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So, What’s Going On At Your School? By Michael Quigley, Head of Upper School

Recently, I, along with Chaim, Kelley and Skip, traveled to Baltimore to attend the NAIS Annual Conference. This year’s event was attended by over 5000 independent school administrators who could choose from almost 200 workshops to learn, reflect and dialogue on school trends, programs and futurist ideas. Although the speakers were impressive, much of the learning occurred when dialoguing with new, current, and former colleagues. Chaim noted in a recent Kolot about the 4R’s – reading, writing, ‘rithmetic and relationships that is embedded in the independent school culture. The relationships forged in our classrooms with student and teacher extends to school leaders as well.

Whether connecting with other school leaders from southern California and beyond or old friends from grad school, a common conversation starter was: So What’s Going on at Your School? Every encounter led to deep conversations about our own school, learning about each other’s experiences and considering how we might evolve as a learning community that supports students in a personalized way.  An interesting framework developed that I think is very timely for SDJA. Within the context of futurist thinking on education some new language categorizing schools emerged that was interesting… are we a school of “chalk and talk, with a belief in canonical knowledge, and a culture of discipline and compliance?” or one with more of a “constructivist approach to teaching and learning, with a focus on the development of the individual building of his or her strengths rather than trying to mold children into a certain ideal mix of intellectual and personal capacities?”  These two spheres are very different and no school falls neatly in one category. We proudly lean toward the latter which we feel better supports our students as they grow and prepare to navigate the complex world of 2017 and beyond.

One takeaway from the conference is how powerful it is for SDJA be a part of a national network of schools that is dedicated to personalized learning, growth, choice, relationships, character and the well-being of students and faculty alike. After I shared some of what we are doing at SDJA like middle school EXCSEL, IIET, Judaic Studies Pathways, POD, a redesigned course catalogue that most agreed offered more opportunities for personal and intellectual growth than schools much larger than ours and all of this underpinned with a robust individualized professional development program for faculty, the response was overwhelmingly: Wow, you’re lucky to be a part of that school!

I couldn’t agree more.

Mike Quigley, Head of Upper School

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