Our campus was buzzing more than usual last month when over 150 educators from across the U.S. and Canada came to Catlin Gabel to take part in the Independent Schools Experiential Education Network (ISEEN) conference.
Welcome to my blog, a way to present ideas, reflections, and observations with the school community and beyond. I blog on a regular basis, commenting on a thought-provoking experience, a significant development in education, and news of student and teacher work here at Catlin Gabel. My goal is to make you think, provoke a reaction, elicit diverse points of view, and affirm your faith in our school's mission. I hope you'll share with me and other readers any reactions you may have to my posts.
State championship games are a big deal. Everyone likes to win. But the question is at what cost? At Catlin Gabel, we believe that doing what’s right is even more important.
One of my favorite moments at Catlin Gabel is when students, teachers and staff from all over campus come together as a community to reflect on our values and share aspirations for the year ahead. This was the scene last week as we gathered in Schauff Circle for our fall all-school assembly.
Every September, students, teachers, and staff members gather in Schauff Circle to kick off the beginning of another school year, full of hope and humor, happy to see each other and to get started.
Catlin Gabel students take math seriously – and do well. While standardized measures are inherently flawed, outcomes here are impressive. Our students scored in the top quartile on the SAT and ACT math sections compared to students in 38 independent schools in last year’s nationwide INDEX benchmark report.
One of our two strategic plan goals is to be an education laboratory, in which our teachers are inspired to do their best work and to pursue new ways of teaching and learning that benefit their students.
On a recent sunny morning in Schauff Circle, students and teachers kicked off the school year with song, laughter, and not one, but two Eagle mascots. Inspired by my predecessor Lark Palma’s annual reminder to “take risks,” I challenged students and adults to be fearless. We all fear failure and the judgment of others, and it’s tempting to avoid change.
Last month, I attended a heads of school meeting at a national conference in Baltimore. Around the table sat school leaders from almost every state. When the conversation turned to how national political events are affecting our schools, I was struck by how many schools are struggling to stand up for their school values in response to incidents of prejudice, and be places where diverse points of view and voices are truly valued.
In 1892, ten college presidents, high school principals, and headmasters met to standardize education for students intending to attend college. The goal of the “Committee of Ten” was to democratize education for America’s growing immigrant population and to provide a trained work force for the world’s dominant industrial nation.
What’s the point of learning a second language? There are many answers, including developing neural pathways, expanding communication skills, understanding a different culture, enhancing learning in other subjects, and learning geography. Being proficient in a second language connects us to other people and experiences that deepen our understanding of the world.
Facing an ever-more unpredictable future, our students not only need a solid academic foundation; they need the skills and habits of mind which will equip them to ask insightful questions, analyze information, think creatively, communicate in compelling ways, and work with all kinds of people.
One of the reasons I joined Catlin Gabel School last year was the opportunity to build on the work of previous years in the areas of diversity and inclusion. In 2013-14 we conducted the Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism (AIM), which helped us to set goals related to leadership, community, employment, and professional development.
At this significant moment in the life of our successful school, we have a choice to make. We can let fast followers catch up to us, or we can leverage our progressive history, our commitment to inquiry and experience, and our independence, to reimagine how we can be even better
Progressive educators John Dewey and Ruth Catlin believed that the best learning happens through experience, an interaction between an individual and the environment. In schools, the interaction and environment are designed by the teacher, who selects materials, methods, subject matter, and surroundings that will engage students and inspire them to learn.
Last year, as a new head of school, I asked the school community how we define success. I was heartened to hear that people at Catlin Gabel understand we must use a variety of measures to answer that question. Assessing the success of our school requires us to think in three dimensions.
My predecessors at Catlin Gabel School had the vision and courage to ask teachers to dream big. And they do – with energy and purpose. The result is a school that is successful by any measure: student and faculty achievements, college success, alumni lives, enrollment, and fundraising.
The first week of school is exciting at Catlin Gabel. Children arrive full of energy (and some anxiety); parents and guardians beam as they cross the campus; and teachers wait eagerly in well-prepared classrooms. Familiar rituals of setting expectations and explaining schedules signal the next school chapter has begun.
At Catlin Gabel, we value academic excellence and a life of the mind. It would be a narrow education, however, if that was our only focus. Donning the blue and white uniform of a Catlin Gabel Eagle and taking to the field (or the court, track, pool, course, or mountain) is an important learning experience for all students.
Finding time for professional reading can be a challenge. I consider it a priority, however, because as extraordinary as the learning experience is at Catlin Gabel, the world keeps changing and we need to keep learning.
As a progressive school, we believe that children learn by doing. When children employ their minds, bodies, emotions, and social skills to understand a new concept or experience, they are fully engaged.
On Saturday I joined over 300 parents, colleagues, and friends of Catlin Gabel at our annual auction, held this year at the Portland Art Museum. It was a festive gathering, focused on fundraising for the school’s financial aid program, which currently supports 27% of the student body and accounts for $3.5 million or 19% of our total budget.
Every moment of a Catlin Gabel education has value. Together those moments form a remarkable journey of self-discovery and mastery, which itself is an end as much as a means. Still, the journey does lead somewhere. Every year our seniors head to college, after navigating an admission process both revealing and challenging.
What is the future of education? What trends, tools, and concepts will challenge traditional notions of teaching and learning? Last Saturday, academically trained futurist Garry Golden led the board of trustees and administrative team in a compelling discussion of what might lie ahead—and what that might mean to Catlin Gabel.
Last week I joined eight students and five colleagues from Catlin Gabel in a memorable journey to Indianapolis. Along with 3,600 adults and teenagers, we attended the 28th annual People of Color Conference, held by the National Association of Independent Schools. The event aims to create a safe and inclusive gathering where educators of color and white allies can leverage racial, ethnic, and cultural differences for educational excellence in our schools.
I felt very fortunate to be at the Open House student panel last month. Over thirty minutes, I listened with pride as Catlin Gabel seniors interacted with the audience of hopeful and attentive prospective families. The questions touched on school culture, courses, friendships, time management, extracurricular interests, and college.