It isn’t original, but sometimes it can be repeated usefully: the future is now. We are currently undertaking a review of the School’s strategic plan, identifying priorities that will continue the evolution of SMUS. Such a process requires us to fit into our schedules the time to survey our constituencies (we conducted a Parent Survey last June; we are conducting an Alumni Survey this spring); the time to consider what the important currents are in education and in the world for which we have to prepare our students; and the time to decide how we both preserve the legacy we have inherited and fulfill the vision that will be our legacy to those who come next. In the last iteration of the strategic plan, for instance, we emphasized the importance of a deliberate global perspective, of pursuing teaching excellence, and of making the school financially sturdy. In the learning sphere, we emphasized meeting the needs of all learners, signalling a change that instead of carving a path around the talents of the “best and brightest” carved a path that believed that all learners in the school were capable of achievements they (and we) didn’t even know were possible. We did this through differentiation in the classroom, a collaborative learning environment, and adopting the most effective assessment practices. Our discussions of the strategic plan so far indicate that our future path will be a smooth evolution, that students and parents can be reassured that while the school will move into the future with energy and forethought, it will still be very recognizably the same school. On a related note, I am always impressed by the way our alumni – who go back a lot further into the past than even our most longstanding parents – still feel an identity and affinity with the School, because of its continued commitment to pursuing academic success in an environment where the character and self also grow.
But where is education going? In the previous paragraph, I mentioned some of the specific areas of emphasis from a five years ago, areas that we educators on the staff identified as a result of our research, experience, and observation of effective practice in other schools we admire. Some of you will know of the TED Talks – a series of talks, available on YouTube, which try to communicate in a nutshell some of the most important ideas of our time. One of the most influential speakers on education in the world these days, Sir Ken Robinson, has produced a notable TED Talk on creativity in education. Here is another of his talks, produced by RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) : His thoughts and ideas aren’t exactly new – some of these ideas, such as the abandonment of the “industrial” model of schooling, have been around for at least a couple of decades. But he does manage to put all these ideas together in a way that bridges the gap between the somewhat rarefied atmosphere of academic research and the more pertinent impact of this research on life outside the school’s walls. The talk is diverting and easy, and is about ten minutes long. I believe you will see its themes woven into our work at SMUS.
We care very much about who are students are, and we care as much about who they will become.