Tags:Home SchoolingVolunteersPrimary

News
05/26/2020
5 min read

The home school life: An interview with Sven Pannell

Sven Pannell, Director at KPMG and four-year veteran of Springboard Trust programme facilitation, is showing me his monobrow.

“These maniacal little ones,” he says, “have scratched me right between the eyes in a ‘tickle-fight’ and now I look like I have a monobrow over Zoom calls”.

Gesturing to the rest of his home office, he points out painting supplies and toys scattered around the books and folders.

“If you look downstairs, it’s total carnage – huts, toys everywhere. My wife and I prefer a tidy house, but we’ve found the kids disagree.”

Two months into home schooling his 6yo son and 3yo daughter, Sven and his wife have embraced an unstructured approach to their children’s learning. With both parents working jobs that ramped up under lockdown, they decided to focus on meaningful connection with their children over disciplined learning frameworks.

It’s something he notes has been deeply rewarding, albeit with a few quirks.

One of the curators of Sven's new scratch-monobrow.

Bringing the learning home

Prior to COVID-19, just 3,597 families home schooled their children. Of course, in the last few months that number has skyrocketed, with parents assuming multiple roles – parent, worker, teacher, friend, playmate – often simultaneously.

For Sven, the unstructured approach to home schooling has been both necessity and a challenge.

“I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing it the way we did - but it was the way we had to do it.”

“We both have full time jobs with clients who needed support as much as possible, and we both have that desire to do our best for them during this time. It meant a lot of pressure, largely driven from within, which we were then balancing with spending as much time as possible with our 6yo boy and 3yo girl.”

“Our home schooling, we weren’t super disciplined about it – the most important thing for my wife and I was to connect as meaningfully as possible with our kids.”

Under the view that the lockdown would not be a long-term situation, Sven and his wife set about creating fun, creative educational situations for their children without focusing on a structured routine.

“A big highlight was taking the training wheels off my son’s bike, and riding with him around Khandallah. There’s a really great community of families, of kids saying hello and social distancing and being together, even if they’re apart.  Just getting outside and exploring our local environment with fresh eyes was important for us.”

“And my daughter – spending time like this, you see so much more about what makes them tick. I didn’t realise how wonderful she was at role playing, singing and at inventive games. You learn so, so much more about them in this situation and by letting them entertain themselves a bit more than normal.”

“It’s only by being there every day and seeing those things, what they learn and what they’re good at, that you can step in and do a better job of being a dad.”

Challenges and boundaries

But with that deeper, more constant connection came a challenge all parents will be familiar with under lockdown – maintaining work-home boundaries.

“I’ve never had so many plates spinning at home before,” Sven notes, “you deal with the kids urgent needs, and your work’s urgent needs, then you try to find moments to focus on being a family – it leaves no time for yourself.”

“We’re extremely fortunate to be in the situation we are in, but regardless it’s been hard in a bubble with full time jobs and full on little ones.”

With no time to himself and resigned to a single building (“which has been absolutely dominated by the kids”), Sven turned to cooking as a focal point.

“Before this, I didn’t cook nearly enough – I wasn’t home in time – so I decided that I would do it every night while we’re all here. It makes a nice daily focal point for the family. We do all sorts of cheesy things, asking the kids what their daily highlights were, that sort of thing, to connect. We’ve all loved that time, coming together after a busy day”

Of course, it’s back to work for Sven and his wife after dinner – but even a single family meal can form a critical touchstone with so much chaos going on around us.

Sven's partner on a regular day of home schooling.

Returning to school – lessons learned

Acknowledging, of course, that Sven already has a deep appreciation for the work principals and teachers do (“Springboard volunteering is the most wonderful contribution I get to make”), there was still a lot he learned from his home schooling stint.

“We know all about the role schools play in developing great humans – but this has really hit home how big a role they also play as a nucleus, as a driver of better communities.”

“My kids are gagging to go back – to see their friends, teachers, just to be a part of school as a community – it's such a massive part of their identity at that age.”

On top of that, there is a more practical role that Sven admits he hadn’t thought of before.

“I never really appreciated how much of an enabler school is for working families. Increasingly, it takes two people working in a household to live a comfortable life – and that’s impossible without schools.”

And finally, the understanding of just how exhausting it can be to teach or manage a school.

“Normally I’m in a workplace of adults, who have a very different set of demands to kids. Once one of ours has an idea, they want to communicate it and engage with you directly and immediately.”

“They can immediately tell if you’re not fully present too – they will not suffer fools!”

“I hadn’t thought about that aspect before. I imagine it’s hard for teachers to get things done, keep learning and engagement on track for a class of 20 children, all of whom have needs and want them met right then and there. That’s probably the biggest eye-opener for me.”

With home schooling done (for now) and a routine on the horizon, Sven is excited for what comes next – but not without some sorrow.

“Our kids are such remarkable, resilient little creatures and having so much time together as a family has been wonderful. The kids have missed school and kindy, for sure – but it’s been replaced with something really new and interesting. I’m sure they’ll be old enough to remember ‘lockdown’ into their futures and I hope they remember our family time with fondness.”

