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Stumbling into a wānanga

by Rebecca Thomas



(image Art by Ange Moko)


Accustomed to the driven restraints of rigid time, timetables, agendas and Gregorian clocks (shout out to Darren Sudlow for the genius posting of Time is your most precious commodity: Can you ever get it back?), I entered my PLD session with a slide deck bursting at the seams with ‘must dos’.


Admittedly there were only three tasks to complete in our window of 'time discipline', and sticking to the capitalist belief of time as currency, these tasks needed to be completed to the schedule-today.


However, as the session began a melancholy version of myself slipped into the experience of 'aliveness' with the people around me. We got lost in conversation and time slipped away, literally.


Instead of completing any of my practical tasks, an open discussion ensued. Our own thoughts, ideas, and experiences guided our 'time', the agenda became obsolete. We talked through our differences and came to a deeper, richer understanding not only of the topic but of ourselves as leaders, people, and humans. 


Sure, the multinational, multigenerational demographic of the room had many differences of opinion and understanding, but our differences were all welcomed around the table. The predetermined outcome of the session went out the window - instead, at the end, we made new plans to accommodate our digression.


Our differences anchored us to the land; our kōrero became the roots of our continued flourishing relationships. Just like the weave in the photo designed for me by my friend Ange Moko, "Poipoi te Kākano" - the abundance of knowledge being handed down allowed us to flourish, allowing our kōrero to ignite. This important process, this unexpected wānanga-like experience was not bound by time or agendas, it connected us to each other and te tai ao.


Sometimes the best PLD is authentic and ignores the initial plan, leaving room for magical and meaningful moments of connection. Intergenerational knowledge was shared, academic, intellectual, spiritual, deep learning, and educational discourse connected us.


What began as a simple exploration became something profound - a true embodiment of the wānanga spirit. In those unhurried moments of rich dialogue, we glimpsed the transformative power of learning unbounded by rigid structures, tapping into the wellspring of collective wisdom that flows when we create space for it to emerge.


While our schedules are packed, consciously making time for open dialogue can paradoxically save us time in the long run. By allowing just one portion of the day to become a flexible space - whether extending a meeting by 15 minutes or being fully present during casual conversations - we open up vital opportunities. These pockets of breathing room enable the genuine exchange of perspectives, the sharing of cross-generational wisdom, and the fostering of authentic relationships central to meaningful professional growth. 


Unhurried discourse may seem inefficient ‘in the moment’, but creating these connection points ultimately streamlines our work by building understanding, trust, and collaboration among colleagues. Sometimes, making time saves time by laying a transformative foundation for more efficient teamwork moving forward.


Challenge: Make 15 mins more flexible in your week - What will you choose?




(If you like Ange’s art she also does large pieces for schools, and participants to her wellness weaving workshops get to weave, learn and take their art home. Go on, let go of time and spend it weaving and making connections with your people. Or, you might just grab yourself a snazzy laptop bag like mine…)




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