Time and Space

Tuesday, March 08, 2016 - By: Bud Patel

On March 4-5th, a Board initiated retreat brought together Governors, senior leaders, Heads of Department, student leaders, parents, and alumni. The team focussed on our strategic priority of “being a leading-edge place of learning.” We examined challenges of underemployment, the decreasing value-proposition of a university degree, and the skills required to not only survive but thrive in the future. While many data points indicate that Brentwood is fulfilling its vision of “setting the standard globally for inspirational and transformative learning” we have embraced a continuous improvement mindset that will enable us to move forward.

One of the most interesting outcomes from the weekend was the interplay between TIME and SPACE. As a boarding school, we have the unique ability to take learning beyond the traditional school day and utilize evenings and weekends for learning. Likewise, we are fortunate to have superb learning spaces that elevate the experience for both students and staff. The real question, however, is how to leverage this advantage to create an even better learning experience.

Serendipitously, on March 7th, the recent edition of Independent School – a magazine from the National Association of Independent Schools (http://www.nais.org) - arrived on my desk with the cover story reading – Time, Place, Path, Pace. After a quick scan, I found myself lingering over Ron Berger’s article Reimagining School, where he notes, “I hear a lot of arguments about the drastic change needed for schools. Why are we wasting our time trying to improve schools when the world has changed to (too / so) much that schools are no longer relevant. … When students can access “all the knowledge of the world” online on their phones, why should schools exist?” The exact catalyst of our retreat! Berger goes on to say, “When I hear that “all the knowledge of the world” is at our fingertips, I am reminded that the knowledge that matters most is often not possible to find on the phone. That knowledge is forged from relationships with others that shape us, ideally, into ethical and well-adjusted human beings.”

Berger’s notion aligns with conversations I’ve had with John Palfry, Principal of Phillips Academy in Andover, and Scott Swaaley, leader at High Tech High in San Diego. The former believes that boarding schools should help create “high functioning citizens” and the latter's goal is to support the development of “more competent human beings.” These leading educational thinkers are not obsessed with academic ranking, championships, and awards (these are assumed process points along the learning journey) but instead are committed to graduating exceptional people that have the skills to make our world a better place.

I was so pleased to see deep and committed relationships as one of the primary outcomes of the retreat. It is from this platform that the most authentic and engaging learning can take place.

As we focus on improvement strategies and tinker with TIME and SPACE, we will not forget this commitment to relationship that is imbedded in our DNA.

De Manu in Manum,

Bud Patel, Head of School

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