In 2013, Sjef Drummen, Jan Fasen, Bert Martens and Bert Sterken, all principals in the Roermond area got together to write Agora’s vision document. In August 2014 a small group of teachers got the chance to start Agora in the city of Roermond (The Netherlands) with 30 students. In May 2015 Rob got a short phone call: Hi Rob, this is Sjef speaking. Can we talk about working for Agora? He surprised Rob, but Rob said yes. And Sjef responded: okay tomorrow at noon and hung up on him. They had never spoken before, but knew each other. Rob found out where his office was and went over there the day after. Sjef talked for about 5 minutes. Rob answered two questions, and Sjef told him: within I couple of years, I’m going to retire, you must be my successor. Rob told him that one of the biggest reasons he wanted to come over is to get out of the office and be part of a team that really wants to make their hands dirty. Working with children, not managing. And that’s how Rob became one of the five team members (teachers, coaches, Agorian Masters, whatever you want to call it) at Agora in 2015.
In July 2018, when Agora grew, someone had to represent the Agora students and staff during management meetings. The outside world was looking for hierarchy: a team leader. Rob accepted the job under one condition: the goal should be making the role of a team leader redundant. Since then, Rob is responsible for the development of Agora according to its vision and helping his colleagues to grow as a self-organized team.
Do you need information in English about Agora?
Check out Agora at Hundred.org
Who knows best is in the lead
The team member (student, parent, teacher, intern, or volunteer) that knows best should be in the lead. This varies depending on the subject.
Freedom to play
Everybody (staff, students etcetera) should have the freedom to play, study, experiment, fail and reflect with others. Rob believes that learning is an iterative process. Playing, studying, experimenting, failing (and being honest about that) is not only a great way to learn when you’re reflecting with others on a regular basis, it is also the only way to become a successful lifelong learner. Because lifelong learning is an iterative process.
If you don’t treat your co-workers this way, how can they help students to grow up as lifelong learners?
Don’t talk about doing something new, do it!
When a co-worker asks Rob if she can try something with her coach group, his response is: Don’t spend a lot of time talking and preparing. Spend that time afterwards during reflection, and adept. Work agile. Have faith in yourself, you’re a professional. Try first, be kind and honest about it to your students, reflect on it together and share what you’ve learned (with your co-workers).
Quote John Cruijff:
You should never do as I say.
You should listen to what I have to say and make your own decision.
The difference between 2015, when Rob started at Agora, and now? In 2015 he and the team panicked every other week, and it lasted a week. Now they panic every three months, and they accepted that. They learned that this is part of growing into the next phase. It’s an iterative process: it’s reflection time.