Barely off the plane from New Orleans and I headed to the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), where my friend and colleague Rubén Gaztambide, had generously invited me to visit as part of the book tour. Ruben has just published a new book, titled The Best of the Best: Becoming Elite at an American Boarding School.
My first event was a panel, where I was joined by two other principals, the head of arts for the Toronto School District, and another researcher. We had all read the portraits of the two schools—Rosedale and Wexford High Schools. The evening began with student poets from Wexford “Poets’ Café” speaking their verse. The level of commitment to the spoken word was evidently widely embraced in this school and I was very impressed with the student poetry. I am hopeful that BAA can work with the BU Creative Writers program to do a similar “café.” I think our students would love it! Next there was a performance by a string quartet (Mozart) that was also beautiful. I noticed how the students all made eye contact with one another and I remembered when Keith Lockhart last visited BAA. He made a big deal of students actually LOOKING and listening to one another while performing.
The next evening I was the keynote speaker for an OISE event as part of the Center for Equity in Urban Schooling. The mixture of folks in the audience was exhilarating — working teachers and principals who actually came out after a long day of teaching, graduate students, and professors and staff from OISE. I was so impressed with the depth of questions from the audience. It felt decidedly different from a presentation/response one might get in the states — even at the most progressive of places. I’m still trying to figure this out.
Here are two follow up “hard” questions from my talk that were emailed to me by a student who attended:
1. With the demographic groups you work with, it appears that as an administrator, you’ve made a great move in having your faculty and staff represent the diversity of your school. Do you think the success your school could be achieved with marginal representation or with a traditional mostly white staff?
2. Can you name three qualities the diversity of your staff brings to your school that would not exist without them, including the relationship you have with your co-headmaster?
I’d love to hear your thoughts if you feel inclined…