February 2009

Amazing; it is an amazing feeling to be in the same, very crowed, room with Oprah Winfrey.  First words: “No, you are not all getting cars.” Her topic today is her school, in South Africa, the Oprah Winfrey leadership academy.    It is really affirming to hear her say things like: 

  •  “I believe in what you do!” [at independent schools]! 
  • “Now I am one of you!” [an independent school leader]
  • “It is not as easy as it looks[to lead an independent school], it is the hardest thing in the world.” 
  • “Educate a woman and change a community!” 
  • “I am certain these girls [from her students] will change Africa!” 

Oprah shows a wonderful video about her school, and there are very few dry eyes in this room. (more…)



I am drawn over to a new Marcos Antonio Torres session for this second half hour, summoned as it were by the really awesome tweets coming from it by @nandikerry on Twitter.  She tweeted that the session here was celebrating student learning via student production, this this educator’s presentation was communicating that new digital tools can empower students to produce new creative content and share it widely, and that by doing so, students will be more motivated and more engaged and more innovative.  I love it; in my recent writing on my blog I have highlighted the importance of student “product” as a key to 21st century learning. 

Here are some of Kerri Richardson’s Tweets from Marco’s session, all of which really resonate with me: 

  • Move from thinking about what type of learning are you—> what type of producer are you? (more…)

Again feeling like I ought to be at a forward-looking curricular session, but I always find it so healthy and sane to listen to Rob Evans, who offers such reassurance and support to the challenging work of leadership and coping with anxiety and people. 

The session I’d suggest others attend, highly, would be Howard Levin’s session on a truly  technologically integrated school.   The work Howard and his team are doing at Urban is, I think, really spectacular.    I am not attending because I already attended a three day symposium by Howard at Urban, last August, and I recommend it to others.

After the jump, more from Rob Evans.  (more…)

Great to be here: Love Michael Thompson, one of the best, and also because I know how important it is for me to be informed about technology and boys, and to have the topic problematized.   I say that as a school-leader embracing technology in our schools, and as a Dad of two very technocentric boys, ages 6 and 10.     Thompson gives a shout-out to Don Tapscott’s Growing Up Digital.  

Kids today, the kids we teach, are cyber-natives; it is like the gap of immigrants and their children, MT says, an observation frequently made in recent years.  MT is concerned about boy achievement, and tells us that even in best independent schools, at co-ed schools, in the last 5 graduating classes, of the top 25% in each class, 70% have been girls, 30% boys, and in the bottom 25%, 80-90% are boys.  MT says that he will send $10 to any school that can email to tell him that is not the case.  

More about this very important talk after the jump. (more…)

Back in the main reception hall, and back to the wifi hole they have in here, which is annoying.  They charge $14 for wifi, and don’t provide it to the largest meeting place here.  Also surprised to see a staff usher here yell, literally yell, at people entering the back doors of the theater.  Really? 

Pat Bassett on stage, and gives a shout-out for globalism, including the Challenge 20-20 initiative which has schools from 50 countries participating.  Myself, hoping to see St. Gregory participate in 20-20, if they are not already. 

PB shares a poem from Taylor Mali, a tribute to teaching.  Nice.  PB invites us to San Francisco next year– Adapt, Survive, Thrive: Unleashing the Super Powers Within.   After the jump: A somewhat disappointing Guy Kawasaki. (more…)

Very happy to be here to hear Carol Dweck, who has influenced me greatly (more about that later).  A quick shout-out for walking; arrived here in great spirits after walking the whole way from the Hyatt Regency on Wacker, in the company of my good friend Mike Hanas.  

Dweck’s thesis is that there are two mindsets, and all of her ideas flow out of this frame     There is the fixed mindset and the growth mindset; in the former, fixed, one believes one’s intelligence is fixed, permanent, set, in the latter, growth, one believes intelligence comes from growth and learning and forever malleable.   (more…)


Love the Military Pipe Band; they rock.  Wish my school had a military pipe band.   It is great to see boys at military schools in skirts; kilts are so terrific. 

Michelle Rhee is introduced as “Bold, dogged, even intemperate efforts to improve schools in DC.”  Results are her relentless focus.   Barstow tells of her being praised by both McCain and Obama; indeed there was even that crazy moment during one of the debates when the two senators argued over which of their plans Rhee preferred, as if she were the solomonic judge that could determine the best educational solution.  (more…)

So, this is not where I want to be: I want to be attending; I want to be at one of the two sessions this hour on 21st century curriculum.   But, though that is where my heart is, my head has persuaded my I need to focus on finance.  The curse of school leadership.

