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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.

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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.

Learning from another person’s mistakes

Learning from another person’s mistakes

     As many graduates are looking for apartments, leasing cars, upgrading their cell phones, and  buying new clothes, I hope they are considering their loan repayment amount. Last night I had dinner with a dear friend who told me about one of his co-workers who still owes $100K 10 years post graduation. He makes the minimum payment each month, because he claims he cannot afford to may more. This co-worker drives a new BMW, goes out every weekend to great dinners and shows, hangs out at top-shelf clubs and bars, takes women on expensive dates and is considering returning to college for a MBA at a $60K price tag. This guy has not saved and plans to borrow for his MBA for the purpose getting ahead professionally and earning more money.  Sadly, I think he wants to earn more money to live a more extravagent life. When does he come to terms with his financially reality? 

     I think this article gives the reader some ways to consider living with debt repayment in a responsible way. While I don’t want anyone to make mistakes – especially, mistakes that can have a lifetime penalty and mistakes that cost taxpayers, I do think this article provides an opportunity to learn from someone’s mistakes. I encourage parents to read this article for a conversation starter. 

If the U.S. is a meritocracy, why don’t we spend more time teaching “grit”?

If the U.S. is a meritocracy, why don’t we spend more time teaching “grit”?

For the last two years, I have been intrigued by Angela Duckworth’s Grit work. I feel that her work raises more questions than answers – which is the test of a true contribution to the literature. How can I create more “grit” lessons in my own teaching and how can I inspire school cultures to embrace this idea with integrity and “stick-to-it-ness”. Teaching grit is hard work and it is much easier to focus on teaching pure academic content and skills. However, it is grit that seems to make more of a difference than IQ and probably academic preparation. If more emphasis was given towards this idea of teaching grit, would our nation have more students graduate from college within five years and even more innovation within our economy?

7 million students brace for surge in loan rates

7 million students brace for surge in loan rates

Are recent college graduates considering the amount of their loan repayment when determining all of their living expenses? I worry that students will rent apartments and buy cars that they really cannot afford. 

The Realities of Class Based Affirmative Action

The Realities of Class Based Affirmative Action

I admire these young ladies to have the courage to talk about this “taboo” topic in a constructive manner. We need to create mainstream vehicles where all students are expected to have these conversations about class and how it impacts the out of class learning experience. Furthermore, I would love to understand how having capable students from lower socio-economic backgrounds changes how upper school students perceive “poor” people and their capabilities. It may show that those with more economic means may not have these means because they are smarter/better, but because they had access. This could up-end some people’s views of meritocracy and the American Dream.

Swimming in student debt?

Swimming in student debt?

I appreciate that Senator Warren’s first major legislative initiative attempts to address college access and affordability. Hopefully, this will move the conversation to go beyond student debt and to an examination of university budgets.