August 5, 2022
A note from the editor: Most of our readers know that NAIS is searching for a new President. We would like the search to be a more open process, therefore subject to questions from independent school constituents. Consequently, we are publishing a series of articles with one question each to candidates for the next NAIS President. This series began in August with The Next NAIS President Candidates Series, Part 1: On Curriculum & Knowledge | Sanje Ratnavale.
The next NAIS President should be able to answer this question after reading this story and subsequent reflection.
Today’s question: How will you help teachers at independent schools be heard?
“[T]he percentages of teachers who agreed with positive statements about their profession were higher among teachers who believed their opinions were considered in school decisions and lower among those who did not believe they had a voice.”
~ Center on Education Policy survey.
Five years of work—five years that, on one night, faced a final vote in a winter faculty meeting. The journey toward this night had begun during a discussion of the curriculum committee when a couple of members suggested that we needed to do a better job of educating our students. Their proposal was radical: redesign the curriculum, change the way we teach—create a new school. The majority of the committee was opposed, and so began a long process of discussion, argument, rage, laughter, and compromise.
“We can’t just change everything.”
“OK, let’s focus on the ninth-grade curriculum. Let’s start there.”
A small group of volunteers began weekly meetings to explore an array of ideas: how to create a new balance between studying facts and developing skills; how to increase opportunities for students to pursue personal interests and questions that genuinely mattered to them; how to respond to the teaching implications of the complex connections between emotion and thinking. The group reported its progress to the curriculum committee and the full faculty every month or two, eliciting reactions—agreement, disagreement, and suggestions. Eventually, as a plan began to form, the group of volunteers grew until about 25 teachers were involved, a quarter of the faculty. Hours became months became years, as the different perspectives, arguments, and counterarguments shaped a new curriculum and new structures.
“We need a new daily…