As Sven can attest, Springboard volunteers have busy schedules at the best of times – let alone in the middle of a pandemic and public shutdown. But it is in times like these that coming together and supporting communities can be most rewarding.

“The cohort I’ve been working with – it's been like a beacon of hope, of people coming together who are experiencing similar challenges. Empathy is built in the trenches, and I’m glad I can do my part.”

How our volunteers help New Zealand principals

Capacity Partners

Capacity Partners are matched with a principal undertaking the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme, meeting one-on-one with them throughout the year with through nine workshops. They build trust, understand the needs of the principal and their context and support the principal in building their strategic plan and their leadership in their unique situation.   As a Capacity Partner, you will work with principals who are new to Springboard Trust and may have backgrounds, specialisations and experiences vastly different from your own. Taking the time to listen, learn and leverage your expertise to support them is critical to success.   The experienced Springboard Trust team will match you with a principal, making all the necessary introductions before the programme begins. You’ll also be part of a cohort with five other principals and their volunteer Capacity Partners, as well as a volunteer who will facilitate each workshop.   Who makes a great Capacity Partner?  Typically, Capacity Partners are senior leaders in their organisation, who are highly capable and skilled professionals.  Experience is typically in strategic planning, change or programme management with strong coaching skills. They may also be emerging leaders hoping to support their learning and ongoing career growth, or who want to accelerate their development in this area.   Volunteers who are also skilled and experienced in leadership or facilitation.   You’ll have experience in coaching, understand how to lead people (particularly from a strategic perspective), and grasp the core ideas of strategic planning, change management and transformation. Time Requirements Capacity Partners are asked to volunteer approximately 40 hours of their time annually, including a three-hour induction for first-time volunteers and nine half day workshops over a calendar year. Programmes typically start in March and have their final celebration workshops in November.  Participation in the workshops is encouraged to ensure maximum learning and impact for the volunteer but also encourages the conversation and discussion that happens within the cohort. 

Facilitators

Volunteer Facilitators Facilitators work in two of our programmes – the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme and High Performing Leadership Teams (HPLT). In the former, they work with a full cohort of six principals and volunteers, while in the latter they work with full leadership teams. While facilitating SLPP means working with principals new to Springboard, in HPLT they will be working with experienced principals (now alumni of Springboard Trust) and their leadership teams. This presents a unique set of dynamics every time, and can be an incredibly rewarding for those who volunteer their time.   What makes a great facilitator?  Typically, facilitators we work with are middle to senior leaders in their organisations, with extensive experience in people coaching or leadership. They may also be emerging leaders looking to accelerate their development, or highly skilled individuals in this area.   The key aspects facilitator should excel in are the art of facilitation itself, the ability to bring the content to life for the participants and how they can relate it to their own unique context.  Experience working with High Performing Teams and Leadership Development helps bring the programme to life for the participants.  Facilitation of SLPP in particular, facilitators should have experience in leading teams, as well as the ability to engage large groups of people and tell stories with ease.   It is critical that facilitators have strong emotional intelligence skills as you will facilitating cohorts often in varying situations of need , and contexts you are not familiar with.  Empathy and listening skills are a must.   Please note that in most cases, we prefer Facilitators to have prior experience as a Springboard Trust Capacity Partner so they have experienced the programme from that perspective.   Time requirements Facilitation volunteers for SLPP will need to volunteer 50-60 hours, including induction (for first time facilitators), across the calendar year. For HPLT, facilitators are asked to commit to up 10-15 hours over a three month period.

Subject Matter Experts

The Subject Matter Expert (SME) role is a flexible opportunity to support alumni (principals who have completed the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme) as they take on a bespoke project built around their strategic plan.   This might be assisting them at a Kickstart Your Strategy workshop, helping them review an annual plan, or simply sitting down with a principal and/or their team to help them clarify goals for the year ahead. What makes a good Subject Matter Expert? SMEs are typically senior leaders in their organisation, and have a wide range of expertise, including but not limited to:  Change management  Strategic leadership  Instructional design and leadership  Project management  Transformation projects  Coaching  Strategy analysis and refresh Marketing, branding and communication  Depending on the project, we may require more specialist skill sets for principal support. We would ideally prefer SMEs to have previously worked with Springboard as a Capacity Partner.   Time requirements Due to the variability of the work SMEs do, requirements may vary. Setting up a project usually takes 8-10 hours, while implementation may be anywhere from four hours to 50, across three to 12 months.  

Coaches

Volunteer coaches work in the High Performing Leaders (HPL) programme, building an individual principal’s leadership insight, capability and practice – all with the goal of them successfully leading their school to better student outcomes and delivery to their strategic plan. You could be working with alumni principals, their leadership teams or their middle leaders.  What makes a good coach?  Our coaching volunteers are typically senior or middle leaders in their organisation, with extensive people coaching experience . They may also be emerging leaders, looking to accelerate their development but still have a core capability to coach and development others  Due to the advanced nature of the HPL programme, Coaches should be highly skilled in the usual areas of requirement: coaching, leadership development and planning, accredited or experienced in debriefing 360-degree surveys and analysis, as well as in-depth emotional intelligence.   Time requirements Coaching volunteers will have to spend at least 10 hours on the HPL programme, over a 90-day period (a single school term).  

Our Partners