Thanks for exploring Shaking Hands with Tomorrow. The subtitle really tells the tale: An Independent School Leader’s Hard-Earned Lessons. Hard-earned they were—mistakes definitely provide learning opportunities. This is the story of my journey of discovery of what really matters in schools.
That journey was shaped initially by having to right a middle school that had no clear direction and procedures that weren’t working. A group of us in an ancient Quaker school, Moses Brown in Providence RI, worked out positive solutions amidst the burgeoning national middle school revolution of the mid-1970s. Simultaneously, I came to realize that developing healthy egos is every bit as important to children as strong academic training, and that it’s crucial to make schools resonate for whole people. But how?
Intentions are one thing; however, to achieve those outcomes, schools must get the details right. I have experienced a lot of what did not work and learned what does and describe those here including:
- structure and scheduling
- what is taught, why, and how
- faculty growth and evaluation
- respectful approaches to parents
- well designed meetings
- school culture & student discipline
What we teach and how we go about it must shift as society, circumstances, and technology evolve. In the face of those changes, the needs of the children we teach remain timeless: confidence and competence.
A word about the title is appropriate, given the current pandemic. This book was named years ago in response to my greeting each student and colleague at Princeton Friends School every morning, and it was published in January 2020, just before the pandemic became widely known. COVID-19 has caused us to practice social distancing and other defensive measures. The coincidence of title and virus is unfortunate and ironic.
May we all be safe. Let us support one another, especially the people on the front lines fighting COVID-19 and the teachers doing their best for our children under most difficult circumstances.