Last month, four members of Belmont Day’s health and wellness team traveled to Long Beach, California to present at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference. They joined more than five thousand independent school educators and leaders engaged in creative, strategic, and collaborative dialogue on this year’s theme: Reimagining Independent Schools: Tearing Down Walls, Building Capacity, and Designing Our Future.
Tina Fox, second grade teacher, Liz LaRocque, school nurse, Leesa Mercedes, school psychologist, and Kate Oznick, pre-kindergarten teacher, share their takeaways from the conference:
From beginning to end, the NAIS annual conference offered inspiration, and vital opportunities to connect and collaborate with our peers from across the country. We heard the powerful stories of speakers like Viola Davis, Shiza Shahid, and Simon Sinek, and engaged with colleagues to build capacity and share experiences, and find dedicated spaces to innovate and reflect on our health and wellness program at Belmont Day.
The opening speaker, Viola Davis, could have come from Belmont Day. She spoke eloquently about the power of storyand that our own stories are the elixir of our lives. Her story has guided her life in ways that sound just like our core values and our mission: that the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are; that we are called to live lives bigger than ourselves, and stand up for what is right; that our job as educators is to guide children to recognize the inequalities they observe around them and take action. Her keynote was an inspiring start to an amazing conference.
We attended interesting and thought-provoking workshops that offered a wide range of topics on sexuality education, creating gender inclusivity, LGBTQIA+ issues, mindfulness (including using mindfulness with differentiated instruction), courageous authenticity, fostering a positive school culture, and mental health. While we were all able to take away new information and ideas, it was affirming to attend workshops and reflect on our program at BDS. We found again and again that we are following best practices at BDS and are at the forefront when it comes to mindfulness and gender and identity inclusivity. We are a national leader in pre-k to eighth grade health and wellness education.
The most rewarding experience for us was working together as a team to develop our own presentation and the affirming response from the almost forty attendees who came from all over the country. Consistent with the message of the conference’s keynote speakers, Viola Davis and Shiza Shahid, our team provided thoughts on the power of story and we feel grateful for being able to tell the story of the trajectory of the health and wellness curriculum at BDS.
We found great power in this experience. Educators and school leaders who attended our workshop were struck by how purposeful and intentional the foundation was laid at BDS for creating a sustainable program and our mindfulness around establishing and maintaining best practices through self-evaluation and reflection. Attendees also remarked on how unique our program is in that we are able to adapt and grow, instead of sticking to a static, packaged curriculum. Further, they were particularly grateful for the expansive resource list we provided of read alouds, articles, and curriculum sources we pull from consistently to create our cutting-edge program.
Simon Sinek, who closed the conference, left us with an impressive message. He spoke about creating an environment where people feel safe, the power of being trusted to do your job, and the love of work that comes from being trusted to be a professional. BDS has trusted our health and wellness team and we have a nationally-recognized program which we can all continue to celebrate!