Learn, Lead and Serve – Without Frontiers

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by Denise Lamarche, Director of Academics

As I sit on the plane returning from the Learning Without Frontiers 2012 conference in London, this seems like an excellent opportunity to write my first blog post. I am inspired and excited for the innovative educational directions in which our school is heading. Since September, I have been thrilled to discover the initiatives around teaching and learning that our faculty pursue in all three of our schools. If you’re a regular reader of the SMUS Review, you will agree with me that the opportunities for enrichment and new experiences are abundant. The engagement and success of our faculty and students invigorates me.

“I’ve seen that this is the norm at SMUS – students and faculty engaged and creative, deepening connections.”

The themes of this conference resonated with me, as they are themes that our own management team and faculty have been working on: innovation, creativity and collaboration in education are critical and are the foundation of all our initiatives.

My inspiration from this conference does not come from newly discovered ideas or theories that were presented, but from the affirmation that the focus, reflection and dialogue we have been having this year on several topics is of utmost importance. I’m thrilled we are able to explore excellence in teaching and learning, integrating technology as a tool in our teaching, increased collaboration between faculty, students, and parents, personalized learning, and creativity.

Noam Chomsky, when talking about the purpose of education, stated that the topic or material is not what comprises the essence of learning; rather it is about what will be discovered in that material, what will be deepened and what connections students will make so that what their learning becomes meaningful to them.

I’ve seen that this is the norm at SMUS – students and faculty engaged and creative, deepening connections. They not only cover what they are learning, but they discover more about what they are learning. They have opportunities to reflect on their learning.

I had the opportunity to hear from several thought-provoking speakers over the few days including Sir Ken Robinson, VP of Microsoft Education Anthony Salcito and Director of the MIT Media Laboratory Mitch Resnick. Charles Leadbeater compared innovation in education to the philosophy adopted by the Barcelona football team: If we want to continue to excel and adapt in our educational directions, we need to “play” like they do: move, pass, and connect always!

“Learning is social by nature and teachers must create classroom activities that reflect this.”

Creativity in teaching and learning is critical, according to Jacob Kragh, President of LEGO Education. Creative leadership is about allowing students to think about the learning they are doing. Learning is social by nature and teachers must create classroom activities that reflect this. I see this happening at SMUS on a regular basis in our classrooms, in our gymnasiums, and in our libraries. I also see students who are quite engaged with their learning – collaborating with faculty and peers.

Many of us have been to conferences and events from which we’ve left ignited by ideas and visions of possibility; yet once we return to the workplace and to the routine of daily life, we put them on a shelf. I can confidently say this is not the case here in seat 24B! I feel that we are at an exciting time at SMUS with the new strategic plan being finalized, with the dedication of our faculty and management to examine the quality and excellence of our programs and our insatiable desire to be a leading 21st century school.

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