So here I am, at Pat’s session on school finance sustainability and survivability, to be better prepared as I assume the leadership of a school that has its own (just like nearly every other school) financial challenges.

PB: Here is the perfect storm:  Six factors in confluence: (more…)

So my apologies; I wanted to get to all of this, but time got the better of me.  After a terrific meeting with Carney Sandoe consultant Kiki Johnson, about an upcoming board training, and many friendly conversations in the exhibit hall, I only got to Geek to Great for the last 20 minutes.  But I do want to give the presenters a shout-out; what I could see of it was very fine.  It is so fascinating to see the way in which our technology directors are becoming, via ISED-L and ISED-Ning, and in each school, some of our most important educational innovators, and this session was a fine demonstration of this. (more…)

Talking during lunch with a good friend and colleague, Mike Hanas of Carolina Friends, and he said to me: What did Pat Bassett mean, anyway, about sailing directly into the stormy seas?  I like the point; in previous post I praised it as the better strategy than that of “taking safe harbor.”  But what is it in practice, and why didn’t Pat provide us any more clarification or examples? 

Here is what I think it means.  Taking safe harbor would be to continue to do those things, and emphasize those things, that we have always done, that we have done for the longest time, and which will least likely upset, confuse, or worry people.   If teachers are feeling high anxiety about layoffs or their potential, you don’t challenge them to teach differently than how they always have done.  If parents are worrying about affording tuition, you don’t take away Latin, or move away from AP programs, or tell them that instead of final exams the students will have final exhibitions.  

Sailing into the storm, then, is to do the opposite: accelerate the rate of change.  This blog is called 21k12, celebrating twentyfirst century k-12 education.  Our students should be learning 21st century skills in 21st century classrooms, which means they are not listening to lectures, not doing workbooks, not writing final exams; instead they are solving real world problems, learning what is meaningful and purposeful for them and their lives, they are using contemporary digital tools to create, to publish online, to challenge authority.   They are not taking safe harbor, but they are what will, I posit, be most important and most effective for making sure we make the most of this storm, because, after all, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.


 Here at General Session: Screen looks great; the rotating earth with the NAIS AC logo moving around it– really sharp, attractive, appealing visual.   

Charming song from Quest  Academy students singers– “Come Sail Away,” nicely aligned with the conference theme.   In my many headship interviews last fall I was often asked what I like most about the role, and my answer was that I enjoy enormously the many opportunities to observe and celebrate our students’ performances and demonstrations– it is a great feeling to see our students share what they have accomplished, what they have learned,  what they can do.  This is a case in point.

After the jump: Basset and Heath takeaways.  (more…)


Good morning; Day 2.   Enjoying a bland breakfast with good company, and now the annual meeting has begun.   Agenda includes reports from the NAIS board, elections, and, the highlight, Pat Bassett’s President’s Report  and presentation: Brutal Fact, Inevitable Surprises, and Unshakable Beliefs.  (Summary after the jump).   Bassett:  “NAIS inquiries have dropped 20% in last seven years. More kids home schooled, more kids in charters, than in NAIS schools.”   And: “Can you think of any institution more resistant to change than independent schools? The church changes more!”  And: “Data point: Majority of parents in families of over $200K think public schools are higher quality than independent schools.” (more…)

I am delighted to be here for this session; Chris Jackson, CWRA Program Director, and I have been corresponding since Fall, and regular readers of my blog know I have frequently touted the virtues of CWRA, the College and Work Readiness Assessment.    CWRA first came to my attention last winter, when as a Klingenstein Visiting Fellow I was told of it by a fellow fellow Mark Desjardins, Head of Holland Hall in Oklahoma.     But it vaulted further upwards in my awareness upon my reading of Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap  In it, Wagner raves about CWRA as a very valuable testing tool to assess the value add our schools are providing our students, measuring their mastery of 21st century skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.

No bones about it: I am on a CWRA promotion crusade (though I have no affiliation).   From what I have learned, CWRA offers powerful assessment of what our students are learning in the most important ways.   One of my very first acts as Head-Elect of St. Gregory College Prep has been to institute the funding for St. Gregory to join the CWRA family, and I am eager to see many more NAIS schools join the flock.  (more…)

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