Interesting Experiences & Thoughts from the last month…

[ November 07, 2008 ]

During the last month or so, I have had a number of experiences that have really helped me think, along with others, about the future of the school:

– We started our partnership with Marty Seligman and the Positive Psychology Center at UPenn and the KIPP NYC schools. It was an interesting presentation that outlined Marty’s hope for a shift in schools to a more positive model of education. You can see an article he wrote (under the “positive psychology” tab) on this subject that emanated from his work at Geelong Grammar in Australia in the early part of this year. We will have the next presentation in December at the school.

– The day after the meeting a group from Riverdale and KIPP met with Marty at KIPP Infinity. It was an interesting meeting, but I always find it remarkable to visit a KIPP school. David Levin and his team are amazing at establishing a specific culture in the schools. We should all be supportive of this incredible effort to reform education and our public school system.

– I went to a conference on student stress and ways to help diminish anxiety for students at Stanford run by Denise Clark Pope and her Challenge Success group. It was an interesting day of conversations and reports on work in a variety of schools, mainly Californian. I aim to keep connected with this group as we think about ensuring that we maintain the balance in our students’ lives that actually improves performance as Marty points out with his research–that everyone performs better in “high challenge, low stress” environments.

– While I was in Palo Alto, I also took the opportunity to visit IDEO, the notable design firm, with which I have been having conversations about how to bring “design thinking” into schools to improve the quality and creativity of our thought processes. It was an amazing place whose dynamic vitality came through as Sandy Speicher took Kris and I around their various buildings and workshops. I had stumbled across an article by Tim Brown, the CEO, a few years ago that struck a chord, and I have been interested since in working together. I think that schools have much to learn from organizations such as IDEO, Google and Renaissance art guilds. Schools need to ensure that we prize and support creativity, and there are accepted means and environments that can do just that. You might want to watch this talk by Tim Brown on the TED blog.

– While I was IDEO, I happened to ask a question about their hiring methods: how did they find the right people for the job and environment there. Sandy mentioned that they looked to hire “T-shaped” people–people who have the disciplinary knowledge and expertise signaled by the stem of the T and also the “people skills” (non-cognitive capacities) to work well with others. Sandy said that they needed the type of people with whom one could spend time in airport if the plane was cancelled. I thought that this is exactly the type of person who we would want to produce as a result of an educational program and exactly the type of metaphor to represent the ideal teacher. We do teach to the stem. How can we teach to the crossline of the T?

– After California, I went up to visit with John Medina who wrote the book Brain Rules [it is a great read BTW]. I gave this book to the faculty over the summer to read. It was a fascinating discussion over lunch. John is an amazing man who is really trying to put research in neuroscience to use in schools while ensuring that the hard work of data collection and research is part of the implementation process. I hope to have John visit the school and talk to us all at some point.

– Riverdale hosted the  board retreat for the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives–a consortium of schools interested in using “participatory action research” that seeks to use in a tangible way “student voices” to effect school change. It was a great two day session of discussions and thoughts of how to have students more involved in a concrete way in decision-making at schools. It has been great to join this group. Michele Sanchez, the Director of Community Development for the Upper and Middle Schools will be coordinating our work this year with the group.

– Angela Duckworth, who is conducting the research in the 5th and 6th grades at Riverdale and KIPP on the development of self-control arranged a meeting with one of our consulting experts, Gabriele Oettingen of NYU. Gabriele and her partner, Peter Gollwitzer, are extraordinary researchers whose work focuses on goal setting and goal implementation. We had a great session and actually ran through the intervention we will try out with the students. It is a very simple framework that allows one to set realistic goals and actually meet them. It will be interesting to see how this work turns out with the students in our schools.

– A group from Wellington College, a coeducational boarding school in Berkshire, UK, visited with a group of seventeen educators headed by Anthony Seldon, the Headmaster. Anthony is also interested in positive psychology and the implications for schools. He has been working with both Marty Seligman and Nick Baylis of Cambridge. It was interesting for the group to share experiences in independent schools from two very different perspectives.

– Through a friend and trustee at Riverdale, I visited with Doug Jaeger and April Garrett of HAPPY CORP to talk about their views on marketing and online presences. It was a very interesting visit with lots of good ideas. I was particularly struck by the idea of using social networking as a means to communicate more effectively with the school community and the various constituencies that make up the school.

Grant Wiggins, an internationally known assessment and curriculum expert, spent a day at the school in October working with the Science and Language departments.

– We have started producing a set of school videos that will give a sense of the school to go along with our new viewbook. Paul Dewey of Dewey media will be back in November to complete the filming.

– Angela Duckworth (see above) has been talking with Walter Mischel, the psychologist who is now at Columbia who did the amazing work with the marshmallow test and four-year olds. We are looking at working together, and it was amazing to have a good discussion with Walter about his work and his ideas regarding development of capacities other than the purely intellectual and how they are positively correlated with success in life. One’s ability to delay gratification and “cool” one’s impulsive emotional reaction to tasks in life is an essential skill. It will be interesting to see what intervention we develop together.

– Kevin Mattingly, my former colleague and the Dean of Faculty of The Lawrenceville School, stopped by for a brief visit this month. It was great to have a long discussion about education and our plans for the schools. Kevin is an inspiration and does wonderful work at Lawrenceville and at the Klingenstein Center (see below) where he teaches.

– Pearl Kane, the Director of the Klingenstein Center at Teacher’s College, visited with her class last week. It was an interesting experience to have thirty-five independent school educators from around the country and the globe visit to see the school and talk about “symbolic leadership”. Pearl is an inspiration to many of us in the independent school world and her ability to help form the minds and careers of young educators is amazing. We have a number of Klingenstein interns who also come to work at the school during the year.

– This week we started a partnership with the Alvin Ailey dance company. They came to conduct workshops with faculty members and parents at the Lower School. They will be back to start a one-week residency on the River Campus in early December. I think that the idea of learning how to move one’s body is an essential intelligence as Howard Gardner points out. I hope that this will be the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between the two organizations. I also hope that it will concretize a commitment to a strong dance program at Riverdale. We are also planning to go as a school to a performance of the troupe in December.

It has been an interesting and positive start to the school year. Obviously, my days are also filled with many school events, I just thought that people might like to know what I am doing that is related to the school but involves outside groups and experts.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Trackback URL

No Comments on “Interesting Experiences & Thoughts from the last month…”

Hi Stranger, reply with your thoughts:

Allowed XHTML tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>