New View EDU Episode 25: Developing Independent School Leaders for the Future: Full Transcript

Read the full transcript of Episode 25 of the NAIS New View EDU podcast, which features NAIS President Donna Orem and Nicole Furlonge, director of the Klingenstein Center at the Teachers College of Columbia University. They join host Tim Fish to explore what it means to be the kind of leader who can adapt and build strong schools now and into the future.

Tim Fish: You know, during all the conversations in New View EDU, I have learned so much about the true purpose of school, about the transformative power of authentic relationships, about deep learning. These ideas have been threads that have woven themselves through almost every conversation in New View EDU. Today we're gonna spend some time digging into another idea: the idea of leadership.

What is it? Who has it? How do you distribute it? And what are the characteristics of leaders today, and what are the characteristics that leaders need for the future? To explore this topic, we are joined by two experts on the topic of leadership. First up is Donna Orem, the president of NAIS, who is a frequent visitor to New View EDU. Donna, it is so lovely to have you back again. Thank you so much for carving some time out of your schedule to spend with our listeners.

Donna Orem: Thanks, Tim. As always, it's a pleasure to be here.

Tim Fish: We're also joined by Dr. Nicole Furlonge, who is the director of the Klingenstein Center. She has taught and led in independent schools, and is the author of Race Sounds: The Art of Listening in African American Literature. Nicole, thank you for joining us today as well.

Nicole Furlonge: Tim, thank you so much for having me, and Donna, it's great to join you here today.

Tim Fish: So Nicole, this is your first time on New View EDU. I'd love to jump in with asking you a question that we've asked many of our guests since the beginning. It's around this notion of the purpose of school. You know, years and years ago, the purpose of school was compliance. It was learning content. It was developing essential skills to work in an industrial economy. But what, what are the purposes today? If we were designing from the beginning, what should we put in the center of the school experience? I'm curious what your thoughts are on that question.

Nicole Furlonge: Yeah, thanks for that question. I love how you made plural “purpose” there with “purposes,” cuz I think that that speaks to the reality that we have multiple purposes that we're trying to meet. This question of the purpose of school is, seems to be front of mind of everyone. Just this morning, I saw a piece from the New York Times on asserting that the purpose of school is care, is to provide care for, for students, certainly for students in our ecosystem of education who missed out on the care that they didn't receive during the height of COVID, when schools closed.

Other people think that deeper learning is the purpose of school. Others think that it's about imagining this future that we don't yet know, and then preparing students for that future. What I think that the purpose of school comes down to is it encapsulates all of those ideas and more, under what I think of as the purpose of school being about inviting human beings in, to learn how to build capacity to be in better network with each other as we grow. So taking the youngest child all the way through, in our cases, pre-K through 12 in our, our schools and thinking about what it means to seed and to cultivate and to allow to flourish a human being who understands their uniqueness, their own gifts and passions and purpose, but understands all of that in relation to another. In relation to people who we are in network with, in community with, in country with, in the world with. And how we learn how to be better with each other, alongside each other. So for me, ultimately, all of those pieces of what we're calling to as the essential purposes of school, come together into that idea of really cultivating a humanity.

Tim Fish: You know, I love that. This idea that we're working with the individual, in many ways, in order to give that person the capability and capacity to work with others, to be a part of that network. That concept really resonates for me, because I've been thinking a lot about this idea that school is about the development of the individual, and it is about that interwoven community, that interdependence that we spoke about with Matthew Barzun in our last season. And that concept, I think, is so powerful. You know, as we think about that, I think that one of the outcomes of the school model that you've described is, it does develop these characteristics of leadership.

And I'm curious for both of you, when we think about leadership, what is it, how do we define it? How do we wrap our heads around it a little bit?

Donna Orem: Well, I guess I will just riff off of, first, Nicole's wonderful description. When you think about leadership, it really is very much linked to what we think about the purpose of school. And I think, you know, Nicole said that so well, and so much of education is based in the social experience. And in fact, lacking that social experience, it's hard to build any type of learning on top of it. But you know, when we think about school as maximizing a student's potential, and, and as you said, Nicole, the purpose, I think, you know, we think that leadership can really flourish in many different ways and through many different purposes.

