Mid-October and the school year starts to feel as though all of the back-to-school traditions and ceremonies have wrapped up and the calendar is now in full swing. The most notable markers for our students—the comfortable, consistent cadence of the day-to-day; sleepier children at the end of the day with brains, hearts, and minds full to the brim; joyful connections on the playground, the Labyrinth or in the Kiva—are rooted in their relationships with their peers, and with their teachers.
For teachers, the markers are similar and have an added nuance of preparation as we ready ourselves for parent conferences in only a couple of weeks. Introductory units have ended and the true heart of the year’s pedagogy has begun to take clearer shape. Whether they are beginning their study of popcorn words, drawing the pin cherry tree outside of second grade, exploring the Great Migration, reminding themselves of our six core values or moving on from linear equations, the steady rhythm of school has arrived and moves with a beat as consistent as that which emanates from Ms. Kitamura’s music room.
This is also the time of year that many professional development workshops and conferences begin to dot the landscape of the independent school calendar. Here at school, we have been asked by AISNE (Association of Independent Schools in New England) to host the Middle School Diversity Conference on the first weekend of November. Farther afield, we have received news that yet again, BDS faculty will be presenting at both the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) People of Color Conference in Seattle in December and at the NAIS Annual Conference in Philadelphia in February. Together, POCC and the annual conference are the two largest independent educational conferences in the country, and Belmont Day will be prominently featured on those big stages.
Like many on the faculty, I, too, am beginning my own conference season here in October. Later this month, I will join elementary school heads from across the country in Nashville for the ESHA (Elementary School Heads Association) annual conference and retreat where over 100 heads of similarly sized schools gather to discuss issues relevant to pre-k to grade 8 education. This is my fourth ESHA conference and it is consistently one of the most rewarding conferences I can attend. This year, the theme is rooted in country music: “Momma, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be School Heads.” Of course, the title has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek (I, for one, am glad my Momma let her baby grow up to be a school leader!), as it will be a long weekend dedicated to addressing the challenges and opportunities associated with school leadership today.
At ESHA, we will attend leadership workshops at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody School for Independent School Leaders, meet a co-founder of a school who also doubles as the lead singer of Old Crow Medicine Show who will help draw the analogy between country music and pre-k to grade 8 leadership and we may even take on the challenge of writing our own music with the guidance of a Grammy winner–a testament to the many different types of intelligence and sensibilities that leaders need and that this conference will engage.
For me, this conference takes on a special importance this year as I was recently invited to join the ten-person executive committee of this association which is a great honor, and one that—like the faculty who are presenting at NAIS conferences or the opportunity to host over 300 middle school students for AISNE’s diversity conference—shines a spotlight on the great work happening every day at Belmont Day School.
Have a great weekend everyone.
Click the B to listen to this message at Blue Handprint Studios!