Monday, June 20, 2011

Women who lead

On Tuesday, June 21, 2011, I'll have the chance to discuss a fascinating question with a small group of women from other NC independent schools. Why aren’t more women moving up the ranks of leadership in independent school communities to become school heads?

The question was posed in the opening of an article in the Fall 2010 edition of Independent School Leadership by Susan Feibelman and Martha Haakmat titled: A Gendered Experience.

When I read the article, I discussed it with a number of other women working in independent schools. I can only imagine that many others did the same. Shortly afterwards, in December, a TED talk (embedded at the end of this post) by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg titled Why we have too few women leaders went viral, at least among the same group. Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions -- and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women.

Sandberg alludes to some cultural factors that Feibelman and Haakmat describe in their article:

The low number of women leaders, it turns out, is directly connected to cultural attitudes toward women as leaders.

Two women with successful school headships in their careers will keynote this gathering of women interested in learning more about leadership in independent schools. They are:

Sandra Adams, Former Head of Summit School

Doreen Kelly, Head of Ravenscroft School

As is my wont, I'll be liveblogging the keynote addresses and possibly some of the later sessions as well, right here, starting at 9:15.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My trip report

This week, I'll be hosting a "what Sarah was doing the last week of February" report. It'll be during lunch and completely voluntary for faculty to drop in. So, what will I tell them?

Others have written beautifully reflective posts about the NAIS annual conference. You can read Meredith Stewart's thoughts about choices here. Jonathan Martin wrote volumes here. Matt Scully, who is practically a neighbor, wrote thoughtfully in the way one would expect an English teacher to on his blog. My frequent partner in crime Jason Ramsden from Ravenscroft school was an official conference live blogger So, what's left for me to write about? Well, the good news is that I write more to organize my thoughts than to broadcast news, so there's still room to work.

I thought I'd start by sharing with faculty what I learned about which I feel a sense of urgency. That's an awkward sentence, a la Winston Churchill.

The first is this: the proclaimed theme of Monumental Opportunities: advancing our public purpose swung from either incredibly relevant to completely irrelevant. However, I enjoyed following the pendulum throughout the conference.

An example in which the public purpose of an independent institution seems clear to me relates to the current testing mania is eating the souls of America's already hard-working children. See Race to Nowhere for chilling examples. Those of us in independent school education have a compelling responsibility to show that it is not relentless assessment and hours of homework that make a school rigorous or drive student achievement. Jonathan Martin, head of St. Gregory's, CWRA administrator Chris Jackson and Lawrenceville Dean of Faculty (and Klingenstein Curriculum Instructor legend) Kevin Mattingly presented a session about the CWRA. The problem with assessment driven education is that you'd better make sure your assessments and your values are in alignment. The CWRA seems to me to be an imperfect, yet better than most, tool for assessing traits such as adaptive expertise, critical thinking and analytical writing. I feel it is imperative that we in independent education adopt this type of normed assessment while eschewing assessments that provide little guidance for growth. When students are willing to work hard--possibly too willing--we owe it to them to make sure that they are working for the right things. Another opportunity to see the conflict between college admissions preparatory and college student success is the study done showing that students who take shallow survey science courses score best on standardized tests, such as those guiding admissions decisions to college. However, students who study fewer topics in their science courses, but engage in that study deeply (such as happens in a project/problem based course) get better grades in their science courses once in college and go on to major in sciences at a greater rate. Now that's a paradox that can relate to a public purpose. What is a college prep institution to do--prepare students to get into college, or prepare them to succeed once there?

On the other swing of the pendulum, there is the fact that sometimes the most exciting innovations in education happen outside of the any institution--independent or public. Khan Academy happened almost by accident, but we in independent education ignore it at our peril. When students can find high quality video clips explaining in a clear, step by step manner how to solve difficulty math problems for free online--we'd better be sure we're not just duplicating that in the classroom. This isn't limited to Khan--the best explainers in the world are now available online, for free. So, if your gig is that you are good at explaining things. . . better start publishing online.

Now what? To me, this means it is time to leverage our strengths that can't be duplicated online. Namely, the relationships we have with our students. There's no way Khan can get to know all the viewers of the videos. However, teachers can certainly get to know their classroom pupils. So--turn the classroom into the place where kids learn how to ask the right questions and find the right problems to solve using the steps they've learned from the master explainers.

My last big take-away came out of the session that I led with an amazing team of colleagues. At this point, it is such a cliche to say that I learned more than I taught, but those cliches exist for a reason--they're true! Peter Gow of Beaver Country Day demonstrated his new teacher wiki site and I was blown away. You can bet that Cannon School will have one of these by the time we've hired our 2011-2012 faculty!

This has already gotten longer than I meant it to, which is probably what will happen when I start sharing with the faculty at school. But, it's a start.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NAIS Annual Conference 2011

Here is a summary listing of all my liveblogs for the NAIS Conference.

Thursday 8am iTunes U

Thursday 9:30 Opening General Session Sheena Iyengar

Thursday 12:00 The Give and Get of Global

Thursday 3pm Dan Heath

Friday 8am Blogging Heads

Friday 9:30 am Independent Matters

Friday 11:30 The College Work Readiness Assessment

Friday 1:30 Leading from the Middle

Friday 3:00 Geoffrey Canada

Friday 11:30 The College Work Readiness Assessment

The College Work Readiness Assessment: An Excellent Outcomes Measurement

The CWRA test does a fine job of measuring the value added outcomes that matter most: critical thinking, written communication, and creative problem solving.

Friday 3pm Geoffrey Canada

Geoffrey Canada, Creating Success for All Children

Passionate author and advocate for education reform, Geoffrey Canada is president and CEO of Harlem Children's Zone, Inc. (HCZ), which The New York Times Magazine called "one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time." Nationally recognized for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem, Canada was named one of "America's Best Leaders" by U.S. News and World Report.

Friday 1:30 pm Leading from the Middle with Patrick Bassett

Leading from the Middle

This session is led by Patrick Bassett. The president of NAIS explores the leadership role for anyone who doesn't have the ultimate power in an organization: How can one "lead from the middle"? Three principles in particular are: 1) Starting a movement: the importance of cultivating followers; 2) Sources of power (other than position); 3) Keeping the monkey on your back.

This was a not-to-be-missed session for me. I haven't added the Twitter feed to this liveblog since I expect many of the tweets will come out from other sessions.

Friday 9:30 am Independent Matters

Independent Matters

This general session features a panel of three distinguished speakers, Elizabeth Coleman, President of Bennington College, Salman Kahn, founder of Kahn Academy, and Anya Kamenetz, education futurist. You can read brief, informative and fascinating bios of all three speakers on the NAIS Conference website. I'll be threading the twitter stream from the conference through this liveblog as well. I expect some high powered tweets!