We hear a lot these days about the necessity of “innovation” in schools. Every school wants to be a part – nay, a leader – of the next great wave of change on the educational landscape. Most schools approach this work systematically and (hopefully) in accordance with their mission statement, ensuring alignment between their future and their purpose.
Leading change in any organization comes with its challenges and independent schools are no exception. These institutions are often steeped in tradition and are filled with dedicated, talented faculty and staff, many of whom have devoted their lives to this work. By their very nature, independent schools are stable, an attractive quality for families looking to create a partnership in helping to raise their children. When one layers this foundation with the hopes and dreams of savvy students and their parents, the work required to make significant change in a school can seem downright daunting.
And yet…there are schools that are “building the plane while they fly it.” These schools continue to deliver an excellent educational program while asking hard questions about their approach, structures, and assumptions around teaching and learning. I am proud to work at such a school. We are an institution that is looking hard at current practices, keeping the best aspects and looking for ways to allow new ideas to permeate our minds, hearts, and bags of tricks.
One major piece of current work is focused on our use of time. For the 15-16 school year, we are pursuing a MAJOR schedule revamp, allowing us to think about using time differently. We are preparing for next year by piloting some of those changes this year, carving out time to see how the changes and programming feel and work. With reflection and feedback on the other side of the pilot, we can continue to refine and improve our work. The work of preparing for a new schedule has benefited the school in other ways, however. This change has launched the faculty down a professional development path where teachers are carefully questioning how we teach, what we teach, and how we assess. In short, we are innovating; we are taking the best of what we now do, preserving it, and improving on the overall product. This work requires flexibility, patience, imagination…and not a small amount of courage.
So…keep on flying that plane…and don’t be afraid to do a little remodeling on the way!