Dispatch from the NAIS Annual Conference

Greetings from the National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference!

Belmont Day enjoys a robust commitment to professional development for our faculty, staff, and administration. The opportunity for Deborah Brissenden, Assistant Head of School, and I to attend the conference in Baltimore, Maryland is only the latest in a long line of opportunities to learn about the latest shifts and best practices in the larger independent school world that members of our learning community have seized this year. Whether attending workshops locally or nationally, we are dedicated to keeping our school on the leading edge of research and practice so that we can provide the very best programming for our students.

This year, the theme for the NAIS Annual Conference is “Make Your Mission Matter: From Vision to Values,” and it is hard not to feel like it has been designed expressly for us given all of the strategic work we have been doing lately. It has also, coincidentally, given me an idea for my weekly address in the Scoop.  

As you walk into the Baltimore Convention Center, a massive building located in the heart of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the site of this year’s conference, signs abound promoting the conference’s theme. Right next to the registration desk stands a kiosk whose sign asks this question: “Choose your mission: which of these pins resonates most for you and your school?”  Beneath the question there are six boxes, each filled with small pins that offer distinct and discrete missions: Leading Innovation reads one; Cultivating Community, the next; Embracing Diversity; Developing Wellness; Nurturing Curiosity; and Changing the World read the remaining four.

I had two thoughts upon seeing this: the first was ‘wow, this kiosk could save schools a lot of time and money on strategic planning and their consultants.’ The second was, ‘I wonder if it is that easy.’

There is a lot that can grab your attention at these conferences—the excellent keynote speakers, the eye-opening programming, the marketplace of vendors, or the bustling network of colleagues from around the nation engaged in this work—but it has been this kiosk and seemingly simple challenge it offers that has been sticking with me this week. My challenge: what if you feel that your school does all of those things? In a year that began with my effort to understand and refine the BDS Story, this simple activity has piqued my interest. It has also provided for me a chance to try something new in the Scoop: writing serially.

Over the next six weeks in this space, I will take on one pin’s theme each week, and explore the ways that Belmont Day strives to live each of these noble purposes in the work we do. For each theme, I will look through the lens of the student, the faculty, and the institution itself. Thus, by the time those six weeks have passed, if I can deliver as a writer, you will have heard the stories of our school—BDS stories, if you will—through the eyes of our constituents, and each with an intentional exploration of one of NAIS’ missions.

Next week, the first in the series, will explore how Belmont Day nurtures curiosity. Our story will begin in the courtyard, with the youngest students in our school, exploring the ways that well-designed space results in programmatic excellence, intentional instruction, and expressions of the boundlessness of a five-year-old’s imagination.

Have a great weekend, everyone.


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