I think, you know, historically there used to be this picture of a leader, a portrait of a leader, of this very charismatic, sometimes hard charging leader. And, and in fact, I think through history that's changed a bit, and we often take icons of the day and we use them as the model for leadership. But I think we know that now today, it's, leadership is not necessarily a specific role. It's not specifically a way of being, it's really being authentic about what your purpose is, having a vision that takes you there, and really bringing other people along with you. And I don't think that leadership is positional in the way that historically we've seen it, because in any type of organization or even any kind of community, different people can be leaders at different times, and we need different people to be leaders at different times.

And I think that goes hand in glove with what Nicole has talked about, with this foundational aspect of education is about being in the world with people, and to know how to develop those relationships. And they are gonna be more important in the future, I think, than they've ever been before. Particularly when we think about the fast pace of technology and how that is disrupting our society in so many ways.

Nicole Furlonge: Yeah. And I think Donna, your, your comments make me think about, you know, not only is that true for students, the development of leadership for students, but also for the adults who make school what it is for us. Everyone from staff to faculty, to administration, to the board, to alumni. We really have this sort of expansive, more expanded notion of what it means to be a community that's cultivating leadership at all levels all the time.

And deepening that commitment to not just the roles of—certain roles of a school, but actually understanding that everyone in that space has the opportunity, and I would even say the responsibility, to think about how they can contribute as a leader in that space, at the various moments that they're, that they find themselves in. So I agree with you. I think leadership is such a key piece for us as we go through. 

And Tim, you asked the question about sort of what, what makes a leader? What is a leader? I think going back to what makes a leader is this notion that a leader makes a choice to lead, you know, it's intentional. You're not sort of appointed and you just are named and that's it, but what makes you a leader is the choice that you make and how you activate that choice. And I think also the ability to, to create spaces and the opportunities for others to lead. And I think that's different for us than it was, you know, 15, 20 years ago where again, the charismatic leader was the one that everyone pointed to when they thought of the word leader.

And I think now what we see is that leaders really provide an opportunity for others to take on some deep leadership work where they are. So that everyone is understanding leadership to be a space in which one can be impactful, but it's also one where you're leading with. You're not just leading solo.

Donna Orem: I think that is so true, Nicole. I think, you know, for so long leadership has been about how far you can go as an individual. And I think something that we've come to learn is no matter how talented you are as an individual, you can only go so far. You know, you have the power of three, the power of five when you share that leadership and you share that journey. And I think with the complexity of schools today, sharing that leadership is not only key to success, but it's essential for surviving and thriving.

Tim Fish: Yeah. It makes me also think about this idea. I love your notion, Nicole, that leadership involves a choice. Right. It gets back, you know, we keep saying that in this, in this podcast, we keep finding agency, it just keeps kind of popping up, you know, along the way.

And leadership involves agency. It involves the ability to sort of choose to step into that space. I also think, Donna, it reminds me of your notion of the 100%, right. You and I were just talking about this the other day, this idea that you have these sort of, these things that are in your core. And part of leadership is understanding that core, and being able to, to sort of speak to it. Donna, I don't know if you might wanna expand on my kind, or my sort of referencing your 100%. Cause I think it's really connected to this idea of leadership.

Donna Orem: Well, the first thing I wanna say is it's not my idea. It actually, it actually belongs to the late Clayton Christensen, who makes the point that you know, when we go forward in the world and, and particularly as we study leadership. Let's say we, through the educational process, we're thinking about who we are and how we will learn the tactics of leadership, which, you know, sometimes as you go onto graduate school, there may be more of a focus on that. And he suggested that in fact, it's really the human pieces, and the moral choices that we make, that center our practice of leadership, or should center the practice of leadership. And, and he tells the, the story about choices that he had to make, but he was very clear on where he would never compromise as a leader.

And he was a deeply religious man and was devoted to attending services on Sunday. And he was also a great basketball player and found himself at one point on a championship team that was going to have a game on Sunday. And much to the dismay of his teammates, he said he would not play. And so the point that he makes is that all of us, as we go through our journey and we take on the mantle of leadership, we have to know what those values are that we are a hundred percent on. And he also makes the point, and I think it's something that is so important to think about, that once you set what your hundred percent values are, it's much easier to be a hundred percent than it is to be 90%.

