Personalization: variations on a theme

SMUS-Views-Bob

In one of the first concerts I attended as Head of SMUS, our accomplished orchestra performed a challenging piece – and one of my favorites – Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, composed by Ralph Vaughn Williams. I use this departure point today for reasons that will come clearer, I hope, but also because I am still feeling somewhat transported by our Concert Band ensembles who performed so brilliantly at the University of Victoria last night. There are so many events happening at SMUS that every one of us does in fact miss the “event that was not to be missed.” This concert last night was one of those. The theme of personalization will inspire many variations in the world of schools.

Last week in the CAIS weekly “Top 12” the SMUS musings on personalization appeared as one of their features. In the preamble they used a comment of mine, that every school needs to have its own conversation about personalization. It is only natural that independent schools will have independent approaches to this new fold in the origami of learning.
If you have read any of my previous blog entries (and I repeatedly say I am surprised to learn that anyone has read one of my posts – honestly: on a Friday afternoon or evening, how can I compete?), you will know that we are encouraging this conversation at SMUS. By encouraging our multiple voices, the SMUS path will be an organic one. The experience of many of us is that a model imposed from the outside is fraught with obstacles and misunderstandings. While we must avidly seek the best that is happening in the wider world of education, and examine what we do in its light, when we finally build our own structure it has to be with our own hands.

In important ways, our focus on the moment is on the questions and topics that are emerging from our dialogue. Is there a tension between the pursuit of excellence (the word that defines our School) and the pressures of personalization? At SMUS we educate the whole student; personalization has to be about the whole student also. With our committed focus on learning excellence, we have to remain committed to our healthy and robust exploration of excellent teaching. And of course, with all this talk of excellence we remind ourselves: excellence is not a one-time thing; it is a practice, a habit – it is something we continually do.
On an early Friday morning, as the halls of School House start to spill over with the sounds of students bursting its seams, the day could not be sunnier.

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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden is Head of School at St. Michaels University School.

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