Leadership starts early…

Our CAIS Senior School Leadership Camp has been such a success – it is run by students for students – and schools across Canada take turns hosting it.  But a number of years ago, people started talking about a real gap in leadership opportunities for students in grade 7 and 8 and CAIS created a Middle School Leadership Camp.

So after considerable planning, here I am at Onondaga Camp with over 100 kids from CAIS schools across Canada, and I am finding it hard to write about how exciting it feels to see this camp come to life.  A group of campers told me they have been looking forward to this since the summer; I heard one girl on the high ropes course yell that she has never done something so exciting in her life; I watched as one girl hung on to the high swing, not letting go, as her peers shouted their encouragement:  “You can do it!” and “Just go for it!”; I watched the students write down their passions then talk about them – with enthusiasm – at breakfast!  These are kids that are gearing up to change the world…I can see it!

I try to write blogs each week, but today I am stumped.  How do you write about the importance of these kinds of learnings?  How do you describe the excitement I am seeing radiating from these students, especially when you know that they will remember this opportunity for years to come, and likely far more than the lessons learned in a classroom?

Someone wisely once said, “A picture is worth a thousand words”….  So here goes…

Camp Photo

Camp Photo

Camp Photo

Camp Photo

Camp Photo

Camp Photo

Camp Photo

Camp Photo

Camp Photo

Sometimes we forget what contributes most to raising great kids.  But when you see it – the joy and the mixed emotions running around – and you think about how this will impact them, you can’t help but be reminded of the importance of these national opportunities, and I am gratified that CAIS has made this possible.

Thank you to Mark Hord and his team – including the Onondaga staff – for making the first CAIS Middle School Leadership Camp such a great success.

A lesson from real estate

My daughter came home from her first week of school and reported that, “Mr. Kidd said ‘Hello Kathleen.’”

Of all the things that she could report to me – from birthday party invitations to cross-country running – she reported that the Headmaster said hello.  She must not have been satisfied that I was suitably impressed for she emphasized one point to me as if I hadn’t understood, “By NAME.”

We know from research that ‘personal attention to students’ is the number one reason that parents choose to send their children to independent schools and I see CAIS schools working hard to know all students.  Last week alone, I saw Heads in action in Toronto, Bermuda, Mill Bay and Duncan and there was a common theme.

  • Jim Power (UCC) let me run a CAIS Finance meeting in his office – time spent out and about is time well spent.
  • Ted Staunton (Saltus) not only greeted students by name; in many cases, he exchanged quick conversations about co-curricular involvement, siblings, and holidays.
  • Peter Harding (Somersfield) says he drops whatever he is doing and greets families during drop off every morning.  He said that it may seem superficial, but it is a way to get to know the community, the families appreciate the greeting and he likes helping out with backpacks and car doors.
  • Bud Patel (Brentwood) said he interviewed staff, parents and students in his first month at the school and heard over and over – however you spend the rest of your day, be with the students during morning cookie break.  So he’s there.
  • Wilma Jamieson (Queen Margaret’s) ended the leadership team meeting – almost mid sentence – so we could all head out to the pool to watch the cardboard box boat races.

I am proud to report that in our CAIS schools, leaders value time with students and they know them.

We can take a lesson from real estate:  A friend wrote to tell us that the house that we bought in Montreal for $179,000 in 2000 and sold for $379,000 in 2005 is now on the market for $700,000.  Ouch.  Meanwhile, our St Catharines home has stayed about the same.  The lesson?  Location. Location. Location.

I asked Ted Staunton, who is running his fourth CAIS school successfully, about some of the secrets of his success.  The lesson?  Visibility. Visibility. Visibility.

Only in America?

I woke up the other morning in Maine and before getting out of bed, I noticed something different – a big American flag was waving outside my third floor hotel room window.  Out on the balcony I saw that the flag was flying at half-mast and it came to me – it was September 11th.  I wondered, even though Canadians share this day of mourning, how many flags in Canada were flying at half-mast?

I was in Maine to attend four days of meetings with my colleagues from the NAIS International Commission on Accreditation and the Independent Schools Association Network (ISANet).  Our associations serve hundreds of thousands of students in schools in over 100 countries.  We offer services ranging from communications, research, and accreditation, to advocacy, research, and professional development.  We are different associations, in various parts of the world, representing fiercely independent independent schools.

And yet we share a passion for excellent schools and for learning.

In Maine, I was reminded – yet again! – that all schools are facing similar challenges – in terms of marketing, we discussed declining enrollment, increasing requests for financial aid, and fundraising; and in terms of programs, we talked about innovation, technology, and personalization.  It was comforting to know that others ask similar questions of value and priorities and strategy.

But these meetings also make me a bit tense; I lose any sense of comfort I previously felt about the work of CAIS, and instead I feel this slight panic that we are behind every other association.  Ever feel that?

And yet I kind of like that off-balance feeling.  It makes me crave better.  I find myself taking constant notes of every idea, strategy and even good quotation.  (Interested in my favorite quote?  Jon Moser said, “Branding is what people say about you behind your back”).

Not only do I take notes, I email them.  To my staff.  Guess how that goes over.  This week’s “Idea” emails included things like:  “See NYSAIS’ Guidelines.”  “SeePNAIS’ new Indicator.”  “Let’s connect with VAIS about surveys.” “Check out the AISNE website.”  “Watch for Pat Bassett’s next blog on crowd sourcing.”  The joke is that they hate when I go away to conferences and meetings.  Sarah once threatened to cut off my ability to connect when I go away.  But you know what?  I believe that she – and the rest of them – actually likes the new ideas.

Our team loves different opinions; in fact, we thrive in an environment where we challenge each other.  It is not always easy, but in the end – virtually always! – it gets better.

So here’s the thing.  My visit to Maine gave me time with colleagues who share similar experiences and values, but who are diverse in their experiences, thinking and approaches to solutions and who also have the courage to challenge ideas.

Seeking out diversity is a great reminder to all of us in the independent school community who are in danger of working in isolation – a broad and collaborative network makes us all better.

Here is the value of a national organization that is further strengthened by an international organization.

p.s.  Here are three ideas worth checking out:

  • Order the new NAIS Trend Book. (Stay tuned for a CAIS 2012 Trends Presentation at the AGM)
  • Check out Andrea Syverson’s Brand About. (See how CAIS is implementing her advice to tell your story to a real audience)
  • Watch for Finalsite Social, a private social learning platform (and CAIS will be piloting it this fall)

Welcome to the New CAIS Heads

For the past three years, we have had a dozen new Heads in our CAIS schools each year.  For anyone interested in future leadership positions, you should note that that’s an annual twelve percent turn over.

Our schools are in good hands with this year’s amazing bunch of leaders. Welcome to the national organization of Canada’s top schools!

This is my third annual listing of new Heads, so this year – to shake things up a bit – I will add that one of the following includes a video introduction….

Check them out:

Ridley College – Ed Kidd

Appleby College – Innes van Nostrand

Brentwood College – Bud Patel

Sacred Heart School of Halifax – Anne Wachter

The Sterling Hall School – Rick Parsons

The Priory School  – Tim Peters

Akiva School – Mia Severen

Somersfield Academy – Peter Harding

The Rosedale Day School – James Lee

Bishops College School – Will Mitchell

Kempenfelt Bay School – Graham Hookey

Lakefield College School – Struan Robertson