Dear ESHA Friends,
It's a brand new year, one that will hopefully be extremely fulfilling for you and your schools. I was thinking that in your work, the calendar year flipflops the school year since you start 2017 with the second half of the game before you begin another first half in August ot September. Now you're able to make any half-time adjustments that are appropriate so that your team can finish well. I send you my applause and encouragement for both what you've accomplished in the first part of the annual contest and for what you plan in order to seal the victory in the second half. Go, ESHA Heads!
From ESHA President Muddy Waters
Dear ESHA Colleagues,
Welcome to 2017. It is always a strange feeling at this time of year as the scale tilts to spending as much time talking about next year as we do about the current year that in some ways feels like it just began. I hope the winter break gave you the time to rest and recharge that we all need. I look forward to seeing many of you at our annual ESHA dinner at the Calvert School during NAIS in Baltimore. While we do find many ways to connect electronically during the year, I am increasingly aware of the importance of face to face connections. Hope to see you there!
ESHA's Executive Committee members, who act as our Board, were elected at our Annual Meeting in October in Woodstock. Here they are!
Take a look at these items of note:
1. From Dave Michelman of The Duke School, NC
WAR ON INFORMATION
I was meeting with a group of Head of Schools recently when one mentioned that as a culture we have transformed from wars of information to a war on information. As a result, it is no longer enough to teach students how to use information to reach conclusions, we now have to teach them how to determine what is credible information. We are in the midst of an era where information—fact—is becoming increasingly difficult to determine and often considered unimportant. In 2005, Stephen Colbert described this phenomenon with his brilliant coining of the word “truthiness.” The bourgeoning issue captured by Colbert is more relevant today. The epidemic of “fake news” may or may not have affected the election, but it certainly inspired the shooting at Comet Ping Pong pizzeria. False information also comes in through e-mail scams and is inserted into many debates at all levels of discourse. For instance, the president-elect claimed that the popular vote count was rigged with no factual basis and is demeaning data collected by intelligence agencies about Russian election hacking.
As “truthiness” becomes more prevalent, schools have two new curricular imperatives: (1) ensure that our students know that good arguments are steeped in facts and (2) ensure that our students can discern fact from fiction.
The first of these imperatives would have seemed absurd just a few years ago. Clearly, arguments must depend on facts; however, such a case may not be obvious. Science may be the best way to reassert facts’ primacy. For instance, predicting a dropped ball will hover in the air and hoping for it to do so is a fool’s errand. The ball will drop. Combining baking soda and vinegar always causes a bubbly reaction (that will make a papermâché mountain look like a volcano). In science, there is no doubt about facts and students should be taught to use them to interrupt the world. Once students understand the permanence of scientific facts, we can then help them understand that equally unassailable facts exist in other disciplines. The world is round, George Washington was the first president of the United States, and 2+2 = 4 (at least in base ten). In all disciplines we ignore basic facts at our own risk.
We must then teach our students how to argue based on facts, not on biases or wishes. We must teach them to listen carefully to the other side and try to understand how they are drawing conclusions. If they are based on facts, can those facts be re-interpreted? If so, what is the most realistic way? What are the most logical conclusions? If the advocate bases an argument on fallacies, the argument is not worth pursuing.
We also must help our students distinguish between facts and falsehoods parading as facts. In other words, we must teach students to be critical consumers of information. Students must be able to check sources for veracity. They must be able to understand the agenda of the speaker, author or producer of the work and they must be able to ascertain the truth of the underlying facts. These skills are not instinctive; they must be taught and modeled. Further, as the producers of fake news and fake other things become more sophisticated, our students’ ability to ferret out fact from fiction becomes more important and more difficult to do.
At its base, the need to be even a more critical consumer of facts is somewhat ironic. It was claimed that the Internet would obviate the need for experts; all knowledge would be available to all. Instead, the Internet has provided an avenue for charlatans and frauds to confuse fact and fiction. For the country to thrive, our students and other citizens must be able to distinguish between the two.
2. From Aaron Cooper of Elisabeth Morrow School, NJ
I have long thought that a great advantage of the K-8 (or similar) school is that the middle schoolers have access to genuine leadership positions (admissions ambassadors, yearbook editors, etc.) that they do not in a K-12 environment. Further, given that many of our schools have character education and community as core values, tenets of leadership are often learned by osmosis.
So, with that in mind, we decided to "double down" on the already-fertile leadership ground we have here by formally teaching theories of leadership. Three of our middle school folks have taken the lead on this, focusing on leadership from a standpoint of self-knowledge and empathy. We all see it already becoming a signature program that may be the differentiator we envisioned.
3. And from Emily Smith of The Branch Scool, TX:
I'd like to share this article which I think affirms why we are committed to the focus of ESHA - excerpt and link below:
"...ACT research from 2008 also found that a student’s academic achievement by 8th grade has more influence on his or her college readiness than anything that happens in high school. In other words, effective preparation starts before a student’s teenage years."
ESHA Is Delighted to Welcome Our New Member
2017 ANNUAL DINNER
We know from surveys and from our recent Woodstock Retreat feedback that the collegial relations of our heads of schools and their partners and spouses are of paramount importance to ESHA members. Our upcoming Annual Dinner, held in conjunction with the NAIS Conference, is the best opportunity – after our October retreats – to enjoy a festive meal together, visit a member school, and most of all, to enjoy one another’s company. We are better heads of schools when we know, share, and therefore trust in our colleagues. ESHA, your organization that focuses on elementary education, supports this enduring goal.
This year, the ESHA dinner will be hosted by Andrew Holmgren at the Calvert School in Baltimore, MD. Registration is now open. Please register using the link above.
The dinner is also an opportunity to introduce non-member heads to ESHA, so you are encouraged to invite other K-8 leaders to the dinner to learn more about our focused organization. In addition, we ask you to consider sponsoring a potential ESHA member at the Baltimore dinner – whether a guest of yours or not - by purchasing an extra seat for the evening to help cover the costs for our non-member invitees.
What: ESHA Annual Dinner for heads, spouses and partners, and guests. An ESHA member does NOT need to be a member of NAIS to attend.
Where: Calvert School, 4300 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD.
When: Wednesday, March 1, 2017; 6:00-8:00 p.m. (cocktails and dinner)
Cost: $100 per person, payable to the Elementary School Heads Association.
2017 Annual Retreat
Donna Orem, President of NAIS, will deliver the keynote speech on leadership at the October Retreat.