Because once you decide to move away from that value, you've opened the floodgates. You don't actually have that value, that is your moral underpinning, preserved. And so I think, you know, for all of us, we have to know where that boundary is. We have to know what are those values that are going to be the foundation of how we choose to lead, and where we will never default. And where we will never, you know, move from that a hundred percent. And I think that's the kind of authentic leadership that we need from all leaders today.

Nicole Furlonge: Yes, it speaks to, in some ways you're making me think of integrity too. Right? To be a leader with integrity, but also one who can look at their leadership and say that this is a concept that is integral to who I am, right. I am staying true to who I am in the context in which I'm being called to lead.

You know, and I wonder about the ways in which we, we hold that integrity or that 100% purpose in mind and heart, even as we remain agile and flexible regarding the context that we're in, the moments that might arise, that, that might ask us to rethink where that center is. So I, I do wonder about how leaders sort of navigate those two poles potentially.

Donna Orem: What I think, you just hit the nail on the head, so to speak. In many ways, ways it is managing polarities, it's managing those poles. Because I think, you know, you can still be a hundred percent and navigate yourself through these sticky situations, if you try to find out how you stay true to yourself, but also acknowledge that there is a need that you must meet.

I think that for leaders today, understanding the concepts of polarity thinking are so important, because I think many of the challenges that, that leaders face today are not easy problems to solve. I think they are polarities to manage. I was just in fact, having a conversation with Tim yesterday about something that I think is very much a polarity today, when leaders are called on to think about core concepts of education, and how we ensure that we both push children and protect them. And I think parents, in engaging in education, are trying to find this polarity between protecting their children and preparing their children. And I think it is creating some difficulties today, because obviously as parents, we wanna protect our children, but we also have to prepare them for a world that is much different than when we were children. Understanding that polarity is not a choice. It's a both and. We have to both protect children, and we have to prepare them at the same time.

So I think leaders really need to look at these complex situations. They have to be able to identify those two poles that are interdependent, and really decide what are the actions that I can take as a leader that ensure I stay on the upside of both of those poles?

Nicole Furlonge: I think too, that part of what is new for leadership, or new-ish for leadership in this moment, is that we're not only sort of called to manage those poles, but we're, we're also called to think about, you know, what does it mean to lead a community in a way that positions that community as, as learners.

I think that core to leadership now is this idea of getting people to understand that while they may have certain set expectations, right, that are fixed and core to who they are, that the community might be being called on to do work that is in creative tension, we might say, to call up a Peter Senge notion, that's in creative tension with that individual family's, or student's, or faculty's sense of purpose. 

We used to talk about that as being maybe mission misaligned. But instead thinking about instead, you know, our missions tend to give us these large umbrellas of space to work within. And when we're called in a moment where we're dealing with climate justice or a racial reckoning, or the world of COVID and keeping people safe and healthy and what that means, how do we help our community unlearn some mindsets and, and schema, and relearn some other ways of being together so that we can move forward and thrive.

And so I do think there's something about leadership today that calls leaders to be educators, essentially, to be, to be designers of learning not just for the students that the school serves, but also for the adult constituencies that leaders are trying to bring along on behalf of a school community.

Donna Orem: I think that is so well said, because I think something that's very unique about an education community is, we're a community that needs to work together on behalf of children. And children succeed when the adults in the community are partnering around their success. And I think that's challenging today, with the different needs that kids have. And and it's why I am so taken by John A. Powell, from Berkeley Center on Othering and Belonging's whole theory of targeted universalism, because I think it's, it's an interesting concept that I think can help to build community and can help, as you say, Nicole, for the community to learn together. And, you know, simply his theory of targeted universalism is that any organization, but in this case, a school community, should have universal goals for every member of the community. So there may be different goals for the students than there are for the adults, but that we should be mindful that everyone is situated differently. And they will need different type of help and support to actually reach those goals. 

And so I think we see that coming out of COVID with students. There are some children that have had greater mental health challenges and they need more supports in that area. There are children that have had learning loss and they will need more supports to catch up. There are other kids, because they did have a lot of support during COVID, are at a better place and they're ready to move forward. So I think, you know, as a learning community, we have to understand how we can make both individual progress and community progress in service of these larger universal goals.

