Where am I hitting things with my tail?

Here is another takeaway from my short session with Frances Frei during my six day course, Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management at HBS.

She talked about the importance of leaders surrounding themselves with a strong leadership team who have the courage to give frank feedback. Leaders often cause problems even though the intentions might be good. I liked the way she phrased it. A leader needs to ask the leadership team, “Where am I hitting things with my tail?”

Some parenting advice from Madeline Levine

thumb.aspxMadeline Levine gives some advice to parents:

1. Don’t do something for your child that he/she can do.

2. Don’t do something for your child that he’she can almost do

3. Don’t confuse your needs with your kids needs

She used an example of a parent who was putting a lot of pressure for his child to apply to Harvard, and after some therapy she discovered the dad was the only one in his family who did not attend, and he wanted to show his family he was good enough by getting his kid in.

The Price of Privilege: “I want to be a V.C.!”

5-300x450I recently heard psychologist Madeline Levine give the keynote address at the Biennial conference for the National Association of Episcopal Schools. Her book, The Price of Privilege, has received praise from many educators, and so I was curious to hear her talk. I have not read her book, so I will not try to capture its essence here, but I thought instead I would share a few interesting tidbits. I’ll spread it our over a few posts.

One of her 8-year-old patients had an interesting response to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The little boy said, “I want to be a V.C.”

The boy had no idea what a venture capitalist does, but he knew they make a lot of money. What was even more interesting was his explanation for what he needs to do to achieve his goal. Remember this is an 8 year old… I am paraphrasing:

I need to go to an independent school (he named a specific independent school). Then I need to go to Stanford. Then I’ll get an internship at Goldman Sachs. Then I’ll go to Harvard for my MBA. Then I’ll work at Bain for a few years, and then I’ll be a V.C.

Her point was that this is obviously coming from the parents. The crowd got the point that this was a problem but still gave it a good chuckle. I even heard someone in the audience say, “Sounds like a good plan. That’ll probably work.”

From her website: “In this controversial look at privileged families, Levine offers thoughtful, practical advice as she explodes one child-rearing myth after another. With empathy and candor, she identifies parenting practices that are toxic to healthy self-development and that have contributed to epidemic levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse in the most unlikely place — the affluent family.”

Paying Corporate PA taxes? Give to EA instead!

Pennsylvania provides a program to help fund financial aid so that students can attend schools like ours.

The Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) are two Pennsylvania tax incentive programs that provide tax credits to PA businesses that make donations to scholarship organizations such as the Episcopal Academy.  Both programs provide a credit worth 75% of the total donation for a single year commitment and a 90% credit if the gift is committed for 2 consecutive years.

– Businesses applying for the first time can start applying for both programs on July 1st of 2014.  Businesses that are re-applying can do so starting on May 15th.

– This program is eligible for all businesses that pay PA state corporate taxes.  It does not have to be an exclusively PA incorporated business.

How are we doing?

– Gifts given to Episcopal through the EITC provide financial aid to students from low income households.

– Episcopal has over 150 students who are eligible to receive funding through EITC and over 50 that are eligible to receive funding through the OSTC.

– In 2013, Episcopal received $146,000 in donations made by 18 businesses through the EITC, and received received $115,000 in donations from 4 businesses through the OSTC.

– In 2014, Episcopal received $565,011 in donations made by 14 businesses through the EITC, and received $483,750 in donations made by 10 businesses through the OSTC.


Rigorous support for teachers

One of the more impressive aspects of the Global Online Academy is the teacher-training program. Teachers must complete an extensive series of professional development experiences before they can teach a GOA course.  From the GOA website:

GOA teachers participate in three, 2-week sessions of online training (with roughly 2-4 hours of work per week), followed by a 4-day residential workshop at Islandwood, a learning center in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Of course, all of the teachers they hire are already experienced teachers from top flight independent schools, so I am impressed with the high expectations they have.

