Check this out: Ideas worth spreading

One of the great things about my job is that I get to meet amazing people at the top of their game doing things that they love and are passionate about. Have you ever listened to someone speak and wanted to write down every single word they say? My desk is littered with notes from such occasions, on small notepads and on the backs of various programs and envelopes. While this is a great perk of my job, I also feel this incredible pressure to a) remember all of the good ideas and  b) share them without c) promoting any one school more than another.

blogged last week about a TED Talk. TED’s tagline is simple and catchy: “ideas worth spreading”. So this week, my hope is to capture some of what I think are ideas worth spreading…

First, a few great things about the Friends School of Baltimore. (Thanks to Matt Micciche, Head of School for hosting us, and to Courtenay Shrimpton from SAC for organizing this visit before the TABS conference)

  • No more Open Houses – instead you can “Lunch and Learn with the Head of School” and spend two hours seeing the school in action. They love this catered approach to today’s parents.
  • Their gardens are all native plants, and student art work is scattered throughout the school. The whole campus demonstrates their mission to “develop…creative strengths to make positive contributions to the world.”
  • As part of their examination of what qualities kids need in order to thrive in and shape their world, they invited 25 alum and parents who are ‘leaders in their fields and who are doing interesting things’ to spend two days at the school observing classes and meeting with faculty and parents.  They found this two day event to be a great launch to their work on developing their 21st century model for teaching and learning
  • They are committed to three components to service learning:  preparation, action and reflection.  There is a Service Learning Coordinator who ensures that students write about their service:  What did you do? So what? Now what?  All students are required to complete 50 hours of service by graduation – but they are only allowed to complete this in two locations.

Second, one of the keynotes at the TABS conference last week was William Deresiewicz from Yale who spoke about ‘Excellent Sheep’.  He eloquently argued that the university admissions process now shapes high schools and urged the audience to help today’s students to be genuinely passionate about ideas and risk-taking and imagination and courage. After meeting him, I enjoyed reading his most current article in The American Scholar: ‘Solitude and Leadership’.  This is a guy we will hear more from…mark my words…

Third, the New Hampton School is the first school (that I’ve seen!) to use a QR Code in its prospectus.   For anyone who is not as hip as I now am… a QR Code is a matrix barcode, readable by smartphones. It is supposedly the new thing, and you will start to notice these squares of black modules arranged in a pattern on white backgrounds.  You can scan the QR code and instantly link to related pages on websites.  Start to imagine that potential for e-marketing…

Finally, before the Governance presentation on Monday in Vancouver, Pat Bassett and I enjoyed dinner with the St George’s School Board and Leadership Team.  Pat gave a great example of innovative teaching that was new to me: What if you “flip” lessons and homework? Teachers create a video of their lessons and assign it for homework so students can watch at their leisure and as many times as needed.  Then class time is used to collaborate, ask questions of the teacher, create, etc.  How smart is this one?

These ideas are worth checking out, at least in my books… Anyone willing to share others? I know our schools are filled with teachers and administrators with ideas worth spreading.

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