Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cue the bees

Today I took part in a leadership coaching workshop with Jan Robertson. She told us a story about how she got into beekeeping. I quickly noticed that there were many metaphors within her story about education. This is exactly what she asked us to think about and extend afterwards.

The first metaphor for me was when she mentioned the special waggle dance that bees do to their bee friends that directs them towards the food source. Intentionally some of them waggle them in a different direction, slightly off target, in the hope that they may find new sources of food.

This immediately made me think of the term positive deviants. Educators who veer off from the set course. Educators who are innovators, collecting new information, trying new things. This could also apply to our students. The ones who think differently. I call these students the "divergent thinkers" and to me they are the ones that inspire me the most.

Jan got me to reflect on what usually happens to those that deviate from the norm. She suggested that these people are usually the ones who get their wings clipped. Bees cannot fly without wings. It is our job as leaders to nurture these people. We don't want all people thinking the same. We need people to challenge the status quo and to be curious about what lies beyond the normal parameters.

This metaphor really stood out to me as a former "lone bee" who got sprayed with insecticide one too many times and had to shut her classroom door and waggle around in secret.

The other metaphor that I connected with was that of the position of the beehive. Bees do not like to be moved. To move a beehive you can only move it approximately 1 metre a day otherwise the bees will get upset. But sometimes the hive needs to move in order to thrive.

I thought of the rate of change that occurs in education within our schools. Change is inevitable and we need to get comfortable at being uncomfortable. However change has to be done in well planned steps. To move the hive out of the shade into a brighter spot requires patient, careful planning and timing. We can't always move the whole hive in one go. Sometimes we need to persuade some of the bees to poke their heads out and have a look around first at the new spot.

Bees, hives and beekeepers provide a plethora of metaphor for education. Jane's point was that quite often we don't always remember what we learnt at a workshop or conference and that metaphors provide an inclusive way to connect with the subject matter. She even suggested we use metaphor to help our colleagues unpack their feelings or frustrations. This reminded me of Diti Hill's "Theory as story". The notion that personal narratives are an important part of our practice. Metaphors are stories that help us connect.