I wanted to learn a little more about what they do, so I asked Michael Nachbar, the Director of GOA for some more information. The three sessions of online training help to “prepare teachers to begin thinking about what it means to teach and learn in an online environment.” Their goal is for teachers to develop “the most engaging online courses possible.”

The residential workshop then allows teachers to develop their specific course with intensive support from colleagues. As a teacher, it must be nice to have an entire team working to help you develop your course!

After these teachers complete their training, GOA provides ongoing support from their instructional design team. They are working with teachers who are already talented and experienced. By supporting them with this level of professional development, they are demonstrating their deep respect for the profession of teaching.

I have been so impressed with the GOA team. They are committed to excellence, and we are thrilled to be working with them.

Professional Development for the 21st Century

On first glance, the power of our membership with the Global Online Academy comes with our ability to offer rigorous, interesting, and dynamic courses taught by independent school teachers and taken by academically driven students from around the world. Perhaps an even more significant benefit of our relationship with GOA is the quality of their professional development offeringsPD Courses GOA.

I believe deeply in the power of professional development. Our jobs as educators are simply too challenging to do on our own, and it is imperative that we stay current in our field. The courses our teachers can take will not only open them up to the world of online learning, but it will expand their toolkit, as they work with students in a rapidly changing landscape.

When I think of the dauntingly vast set of resources on the internet, I imagine the course, “Creating and Curating Content,” would be of immense help to teachers. Whenever I interview teachers, I ask them, “How do you stay current?” The course, “Creating a Personal Learning Network to Strengthen Your Practice,” is a great place to learn how to harness the expertise of educators from around the world.  They have courses that seem specific (“Making Videos and Screencasts”) and others that are have broader strategy in mind (“Coaching Innovation”).

These courses, open to all of our teachers, will empower our already talented faculty to connect with students in new ways. And even though they are designed to support online learning, it is obvious to me they are also extremely relevant for teaching in traditional settings.

Why is online learning important?

I do not feel the need to pit online learning against “bricks and mortar” learning. And for us at EA, it does need to be an either/or situation. It is my hope that all of our courses are academically rigorous, interesting, and inspiring-no matter the format. It does seem to me the field of online learning is becoming increasingly relevant and that we have a responsibility to gain some experience.

Consider these three statistics from the Sloan Consortium study.

  • Over 7.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2012 term, an increase of 411,000 students over the previous year.
  • Thirty-three percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
  • Ninety percent of academic leaders believe that it is likely or very likely that a majority of all higher education students will be taking at least one online course in five year’s time.

If our students have not already experienced online learning, it seems obvious they will soon. As a part of our college preparatory mentality, we need to be helping students develop the skills needed to succeed and thrive in this learning environment. Taking an online course is not easy. It takes persistence and diligence. I like the idea that EA will be there to help challenge and nurture our students side by side, as they enter this new world.

Our involvement with GOA also reflects our belief in diversity and our belief in the value of a global education. I cannot imagine how exciting the conversations are in the course, “9/11 in a Global Context.” This course looks interesting even if it was just filled with students from the Main Line, but imagine taking this class with kids from Jordan, China, and Indonesia. Here is the course description:

September 11, 2001 was a tragic day that changed the world in profound ways. In this course students will explore the causes of 9/11, the events of the day itself, and its aftermath locally, nationally, and around the world. In place of a standard chronological framework, students instead will view these events through a series of separate lenses. Each lens will represent a different way to view the attacks and will allow students to understand 9/11 as an event with complex and interrelated causes and outcomes. Using a variety of technologies and activities, students will work individually and with peers to evaluate each lens. They will then explore the post-9/11 world and conclude the course by planning their own 9/11 memorial.

We are simply not going to abandon that which makes us strong. You will always see the power of a first class liberal arts education at Episcopal. We will always be a school that fosters meaningful relationships and critical thinking with inspiring teachers. Our world continues to change quickly, and we want our students to be prepared to lead.