Besides simply a desire to get know Westminster’s Class of 2012 better, I want our seniors to help us see the way forward in our school. Good conversation and Chick-fil-A seem like the way to go!
Next week I will host eight to ten seniors in my office for the first of a series of lunches. I will schedule such gatherings until seniors stop signing up or until everyone has a chance to come. With over 200 seniors this may take awhile. The agenda will not be to debrief the litany of accolades and complaints associated with their individual experiences as students at Westminster. Instead I have some questions for them. While the list will inevitably change and the discussions will likely stray, this is what I am leaning toward:
- What will change in the world in the next twenty years?
- How should schools respond?
- What is sacred in our school?
- What will be the defining characteristics of the school to which you will want to send your kids?
- What would you preserve at Westminster?
- What would you change now?
- What would you like to see different at Westminster in 5-10 years?
- When did you find learning so interesting at Westminster that paying attention was easy?
- Describe a moment at Westminster where an interaction with a teacher or student fundamentally changed your mind about something?
- What would be the best changes we could make to Westminster so that school becomes more engaging and relevant?
This list is lifted with only the school name changed from my former boss, Scott Looney, who is Head of Hawken School in Cleveland, OH. Scott has hosted lunches like this since he started in the job six years ago, and while I was there, I never ceased to be impressed with the quality of the insight these students provided him. Additionally, I was amazed at the extent to which that insight informed our leadership team as we discussed significant moves we were making in the school.
These students played a significant role in helping us create and refine our vocabulary regarding change in the school. As a result, Scott’s meetings with them allowed us to create a way of speaking to the larger community about the significant steps we were taking as a school that was rich with language that made us more understandable to the community not less. These conversations gave us the best case for the work we were doing in the school, and in turn we were able to make that case back out in the community in a more compelling way. While I do not know what will be the specific outcome of the lunches I will host at Westminster, I have no doubt I will learn a lot, and that what I learn will inform how we move ahead.
I plan to show the students some sort of video as a catalyst for the conversation, and I have linked a couple of possibilities below, both of which are TED Talks by Sir Ken Robinson. If you have suggestions for additional questions or for 5 to 10 minute YouTube videos or TED Talk excerpts I might use to get things going, please use the comment section below to provide your good counsel.
Sir Ken Robinson TED Talk 2006: Schools Kill Creativity (watch from about the 3:30 minute mark to about the 12 minute mark..actually watch the whole thing but I would likely only show this section)
Sir Ken Robinson TED Talk 2010: Bring On the Learning Revolution! (I will struggle and likely fail to narrow this down successfully to something shorter than the whole)