What are you leading?
I have built a new school in Latvia. It is in small town Cēsis. With this school I have tried to redefine the learning approach, school environment, teacher and parent collaboration. Because of our school, ~50 families have changed their lifestyle, work and have moved even from capital to live in Cesis, so that their child can learn in Cesis New Primary school. This is large number for Latvia.
It started with parent initiative and parents still play crucial role in school’s development and everyday life. It is difficult to describe how we differ. I usually say - we live. We have systems and structures in place, but they can easily change if situation, people, environment is changing. Main thing that we try to do – involve students in decision making, let them lead school, let them do practical world so that life in school is closely connected with the one outside the school.
For four years, I have been principal of this school. I was responsible for everything, including teaching students, leading teachers, being responsible for paperwork. Often cleaning dishes when needed and building classroom walls as we didn’t have enough money. Now I am responsible for teacher training, teacher development and leading all education process, especially implementing new teaching strategies and approaches.
How did your experiences as a fellow inspire or prepare you for what you’re doing now?
I have learned two things – go deeper and look wider.
Mission Possible has been great place where to meet amazing, intelligent and bright people who are not only talking about needed changes, but are realizing them. They have been great support when advice or help is needed. In Mission Possible I met the most inspiring, smart, supportive and handsome man, who became my husband. As you might guess school wouldn’t be possible without his support.
Since I have opened school I have received very limited support from Mission Possible. Any school that is not established by state or local government belongs to category “private”, even if the school is not business. Mission Possible do not support private schools and do not work with primary schools. I have received appreciating and support from Teach For All that always gives energy for larger goals.
I must admit that my relationship with program has had ups and downs, but I am thankful that program has noticed my hard work and has given an opportunity to participate in events organized by Teach For All. All the conferences, seminars or projects organized by TFA’ll have significantly impacted my work right now.
This year I have started to develop guidelines so that our new colleagues in the school can use them to quickly understand and adapt our approach. Our teachers are empowered to lead learning as they see it is best for kids, that is why we haven’t defined very strict system. In guidelines I include main principles, they are like a frame, but teachers can fill it as they see, they can choose best approach considering children needs, available time and resources.
Because of international recognition many schools come to visit us in Cesis, to get inspired and learn from our experience. I have realized that these guidelines would allow us to share our experience broader and reach more teachers and students.
I see that my work supports also Mission Possible vision. It sounds approximately like this:
Education is strengthened as one of the core values in Latvia. Society understands its meaning and is ready for lifelong learning. Society has clear opinion, that professional teachers are key element to have qualitative educations system.