At this fall’s CAIS Heads and Chairs conference, I had the opportunity to discuss issues of common interest with school leaders from across the country. There were the perennial keynote speeches and breakout sessions featured at many national professional conferences. Lots of food for thought, lots of sharing, lots of divergent thinking and some commiseration. As is often the case, however, it is not in the formal sessions that the most insight is gained. Sometimes it happens in short conversations with thoughtful people.
A fellow Head of School and I got chatting in the airport as we were awaiting our flights home. We were sharing stories of the successes and challenges of life in schools. As we discussed issues of school climate and culture, I shared with him that one of biggest compliments I ever received was from a former student and her father who told me that I “understood how a school should feel”. In response, my friend recommended a book to me – The Power of Moments by authors and brothers Chip and Dan Heath.
When I returned from the conference, I purchased a copy of their book and have been reading and re-reading several sections over the past month. The thesis of the book is essentially that, while people’s lives are endlessly variable, the most memorable moments are dominated by four common elements – elevation, insight, pride, and connection. Reflecting on these themes, I was struck by how closely they mirror my own feeling about what school priorities should be.
Consider this. Have you ever had an experience as a student that remained with you for years? Perhaps a word of encouragement (elevation) from a respected teacher or a careless comment from one who was tired or distracted? I am sure we have all experienced such “moments” that, in some cases, ended up making a lasting impact. We can experience them as children or adults – and they can become defining for us long into the future.
As teachers, of all the ways we create “moments” that elevate and engage our students, the simplest way is to connect on a personal level and offer recognition (pride).
When working with other human beings, the task of making moments matter (insight) often depends on compassion and spontaneity (connection). Amid the routines of school life, it is easy to forget experiences of monotony if they are broken up by moments of brightness.
At Matthews Hall, we work hard to create defining moments for our students – meaningful experiences that stand out in their memories. If our lives are measured in defining moments, then our defining moments should be the ones that endure. And let’s hope there are many of them throughout the elementary school years!
Ric Anderson, Head of School