NAIS

Thursday and Friday I was at NAIS (the National Association of Independent Schools) conference. This was only my second time at this conference, both times I’ve presented.  I drove with my colleagues about 6 hours there and back.  It was actually great to have them in the car with me.  We talked about everything.  We talked shop, families, politics.  It was great.

The theme of the of the conference was the  Design Revolution, so there were lots of sessions related to change, making, design thinking, all things right up my alley.  I went to two Design Thinking sessions.  I have been hearing about and reading about Design thinking for a while.  I think I first heard about it at educon a few years ago.  Two of my colleagues went to the Design Thinking Institute in California last year, and so I’ve heard a lot about it from them.  I also use a similar approach in many of my classes.  It’s not a new idea really, but applying it to education is new-ish.  It’s a really intriguing approach and the goal of it is to arrive at creative and solid solutions to problems.  I’m looking forward to using this approach in other areas.

The opening general session was by John Maeda, former president of RISD and former MIT Media Lab member.  I saw him at MakerFaire two years ago, and loved his presentation.  This one was also awesome.  It was a version of this talk:

I’m a creative person.  I got into this whole tech thing via creative writing and then web design.  I’m not so great at visual design the way Maeda is, but I think creatively.  And on the tech side, I like solving puzzles and making connections.  So I love the way Maeda connected design and creativity to leadership.  Having been in a few leadership roles, I often struggle with how to lead.  I’m not particularly authoritarian.  I like hearing ideas from others, and this approach didn’t seem to fit with what a traditional leader is supposed to be.  But Maeda is no traditional leader, and he made it clear that creative people can and do make good leaders; they just do it differently.  That was refreshing to hear.  He has a whole book, Creative Leadership, about it, which yes, I’ve purchased and will be reading.  My colleagues and I talked about Maeda’s talk over and over again throughout the conference.  It was a great way to begin.

I also hopped over to Harvard to see an old high school friend whom I haven’t seen in 25 years.  He’s a CS professor, so we got to talk shop and talk about our childhoods.  Bonus.  It was such a fun thing to do, and it was frankly, one of the highlights of the whole trip.  It was just nice to see an old friend, get out of the hotel for a bit, and pick someone’s brain who’s really smart.  I love intelligent conversation.

And I met up with an old friend from another Independent School, which was really fun.  We haven’t seen each other since our college English teaching days when we were both at a higher ed conference. So that was fun to be in our new context and talk about how things were going.  Back when I was first considering making the leap to Independent School teaching from higher ed, she was really helpful in shaping my resume and giving me advice.  It was truly great to catch up.

The presentation I gave, with 4 of my colleagues, toward the end of the conference, had about 100 or so attendees, so very good.  I opened the first 5 minutes and then turned it over to my two department members who do the meat of the work.  I think I’m about to become that person, the mentor/leader, who helps their younger colleagues with their careers and connects their younger colleagues to others.  I’ve been doing that for students for years, but I’m old enough and experienced enough now that I’m starting to be able to do it for colleagues, which, let me tell you, feels really weird.

So, I got inspired by a lot of the conversations, both those related to the conference presentation and just with friends.  I feel like I’m ready to tackle my work again on Monday with new vigor and new ideas.  And that is awesome!!