While you were sleeping

There is a new member of the Kee family, and I can’t stop thinking about her. It is not as precious as it sounds…

Sunday morning started with Kathleen calling long distance to Montreal (where I was at St George’s for the Spring Leadership Institute) to tell me that her new hamster, Maple, eats more than she expected.  I told her I wasn’t surprised to hear that at all!

Three nights ago, Maple joined our family.  Kathleen had worked for weeks trying to convince us to buy a hamster.  She promised to take care of it herself and to pay for it with her own money.  Her most compelling line was this:  “All I want for my birthday is permission.”  Before giving in, my husband and I were clear with her on two messages:

1.  “You need to understand that Dad and I will never take care of this thing.”

2.  “We believe that a good hamster is a dead hamster.  The sooner the better.”

How’s that for fine parenting?  But she has heard these sorts of lines from us before so she merely rolled her eyes and smiled.  Who is playing whom in our house?  Her birthday gift was a big box with one piece of paper inside that had been folded over and over with one small word written on it:  “Permission.”

When Maple arrived Thursday night, she was treated like a new baby in the house – we cooed, laughed and took photos.  I tucked Kathleen in to bed that night feeling good that she was so thrilled. Maybe having a hamster wouldn’t be so bad after all.

But when I went to bed, Maple came to life.

At first I thought it was cute, and I got out of bed to have a look at her running in her (squeaky) wheel. I shut my door but I could still hear her.  I got up a second time and shut Kathleen’s door too.  I got up a third time to move the cage downstairs but stopped short when I saw that Kathleen was fast asleep while Maple was running fast.  I thought I could surely do the same.

But when my alarm went off at 4:30am signaling it was time to catch my plane to Montreal, I had hardly slept.

So our nocturnal Maple, who is hungry by morning, made me think about our CAIS schools.

For when schools are closed, and when parents and students aren’t around, and when many educators are relaxing, our CAIS colleagues are working to improve themselves and their schools; their wheels are spinning; they are sharpening the saw.

It was so impressive to see 39 people from five provinces focusing on “Change Leadership” and “Women and Leadership” for the weekend.  I realize it is a bit crazy to make a connection between Maple and the LI (must still be tired from my lack of sleep!) but I couldn’t deny the parallel. Just as I didn’t quite realize how active hamsters are at night, I also didn’t quite realize how much important work can be shared and learned in a single weekend.

This weekend in Montreal, thanks to Barry Wright and Kathy Nikidis, the research was compelling, the conversations were engaging, and everyone came away with some new ideas and friends.

Our schools are fortunate to have educators and leaders willing to give up their time to learn with colleagues from other parts of the country.  The commitment to PD is inspirational.

I’m excited for the Summer LI at Shawnigan, and I hope to see you there.

p.s.  In case my daughter ever reads this:

Dear Kathleen,

When I am at the Summer LI, you’ll be at Camp Onondaga.  If you take good care of your hamster and Maple is still alive in July, I will consider reminding Dad to feed her…

Summer LI

There are some exciting changes to this summer’s Leadership Institute!

Last year, Kim Gordon chaired a PD Task Force and reviewed all of the PD offerings in Canada.  The Board approved their report, which included a new vision for national PD.  A number of recommendations are currently being implemented, and our new LI program specifically attends to the following four suggestions:

1.  That the Leadership Institute include more than one strand to ensure more homogeneous audience groupings, more in depth discussion, cohorts, and school follow-up.

2.  That a leadership curriculum scope and sequence be designed that includes goals, outcomes and program ideas for each strand.

3.  That the LI include action research or some element of “doing something”  to create opportunities for practical leadership development

4.  That the LI include leadership development for new heads (1-5 years) as part of their ongoing skill development.

In addition to revising our Diploma in Independent School Leadership, we have expanded our vision of the LI.  This summer at Shawnigan Lake School, we are introducing two new streams available to CAIS members only:

– NEW – Current CAIS Heads – Money and Managing Change

– NEW – Current CAIS Administrators – The Next Step

Please review the following LI program document carefully and share it with your colleagues.  We hope to see you this summer.

Click here to register.

Last week at NAIS

I always come away from the NAIS Annual Conference with at least a couple of good ideas; this year, there were three:

1. Sal Khan is the Founder and Executive Director of Khan Academy, a not-for-profit on-line ‘school’ with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere. In 2004, while working as a hedge fund analyst, his cousins asked him to tutor him and when he couldn’t meet them in person one day, he created a tutorial and posted it on YouTube. I laughed out loud when he told his humble story, ‘My cousins admitted that while they appreciated my help, they actually preferred my lessons on the internet to my teaching in person’. And so he began posting his lessons, and people all over the world started writing to thank him. Today he has over 2,000 videos and each has been viewed over 20,000 times.

2. Wendy Mogul is the best speaker on parenting, and I bought her bookBlessings of a B Minus. Known for her common-sense approach and wit, she had the over-packed room laughing with her tales of parents and kids. My favorite advice was this: “Wait is actually an acronym for parents; it stands for Why Am I Talking?” She advises parents to ‘WAIT’ whenever they want to start solving their child’s problems.

3. Geoffrey Canada, who is featured in the documentary Waiting for Superman, was the final speaker for the conference, and he had the audience of over 4000 people laughing and yet also deeply moved. Since 1990, Mr. Canada has been the President and Chief Executive Officer for Harlem Children’s Zone, which The New York Times Magazine called “one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time.” The numbers he quoted are alarming: there are more black people in prison today than there were slaves in America; it is cheaper to send a child to an independent school than it is to keep him/​her in prison for a year. One line that made me laugh was his advice to the kids in Harlem: ‘I live by a simple mantra… and I recommend it to others…. When in doubt, do what rich people do’. His point was that rich people go to college – they don’t think Harvard, Yale or hair-dressing school. He advises his 10,000 Harlem kids to work hard and assume that they will go to college.

Let’s see if I can quickly capture the impact these three speakers had on me this week in three lessons.

Lesson One: Two nights ago, I showed my son, who struggles with math homework, the Khan Academy website. On the home page is a video of Bill Gates praising Khan Academy: “Everybody should check it out”. Jacob was clearly impressed and clicked on a ‘Division 3’ video. 15 seconds into the lesson, he hit pause and went and got a pencil and paper to try the question. Clearly the internet lesson was engaging him.

Lesson Two: Rather than spoil the moment with my selfish enthusiasm, I thought WAIT. I watched him pause and restart the video and work on math for 30 uninterrupted minutes. This is not usual for my boy.

Lesson Three: Bill Gates as advocate for Khan Academy was certainly a hook for my son, making me want to suggest that Mr. Canada alter his advice to kids: Do as rich people do AND do as they say.