Tag Archives: Independent School

The ATLIS Conference Schedule: Making Magic Happen

I am about to begin my second year as an Executive Board member of ATLIS and my third year as an organizational member. I have to say that my time with ATLIS has given me the unique opportunity to learn from and engage with my peers in new and powerful ways. I am so excited for the 2017 ATLIS Conference: Making Magic Happen in Los Angeles. The conference featured speakers Jaime Casap and Tim Fish are sure to inspire and the array of sessions will be amazing. You can view the full schedule here. Here are some highlights of the 2017 Conference:


If you want to attend but still need to register, check out all of the details here.


Independent Schools, Independent Teachers: Freedom and Responsibility – Independent Schools, Common Perspectives – Education Week

Independent-Schools_Common-PerspectivesThe other day a thread appeared on the National Association of Independent Schools online communities speculating on aspects of the great freedom that independent school teachers have to create curriculum and assessments suited to their strengths and to the particular needs and interests of their students and their schools. This got me to thinking.

This freedom has long been a classic double-edged sword. The virtues of “teacher autonomy” in independent schools were extolled to me even before I entered the field back in the Nixon era. As another veteran of that era commented in response to an earlier post here, the idea long prevailed in many schools (and perhaps still does in some) that a teacher would be taken to the door to the classroom, handed a textbook (a.k.a. the “curriculum”), and assured that paychecks would clear until June, short of some act that would rate firing for cause. What happened in the classroom would, by some sort of gentleman’s agreement, stay in the classroom, and the teacher would seldom be inconvenienced…


Difficult, Courageous, & Fierce Conversation – Pat Bassett, NAIS President

Pat Bassett

Our first ‘headline’ speaker is Pat Bassett, the current President of NAIS. His talk’s focus was described as:

“The President of NAIS presents an analysis of conversation dynamics, why tough conversations tend to go badly, and what to do to make them go better. He will address some of the essential conversations we should be having, but aren’t, such as ‘What should we teach (the curriculum/content question)?’ ‘How should we assess (the testing/outcomes question)?’ and ‘How do we embed the 21st Century school vision (the leadership question)?'”

He took the stage and started his discussion by reminiscing about his early teaching career at a small, all-boys boarding school and the lack of direction/mentorship/training that he received as a young teacher just starting out.

He highlighted the need, as school leaders, to navigate challenging negotiations and conversations with colleagues, students, parents, the community, and more as part of job as educators and innovators in education. Also, as always happens at a conference that emphasizes technology, there were technology glitches 😉

The first focus he discussed is the fact that conversations between individuals where there is inherently a power differential (boss & employee, teacher & student, supervisor & subordinate, etc) there are always two conversations going on: the verbal conversation and the silent, intellectual one. So… how do we change those conversations? How do we negotiate that dynamic? How do we manage these conversations so that they’re less threatening and ultimately serve kids better?

He recommended that when we anticipate these conversations, we pause and think – go through the mental checklist:

  • Identifying the deeper issues: both sides’ sense of their own competence and goodness.
  • “Making our point because you are right” always fails.
  • Arguments are only seldom about “truth” and “facts,” they are almost always about feelings and identity.

He highlighted that there are many, many challenging conversations that are going on right now in education right now, primarily: race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and class. Emotionally charged topics such as these can readily and quickly degrade into ugly, unproductive, and unauthentic conversations.

He recommended another quick check-list:

  • “Delivering a message” vs. “Having a conversation”
  • Developing a “learning stance” as opposed to a grenade-launching stance.
  • Sorting out “what really happened.”
  • Understanding what you and the other party are feeling.
  • Knowing why we see the world differently from others: different information and interpretations, based on our experiences, outlooks, dispositions, and assumptions — and because our conclusions always reflect self-interest.

By reflecting on what we bring to the conversation, what the other speaker is trying to say and communicate before taking a defensive or aggressive stance. On a personal note, as someone who was trained in Anthropology, I’m feeling pretty good right now!

He also emphasized the fact that when dealing with children (even middle and high school kids), their brains aren’t developed enough for full rational and logical thought and action – they are still (at varying stages) in reactionary, instinctive thought. Expecting children (and maybe some adults) to act rationally, is a poor stance to take. If a person feels too threatened, then “fight or flight” will take over… every time.

So, when having a conflictive conversation focus on:

  • The Wrong Questions: Who is right? Whose fault is it? Why are you doing this? vs. The Right Question: Why do we see things differently?
  • Refocusing the discussion away from blame and toward understanding, away from “winning” a conversation toward insight and finding common ground that works for both side.
  • Find common ground and empathetic understanding.

Individual vulnerabilities – our own insecurities – can be a huge hamper in difficult discussions. Instead of seeing these as opportunities for growth and development – they are viewed as a direct, personal attack. So when it comes to difficult conversations – try to step back, “Why is this conversation threatening?” Try to deconstruct the conversation. “Why are we so far apart?”

