Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Making Connections, Studying the Greats: My Fellowship at Columbia University

Connecting with other professionals...studying educational philosophy and perspectives on social justice...writing, discussing, and reflecting...these are just a few of experiences in which I engaged during my two-week fellowship in February at the Klingenstein Program for Heads of Schools at Teachers College, Columbia University.

 Our cohort 

I could fill 20 pages about the program and its impact on me. Put simply, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. Here are some highlights.
  • Our cohort consisted of 21 heads of independent and international schools, from places like Ghana, Germany, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Brazil. 
  • In week one, we read and discussed the great educational thinkers, from the 17th century philosopher Michel de Montaigne to John Dewey, the father of progressive education.
  • A requirement of the program was to write a ten-page literature review on a topic of particular impact on our schools that would yield value to other school leaders. My paper was entitled "From Surviving to Thriving: Helping Transgender Elementary Students Feel Connected to their School Community."
  • The second week, we studied Leadership for Social Justice, which was extremely inspirational and energizing. We worked together to determine how our schools can be agents for social change at a time in history when such action is desperately needed.
  • Working with master's degree students in the educational leadership department, we analyzed case studies from our own schools. The idea was to hear ideas about how school leaders can best handle the thorny situations of our profession, from personnel issues to fundraising conundrums.
Though there was great value in every aspect of the program, connecting with my colleagues was precious to me. We shared our own stories, school experiences, and formed friendships that will certainly last. I have already reached out to several of them to get their perspectives on a variety of issues (the "WhatsApp" communication app keeps the conversation going wonderfully).

In the end, the program’s content and approach was affirming of High Meadows and our mission. We are doing things here--putting children at the center and giving them a strong sense of agency--that have been talked about for years. We have much to learn, but much to give. I would love the opportunity to talk with you about the experience--please comment or email me if you like.

The great John Dewey and I at Teachers College, Columbia University