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Stephen P. Robinson Collaboration Grant Report: St. Andrew's School, Savannah, GA

Wednesday, January 10, 2018  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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Creating Entrepreneurial Approaches in Education

By Dr. Kelley Waldron, Ed.D., Head of St. Andrew’s School, Savannah, GA

Through some process I cannot quite recall, about three years ago, I emerged from a cocoon of school-focused efforts to connect with some creative enterprises and industries in the Savannah community. Specifically, I remember reading about the opening of a creative space for innovators, gamers, and makers in Savannah, The Guild Hall, and reaching out to the founder, an entrepreneur named Clegg Ivey, about the project. Through others in the creative and technology communities of Savannah, Yvonne Jouffrault and Kevin Lawver, I realized the growth and creative progress in our community was being done by industries and individuals far removed from my traditional notions of what defines success in school. This was coupled by the beginning of a conversation with a leader in our local public school system, Peter Ulrich, then principal of a magnet program in Savannah. (Peter is now Executive Director of Middle Schools in Savannah.). He, too, was working to empower his teachers to be change agents within their classrooms to transform a school and wrestling with how best to achieve this outcome.

These interactions reinforced a body of literature by now well-known thought leaders on a prediction that the most valuable skills for our future personal, social, and economic prosperity were changing. Authors such as Daniel Pink, Thomas Friedman, and Tony Wagner continue to raise a flag that with the proliferation of information through technology, the move from an information age to a conceptual age, we need to shift our focus to cultivating and developing in our young people the creative skills and capacities that cannot be automated and programmed. Three years ago, my driving question was how to prepare and empower teachers to teach these skills from an informed perspective.

Most teachers enter the field of education to create for their students those transformational opportunities that help their students achieve their best selves, and in doing so make a positive impact on society at large. The premise is simple: positively impact and inspire individual students and you positively impact the greater community in which we live.

The work itself is a bit more complicated. As we know, a myriad of variables make this no small challenge for an educator – there are practical deadlines, student demands and needs, larger policy considerations, historical structures that define how we “do school.” Teachers often arrive in their classrooms before 8 AM, teach all day, leave and go home to grade papers and plan for the next day. How do you carve out a space in which we allow teachers to reconsider how they define success for their students and empower them to create real and lasting change in their classrooms and schools?

This was the inspiration for Teach the Future Fellowship. Where and how can we carve a space for teachers to engage in the creative act of exploring tools that allow them to better understand the most positive impact they can make for their students? With a group of creative thinkers in our community that now form our advisory board and a partnership across private and public schools and administration, we brainstormed a year-long fellowship in which educators were purposefully connected with entrepreneurs and innovators in our community to learn about their work, the most valuable skills in their industry, and the frameworks used to create change.

The most powerful outcome of this dedicated, connective space has been the ways in which participating educators have learned to use entrepreneurial frameworks to create change in their own classroom and schools while also empowering them with a tool that they can adapt as a framework for teaching the creative and critical thinking skills to their students that will be so necessary and valuable in our future understandings of school. By being connected with teachers from different schools and backgrounds, dialogue and exploration of these tools is enhanced by a broadened perspective and a supportive network of educational change-makers.

Funds from the SAIS Stephen P. Robinson Collaboration Grant provided administrative and other support to strengthen the program within our community. We are now entering our third year of the fellowship with a cohort of 15 educators from eight different public and private schools across Savannah.

After our first session, I left exhausted but inspired from a deep dive into our purpose, motivations, and challenge as educators at this moment. The next morning was Saturday, and as I culled through my email with my morning cup of coffee, I opened an email from one of our new fellows. His reflections on the day reinforced it is worth the time and energy to continue to offer the fellowship to our local educations. “I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for providing this educational opportunity for our community. Our first meeting was so inspiring, and I really love the people who are on my team. The one thing that struck the deepest chord with me yesterday was that so many members of our team want to help change our current educational system and make a difference in the future of our children. They are passionate and motivated. I cannot wait until we meet again.”

Calendar more
Institute for Heads
June 19-22, 2018 | Asheville, NC
This retreat offers an opportunity for thoughtful dialogue and engagement with colleagues on key issues facing heads of school and their spouses.

Dean of Students Symposium
June 27-29, 2018 | Asheville, NC
Develop a network of peers, discuss best practices on current issues, and gather practical ideas from colleagues.

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