Strategy and Design of Schools for the Future

He recommended Edutopia (one of my favorites) and the MacArthur Foundation websites for ideas, concepts, and resources (both for public and independent schools). These organization highlight the current revolution and big shifts ongoing right now in education:

  • Knowing becoming Doing
  • Teacher-centered becoming Student-centered
  • The individual…. the team
  • Consumption of information… construction of meaning
  • Schools… Networks (online peers and experts)
  • Single Sourcing… Crowd Sourcing
  • High Stakes Testing (NCLB)… High value demonstration

Due to the nature of independent schools, we are able to lead the way… why? Because we are not constrained by state mandated curriculum and testing… we have smaller classrooms… we have more flexibility. Those have all been hot topics for educators – how effective is the ‘lecture-based model’? I use it, even though I don’t think it’s the best way to convey long-term learning and critical thinking because it’s the old school means of education. It’s how I learned, it’s how I was taught to teach, and it’s what is the ‘standard’ of education.’ However, kids want and need to do something meaningful. They need to create, understand, master, and produce meaningful work.

He highlighted the role of online communities, like ISENET, to collaborate with colleagues and focus on individual and progressive professional development. I can wholeheartedly agree – blogging, tweeting, and collaboration (online and in person) with my colleagues has helped me more than any ‘formal’ training I have received.

Curriculum Content/Canon 

What can we agree upon are the skills and values the 21st century will demand and reward?

  • Communication (writing, public speaking, technical fluency) – children need to be able to communicate effectively in a myriad of venues
  • Collaboration (teaming, working together, developing group projects) – “teaming” shouldn’t be done just outside of the classroom, if you can’t work effectively in a team you are damaging rather than helping
  • Creativity (how do we mandate creativity?) – creativity is often going down in schools and we frequently “kill creativity” in education (except at Trinity Valley of course).
  • Critical Thinking (what do we actually mean by “critical thinking?”), the capacity to discriminate between worthy and unworthy material, propaganda and evidence, garbage and useful information, etc.
  • Character (can you teach character?) – the world is full of smart people devoid of character. How do we develop this in the future leaders of the world? What is a K-12 character track? Modeling is the most effective means by which to teach character. We also need to take advantage of “teachable moments,” help kids sort through the right thing to do.
  • Cosmopolitanism (bringing children into the world) – cross-cultural competency. In our connected world, it is smaller – we need to prepare our students for a connected world.

He highlights these concepts further on his own blog here: “The Five Cs + One” as well as in other articles featured on “Bassett Blog.”

Pedagogy – How Do We Teach?

The charismatic teacher – lots of energy, entertaining, very popular, entertaining. However, it doesn’t always meant hat they’re a great teacher. It’s good to have in repertoire, but not the core. He made the analogy of coaching – know how each kid is different, know what turns that kid on in the classroom, learn how to motivate each child differently, focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

We need to capitalize on education, science, and technology engineering. We need to capitalize on new technologies and allow them to become innovators and creators of real “products” with meaning for the kids.

Design Thinking – we nee do rethink our concepts of “knowledge.” What is knowledge? How do we develop our curriculum around this?


I think that I summarized most of his key points, but i highly recommend checking out Jonathan Martin’s blog post on the same talk here.

Day 1 of the ISAS Biennial Teachers Conference: Teaching Matters

It’s the morning of the conference and after a lovely rest and a sumptuous breakfast, I am so eager to get to First Baptist Academy to get the ball rolling on the 2012 ISAS Biennial Teachers Conference. This is my first official ISAS event (other than athletics) so I’m eager and excited to meet my fellow teaching and administrative colleagues.

The plan is to live blog from the conference (my first time doing that) – so please excuse the typos and grammatical errors that are bound to occur. I’ll likely post a summary at the end o the day. Well, I’m off!

Preparing for the 2012 Annual Teacher’s Conference

Tomorrow, I head to the beautiful city of Houston for the annual ISAS (Independent School Association of the Southwest) located on the campus of Houston’s First Baptist Academy. I’m excited for the opportunity to meet and network with colleagues as well as the opportunity to be an ‘official blogger’ for the event.

The two day conference will cover topics such as:

  • Navigating “challenging” discussions
  • Pedagogical development
  • Motivating students
  • Concepts and theories on learning
  • and more creative concepts about pedagogy and educational theory

I am so excited that my school, Trinity Valley, has given me the opportunity to attend this conference and ISAS for allowing me to officially blog the event. Be sure to look for updates all weekend! You can check out the details about the event here: 2012 Biennial Teacher’s Conference.

Once Upon a Time, Teaching Was Considered a Profession – NAIS

This month’s National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) has an interesting article on the modern evolution of the teaching profession for good and for bad. It addresses how the role of standardized testing and concepts of ‘merit based pay’ have impacted the development of pedagogy and classroom culture.

Increasingly, teachers in both the public and independent sector are being asked to teach the same material in the same way at the same time so that standards and accountability measures can be established.

The degree to which “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” legislation and related reforms have negatively impacted teachers’ abilities to act in a professional capacity is only beginning to get the attention it deserves. The most offensive examples belong to the public sector, but, increasingly, independent schools have also borne the brunt of the global assault on teacher professionalism. In classrooms and schools across the country, teachers are under attack and the public trust that many teachers once enjoyed is threatened by the media, politicians, school boards, and sometimes even by fellow educators.

I count myself fortunate that I work in an Independent School that values teacher independence and creativity – my administration and colleagues supported my recent grant proposal to attend an innovative Ed Tech conference this month and a Global Education conference in La Jolla a few months ago. but even we have been hit (to a lesser degree) by the recent political attacks lobbed at the profession in its entirety.

I highly encourage you to read this article and look forward to your own thoughts. You can read the article in its entirety here.