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Tensions Worth Exploring

Every week our National association of Independent Schools, the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS), sends out an excellent group of articles sorted into the twelve standards upon which our accreditations are based. Examples of these standards are Academic Program, Co-curriculum and the Learning Environment, School Leadership, Finance, and Enrolment Management. It is an excellent overview of things to consider as we work to ensure our schools reflect exemplary educational practice.

As I read through the articles this morning, I was struck with the messages and tone of several of them. I believe that, in a world of increasing access to information, we must- as educators and parents- be comfortable with the complexities and tensions present as we guide our students and children.

Articles such as The Stanford professor who pioneered praising kids for effort says we’ve totally missed the point and Why Conversations With Parents About Perfectionism Are Messy But Important as well as Letting students sink doesn’t teach them to swim and finally this week, Why forcing kids to do things ‘sooner and faster’ doesn’t get them further in school really do cause one to pause and wonder just how we do navigate the muddy waters.

While I do not profess to have the answers, I know that there are times when, after reading articles or books that are particularly provocative, I have to provide myself with time for reflection. These are the times when I dig deeply, consider the School’s values, pose questions to myself and others, reflect on whether the messages align with our mission, and then consider what actions need to be taken. I am learning through experience that much is to be gained by taking time to seek to understand why I am feeling the way I do, and ensure that I bring it back to my fundamental beliefs about educational practice. While I am not a parent, I would suggest that ensuring time to pause and reflect on one’s family values and beliefs assists in similar grounding such that whatever tensions one faces, there is a ‘place’ to go to consider a message.

Whether we are seeking to grow personally, or to support others in their growth, we must explore, ask questions, and ground decisions in beliefs and / or missions; for, most often, there isn’t learning without tension.

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