“You should understand it deeply, so you can explain it simply.” Frei on Effective Communication

Frances Frei shared these principles of effective communication during a seminar I took at HBS this summer:

  1. You need to understand it deeply
  2. So you can explain it simply
  3. They need to understand it in your absence
  4. And it should be understood by their family

If the receiver can get others to understand your message, then you have been successful in your communication.

“This is Episcopal”

DSC_0258 (1)When the school was considering moving from the Merion Campus out to Newtown square, everyone was worried that the alumni might be upset. In fact, when people first visited the new campus, many alumni commented that it was nice, but it “is not the school I attended.” With that context, you will perhaps understand why the following comment meant so much to me.

Jim Rhodes, Class of ’65, listened attentively to me, as I gave an update on the school’s progress and work. He said to the group, “After walking around, talking with the students, and seeing what is going on here today on this campus, I know in my heart that this is Episcopal.”

The buildings and locations have changed many times in our storied history, but our commitment to excellence has been a constant.

Awe-inspiring collaboration! Matisse at EA

DSC_0079Even though we are already preparing for our next show, I wanted to comment on the last gallery exhibition by the Art rEvolution class. Our students were impressed early on in J-Term with the work of this class, but the final product was awe inspiring. The crowd who attended the Arts on the Move evening was treated during intermission to a collection of work as prolific as it was impressive. My favorite piece was the collaborative Matisse wall mural. I love that it was inspired by the field trip the class took to see the Matisse exhibit in New York. I love that they all started with white paper and mixed the colors themselves, and of course, I love that it was a collaborative piece.


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Winter Shorts- Lots of Layers

IMG_0257One of the many J-Term classes on display at the Arts on the Move event was the class that wrote, directed, and performed one act plays. I had heard there were good things brewing when our J-Term class submitted this early piece highlighting the power of community within the class.

Our students were struck by the fact that “no one is ever alone.” Even though there were students from four different grade levels in the class, the students supported each other in a true collaborative effort. “Mr. Clay, who teaches with Mr. McCreary, explained that they begin the class by listing community norms so students understand what it takes to create a safe environment on stage.”

I was able to witness the final product last week, and once again, I was impressed with both the quantity and quality of work that J-Term classes were able to produce in just two weeks. The class produced nine “shorts,” ranging from funny and satirical to moving and disturbing. I remember cackling pretty loudly during the evening, and I definitely remember one truly horrifying scene. And while some of the school’s most experienced actors were on display, there were many newcomers who may have just discovered their calling.

If we can do all this in two weeks, I cannot wait to see this Spring’s production of The Sound of Music!

Mesmerizing Dance: Arts on the Move was moving

DSC_0730I am continually impressed by the quality of the Arts program at Episcopal. Thursday night I attended “Arts on the Move,” and once again, I was blown away. I was prepped for the evening with a wonderful early morning chapel that focused on music and the spirituality of it. The jazz band and string ensemble played, and Mr. Erwin courageously took to his acoustic guitar and eventually got us all singing “We Shall Overcome” hand in hand. What I love about the evening event was the blending of the arts. There was instrumental music (both with group and individual performances), dance, visual art, and theater. Student and teacher passion, collaboration, and dedication were all on display.

I may have to convert this to several posts, but let me begin with Dance. It seems our dance program just keeps growing and improving. From Brian Sean’s solo masterpiece to the power of the ensemble pieces, I was touched by the athleticism, teamwork, and true artistic sense of the group. Leah Marchant opened the evening tapping along with the Jazz band, and over the course of the next 45 minutes, I was treated to a stylistic and funny number with “Clue,” an amazing ensemble piece with “Underground,” and a truly powerful interpretation of Maya Angelou’s “Touched By an Angel.” The use of light and music heightened the emotional impact for me.

I often sit and wonder about the educational aspects of the student experience, but I must confess, our dancers had me lost in the moment. I can only now reflect on all that they must have been taught, all they thought about, and all the hours they put in to make this amazing. I reflect on it now because last night I was simply mesmerized. They demonstrated what we heard earlier in the day- the arts have an inspirational power to touch our spirit. Bravo!

Madeline Levine on Positive Encouragement

In her keynote address at the Biennial conference for the National Association of Episcopal Schools, Madeline Levine described how we engage toddlers with our full attention and smiles of encouragement when they are struggling to walk.

We say, “C’mon you can do it. Get back up, you can do it. I know you can do it.”

She then posed, “How come we don’t have the same reactions with teenagers when they struggle or fail?”

It would be weird to say to a toddler, “You better pick yourself up or you’ll be flipping burgers all your life!”


Learning from our friends at Philadelphia University

Philly UIn September, I was fortunate enough to take a short field trip in the afternoon to Philadelphia University to learn more about the work they have done over the last several years with innovation. Their President, Dr. Steve Spinelli, was gracious enough to spend some time with Dr. Hall, Dr. Dinkins, and me sharing an academic philosophy that focuses on “innovation, real-world experience, and transdisciplinary learning.” We were also fortunate enough to spend time with several professors as well as their leaders in communication and admission.

There are many impressive aspects to the school. They have a progressive approach, combining their business, design, and engineering schools into one program. The fact that students are working on teams as consultants to major companies is impressive and worth emulating. It seemed similar to the approach that IDEO takes. It is refreshing to see higher education take the lead with innovating our schools. Kudos to Steve and his team.

The senior administration also spent a great deal of time talking with us about modernizing the communications and admission processes. Their use of targeted consultants and big data have led to impressive results. They certainly pushed our thinking.

While visiting other independent schools will always be a good form of professional development, I continue to believe that ideas from Higher Education and other sectors will help push us in new and exciting ways.