diminished energy
  • feeling out of sorts

Wheatley suggests that success depends on

ideas, methods, mentors, processes, information, technology, equipment, money. Each of these is important, but perhaps the greatest need is that of knowledge – knowing what techniques and processes work well. For example, a leader may be conducting a community development process yet know nothing of new means to engage the whole community, or new processes for valuing the community’s assets. Without this knowledge, people either reinvent the wheel or use whatever process they know, even inappropriate or substandard ones (Wheatley, 2007, p. 175).

Your resolve:

Build relationships, collaborative partnerships  and structures for change across the school.

Selected reference

Wheatley, M. (2002). Turning to one another: simple conversations to restore hope to the future. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Wheately, M. (2007). Finding our way: Leadership for an uncertain time. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

photo credit: <a href=””>h.koppdelaney</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=””>d e x t e r .</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=””>Stuck in Customs</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;


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