Out of the Mouths of Babes

I have just returned home from the fall board meeting of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), which is held each November in Washington D.C. It has been a joy and a privilege to serve as a trustee for the past five years and to work alongside many distinguished heads of independent schools, college presidents, entrepreneurs, and other talented leaders who have dedicated themselves to the four core principles of NAIS:
Excellence: Achieving Extraordinary Quality
Equity: Serving All Students Equally Well
Efficiency: Ensuring Every Dollar Provides Maximum Benefit to Students
Emotion: Exhibiting Passion and Commitment
As an NAIS trustee, I have been able to contribute to the national conversation about the current status and future of independent schools, to serve as a member of the Schools of the Future, Governance, Finance, and Audit Committees, and to learn at the cutting edge of educational research and innovation. NAIS trusteeship and being a member of the core faculty of the NAIS Aspiring Heads Program have been deeply impactful professional development experiences for me as a head of school, and I am grateful to Hamlin’s board of trustees for its steadfast commitment to my growth and learning. When I return home, my mind is always teeming with new ideas, comparative data, and reflections about the path ahead for Hamlin.
During Friday’s meeting, the board listened to an intriguing presentation from Donna Orem, the Chief Operating Officer for NAIS. As part of her presentation, she looked to the year 2030 and shared some interesting insights and information about where futurists believe our world is headed. I thought you might be intrigued by some of the emerging job titles that Hamlin girls might hold in 2030:
  • Alternative Vehicle Developer
  • Avatar Manager / Devotee
  • Body Part Maker
  • Climate Change Reversal Specialist
  • Memory Augmentation Surgeon
  • Old Age Wellness Manager / Consultant Specialist
  • Quarantine Enforcer
  • Social ‘Networking’ Officer
  • Virtual Lawyer
  • Virtual Teacher
I’m not sure that I love the idea of teachers being virtual rather than in the close company of children, but it may be the case that some K-8 schools of the future will have work forces that are a hybrid of the traditional model and newer ones. In January 2015, Rose Helm, Marisa Bellingrath, and I will be head to Los Angeles to be a part of a one-day Think Tank sponsored by the Online School for Girls; we will spend time with colleagues discussing Blended and Online Learning for Middle School children. Currently, many public and independent high school students are taking course loads of traditional and online classes.
The part of the presentation that still has my mind spinning is the reflection from children about what they hope schools in the year 2050 will be. Here, out of the mouths of babes, are their four hopes, which I believe are directly connected to Hamlin’s current strategic plan and the vision for the physical transformation of our urban campus:
  • “Schools in the year 2050 will be far more colorful than they are today.” 
Aesthetics matter to children. Light, ventilation, color, noise abatement, elbow room– these are the elements that are conducive to learning and achievement, particularly for girls. Some may not easily understand the exciting plan for the redesign of our Lower School classrooms. “I don’t see anything wrong with the current classrooms in McKinne,” one might hear. The reality is that our Lower School classrooms are less than ideal spaces for teaching and learning; our commitment to creative, project-based teaching and our efforts to differentiate instruction for a range of learners are compromised by the current size of the classrooms, and the rooms which face the interior of the building have been called “caves” by our girls. We can and should provide optimal learning environments for the girls and inspiring teaching spaces that attract and retain our talented teachers. 
  • “As far as reading is concerned, there will be a book that reads itself to you, helping you to memorize all the facts that you need to know.”
Students are craving technology integration to help them to do their work more efficiently, and I have been so excited to see the deft and thoughtful integration of technology tools in the girls’ daily lives at school. Stay tuned for announcements from Director of Educational Technology and Innovation Mark Picketts about the Hour of Code, and ask your daughter about how technology allows her to be more creative, more collaborative, and more organized.
  • “Teachers will only need to be there in case of emergency.”
I continue to believe in the primacy of the student-teacher relationship, and I do not believe that this statement is a cry from students to dispose of the adults who care about them. What I hear in this statement is a call for increased independence—for the teacher to become a coach, a consultant, a facilitator, a “guide on the side” rather than a “sage on the stage.” Student-centered teaching honors and respects the fact that each child brings knowledge, skills, and history with her to school. We do not view the girls as empty vessels in need of filling. We view Hamlin girls as active, engaged investigators who are directly involved in (and responsible for) their learning. The last thing children need are adults who hover over them constantly; in order to maximize student growth and achievement, adults have to walk the delicate line between stifling and supervising children.
  • “Most of the schools will be free, but for well-known schools people will have to pay.”
This was the statement that tugged at my heart most deeply. The 10-year olds that were interviewed for this research were keenly aware of the educational inequalities that persist in America and in the world at large. In this sentence, I hear children grappling with solutions about access and affordability, two key issues that the NAIS board and heads of independent schools everywhere are talking about. Many independent schools in California and across the United States are struggling to meet their enrollment requirements, and even those like Hamlin that are blessed with high demand for enrollment are seeking ways to mitigate the rising costs of a quality education. Building our endowment through capital fundraising will be a priority for me and the Hamlin Board of Trustees in the months and years ahead; we want Hamlin to continue to serve girls from all walks of life, and a larger endowment will relieve some of our reliance upon tuition revenue. I long for the day when a quality K-12 education will be seen as a public good, not as a privilege which only a limited number of children enjoy.
It’s always good to return home with fresh perspectives, provocative ideas, and renewed passion. Follow me on Twitter @whollandgreene, and add your voice to this dialogue when you have a moment.

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