It’s good to have the first week of school in the books! From all I observed, it was a great week. I spent time on all four campuses and saw teachers and students engaged, connected, and happily at work. Joy, energy, and enthusiasm surround us here at Ridgefield Academy and Landmark Preschool, and these are powerful qualities in an educational community of true excellence. This does not look the same in a 4’s classroom and a 7th grade English classroom, but there is a similar feel. One of the true pleasures of my work is to travel to our campuses, visit our classrooms, and feel the deep wonder in learning that exists at every level.
I wanted to share with you some reading that the faculty, staff, and senior administration did this summer. As you know, we are serious about our professional growth and development. We want to learn and grow constantly, and model a genuine growth mindset. As the world does not stand still, the profession of education does not stand still, and so we embrace our role as lifelong learners. With this in mind, faculty and staff from all four campuses took part in a group read over the summer, Future Wise: Educating Children For a Changing World. When we came together for meetings at the start of the school year, we spent time discussing this read, and how components of the book might impact the teaching and learning here at school. Senior administrators read two additional books, Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, and White Fragility, Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. Both of these reads are important for school leadership. A positive school culture has a huge impact on creating positive student experience, and Culture Code offered some very clear suggestions and examples on how to develop great culture. Conversations around race, multi-culturalism, and equity hold an important place in comprehensive educational programs. It is our responsibility to stay informed and to commit to the broadening of our knowledge and perspective. Below are short summaries of each of these books, should any of you consider reading along with us:
Future Wise: Educating Our Children For a Changing World, by David Perkins Can you name something that you learned in the first twelve years of your education that still matters to you today? Schools teach what they do because they believe that it is worth learning, but as time passes, best practices evolve, and technology brings research libraries to everyone’s fingertips. Perkins is concerned with the “lifeworthiness” of the traditional school curriculum. Does it teach the big ideas and concepts that will help today’s learners solve tomorrow’s complex problems?
Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, by Daniel Coyle Coyle’s book opens with the question, “Why do certain groups add up to be greater than the sum of their parts, while others add up to be less?” Three specific skills may be the difference between a successful group and an unsuccessful one. How did Johnson and Johnson recover from the Tylenol poisonings of the early 1980s by turning to its mission? How did Danny Meyer create his successful restaurant empire by leading with proficiency? How did Pixar come to save Disney animation by leading for creativity? Culture Code uses very specific and contemporary examples from the corporate world to illustrate how to develop a group culture that breeds success.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo DiAngelo argues that after the Civil Rights movement, racism became reduced to good vs. bad. Well-intentioned, open-minded, middle class, white people could not be racist. This binary state through which many people consider racism leads to a defensiveness –a white fragility. DiAngelo suggests a new racial paradigm in which people of color and white people can hear about their prejudice and both grow and learn from a dialogue that hasn’t been possible to date.
We found all three of these books to be interesting, thought-provoking, and relevant. This reading is just one part of the comprehensive professional growth and development program here at RA/LP. We will continue to engage in reading, workshops, webinars, school visits, etc. as the year progresses.
Have a great weekend. We are all looking forward to week two!
Sincerely, Tom Main Head of School