I am writing this post as a student. No, I have not joined your child’s math class. Instead, I am at Columbia University in New York City. I feel very fortunate to have been chosen as one of 20 school leaders from around the world to participate in the renowned Klingenstein program.
If landing on the moon is the dream of every astronaut, attending the Klingenstein program is the ultimate privilege for a Head of School. The days are long and demanding, but the think-tank styled exchanges of ideas are both thought-provoking and affirming. We are delving into issues such as moral leadership, research-based programming for students and the pros and cons of educational technology. Throughout these sessions we are focusing on actual case studies that force us to move away from the theoretical and into the real world of changing students’ lives. I’m both exhausted and invigorated by what is surely one of the best professional development experiences of my life.
While I definitely have encountered provocative ideas that I will bring back with me to FIS, I have also been affirmed that our school deserves its reputation as a leader among international schools. Our FIS Strategic Planning process that involves input from all constituents of our community has helped our school to make important decisions that have put our students and faculty on the path to success.
In a discussion with another “student” who is the Head of School at the Hong Kong International School, it is clear that top-tier schools share the same aspirations for their students. Ultimately we want to provide students with programs that are flexible enough to meet a wide variety of needs while also holding to the highest standards. We want to offer an array of choices in and outside of the classroom so that young people can discover their known and hidden talents. And we want to prepare students for a demanding and changing world, yet never lose sight of the fact that learning must involve both hard work and a lot of fun, too.
Part of our program allows us to visit “blue-ribbon” schools to observe their programs or facilities. During these visits I have been impressed with the creative uses of learning space and the way in which some schools have developed their unique identity. I have also appreciated hearing from my colleagues as they share the best attributes of their own schools.
Because of the rigorous admission criteria for the Klingenstein program at Columbia, I am enjoying the wealth of experience and insight that feeds our discussions. While I am surely biased, I have not yet found a school that can offer the “gestalt” found at FIS. While many schools have areas of specialization that are noteworthy, our school stands out because our students and community excel not in one focused area but in every possible direction: academics, service learning, college placement, visual and performing arts, athletics and community spirit, to
name just a few.