Superintendent Lisa Brady's Blog
Lisa Brady Ed.D. is Superintendent of the Dobbs Ferry School District. She is passionate about teaching, learning and shifting the culture in schools. Her blog, Inquiring Minds, looks at 21st Century learners and how to create "Independent Thinkers Prepared to Change The World."
There is nothing like a good, old fashioned book chat to remind you that we live in the best community anywhere.
Over the past two weeks, I have been meeting with Dobbs Ferry parents in neighborhood homes to discuss Originals - How Nonconformists Move the World by Adam Grant. What a great experience!
Thank you to our gracious hosts and to those who will be hosting the upcoming chats. I am also grateful for our parents and community members who have come out to share their thinking and insights. We have talked about creative destruction, leadership themes, strategic procrastination, birth order and siblings, speaking truth to power and lots of other ideas about how we can create the conditions that we want and value in our schools.
Each book chat is rich and unique because of the participants' perspectives. I find this fascinating and exhilarating. I am hoping that even more parents and community members choose to engage with me as we discuss the themes in the text. If you can’t find the time to read ….. Watch the TED Talk or read the New York Times Op Ed piece.
You can sign up on the PTSA website at http://signup.com/go/ZB3QZH
But most important …….. Let’s talk.
I think it is safe to say that most of us admire creativity?
Although I am not one to spend a lot of time at events such as craft fairs, when I do have a chance to meander through one, I can hardly believe how clever some people are. I am amazed at the things that some people think of.
Does it start me thinking about originality and how we can create the conditions that support innovative ideas and independent thinking in schools? You bet.
In January, the Dobbs Ferry Schools’ Board of Education will be hosting a book chat with our parents and community to discuss Adam Grant’s new book, Originals - How Non-Conformists Move the World.
Grant wrote an interesting essay in the New York Times Sunday Review last year, How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off In his essay, he notes that “Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world. We assume that they must lack the social and emotional skills to function in society. When you look at the evidence, though, this explanation doesn’t suffice: Less than a quarter of gifted children suffer from social and emotional problems. A vast majority are well adjusted — as winning at a cocktail party as in the spelling bee.
What holds them back is that they don’t learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.”
Getting back to the craft fair, it makes me wonder …… what if all kids ever learn or value in school is how to “follow the directions” or “follow the recipe?” That crafts fair would be pretty homogenous and boring.
I hear too many students asking questions like …. Is this going to be on the test? Or “What do I need to do to get an “A”? These queries should disturb teachers and disturb parents. And for the record, parents need to stop asking these questions too.
A “perspective” shift is in order in our schools. Societally, non-conformists are the “thorn in our sides” …. the people who ask the annoying questions …. the rule breakers … those who are “marching to their own drum.” They are often the students who are the most imaginative and inventive.
In Dobbs Ferry, our vision is to create “Independent thinkers prepared to change the world.” Let’s understand the intersection of non-conformity with independent thinking so that we create and support more kids prepared to change the world.
I am ruminating over a powerful blog post by my friend and colleague Will Richardson entitled Our Uncertain Moment.
And because I have a propensity for living “in the moment,” this blog pokes at me and disturbs me. This is a good thing. I actually relish being disturbed. My favorite essay of all time is Margaret Wheatley’s piece, Willing to Be Disturbed.
Will’s blog links to a post by Ziauddin Sardar who has been writing for the past six years about what he calls “postnormal times.” Sardar is the Director of the Centre of Postnormal Policy and Future Studies, East West Chicago and the editor of its journal East West Affairs. His work really captures the disconcerting nature of our current reality and should challenge school leaders everywhere.
He writes that all that was ‘normal’ has now evaporated; we have entered postnormal times, that in between period where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have not yet emerged, and nothing really seems to make sense. To have any notion of a viable future, we must grasp the significance of this period of transition which is characterized by three c’s: complexity, chaos and contradictions.”
We live in an in-between period where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have yet to be born, and very few things seem to make sense. Ours is a transitional age, a time without the confidence that we can return to any past we have known and with no confidence in any path to a desirable, attainable or sustainable future.
Do you find this disturbing? Do you find it disturbing because we know this to be true but continue responding so impotently?
I feel responsible as a school leader to tackle this. To find others who share my urgency about creating the conditions for learning that will help our kids cross between where we are now and where we need to go.