Leadership Journeys: Exploring the Guides, Pathways, and Possibilities

As the dean of curriculum and instruction at TMI Episcopal (TX), Jill Cross has often questioned the number of initiatives happening in a school at the same time. She’s worried about how they map back to a school’s mission. She’s worried about the “teacher overload” that accompanies many moving parts. But at the 2018 NAIS Annual Conference last week, Cross found new meaning and understanding that comes with being a leader of innovation.
In a blog post, she wrote about her experience of connecting with the Innovation Kitchen’s Magnetic Mountain. “I love the metaphor of a school’s journey to innovation as a climb up a Magnetic Mountain, a series of day hikes, ascents and descents, and summits of innovation. All the while, the journey is generating a magnetic field that draws others in, students and teachers.” Cross already has plans to apply this framework to her school.
Cross’s experience is just one example of the leadership journeys we saw at this year’s NAIS Annual Conference, in Atlanta. We welcomed educators of all stripes—teachers, heads of school, trustees, and others in the community—who are keeping nimble amid a changing landscape while reflecting where they’ve been and where they are going.

The Keynotes: Giving, Leading, and Listening

Alex Ragone, founding head of school at the AltSchool Union Square (NY), writes in a blog post, “Over the past two days, it’s been a pleasure to engage with educators from across the country discussing how education is evolving to serve our students and their future.” He highlights the four keynote speakers and his takeaways.

Adam Grant
Ragone shares four important points from Adam Grant’s keynote, “Givers Take All: Creating a Culture of Productive Generosity.” A professor at the University of Pennsylavia’s Wharton School, Grant is the co-author (with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg) of Option B, which talks about facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy. Maybe the most important that Ragone pulls out: “Praise the value of generosity. Thank others for being givers.”
Ragone also summarizes “Beyond Smartness: Leading Wisely in a Conscious Society,” the keynote of Navi Radjou, an innovation and leadership adviser and best-selling author in Silicon Valley. He examined how to tap into your inner resources (think: love, ingenuity, wisdom) to consciously direct human evolution toward a better future. One of Ragone’s highlights: “See the potential of others and amplify them!”

Ravi Nadjou
Sisonke Msimang tells stories about justice and human rights. In her keynote, “When I Grow Up I Want to Be: Stories as Borders, Stories as Skies,” Ragone highlights: “Listening is as important as storytelling. Listening to stories requires you to be empathetic and learn from another person.” Another blogger, Dave Michelman, head of school at the Duke School (NC), noted that more people were listening

Sisonke Msimang
Luma Mufleh, the coach of a soccer team of refugees, gave the closing keynote, “Changing the World One Game at a Time.” 

Luma Mufleh

The Power of Sharing

While in Atlanta, Greg Bamford, head of school at Watershed (CO), visited Lab Atlanta, a project of the Lovett School (GA), which offers public and private school 10th-graders a semester program in which the city is their campus. A capstone project is intended to deliver social impact. Bamford writes: “Field work isn’t just for students, and I was heartened to see the hunger independent schools are showing to blur the lines between campus and community. But it was also heartening to witness the generosity of Executive Director Laura Deisley, who was creating a powerful moment of expeditionary professional development simply by saying: ‘We're here. This is what we're trying. Come see it in action.’ It didn't require a slide deck, and it was more powerful as a result.”
Ross Wehner, founder of World Leadership School and TEACHUnited, also took some time before the conference to observe a Social Impact Design Workshop with Mt. Vernon Presbyterian School (GA) and Hillbrook School (CA). Wehner writes, “The highlight of the workshop was hearing from students at MVPS and Hillbrook, who were vivid examples of how students come alive when given a chance to use their skills to work on problems that matter to them.” 
To others, like Spanish teacher JJ Kahle and Jill Goodman, development director of the GreenMount School (MD), workshops on topics such as implementing a PK–5 Sexuality Curriculum or ADA compliance within the admission process were gold.
Check out more highlights from the 2018 NAIS Annual Conference in Atlanta!

Tell us! What was your biggest takeaway from the conference this year?
Rebecca Scherr

Rebecca Scherr is senior editor/writer at NAIS.