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Counting down to my UPenn Graduation

GraduationMay 16th, 2014
“To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. (From an introductory speech at a session of the Académie Française, December 24, 1896)” ― Anatole France, Works of Anatole France

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Communicating with Gen Z, Their Parents & Grandparents

Communicating with Gen Z, Their Parents & Grandparents

This article about the decline of Facebook use among students age 13-17 and the increased popularity of Facebook with the 55+ crowd has got me thinking: How can I lead an institution specific conversation about social media and its use in strategic marketing and communications? How do we continue to evolve our thinking on the use of social media for teaching and learning outcomes?

Understanding the communication practices of those born after 1995 continue to intrigue and challenge me.  Also, I think the way their parents – those from Generation X and Millennials – chose to obtain information and make decisions is very different from many Baby Boomers. Figuring out where social media fits into this communication continuum is something many organizations struggle to address. For me I think about this in terms of making decisions about where one will go to school and where one will give of their volunteer time and philanthropic treasure to support a cause.

I think many independent schools will need to make dramatic changes in their communications process and products in order to meet the needs and/or expectations of potential students and their parents. It will be important to balance the needs of younger generations with those from other generations who may (but not necessarily so) need a traditional approach to communication. Where does Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Blogger, etc fit into this continuum? How do we support the professional development of our faculty and staff about these message vehicles and help them design strategies for using them in teaching, learning, and marketing? What is it that our communities (and there are many communities within one institutional community) need from us – the institution – in terms of social media messaging?

Once families have decided which school community they – both parents and their child – will choose in Fall 2014, school leaders should want to learn more about the role social media played in the decision process. We should want to know how it supports or does not support internal marketing to current families and retention practices.

As I think about strategies that can help inform how GPS tells its story, I look forward to learning from students, faculty, staff, parents, alumnae, and friends of GPS. I know there is great wisdom within this community and together we will redefine what effective school communication must be to be educationally relevant now and into the 2020’s.

Girls, STEM, and My List of “Ingenious Inventors”

I’ve been thinking about creating a women’s history course using a personalized learning framework. This blog post gives me some great ideas for adding an “ingenious inventors” unit in a manner that will make the information relevant to learners.

Thinking @ Gen-Z Learners

For many years I have admired elementary master teachers whose classrooms are a little chaotic and messy, but the students are learning in a truly authentic manner – a manner that they personally own. Often these teachers have mastered differentiated instruction and assessment and yield incredible outcomes for their students. It is a practice we have come to expect in strong elementary programs, especially those that include Montessori techniques. While some secondary college-prep teachers have incorporated a curated approach to teaching, most have not. I know I have made many attempts at differentiation – some have been successful and a few have been less so. As I think about the students I will be working with in the future, they will be children of Generation Z (those born from 1995 to 2009). After “reading” an info-graphic about this generation, I think personalized learning will have a central role in coaching these students to be their personal academic and personal best.

As I think about my own teaching practice and how I want to encourage the teachers I will lead this fall, I have been considering the role of blended-learning within a personalized learning approach. I was prompted to explore this idea because of an innovation paper I just submitted for a class. The January 5 blog posting on http://www.personalizedlearning.com has really got me considering how best to maximize this approach to teaching and learning, with a specific eye to how this works better in an all girls environment. The way girls learn best really ties to this idea of a curated learning experience. Once my dissertation is complete, I am looking forward to thinking more about personalized learning and talking with the faculty and staff at GPS about ways they already incorporate these practices and new ways we can consider to maximize our time with our learners. (Check out the blog posting to know why I used “learners” and not “students”.)

Now, back to my dissertation.

Here’s the the Girls of GPS!

As a child advocate I am sensitive to how teenagers are perceived in the media. There are not enough positive stories about wonderful things teens do. Instead there is an emphasis on negative stories. In recent years accounts of social media being used to harass and bully vulnerable classmates overshadow positive stories about teens who use their voice with love and responsibility. In no way do I mean to belittle or disregard the painful experiences that challenge many teens in terms of bullying. However, I would like to share an additional perspective.  Because I have spent my entire professional career with teenagers, I know that most are usually kind, thoughtful and have a sense of humor.

This week I saw first hand how 585 girls in grades 6-12 positively dominated social media to show their love for their school. These girls took to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with hundreds of messages about the announcement of their new head of school. These teenage girls welcomed the new head and her husband with excitement, warmth and humor. They responsibly used their powerful voice to tell their hometown of Chattanooga that they are ready to embrace their school’s new leadership with open arms. Messages were positive, inclusive and witty.

The new head had an opportunity to deliver a short talk to all of the students, faculty, staff and many trustees Thursday morning. She talked about the unique ability all-girls schools have in developing young women who are civically minded professionals to be responsible leaders in their work, home, and communities. Also, she admitted that she was a little nervous eating in the cafeteria because she didn’t know anyone and asked that the girls would offer her a seat if their table was not filled. In what must be true Girls Preparatory School fashion, the new head received countless lunch invitations via Twitter, signs around campus, and in person in the halls. The girls showed their true selves – young scholars who are inclusive and clever in a kind and respectful personable manner. The girls of GPS embrace new people with open arms and hearts!

