Having just finished up a twitter chat on #whatisschool about PLN's, it seems like a fitting time to reflect on my last few weeks of professional growth. While it's been only a few weeks since I was in the frozen tundra of Boston at Nais's Annual Conference, coming to terms with the inner Mass Girl that I am, it seems like ages ago as I have spent my days longing for a day off in this 70 degree SF weather. But alas... I have a moment to reflect.
My first few hours at NAIS were spent in the presence of some amazing global educators as we chatted about Global Project Work and Connections and considered Driving Questions. Cheers to Town School for Boys for having 3 out of 4 driving questions from the presentation be from our school. Listening to Hindo speak via video about change makers and his commitment to his community was inspiring and left me wondering how we can continue to work together in years to come? The conversation, debate, about what is more important for us to work towards combatting, measles or ebola, really allowed me to look at both glocal and global impact. All in all, it was simply being in the presence of likeminded folks that got me excited for what was to come in the days ahead.
Everywhere I looked at NAIS I felt as if I was running into someone I knew. Whether it was the folks from Harker, Town or my Teachers of the Future group I was constantly engaged in updates about classrooms, new positions, ideas and personal life check in's. Being at NAIS always reminds me that I am part of something that is bigger than myself, and my school for that matter. And as I sat in the audience of the keynote speakers each day surrounded by 4,000 to 5,000 other independent school community members, I felt just that.
I always reflect on NAIS as a conference with a few immediate take aways but more importantly an opportunity to reflect on the big picture-the vision- and create new relationships and build on longstanding ones. This year was no different. While sitting in the panel discussion with University leaders, I was engaged in deep thought about whether K-12 education can truly be transformed without the lead of universities. It was provoking. Who will put their hands in the air and say, let's try this and who cares what the top universities think? How will this set our students up for success? How will we transform students thoughts about what makes the best university for them? It resonated with me when the President of the University of Southern New Hampshire remarked that because his institution has less history, alumni, etc it has more opportunity for innovation. While it makes sense, it is certainly a sad reality. I watch young students strive to get into schools that they consider, "the best" and fear that they are not being taught the skills to be "the best" post graduation. And even if they are, is it the only option. I recently read this article that further confirmed some of my thoughts.
After last years annual conference, I recall being struck by the absence of women leaders at the conference and the lack of conversation about this. I guess I wasn't the only one, as it appeared that every session had something to offer in terms of women in leadership at independent schools. I joined a packed room to listen to women leaders talk about the balance of admin life, families and the skills of which women need to nurture in themselves to be competitive in this market. In the end I felt like I had just walked out of a pep talk, and one I desperately longed for, even if I hadn't known it before.
My immediate take away came from a presentation with teachers from the Blake School, titled Grading for Global Competency. They spoke from experience about what it means to grade skills and the conversations of which they were engaged in while in their classrooms. The support of the admin was clear and I was convinced in the end that my rubrics for projects shouldn't combine the skills with the content and that it would be easier to talk to the boys about their areas of improvement if I was to find a way to separate the two. I especially think that bringing a grade into my 6th grade class for coping and resiliency and a deeper more meaningful look at communication and collaboration are key to the future of my "Kiva" project. In pushing forward, I am going to spend more time deliberately grading skills and in fact redesigning both my grades and report card to represent what is really happening in my classroom.
I could go on and on about the wonderful people, sessions and casual conversations I had. Topics included faculty compensation, blended learning, global education, headmaster searches and what's next for my career. While I didn't bring home the answers, I did bring home the questions to ponder and work through with the amazing people I consider part of my PLN and my NAIS family. While a few key members were certainly absent, all in all I am simply looking forward to next year as they join me in San Francisco.