The Head’s Letter is a monthly newsletter largely for heads of independent schools. Published by Educational Directions Incorporated, it focuses on topics of particular importance to school leaders. They were nice enough to ask me to write the piece I copied below as the cover of their December edition.The topic I discuss in The Head’s Letter should be no surprise to people with whom I have worked or who regularly read the blog: I have been writing about Progress Culture for years now, and I have been highlighting the need to learn from and create partnerships with entities beyond our schools for almost as long.
As we look to move our schools’ ability to deepen learning for our students forward, it is imperative that we lean into the learning we can do beyond the confines of our respective campuses and curriculum.
At St. George’s Independent School (SGIS) we are energized by this aspect of our work–we call it SG901. So far the most visible artifact of this effort is the St. George’s Bunkhouse, which represents an unprecedented partnership with Memphis’s City Leadership and Serve901.
You can read about the October 2016 opening and ribbon-cutting of the St. George’s Bunkhouse HERE.
It is worth reading particularly for the remarks of one of the members of the Class of 2017, Alton Stovall, who spoke at the ceremony.Over the weekend the SGBunkhouse, located in the Historic Vollintine Evergreen neighborhood, served as a great location from which to go cheer on runners in the St. Jude Marathon. SGIS’s relationship with the work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is profoundly close due to two SGIS students–Carson Head, Class of 2024, who passed away in the summer of 2015 as a result of childhood cancer and Adam Cruthirds, Class of 2016 who continues his cancer fight now as a freshman at Rhodes College. (You can read a talk Adam gave exactly one year ago in an Upper School Chapel Service HERE).
Supported by faculty and Upper School student volunteers, around sixty members of the SGIS Lower School community, families and students from both our Memphis and Germantown campuses, spent the night in the newly renovated SGBunkhouse space. On Friday night they made posters to cheer on the runners, and they played games, ate pizza, and watched movies. On Saturday morning they ate pancakes before heading out to cheer the runners.
Many more members of our school community–students from each campus and division, alumni, parents, and faculty–participated on Saturday as runners, walkers, and cheerers. It is an example of a kind of community engagement we would like to see growing through the SGBunkhouse: an opportunity to connect with each other AND with the community where we live.
Undoubtedly we short-change our students if we do not look for external sources that will enrich and improve their education. After all, if “education” is the goal then all aspects of it need to be explored and exploited for the benefit of students. As a teacher I have borrowed a great deal from non-educational sources and worked to find ways to make my work more meaningful for my students. At the same time I have long had a nagging concern (fear?) that in this moment independent schools have rushed to embrace aspects of the business world that do more harm than good to the idea that education is something other than a resume trophy. Our culture has gravitated more and more to “bottom line” outcomes in many areas of life, but I wonder if we are paying enough attention to the detrimental impact this has on education. A school is not a business. Percentage of graduates admitted to Ivy League schools and number of high school seniors with startups and non-profit foundations are not “profit”. Partnerships with the non-educational world can and often are powerful educational experiences, but independent schools need to remember that our students are not a “product”, and the culture of business is not the culture Socrates had in mind.In the words of the comic, “Just my thoughts. I might be wrong.” Hope you are wellRB
J Ross Peters says
I like the idea that schools should be the lead in determining the nature of and purpose of the partnerships and of the learning to avoid the pitfalls you name. I was thinking of what we have to learn from fields other than education that might better inform the learning of students. I was not thinking about learning how to emulate business models that likely have limited relevance to the work of a great school. You are correct that you may be wrong, but I have found you rarely are. I certainly I did not mean to indicate that there students are “products” in any way.