This weekend Dr. Foster and I have been attending the 2014 CAIS Annual Heads and Chairs Conference, where Heads, Chairs and Senior Leaders gathered to attend sessions based on the theme of ‘Strength of Choice.’ Topics included decision-making strategies, the future of online education, student voice and choice, and student mental health.
This theme of strength of choice forced us to consider the powerful notion that while what we do is important, what we stop doing is often more important.
This morning we heard from Alfie Kohn, a prolific author and progressive educator, who provided some provocative ideas around schools’ character education programs that send me back to St. Clement’s to reflect on our practices.
Kohn reminded us that we must review our school’s processes and structures and cease to implement those that force compliance in our students. Kohn reminded us that students learn to make good decisions by making decisions. A simplistic statement but a powerful one.
As we work to ensure that our girls are prepared for life beyond our School, we must take responsibility for how much we are nurturing compliance as opposed to courage. While we have many programs and provide opportunities for character development, we must be careful that we are not limiting growth by limiting the voices and choices of our students.
Kohn used a turn of phrase that I know I will use often and that is that our students must learn to be reflective rebels. As he explained, they must learn to question and challenge people and processes while still treating people with respect and understanding. In doing so, they are not only growing but contributing to the ongoing growth and improvement of our schools.
‘Strength of choice’ has proven to be a wonderful theme for our conference, as we were reminded that it can also be an important contributor to growth.