Nicole Furlonge: Definitely. I think too, that, you know, we, I say to schools all the time that we often talk about the faculty or the staff as this homogeneous body with one brain. And what we actually have is, is faculties. And we have staffs. And we have, you know, we already think about the students as a plurality. But thinking about how we deal with that both and. Both the individual, right, and their unique challenges and opportunities, but also the universal, right. Or the collective. I think what I also, since you mentioned John A. Powell, what I appreciate about his work too, is that he really gets us to think about expanding the notion of what we count as our community. And I think we saw that so, so sort of dramatically happen and quickly happen during COVID where, you know, we in the independent school world, each school is an independent school. And we love our independence and we love the ability to innovate and pivot and to really hone in on our particular campus community.

And what COVID, what I saw COVID do and what I saw COVID call on leaders to do, is to really think about how is that community bigger than the people that walk through your doors every day? How is it bigger, even, than the alumni who still call you their alma mater, your, their home, their learning, their learning home? Our community stretched. That independent community became bigger than just our individual schools, became the surrounding areas we were in. It became our public school colleagues. It became, you know, the schools in our region that we were getting on calls with, to compare plans and to strategize and to just convene in a community that understood us.

And it became the globe, right. I know at the Klingenstein Center, we were convening international school sessions so that schools here in the US could hear from schools that were in a very different timeline and also with very different resources than a lot of our schools have in the US.

And so I think that that expansion of who and what we point to as our community really calls on leaders to have a different perspective, wider lenses, even as they zoom into the folks that they see every day on a daily basis. We're called on to lead on behalf of different levels of community, or at least mindful of the fact that our community goes well beyond the folks who are enrolled or the folks who are employed or otherwise connected to our individual school.

Tim Fish: Well, and I think it speaks to this idea, this core sense, right? We talked about the 100% that you talked about, Donna. It's about this sort of internal conviction and understanding about who I am. But I think one of the core lessons I learned as a teacher, and I deeply believe that every one of our teachers are leaders in, in so many ways, but it speaks to this notion that one of the greatest lessons for me as a teacher was that part of great teaching is designing to give away the power. To give away the control. To allow others in, right. This idea that, that this notion that as I am a—let's say I'm a head of school. And I'm, I'm seeing the larger community. Right. I have to think about how do I give this, what this community has to the larger community, how do I give my own leadership over to this community? How do I help the community grow through allowing others in? One of the things I've seen during COVID in particular and through the last three years in talking with school heads, is that we came up on this wall, right, heads have always been super busy and they're doing so much. And then COVID happened and it was impossible to do it all.

There was just no way. And so everyone had to give it away, right. Had to believe in others and let things go. And what many, many folks found was that, as I have learned in my own life, it's a lot better when you give it away. What comes back…what comes back is better than what I would've done. Right? And so there's this, back to the polarities. There's this sense of like, being centered as a leader around what I believe and where I want to go. And this ability, this flexibility and this inherent desire and ability to let it go, right. That sort of blending that you have. 

I had coffee with a head of school this morning who told me that one of the polarities that we were talking about, Donna, as a, as a riff on our conversation, was this polarity of availability and personal self care, right. That this notion that there was, that it wasn't one was right and one was wrong, but it was about how do I manage to the upsides of my availability, and how do I manage to the upsides of my own self care? And how do I design for that if I can? And how do I, how do I recognize when I'm in the downsides of too much availability or maybe not enough self care, right? 

And I'm wondering if either of you have thoughts on sort of, and I don't think there is one, but some of the ways to combat, or to navigate that sense of exhaustion. Any thoughts that come to mind for leaders to, to hold onto?

Donna Orem: I would say in year one of the pandemic that was almost impossible to do. It was like being in a game of Asteroids, I think, for most heads. And I think for all of us, it was, you never knew what was gonna happen on that particular day. And there was no guidebook for how to deal with it. So I think, you know, we started out this journey with heads being literally spent by the end of year one.

