To lead is to learn


robcarter2012's Blog

beautiful lake

It is important in any leadership role to be able to step back and press “pause” for a moment to stop, think and be willing to learn and grow. For me an important way to do this is by our annual trip to Birmingham for what was the NCTL conference called “Seizing Success”. Over the last few years it had gradually become more mixed in the quality of speakers and also less likely to offer any independent thought as the NCTL became an executive arm of the DfE, of course we all know you have to evolve to survive! This year it was led and organised by CfBT, ASCL and NAHT and what a breath of fresh air it was as we had the theme “Inspiring Leadership“. The five essential steps for me are easy to define…

  1. Ensure a broad range of independent thinking and challenging speakers to talk…

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First Day Advice

Getting ready for today’s first day of school, I came across a great column by Kate Carraway in the Globe and Mail. Written as an open letter to her niece as she begins middle school, the column features plenty of good advice, including “try really, really hard in school” and “don’t worry about whether or not a boy likes you.”

It inspired me to write a letter to my own daughters, who now are well past middle-school age, no matter how closely I remember those days. Our youngest daughter moved into her freshman dorm last weekend, joining her sister at the University of Waterloo, and our eldest has begun her teacher training at Queen’s University. I hope they’ll be able to look at my letter every once in a while and remember that their dad and I are just a Skype call or FaceTime or text message away.

I loved the wisdom of Kate’s letter and I think much of the advice is applicable for all ages and stages: relationships matter; be kind and do your best; and remember you are exactly who you were meant to be.

Wisdom For New Teachers

As I’m sitting in my office, writing to our new teachers in anticipation of our Teachers Institute this month, I thought of Peter Gow’s lovely blog post, “A Letter to New Teachers.”

Peter’s wise words are reminders for us all — parents and teachers new and veteran (I almost typed “old”) — that we are in this together, for the kids.

Have a read! Teachers new and old will benefit from his wisdom.

This year, Morgan Park Academy is celebrating its 140th anniversary, and as Peter suggested to the new teachers, I went back and reviewed what was in the hearts and minds of our founders when they founded our school. Despite the years, the Academy is still aspiring to help its students then as now live up to being the best they were meant to be, to think critically for themselves, take care of others and the planet.

Service Leaders


As teachers and as parents, we take pride in helping our children mature into thoughtful and caring global citizens, engaged with the world around them and eager to help others whenever and however they can.

It’s especially great to get unsolicited testimonials from other people about our students, as was the case with our recent Service Day and Global Experiential Week activities.

Sophomores in Ms. Berkey, Ms. Concannon, Ms. Drown, and Mr. Lee’s advisory groups worked as teacher assistants at Burr Oak Academy in Calumet Park on Service Day. They cleaned the playgrounds and tutored Kindergarten through 5th grade students in math, reading, Mandarin, Spanish, physical education, and bilingual education.

“I commend you for the manner in which your students interacted with our students,” Burr Oak’s principal wrote. “Morgan Park Academy’s mission statement states that the Academy ‘prepares the global leader of tomorrow to make a positive difference in the world.’ Today, thirty-three of your students reflected your school’s mission and made a difference for 840 students.”

Mr. Kowalsky and Ms. Danielewicz’s juniors picked up litter in the Kickapoo Woods that day.

A park visitor who met the group emailed us to express his gratitude for their service, calling them “excellent examples of engaged young people.”

And perhaps most heartwarmingly, we heard from a mom who met our fifth-graders at the International Youth Hostel during Global Learners Week. She said our students (pictured above) were warm hosts for her and her young daughter, welcoming them to join them for dinner and games.

“It was really a lot of fun to be around such great children who were insightful, funny and just overall great kids,” she wrote. “It was a wonderful way for me and my daughter to spend a great evening.”

Green 2.0


As spring blooms here on campus, I was excited to see our students and faculty embrace our core global values of service and environmental sustainability during our Earth Day and Service Day activities last week. Director of Sustainability Sarah Haskins, Director of Service Learning Jim Kowalsky, and all our faculty really came up with some great projects this year.

We also heard recently from author and former independent school head Paul Chapman about his new book, “Greening America’s Schools, 2.0.” Paul visited us last fall to learn about our sustainability initiatives and we were thrilled to be a resource for his profiles of best practices at private and public schools nationwide. I can’t wait to read it!

Navigating Digital Waters

Our students are growing up in a digital age. Even our oldest here at Morgan Park Academy don’t remember a time before the Internet, and many don’t remember a time before cell phones. How did we ever get questions answered before Google?

I was again reminded of this and spurred into action by a great book I read recently, Matt Ivester’s “LOL, OMG! What Every Student Needs to Know About Online Reputation Management, Digital Citizenship and Cyberbullying.” I recommend it highly for parents and students who have an online presence.

We are at a point where our technological capabilities exceed our laws, and certainly parents and schools only recently have had to start to planning for what children can find and do online nowadays.

Social media, in particular, has forced us into unchartered waters, prompting the creation of policies and guidelines to help students and parents navigate an online world that sits outside our school’s physical boundaries, but still well within our mission of educating the whole child.

The Internet, generally speaking, lasts forever, and we know colleges and employers now look to social media and other web sources for information on applicants, taking into account the positive or negative representations of a candidate they find there.

Ivester’s book had some great basic tips, including:

  • See what search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo bring up for your name or your child’s
  • Turn on your profile review feature on Facebook
  • Limit the number of old posts floating around the web
  • Having too many social media connections with “friends” you barely know can reveal too much personal info to too many people
  • Set up a Google Alert for online mentions of your name
  • Post neutral profile content

The bottom line, for both students and parents: Manage your online reputation,  or someone else will.

Spring Forward

One of my favorite links I’ve seen this week came from Keith Shahan, the president of the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS). He suggested we fend off the Chicago Winter Blues by tracking the coming of spring through this year’s hummingbird migration map:

Sure enough, the hummingbirds were spotted [a few weeks ago] on the Gulf of Mexico coast, their first appearance since last fall when they departed for their winter home in Central America. Your students might enjoy following the hummingbirds’ progress this spring, or even contributing to the tracker by submitting sightings. The hummingbirds should reach our most northern schools by the first week in May.

I can’t wait!

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