A few final thoughts from the NAIS Annual Conference.
- As a white man, I was challenged to think from the perspective of the other through Onaje X. O. Woodbine’s talk about race and Jennifer Bryan’s talk on Gender and Sexuality Diversity in Pre-K-12.
- Sir Ken Robinson provided a definition of a personalized, child centered education: At its core, education is about the relationship between teacher and student. This relationship is the core of empowering learners. I was also pushed on the personalized learning and disruptive innovation front by Ryan Aldrich and Mark Kushner from Tahoe Expedition Academy (CA); Michael Horn from the Christensen Institute; and Colleen Broderick from AltSchool.
- Connections: NAIS is about connecting with old colleagues and meeting new ones. I was able to reconnect with a few mentors who taught me to be a better teacher, administrator, and parent and to thank them for their support and caring through the years. I also took time to make new connections with innovative educators to help push me as a leader and learner. Lastly, I worked on creating mentorship relationships with developing teachers and leaders in schools.
Pushing myself — Deepening my understanding of the other — And connecting to reflect on my past and where I’m going to challenge myself in the future. These were the themes of my learning during the NAIS Annual Conference.
What did you learn?
This morning, Onaje X.O. Woodbine, a philosophy and religious studies teacher at Phillips Academy and the author of Black Gods of the Asphalt spoke about his experience of being a black basketball player at Yale and deciding to leave the team to concentrate on his studies. He read the letter his coach wrote to him after he left which accused him of ruining opportunities for other black athletes in the future. This type of generalizing one black man’s actions on all black men is racism at play and many white people are not even conscious of it. There were a number of other explicitly racist comments in the letter. It was demoralizing.
Onaje then spoke about his study of basketball in the Boston neighborhood where he grew up. He described the flow state and the safety that black men found when on the basketball court. He shared stories of how basketball tournaments were named after so many young men who were killed, and the impact of this trauma. He had two performers act out vignettes from his book.
He ended the talk with a few powerful quotes:
- The pedagogical imperative of school: we must provide the most truthful portrait of reality
Black students are not muscle and flesh. They are stories and they want their stories to be told
‘We got next’ to do the work of discovery and racial healing
‘We got next’ to take down the artificial boundaries that prevent racial healing
If you identify as white and are angry or frustrated with this post, I encourage you to do some reading. Check out this post. We are a country that has a deep history of oppression and brutality against black and brown people and we must own that history to begin to heal this divide.
Thanks NAIS for a great opening speaker who challenged the audience to feel the terror of black youth live with each day.
What did you take away from this talk?
The NAIS Annual Conference 2017 is in Baltimore, MD and the theme is: Make Your Mission Matter: From Vision to Values
. With 6000 participants, NAIS pulls big keynote speakers and great presenters from around the world. My recommendation is to attend all of the keynotes which include Onaje X.O. Woodbine, Susan Cain, Sir Ken Robinson and Brene Brown. There are so many sessions to choose from. I encourage you decide what your learning goals for the conference are and then take a look at the program
Connecting with people: For me, one of the most important parts of conference going is to connect with old friends and make new ones. Here are a few ways to do that at the #NAISAC 2017:
- Wednesday, 3/1 at 5:00pm: First time at the conference? Attend the First-Time Attendees Reception
- Thursday, 3/2 from 4:30 – 6:00: Welcome Reception in the NAIS Expo
- In the Expo Hall, stop by the NAIS Makerspace or the NAIS Learning Lab to find colleagues or take a break.
- Twitter: Follow the hashtag: #NAISAC to see what people are saying.
How do you navigate the NAIS Annual Conference? Add your ideas in the comments below.
Looking forward to seeing you at NAIS AC 2017!