And then when year two didn't improve in the way that we hoped it did, we were building on that exhaustion. But I do think by the middle of year two, a lot of leaders understood that they could not be their best selves. They could not bring their best thinking, their best leadership to the table. They could not heal the community if they were not healed themselves. So I think there a, a number of things happened. One was finding a network of support. I think that that became the lifeline for many leaders and it changed, I think, the nature of our community, which had been more competitive, I think pre-COVID, and people came to understand that part of the recipe for self care was talking to others who were in the same position and understanding that they were going through the same thing. So I think number one, people developed networks of support, where they could ask for help. They could just tell their story on a day that drained them, or they could support somebody else in the same way and move forward.

So those networks, I think, have now lived on. As hopefully we are starting a better school year, I also think exercise, getting out into nature. Those were things that people tried to spend more time doing and, and to try to find that intersection between getting the work done, but doing it in a way that fulfilled their spirit as well.

Nicole Furlonge: In our network at the Klingenstein Center, what we started to do was con—you know, we couldn't travel to people. So we started convening people on Zoom and Kling chats and Kling salons. And what we found is that even that remote convening with each other to share what was happening, what people were seeing, and to have a space to ask questions and not have to sort of stand up and, and with certainty assert something, right? To sort of get into a hive mind and explore possibilities was something that really was a piece of support for folks. And I think helped ameliorate some of that or alleviate some of that burnout from time to time.

I also think there was a way in which, whether we were remote, hybrid, or the way we are now, we're back at school. I do think that there was a need to really think about, for leaders to think about how they could find in their school communities, those spaces that they could rely on, that they could trust to sort of engage in that deep leadership that we were just talking about earlier. That you didn't have to be a solo leader and that other people could lead. So whether it was, you know, the teacher that was getting on Zoom and being the face of the school in our students' homes or, you know, when we come back to schools, the ways in which we recognize that everyone at every level of the school is, is a leader and touches the lives of students as they learn.

Really thinking about how a leader develops the listening capacity to tune into those areas of school that aren't just about their finding what they should or should not be doing or how they should or should not be showing up, but also being able to identify what are the ways in which their full community shows up as an ecosystem? You know, where are the places that they can rely on and where are the growth edges that they, as a leader, can then sort of focus more intentional effort towards those, those areas of, of needed growth. And I think once you build that capacity, whether you're in a pandemic or a reckoning, or you're just having a sunny day at school, you, you understand that that becomes a capacity that you can rely on. And that, again, that you're leading in an ecosystem, you're not leading in a silo. And I think that that can help leaders understand that it's not meant to be all on their shoulders in the ways that we often are positioned to, to think and act.

Donna Orem: You know, Nicole, I think that is so right. And some of our data would prove that another important part of that ecosystem was the board, and heads really relied particularly on the board chair. And we saw those relationships become stronger than they'd ever been, because I think particularly the board chair and the head working together were a team in solving some of these problems or identifying who they needed to bring in. So it was gratifying to see those relationships strengthen and grow because of the challenges thrown the way of so many school leaders.

Tim Fish: Yeah, I think that's so spot on also, Nicole, if you think about how, when people define leadership or historically have thought about what a leader looks like and what is a leader doing, right? You imagine all kinds of different sorts of scenarios where the leader is sort of taking charge, right. And taking charge usually has some very actionable things with it.

And what I'm hearing from you is this idea of that sense of a leader is that listening, is that being present is sometimes just being in the space. Being a leader is being a learner. You know, this idea that sort of one, one person I was just talking to talked about, a head of school, who said they believe their job as chief learning officer, right. To be thinking about the learning of others, but also be thinking sort of the learner in chief, right? This person who sees himself or herself, primarily as a learner, right. And that for me is a, is a key piece in how listening comes into that, which is a, I think a disposition of leadership that we can all hold onto even more, particularly at this moment.

And it's something that you echo in your book, and I'm wondering in, in your book, if you could speak a little bit to how listening plays a key part in, in leadership.

Nicole Furlonge: Yes, definitely. So my book is Race Sounds, and it is a study, actually, of African American literature. It grew out of my dissertation work in the humanities, around listening, sound studies, and, and literature. And what I found in that work is that there are ways in which the literature I was looking at and listening into was really showing us models for listening that is less passive than we typically think of, and more active, more impactful, more a disposition of intentionality, and one that actually is an action as opposed to a passive position. So when I shifted to thinking about how this work could transfer in the school work I was doing when I was in boarding and day schools, and then at the Klingenstein Center, I began thinking about the ways in which we typically frame listening as this thing we do kind of in year one of any job that we take on, we tell everyone–

Tim Fish: –This is my year of listening.

