Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rainy and Inspiring Days In Seattle

I am grateful to have attended the National Association of Independent Schools conference in Seattle last week.

It was an amazing opportunity to re-unite (and empathize) with first-year colleagues from the Institute for New Heads, the conference I attended in Atlanta last summer, and to be inspired and educated by great speakers.  

Several friends have been asking me about my experiences so I thought I would share for all.

The theme of the conference was innovation.  As I wrote in my Among Friends' blog last week, it was inspiring to learn about all the incredible innovation that is happening in independent schools across the country.

In a nutshell, I attended talks by: 

Bill Gates (Microsoft), who spent more of his time talking about how his foundation is funding teacher assessment programs - I would have loved to have heard his thoughts on personal innovation.  Too bad - I didn't get close enough to hit him up for a donation!   I thoroughly enjoyed finding a spelling error in one of his slides (learing instead of learning).  Not only that, but I and hundreds of others around me were taking notes on his talk on an Apple computer product.  It’s nice to know that nobody’s perfect.

Pat Bassett (president of NAIS), who highlighted the big shifts on education over the last ten years.  Not just the 5 'C's of 21st century skills (creativity, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and cross-cultural competency) , but the way the internet has presented amazing ways for teachers to share ideas and use resources.

Amy Chua (The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother), who was far more charming and personable than the media portrays.  She talked a lot about the humor in her book and remains convinced of the importance of holding kids to high standards.

John Hunter (subject of the forthcoming movie World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements) This is a movie that will be shown on PBS in May - and we should all watch it. He's a humble gentle 35 year veteran teacher who has literally invented a superbly complex game for helping kids understand world politics.  He got by far the longest standing O of the conference - minutes longer than Bill Gates!

John Medina (Brain Rules) Many of you know the book.  An amazingly gifted presenter on the latest brain research and what we know about parenting.

Dan Savage (Savage Love and the It Gets Better project), a Seattle humorist, columnist and gay rights activist who's youtube channel has gone viral in helping GLBT teens feel heard and supported.  A sensationally inspiring presenter.

I also attended seminars to help me learn about successful strategies for asking for gifts for my school and for hiring well.

In between, it was wonderful to network with heads of schools and other independent school people from Colorado and across the country, to visit with Jim Bonney (Educators Collaborative, Friends' head of school search firm) whom I had never met in person, even though we have talked on the phone many times, and to sneak in a lovely lunch with my friend and marketing guru Monique Davis.  

All in all, apart from the incessant rain, (c'mon Seattle I was expecting better and did you really have to put your schools on a two hour delay because there was sleet in the air?!) I enjoyed a hugely busy and successful three days.  Great seafood too!

I'm grateful to everyone at Friends' School and Steph Bruno (who's also a great blogger by the way!) for keeping things running so smoothly in my absence. 

It's good to be back!

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