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A Closing To Remember February 28, 2011

Filed under: General Sessions — mhaakmat @ 2:54 am

“It’s our personal responsibility as citizens of this country to do something about educating all children.”

Geoffrey Canada began with this statement early on in his talk. Yes, we’ve all heard about the ridiculous cost to jail people compared to how much it would cost to educate children well. Many of us have seen “Waiting for Superman” sitting in a theater with an audience of tearful others. What’s next is what I want to know. I wanted Geoffrey to give a couple of pointers or some things we could do to act on our public purpose. Maybe we can open our school doors to some of the children languishing in our failing educational system. Maybe we should do as Geoffrey suggests and put the worst teachers into upper middle class neighborhood schools. Maybe some of us aspiring independent school leaders should go share our talents with under-served families.

I am wondering how many of us walked away from this session and from this conference armed and motivated to do something to close the education gap. Will this work still feel urgent enough to act in a few days? weeks? Or will most of us climb back into the safety and comfort of our schools and have passing thoughts about serving the greater good?

I am not trying to sound completely negative, but without a definite charge or call to action, I know how tempting it will be to go home and go on about the usual, hectic business of running our schools exactly the way they are. I know that I will return to Brooklyn Friends School and find out more about our Horizons Program and how we can build upon what we do each summer. This feels like a drop in the bucket compared to the breadth of the issues facing education in our country and around the world. I do know that very drop counts.


Wow! February 26, 2011

Filed under: General Sessions — mhaakmat @ 12:55 am

This general session was jam-packed with inspirational speakers who each directly spoke to the conference theme of advancing our public purpose. Liz Coleman nearly laid me flat with her comments because they were so incredibly smart and forward-reaching. Her comments about the following are what I will take away as I think about taking action:
-Education should be an engagement of our students around the questions of “What kind of world are we making? What kind of world should we be making? What kind of world can we be making?”
-Education does not to be frenzied or to feel like a mad rush on a treadmill. It can be about producing both good and successful citizens of the world.
-We made these schools. We can unmake them. We can remake them.
– Imagine what could happen if we do our remaking right? Imagine what will happen if we don’t?

Anya Kamenetz focused on why education must change if we truly wish to reach the 400 million children with inadequate access to school.

Salman Kahn wowed the crowd with snapshots of possibilities for education which undoes the mistakes of the past and present. He showed us models designed to educate for mastery so all students have the same access to academic excellence. He challenged us to see teachers as mentors and to organize our classrooms around the student/valuable-time-with-teacher ratio as opposed to the student/teacher ratio that we consider and talk about so much.

I left the session feeling like I wish this “advancing our public purpose” theme could continue at next year’s AC, because I need more time and help to learn and translate these ideas into action.


Sheena Iyengar February 25, 2011

Filed under: General Sessions — mhaakmat @ 2:59 pm

Okay. I have spent the whole day in various conversations about Ms. Iyengar’s remarks in the the first general session trying to figure out how what she spoke about tied into the theme of advancing our public purpose. While I personally liked what Ms. Iyengar said about choice and leadership, I felt left to connect the dots between Pat Basset’s charge to answer the questions about whether independent schools are doing enough to claim service to a public purpose and her talk. I suppose I could stretch the link to be that Ms. Iyengar spoke of choice and that relates directly to the tremendous choice that we as independent leaders have given the resources of our schools to stake our claim and really put our money where our mouths are in terms of doing public service and good. But this is a lot to expect us to put together. How great would it have been for Pat Bassett to coordinate with Sheena Iyengar to build a clear bridge for independent school leaders to see themselves as change agents for the greater good? Ms. Iyengar had a lot of important ideas to share, but this felt like a missed opportunity for bridging the gap between nice thoughts and real action.

…still fighting that urge to not settle for complacency. What more can we and should we be doing?


Hooray for Pat Bassett February 24, 2011

Filed under: General Sessions — mhaakmat @ 10:13 pm

There is something about the way Pat Bassett, head of NAIS, captures the moment and sets the tone for these annual conferences. It’s not his flashy use of technology or his clever plays on words. It is the way Pat gets to the heart of the matter to point us in the right direction for a deeper take away to bring back to our schools. I loved Pat’s phrasing of the central questions which frame this year’s theme of advancing our public purpose:
Is producing well-rounded, “globally minded” independent school graduates serving our public purpose enough to justify the privileged status of independent schools? Is graduating these young adults making a big enough difference in America?

I think that if we can truly say our graduates are educated in our schools for activism and leadership for social justice, then perhaps this is enough to make a real difference in America. How many of us can say this though? There’s the question.