Nicole Furlonge: Yes, this is my year of listening. Don't change anything.

Tim Fish: After this, the listening ends, but I will listen for a year.

Nicole Furlonge: Yes. Exactly. Or, or the advice is, you know, don't go in changing everything, just listen. And so listening becomes framed as this inactive, passive behavior or, or posture. And what I supposit in the book, but then also really push through in terms of thinking about the work that we do around leadership development at the Klingenstein Center, is to think about the ways in which listening is itself, a core active skill and disposition that we need to bring to our work in schools. Particularly if we really are going to embrace the idea that we are leading schools as an ecosystem, as learning organizations that have, as we were saying earlier, not fa—not a faculty, but faculties, right. Everything is multiplied, exponentially so, in terms of who we're tending to, what we're tending to as school leaders.

And I think particularly for those leaders that are situated as the only ones on their campus, the head of school, and maybe an associate head of school, division heads, the ability to be able to, from their vantage point or to stay with the, with the auditory, from their channels, to be able to tune in in different ways, different wavelengths to their school communities, they can really keep their pulse on things, right. But if they can also then demonstrate and model what it looks like to lead through listening, then that becomes something that the whole community understands they have permission to do. To tune in, to pay attention, to be present, so that we understand both what our strengths are, and I think this is even more important, that we understand where our growth edges are. ‘Cause I do think the propensity is to highlight what our strengths are at the expense of being able to grow in different ways. And so being able to tune into those areas is something that a listening leader can better do, if they're willing to tune into various channels at their school.

Donna Orem: That's beautifully said, I love that concept.

Nicole Furlonge: Thank you.

Tim Fish: I love that notion, that impactful listening, right? This notion that we hear the term active listening a lot. And I think about that as having embodied strategies, right? Sitting forward, using eye contact, nodding, many other things that are signals of active listening, which are good. But this notion of thinking about also more broadly as not just a passive activity, but being really, listening for impact and listening for leadership, I think that's—thank you so much. That really does, I think, inspire me to think about my own listening and how I'm not just in a passive, necessarily passive role.

Nicole Furlonge: I think. too, that those prepositions are important too. Right? The listening with, you know, listening with listening, alongside listening for, and listening as, right. I think recognize—part of what we're talking about in this conversation is understanding the core of who you are as a leader, and what you bring to that leadership through choice, through identity, through experiences, lived and otherwise, through education, through other schools that we've been at potentially. And I think that the, the listening isn't just done at someone or at something, but it's actually done alongside a leadership team. With your, your core group of leaders in your school. You're listening as, you know, a person who is new to leadership, a person who is new to teaching, a person who is a veteran of teaching and being in schools, you're listening as, you know, your racial identity, your religious beliefs. Your—right? 

We have filters that we listen through.We think about listening as this multivalent way of being. That it's not just about the, let me look you in the eye, but it's also about an expansive idea of how we tune in to each other, for each other, and, and in our communities as well. 

And I think it's important too. Just one other thing about the, the notions of active listening is that we wanna think about listening as contextual. So culturally, how listening, deep listening shows up, how intentional listening, impactful listening shows up can be different depending on where you are. So there may be context where looking someone in the eye is not agreeable, right. And doesn't feel like you're listening, right. Versus in other places, the direct eye contact is really important. And so I think listening, too, for me, is this practice of being present, that also gets you to really intentionally think about what is the context that that I'm in that is calling me to listen in different ways? And how can I be an agile listener as I move through a variety of contexts?

Tim Fish:I look back on leaders that I admire. I look back on groups and teams that I've worked as part of that have been really impactful for me, and I feel like doing impactful work. And in all of those situations, the leadership has been distributed, there's been a true sense of listening. There have been people that I could be fully present with. I feel like there's a sense of vulnerability that's present in that small or large organization.

