by Susanna A. Jones, Head of School
On Thursday, we celebrated Holton's birthday, already one of my favorite days of the year. I love watching the girls let loose and dance their hearts out at lunch - the best part is seeing the seniors bobbing away with the lower schoolers. Such unbridled joy is a gift.
Holton's birthday gives an opportunity not only to dance and eat cupcakes, worthy pursuits though those may be, but also to pause and honor Mrs. Holton and Miss Arms' legacy.
Friday's Professional Day provided just that opportunity. As you may know, we embarked last spring on a comprehensive 3-12 curriculum review and, this year, we have devoted our professional days to this endeavor. Guiding our work is the question: How do we best educate our students for the 21st century?
As part of this process, we invited four university professors to serve on a Friday morning panel to explore our guiding question. We heard from Rick Moog, Professor of Chemistry at Franklin and Marshall College, Project Coordinator for the Middle Atlantic Discovery Chemistry Project (MADCP) and Principal Investigator and Project Coordinator for the NSF-funded POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) Project; Tim Parsons, Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of History at Washington University in St. Louis; Jenise View, Assistant Professor of Educational Transformation in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University; and Bob Bies (P'10), Professor of Management and Founder of the Executive Masters in Leadership Program at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. They emphasized the need for integrated learning, community based learning, the development of a global perspective and action oriented skills while they urged us to consider carefully the relative value of content versus process. Their comments, observations and suggestions as well as the dialogue that developed with the faculty provided just the provocation we had hoped for. One veteran teacher told me it was the best professional day ever.
So you may ask, what does all this have to do with Holton's birthday and Mrs. Holton's legacy? Every one of the four professors commented independently on how impressed he or she was that we had embarked on this curriculum review, and virtually every one expressed a wish that his institution would do the same. Implicit in their compliment was admiration that we, as an academic community, were willing to examine ourselves in this way: to ask difficult questions and see how we measured up. In every case, my response was that Holton's culture embraces a willingness to consider change, a characteristic unusual in an academic institution (academic institutions are notorious for their resistance to change - as Professor Bies said, change occurs at Georgetown at two speeds: glacial or not at all). We owe that characteristic to Mrs. Holton and her successors who always ensured that Holton girls were receiving the best education that current thinking offered. It is to this characteristic - above all others in my opinion - that we can attribute the excellence that has always defined Holton and which our curriculum review aims to perpetuate well into the future. This is Mrs. Holton's most important legacy.
Happy Birthday, Holton, and many happy returns!
Note: As part of this process, we've created a draft list of skills and habits of minds necessary for the 21st century. We'd love your thoughts on what you think those skills or habits of mind might be. If you're interested in following along in this work, the following are some of the resources we've delved into so far:
- Daniel Pink's, A Whole New Mind, http://www.nais.org/files/PowerPoint/RightBrainedFuture.ppt
- Tom Friedman's, The World is Flat,
- "Tough Choices or Tough Times" (The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce),
- "College Learning for the New Global Century" (The National Leadership Council for Liberal Education & America's Promise),
- "The Intellectual and Policy Foundations of the 21st Century Skills Framework,"
- Plus, additional books such as Ken Robinson's Out of Our Minds, Ted and Nancy Sizer's The Students Are Watching, and Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, and Michael B. Horn
- A powerpoint on "right-brained schools" created by Pat Bassett, the Executive Director of the National Association of Independent Schools (you can find this powerpoint on the NAIS website: http://www.nais.org/files/PowerPoint/RightBrainedFuture.ppt)
Read more about Holton's curricular review in "Holton Faculty begins process of Curriculum Review" by Curriculum Coordinator, Dena Greene.