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My Own Experiential Education: Empathizing with our Girls Experiences

As I reflect on the past week, two very different experiences highlight the importance of understanding and empathizing with our girls such that we can do the very best job possible in preparing them for the future.

Over the last several months, our Administrative team has been discussing the nebulous topic of innovation. While this word can mean many things to many people, we have learned that in order to innovate we must embrace a commitment to positive change without knowing exactly where we will land or even what specifics steps to take along the way. We must be comfortable with ambiguity. On Tuesday, I gave the staff a presentation about our School’s innovation imperative, and relayed what I have learned about the power of design thinking. One of the most important components in the design process is understanding our ‘customer.’ In order to effect change, we must understand and empathize with that person’s experience of a situation, place or issue. While this approach is complex, and requires the input and insights of parents and students as well, I have very much enjoyed learning about it and having it front of mind each day. This week, I was afforded two great opportunities to see our School through the eyes of our students.

On Tuesday of this week I was invited to join our Grade 5s and Mr. Van Huizen in their community circle, a time during the girls’ Health Class focused on strengthening relationships and understanding the importance of diverse perspectives and the power of mutual support. I attended as a participant and was very quickly reminded of our girls’ sage insights and the fact that we all face uncertainties regardless of age or stage.

Later that afternoon our Head of Senior School, Mr. Hill, and I were asked to join a fitness session in a senior Physical Education class. Even before I attended, I felt a sense of nervous anticipation. What would we be challenged to do? How would I do? What would the girls think of how I did? While I can’t assume that the girls felt this way, my reaction reminded me of what our girls might experience as they take on uncertain and / or challenging tasks.

Both opportunities that day were humbling and empowering at the same time and I am grateful for the invitations to join our girls’ classes. It can be easy to assume we know what our students’ experiences are like, but, as I am learning, far more powerful to walk in their shoes.

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