Teenagers just don’t come into the world being this responsible and empathetic. I know that the families who choose GPS not only value their daughters being academically prepared for life beyond high school, they believe their daughters must be young ladies who understand how to use their voice with social and personal responsibility. They want their daughters to have both academic and people skills. I also know that the faculty and staff of GPS must join the parents in helping the girls to understand how to take responsibility for their actions and words. I think GPS being a laptop school since 1998 has given the faculty and staff many years to build a culture where the expectation is that social media is used in a responsible and effective manner.

I’m that new head of school! I continue to be impressed with GPS. I am blessed to be able to work with such a high-caliber of student, teacher, staff member, administrator, and parent.  I am really looking forward to starting my tenure July 1.

Here’s to the Girls of GPS!

In Support of Piano Lessons

In Support of Piano Lessons

Yesterday, I tweeted a NY Times article about over scheduled children. It highlights the unsubstantiated idea that children have to be involved in lots and lots of activities in order to be a well-rounded person. Sadly, the only reason some parents insist on their child being involved in so many activities has more to do with the their sense this will increase their child’s odds for admission to the college of her choice and not because they see these activities helping their daughter find her passion. (I have some pretty strong opinions on this topic, which I hope to write about in a future post.)

Today, I read a NY Times article Is Music the Key to Success? about the number of people who have found professional success and share a common descriptor – accomplished musician. The author, Joanne Lipman interviews a number of people who attribute the creativity, collaboration, listening, and self-discipline they use in their jobs as characteristics they developed as musicians. It’s important to note that those Lipman references in her article would be considered successful by most parents’ standards – Allen Greenspan, Woody Allen, James Wolfensohn, Roger McNamee and Condoleezza Rice. There is no way these people would have been able to perform at Carnegie Hall or earn a degree in music if they did not devote two to four hours a day practicing their instrument. You cannot practice that much and be a part of travel sports teams, lead the student government, start a business, and volunteer five hours a week.

I hope that parents, educators and college admission officers read this article and engage the children in their lives in a conversation about finding your passion.  And it wouldn’t hurt for music teachers to turn up the volume on the conversation about all of the “marketable” skills one develops from making music.

Can you be a feminine scientist?

What being feminine means needs to change as a matter of national security.

Eileen Pollack’s claims girls don’t pursue degrees in the sciences for three main reasons. First, their professors don’t acknowledge their accomplishments. And these academics don’t encourage girls to earn advanced degrees in these disciplines. In some cases they are discouraged to even take the classes if they encounter difficulties with the material. Lastly, the idea of being feminine has been confused with caring what others think at the exclusion of doing what makes you happy. In no way am I a scientists, but I am a student of the risk taking involved in being a scientists, artist, and athlete. It saddens me to think that men and women, teachers and parents continue to further the stereotype that being a scientists isn’t feminine or what good girls should do.

I was taken by Pollack’s connection that girls who are tenacious enough to pursue degrees in physics, chemistry and other sciences don’t “care” about being girlie, feminine or what other people think of them. She even goes so far as to mention the CBS hit comedy “The Big Bang Theory” characters as examples of the negative social connotation of being a female scientist. (After I finish my dissertation, I think I want to conduct a study of how female scientists are portrayed in television.)

One thing I really liked about Pollack’s article – she gave a great “shout out” for the power of all girls’ schools. More on that in a future blog post.

I don’t completely agree with how Pollack places blame for the lack of women in the sciences, but I do agree that the conversation needs to be elevated. Men and women, mothers and fathers need to engage with both girls and boys in a conversation about what it means to be feminine and what it means to be a scholar – especially one who excels in the sciences.

The global economy continues to move in the direction of being dominated by “knowledge” jobs and the STEM sector is growing every second. The shortage of qualified U.S. citizens for the available STEM jobs continues to grow as well. More females are attending and graduating from college than males. Therefore, we need more females to pursue STEM related majors and careers to keep the U.S. economically competitive. Increasing the number of women scientists truly is a national security matter. I wonder if this type of thinking is what it will take to lessen the bias that young women face when they want to be scientists.

Innovating how we market innovation

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Some academics in the business sector believe adoption of innovation should happen when your company is on the rise. I am very confident in stating that many/most NAIS member schools are on the rise in terms of program, facilities and they way they support students academically, emotionally and physically. For the current K-12 generation, many public schools are struggling to meet the programmatic, facilities and student support needs of their students. (I am not placing blame, just noting that these struggles exist.) The K-12 population needs more of the benefits that independent schools offer. Yet, my beloved independent schools are on the verge of crisis. The business model is broken! They are so tuition dependent and even with growing financial aid budgets many families don’t think this level of education is within financial reach for their child. So, private schools are even more focused on innovating their marketing campaigns in an effort to increase the number of families who will consider making this financial sacrifice, explain the justification for this level of investment in their child’s education, and articulate a case to support the current and future students with philanthropic dollars. One way to do this – intensify your digital footprint!

In no way do I think all business principles should be applied to independent schools. Nor, do I think that all marketing should be done virtually. I continue to be a strong believer in the power of face-to-face relationship building. However, I do think we can learn a thing or two from Gregory Pouy. I also think the for-profit world could learn many lessons from independent schools about individualizing the “consumer” experience. We call it a child-centered approached to meeting the individual needs of each student. (I hope to write more about this comparison at a later time. I just need to get through writing my dissertation.) I think independent schools need to be more aggressive in how they innovate their marketing strategies, especially in light of how students and parents get their information about schools. In the meantime, please check out this presentation and consider ways it could be helpful as we begin the 2013-2014 admissions season.

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