a week at Harvard and questions remain

Last week I spent four days at the Harvard Graduate School of Education participating in the New and Aspiring Leaders Institute through the Principals’ Center. My brain is swirling with new and renewed learning, strong conversations, and the building of great new professional friendships. I was able to fulfill a life long dream of attending Harvard and be in a rich, intellectual environment for almost a week.

We studied my favorite topics like Adaptive Leadership, Leadership Styles, and Strategic Leadership while engaging in topics such as Interim Assessments to Drive Instruction, Parent Engagement, and Literacy. We were a diverse group, from many states and countries and many learning environments. I gained so much information (and a giant binder) that I’m left to unpack and I’m not even sure how to start…so I’ll start with questions.

Here is what we didn’t discuss:

  • innovation
  • diversity
  • 21st C skills
  • re-thinking of what matters in education
  • technology

As an aspiring school leader, I wonder about our teacher and teacher leader preparation programs that continue to focus on the traditional elements of Education Reform. If Harvard just spent 4 days with 66 leaders focusing on antiquated methodology, didactic instruction, and learning based on standardization, who is talking about moving education forward? It certainly wasn’t us.

This scares me. As someone whose age puts her on the cusp between Gen X and Gen Y and who teaches Millenials, I am no longer comfortable repeating the same discussions that have been had for 25 + years in education. How does a young leader tackle the concept innovating learning when the major thought leaders (or at least those with a foothold in teacher/leader preparation) remain in the traditional approach? Is it even appropriate for me to criticize?

When we do discuss innovation and education reform (as it should be), it can be merely a discussion of digitizing what we already do or using technology to say we innovate. We really must look at what Tony Wagner calls the “Seven Survival Skills” and embrace a completely new way of teaching and learning. As Alec Couros says, “It’s Not Going Away“, so we need to revel in this amazing time of change and move with it, towards it!

With that said, I LOVED the experience, there were so many great take away’s from the Institute. I gained practical tools experience, particularly with protocols for running meeting effectively. There were plenty of new ideas for me to bring that can be applied to an array of educational settings, traditional and not. I feel like my deeper questions of meaning mean that I actually did learn something and that the process (PROh-cess, as my Canadian friends would say) of learning has been positive. When learning and understanding lead to more questions, we are certainly on the right track.

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One thought on “a week at Harvard and questions remain

  1. John Heeney November 13, 2012 / 9:24 pm

    Very good piece Sarah. I, too, are grappling with what last week was all about. It seems a long way off now that I am back in the hectic rhythm of school.

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