A Headteacher’s Wonderings; Two Years in! by @susanwalter99

The Mushroom Field

I have worked in many mushroom fields, and tended mushrooms for sometime, and two years ago, I was excited to be taking on the role of ‘Head Farmer’ at the DBIS Mushroom Field. I knew how mushrooms grow, I knew where mushrooms grow best and I knew how to get mushrooms to grow better, so I was thoroughly looking forward to my new role.

So, when I got to my new mushroom field, I took the time to have a good look around. I could quickly see the places where the mushrooms were growing well already, and then where I could expect more mushrooms to grow well with an additional bit of TLC. I was excited. I knew how to do that. I could even see where things might be more tricky and had heaps of ideas about how to go about putting things right.

That was all well and good. But, there was one crucial thing that I could not see. I could not see all the millions of tiny underground connections that the mushrooms make. The fields history, all the newly forged off-shoots, the old twists and turns made by previous crops etc. and as a result, I had absolutely no idea how they were all connected.

You see, mushrooms, like all fungi, are connected by tiny mycelium threads which travel underground, connecting the roots of different mushrooms in an area together, allowing them to communicate, feed, grow, and so much more.

This mycelium network hides a huge part of the picture from view.

So if the mushroom field is my school, and the mushrooms are the school community; students, staff, parents, school council and the wider Discovery Bay community, then this invisible mycelium network is what holds it all together. It is the underlying school culture. The way everyone is connected and interconnected, and why things are currently the way they are. Getting to truly understand the school culture, the school history and the personal histories that make up our school communityhas been my biggest learning to date, and is arguably the hardest part of joining any new school. It is certainly the thing that takes the longest. But, understanding a school’s culture is absolutely essential.

School culture is not written down in any handbook, or contained in any school strategy, and as Dr. Chris Jenson so wisely reminds us, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast!’

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About Susan Walter 6 Articles
I believe passionately in education; making learning relevant, challenging and exciting for all learners, and in many ways follow the mantra of Dr. Seuss’s Cat In The Hat: “It’s fun to have fun but you’ve got to know how!”

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