Are you confident enough to be humble?

Sometimes I read or hear something and it sticks. I just cannot shake it and I find myself thinking about it on a walk or mentioning it in conversations. Last week at the Leadership Institute (known in our CAIS world as the LI), in preparation for one of my favourite traditions, I had one of those moments.

We have two relatively new traditions at the LI. One night, affectionately called “The Newbie Night,” includes speeches from two graduates of the LI who have gone on to become Heads. They speak about their first year on the job, and it is an evening of funny moments and lessons learned by Heads who have been groomed within the CAIS family. Every year, I sit back and enjoy their humour, humility, and passion. This year, Sharon Klein of St George’s School in Montreal and Jason Rogers of Rundle Academy in Calgary didn’t disappoint. (Their speeches are already posted here – thanks Jeremy! – and all LI grads who have become Heads are listed here.)

The other night, we hear from two “senior” Heads who have been nominated by their peers and whose influence extends beyond their school and province. It is truly a celebration of the Art of Leadership and over the years, we have heard from some of our CAIS giants, those names you’ve heard and always wanted to meet. (See them all here.) Again, I just love to sit back and watch them in action. I bet, if I really tried, I could remember something from each of them. This year, as anticipated, Hal Hannaford and Claire Sumerlus knocked it out of the park. (Again, watch them here)

I cannot decide which night I prefer – probably best not to choose! – but this year, what really struck me was not something included in the speeches, but something included in the introduction. For “The Seniors Night,” I always collect some remarks from colleagues. It was a letter from Catherine Kirkland, Junior School Director at Royal St George’s College in Toronto, that has captured me. In her letter of support for Hal Hannaford, she wrote:

Hal once said something to me before I became Head of the Junior School at RSGC, and it has been a question I return to often in my career “Are you confident enough to be humble?” Hal’s confidence allows him to lead by influence and not by authority, and his humility gives him the ability to build up those up around him. It’s great to work for Hal, because he always acknowledges your talents, contributions and importance to the school. I’m sure that every student, and certainly every teacher, who has been at Hal’s school could think of a time that Hal made a special effort to single them out, make them feel special or remark on a recent achievement. He makes those around him feel valued and an important part of the community. Hal makes everyone feel they have their own unique relationship with him – quite an accomplishment. Hal was the champion of “relational teaching” – long before it became the new buzz-word in teaching and leading.

I often say that at CAIS, we are in the business of asking good questions. Thanks to the Summer LI, the question that Hal posed to Catherine is now one that we can all consider as we spend the rest of our summer reflecting on the art of leadership.

The extraordinary commitment of CAIS leaders

So there I stood at St. Margaret’s School, on the pathway between the dining room and the junior school building. I was happy to chat with people as they walked past me. This was day three of our CAIS Summer LI and people seemed settled in and comfortable. I had toured all of the LI module classes that day, and the engagement was high. The entire campus was buzzing with discussions of faculty culture, governance, leadership, accreditation, and brain research. As I walked around, I got this feeling that everyone had known each other for years and were working toward a common purpose with energy.

On that pathway at that moment, I had this proud feeling that I had had a few other times since arriving in Victoria – isn’t it amazing that over 150 CAIS leaders are here during their summer holidays?

And that’s when it hit me – it was almost 7:00pm on a Saturday night.

There it is. There’s the difference between CAIS schools and other schools. At that moment, over 150 CAIS leaders were actually going to learn from 7:00 – 9:00pm. And yet no one complained. Not a one.

Our Leadership Institute is one of my favourite events every year. I actually feel overwhelmed when I think that all of the participants could be wrapping up their year at school or getting some of that organizational and reflective work done. Better yet, they could be doing what the thousands of teachers across Canada are doing in early July – vacationing!

So when I think about the many great memories from this year’s Summer LI, and I think about the outstanding programs, including The 2051 Project, I want to hold on to this one image of people walking to class on the Saturday night. I cannot remember who it was that I stopped, but I asked, “Is there any place you’d rather be – in the entire world – other than right here, right now?”

The response?

“Absolutely no where!”

Makes me proud to be associated with such incredible professionals who are committed, passionate, caring, learners who go hard at improving their capacity for our students, even on a Saturday night in July.

p.s. Thanks to Cathy Thornicroft and the St Margaret’s team for being such gracious hosts.

p.p.s. Check out for the slideshow, speech videos, and 2051 resources.

Learn to Learn

This week at Rothesay Netherwood in New Brunswick, I was honoured to speak at the Learn2Learn Conference. When I was prepping for the address, I realized that some of my happiest moments in my career came during my ten years in the classroom.

For starters, kids make me laugh. They’re just so authentic. Once in a school, the Principal sent me off on a tour with a grade one boy, who told me he was excited to show me his favourite part of the school. Now I knew there was a brand new gym, so I expected to see that. But in a classroom, he explained that this was the place. He lead me to a bookshelf, where he got down on his hands and knees and asked me to do the same. You should know I was wearing a business suit, with a skirt, so this was a bit of a commitment. But I was intrigued. I asked, “What am I looking for?” His eyes bulged, and he whispered: a mouse trap.

But teaching also allows you to connect with people in profound ways. I remember one of my students at Lower Canada College in Montreal. I taught her English, and I was also her advisor, which meant that for three years, I ate snack and lunch with her and ten other students. Needless to say, I knew those kids well. I remember being quite nervous for one parent teacher interview. My student’s mother was quite ill, and in fact, she passed away during the school year. So there I was telling talking about writing skills and reading comprehension. She listened, then said, “You know, Mrs. Kee, I think of you, in my daughter’s life, as an angel.” I was shocked. That’s a powerful responsibility.

So this week, in preparation for The 2051 Project and Summer LI, I find myself thinking about a few things: we know that the key to any successful school is its teachers. Hands down, nothing is as important, and I heard that time and time again – from students! – in my 2051 Student Focus groups this year. We know from our CAIS National Parent Motivation Survey that parents want teachers to develop students’ character, morals and values. But what do we know from the perspective of teachers? What is their best advice about the future of education?

I asked teachers on Monday about their best advice to future teachers, and asked them to tweet them to me using #project2051. Here they are, 15 direct tweets from teachers:

  1. Develop relationships with students in order to facilitate risk taking & passion.
  1. Get to know your students on a personal level – it is more than just a classroom relationship.
  1. Ability to write, speak, read well. Digital literacy. Be adaptable.
  1. It’s student centered, failure ok, voice and choice.
  1. Never lose the need to teach generosity in the forest of technology
  1. Get to know your students well and everything else will follow.
  1. Top priority for today’s students? – a Growth mindset.
  1. Take risks and encourage your students to be risk takers as well!
  1. Teaching responsibility and independence.
  1. Make learning real, so students can relate to it.
  1. Priority for my students and children is global citizenship.
  1. Develop confident, lifelong learners.
  1. Prepare your students for jobs that do not yet exist.
  1. Build relationships with your students.
  1. Understand how they learn best.

Based on this list? I’d say our future students will be in good hands.

p.s. Congratulations to Tammy Earle for organizing a great conference.

p.p.s. Safe travels to the CAIS Summer Leadership Institute participants!