And I think that looking at that is what I often hear about when I talk about schools. When I say what's the magic, what's at the heart, what do you, what do you find that's so special? People talk about their sense of community. This notion of how we engage with the messiness of human lives that are in our community. And it's the, it's some of the most important part I think of the work that we do. And what I love about that is I think through this conversation, we've seen how all of that stuff we talk about, it connects to and is part of leadership. That leadership is not some separate thing that's disconnected from that. It's completely embedded in that kind of community, right. That leadership is shared and distributed across a community. 

This has been so awesome. As we head into the last question, I'd love both of you to just think for a moment about this moment in the year, right. It's just getting cool in the mornings now, when I get up to go for a walk. I love that fall feeling of sort of coming back to school, and it gives me these sort of hopes, and it's an awful lot of joy. I'm wondering right now. What brings you joy? 

Nicole Furlonge: Fall is one of my favorite times of year also. So I'm, I'm enjoying this transition. I think what brings me joy... I have three children who are school aged, one in middle school, and two in high school. One is a senior. And what brings me joy is knowing that they are in a school community that honors them, sees them, hears them, appreciates them for who they are, and puts them in positions where they're learning how to be in community with others. They're having these experiences with peers and with teachers who are just finding ways to challenge them and to allow them to flourish at the same time.

And they're each three so different from the other. And yet the same school really serves all of them. And so if I extrapolate to our schools what I, I love about and what I found joyful about our schools is that commitment to figuring out how we can provide that kind of educational, socializing, empowering experience for every single student that comes through our doors every day. And so the work of working on that and cultivating that and watching that just, just brings me joy.

Donna Orem: I think for me, it is through all these years of uncertainty, it is a reminder through nature that there are certain things. And that no matter how bad things get, the sun's gonna come up in the morning, we're going to be able to experience beautiful sunsets, that a plant that you planted a year ago sprouts in the spring. You know, I think I've learned the simple things in life. And so when I think about it in the context of schools, you know, we may have chaotic situations. We may have situations where we feel like we're polarized, but I think looking at the continuity of nature, I truly believe we're going to find our way back to that place, where we build community and that kind of special community that we talk about today, that is almost a refuge from the, just the constant bombardment that is part of our life in this fast moving world

Tim Fish: I love that Donna, I saw the, an article in the New York Times, I think it was, recently. About sort of the universe and, you know, with, with the Webb telescope, what we're learning about the universe. And they mentioned, I believe that there's a hundred billion galaxies.

That number just like, whoa. You know, it just makes you just think about sort of the vastness of it.

And to your point about sort of that, how small we are. And yet at the same time, I was doing some work in St. Louis last week. And I went for a run on the campus of St. Louis University. And it was right at some period, five o'clock or so, when everything seemed to be letting out and the place was packed with students. And it was so great to see students back on campus. But what I also loved was the diversity of the young people I saw, they, some were big, huge, almost football players. Some were tiny itty bitty, some were carrying tuba cases. Some were carrying books, some had all kinds of tattoos, others, you know, it was just this incredible eclectic mix of young people.

And they all seemed engaged and connected. And, and as I was running through that group, two things were true. One, I felt really old. I felt like, wow, I don't belong here anymore. But two, as I got to the end of the campus and I turned around and I looked back, I just was so thankful to be part of education, to be part of the work that creates the space for those things to happen. I have a very small role to play, but it was so great to be part of. That's what gave me joy, that I'm in the work, I'm in the game, as well as everyone who is listening to this. And certainly the two of you. 

So I just wanna say thank you for spending some time with us today on New View EDU. This has been a great conversation. As we said going in, we weren't sure where it was gonna go, but we knew we weren't gonna struggle to find some really interesting things to talk about.

Thank you, both Nicole and Donna, for spending some time with us today.

Nicole Furlonge: Thank you.

Donna Orem: Thank you, Tim. And thank you, Nicole. I, I just wanna say publicly, I so appreciate what you've done for school leaders. I think not only have you helped them to grow and develop and find their own passions, but you have created this incredible network, and that network I saw from where I sit was one of the strongest in terms of supporting each other through difficult times.

And so thank you for keeping that network strong. Thank you for really being there for leaders when they most need it.

Nicole Furlonge: Thank you so much, Donna. And I appreciate your leadership and wish you all the best as you, as you move on to other exciting ventures, I'm sure. 

Donna Orem: Thanks, Nicole.

Nicole Furlonge: Thank you, Tim. I really appreciate being invited here.