The Importance of Connections

It has been two weeks since the first ever CAIS National Leaders Conference, and I am long overdue in reflecting on this event. Since then, I have been on two reviews in two countries, but I have a morning now in Brazil to think about three things: 

What worked – The CAIS team did a post-conference meeting to figure this out, as we believe we can learn as much from success as failure, if you take the time to reflect. We decided that our Program Committee, chaired by Tam Matthews, really knew the needs of their groups and developed a bold agenda that covered the most significant challenges both in education and the business of schools, while also creating opportunities for leadership development and cross-function learning.

My biggest take-away was confirmation of support for a diverse group of leaders to learn together. One of my favourite feedback stories was a Head who told me that his Junior School Director told him that his Business Officer was asking good questions about their blended learning strategy in the cab ride to the airport. I love that they were both in the room to hear Heather Staker! I also appreciated Heather’s theory that the kind of change needed in our schools will require different kinds of teams – I see that our leadership teams are grappling with the need to prioritize pace and principles as they manage change. I am so happy that we all gathered to work on this opportunity together.

What can be improved – Lots! We learned from the experience of running a big conference, and we are eager to get feedback from the evaluation (Complete the survey here). In particular, we are keen to understand if forcing diversity – as we did with the Catalytic Conversations – was worth the effort, and we have a long list of how to manage 400 people through four days. We also know we can do more to show appreciation for our sponsors and we believe we can always improve communication.

Gratitude – As I sit and reflect on the conference, I am most struck by a deep appreciation of people.

  • For my team, and their crazy support of the vision for this event to be a success and their absolutely ludicrous devotion to putting in the hours to make the largest CAIS event possible.
  • For the Program Committee, for trying something new and encouraging others to do the same. We all know that change is not easy, but our schools must be in the business of change – we are a community of learners after all – so I am so grateful for their leadership.
  • For the Heads and Chairs and the CAIS Board, for having the courage to examine the PD landscape and develop a new vision.
  • For the 400+ people who came to Vancouver to share their concerns, ideas, and dreams for the future of independent education in Canada.

I always try to remember actual moments – the exact place, time, and feelings – and mine will be a moment on the Sunday morning. Tam Matthews was welcoming everyone and Rodger Wright came up behind me and whispered, “Look around this room.” The seats were full and I felt this incredible energy that I wish I could bottle up and save. If I try to articulate it, that moment was a reminder that CAIS colleagues were willing to spend their weekend coming together to try something new, because they are so passionate to learn with others who share their passion for the future of education.

My wise mentor reminds me often that “Gratitude equals joy”.  Makes me happy to think about how lucky I am to connect with CAIS leaders everyday.