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!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 24 3-4:30 pm Dan Heath

Dan Heath is the author of Made to Stick and Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard. See a brief synopsis in the video below

February 24 1:30 -2:30pm Speed Innovating

This session is going to be hard to live blog. I'll put some notes here though. Here's the session description:

Join independent school movers and shakers at the new Speed Innovating session! Maximize information and idea gathering when you attend three mini-sessions in one. The new NAIS Speed Innovating format allows you to choose the three topics that meet your needs best. Twenty presenters will sit at their own tables, leaving room for nine attendees to sit down and learn from the experience of an independent school colleague. Designed for school leaders, these intimate, 10-minute, information-packed "dates" will dispense with the small talk and background of an issue, and instead focus on the important themes, details, problems -- and solutions. After 10 minutes of inspiring ideas, you'll move on to a second speaker who will share insight on your next favorite topic. You'll get to sit down with a total of three innovative speakers who can address your most pressing needs. The cutting-edge ideas you'll take back to school will prove invaluable.

February 24, 9:30-11am Sheena Iyengar-The Art of Choosing

The opening session with Sheena Iyengar (see bio and TED talk below).

From TED:

We all think we're good at making choices; many of us even enjoy making them. Sheena Iyengar looks deeply at choosing and has discovered many surprising things about it. For instance, her famous "jam study," done while she was a grad student, quantified a counterintuitive truth about decisionmaking -- that when we're presented with too many choices, like 24 varieties of jam, we tend not to choose anything at all. (This and subsequent, equally ingenious experiments have provided rich material for Malcolm Gladwell and other pop chroniclers of business and the human psyche.)

Iyengar's research has been informing business and consumer-goods marketing since the 1990s. But she and her team at the Columbia Business School throw a much broader net. Her analysis touches, for example, on the medical decisionmaking that might lead up to choosing physician-assisted suicide, on the drawbacks of providing too many choices and options in social-welfare programs, and on the cultural and geographical underpinning of choice. She's just published her first book, The Art of Choosing, which shares her research in an accessible and charming story that draws examples from her own life.

February 24 12-1pm.The Give and Get of Global: How to Make Everyone a Winner

Two senior professionals from schools with years of experience in creating a global community will interact with two of their students (one international, one national). Discuss practical logistics, orientation, home stays, bringing cultures, host families dynamics, long-term personel, and school benefits. Audience participation is a critical ingredient and valued.
PRESENTERS: Meg Moulton, ASSIST (MA); Blake Spraggins, Maret School (DC); Hart Roper, St. Albans School (DC); ASSIST students

iTunes U February 24 8am

Learn how your school can participate in the NAIS iTunes U site. Discover the benefits for your faculty, students, and marketing efforts of your school's image. Our iTunes U site showcases examples of great teaching and great learning, for the advantage of all.

PRESENTER: Demetri Orlando, Buckingham Browne & Nichols (MA)