Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The school for me; the role for me

I've been giving great thought to where I want to end up and what I want to be doing. I'm not sure it's not enough to just know I want to be at an independent boarding school; actually, I know that's not enough.

First, what sort of a community am I looking for?

I'm looking for a school that, above all else, knows what it is and is honest about what it is. I know too many places that claim one thing -- say, academic excellence -- and then do something else in a systematic manner (like dumbing down courses). I think this is the primary thing I'm looking for: a clear vision and mission; transparency.

I graduated from Saint James School. Saint James then and Saint James now are similar in many ways: the school knew what it was and was honest to that vision; the school knows what it is today, and is honest to that vision. The headmaster today, Father Stuart Dunnan (once one of the youngest current heads of any American boarding school), has a clear vision of what Saint James is, and he has worked to get everyone -- faculty, alumni, parents, other key stakeholders -- on the same page and moving in the same direction.

It's like Nemo.

"Huh?" you mumble.

Finding Nemo. The movie. Have you seen it? At the end of the movie Nemo and then Dora get caught up in nets. The secret is for all the fish in the net to swim down together. Too many organizations -- independent schools included -- are like the school of big, gray fish: everybody is moving this way and that way or floundering about. What Father Dunnan has done is gotten everyone to swim in the same direction. Purpose. Knowledge. Transparency.

I want to work in a school where everyone is swimming in the same direction.

What else? I'd like a community where I feel comfortable and where my family -- Jenny, Elliot, Richard, and Andrew -- feel comfortable. Conservative, liberal, casual, formal, uniformed or not... these things really don't matter. I see benefit in each choice; I can thrive in each milieu.

Ideally, I'd land at a school with fewer than 250 students, but larger is okay, too. Saint James is something like 225 today (was 165 when I graduated); Sem (where I taught years ago) is some 450 today; I think it was 375 when I was there. Again, there's pros and cons to both large and small, but I my preference (easily swayed, I'm sure) is smaller.

I'm enamored of Ted Sizer's work and the Coalition for Essential Schools. I'm intrigued by John Krumboltz's bias against grades. I believe in andragogy, not pedagogy.

About roles: I'm old school. I like the notion of the triple threat. I can't imagine working in a school community and not teaching at least one class & having residential responsibilities. And, I enjoy the interaction with students on the playing fields, in the theatre, or around the yearbook layout table.

Finally, selfishly, I want to maintain the same basic standard of living I have now: no commute, family time, and a decent wage. I certainly don't expect to make anywhere near what I make now (I'm a GS-12 with the feds), but I certainly expect to be remunerated appropriate to my professional experience (6 years teaching and 16 years of consulting, leadership, writing , training, and management experience) and education (B.A., M.Ed., M.A., and a nearly-in-hand Ed.D.).

I'm not asking for much, am I? ;-)

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