A Look into Lower School at Ravenscroft

Archive for the ‘Leadership’

Dare to Explore and Discover– Reflecting on NAIS Annual Conference

Dare to explore and discover.


This is what the National Association for Independent Schools* challenged attendees to do at this year’s annual conference, and it seems perfectly fitting when one considers what educators are being asked to do every day in this ever-changing world.


Explore – to travel in or through (an unfamiliar country or area) in order to learn or familiarize oneself.


Discover — find (something or someone) unexpectedly or in the course of a search.


School communities across the world are filled with people of all ages who are on unique journeys. These journeys require individuals to explore many new and unfamiliar things with the hopes of discovering someone or something special along the way.


These journeys are filled with many stories of joy, sadness, hope, challenges, and success.


My experience at this year’s conference reminded me of the power that individual stories can have to inspire, engage, and evoke the emotion ultimately needed to create positive change.


Each speaker and presenter at the conference had a story to share about their journey, and I found myself engaged in these moments because their stories evoked strong emotions within in me and left me feeling inspired about the future of learning.


Here is my NAIS Annual Conference Top Ten list of memorable moments summarized by quotes from the stories shared:


10) Find your mantras and use them often Barbara Kraemer


9)   Take the first step even if you can’t see the whole staircase John Quiñoes


8)   Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations Dr. Mae Jemison


7)   We weren’t looking to just be better; we knew we needed to do something totally differentSusan Droke


6)   The difference between Try and Triumph is “umph” Denise Ammaccapane


5)   Fail forward- bad ideas are fuel for great ones- Jay Shuster


4)   Students can’t wait for our teachers to catch upBo Adams


3)   Blessed are the flexible because they don’t get bent out of shapeDenise Ammaccapane


2)   Don’t talk to the movers and shakers, learn from the moved and shaken John Quiñoes


1)   One interaction can change the arch of a life Steve Pemberton


Thank you to everyone involved in the NAIS Annual Conference for helping me learn and grow on my own journey. My lens has been widened even further, and I am grateful for the reminder that we must connect and learn with others beyond our own walls.


*The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) is a nonprofit membership association based in Washington, D.C. that provides services to institutions across the country and represents their shared interests. The 2014 NAIS conference brought together more than 3,500 members of the educational community – teachers, administrators, educational experts, consultants, and even students who provided uplifting musical performances for attendees. I was fortunate to be among a group of Ravenscroft attendees.

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Academic Excellence Requires Successfully Leading With Others

Lead yourself. Lead with others. Change your world.


This is what we ask our students to do every day in order for them to be their best selves in our academic learning environment.


They are challenged to lead from where they are at each moment of their individual journeys.


At Ravenscroft, we are building on a 150-year tradition of academic excellence to instill the principles of citizenship and leadership in every student. The competencies outlined in our citizen-leader framework empower us to take an effective and holistic approach to teaching that prepares students to succeed in a complex and interdependent world.


Let’s face it, we don’t know what the world will look like when our current Lower School students start building their careers and pursuing their individual passions. Consider this: The Chromebooks that Ravenscroft students now use in grades seven through 12 didn’t even exist when our current seventh graders (and my first class of Ravens) started out in the Lower School.


There are many unknowns, but as educators we can state confidently that our changing world will demand cultural fluency. Our children must be able to work collaboratively with others and to understand cultures different than their own.


As we transition into the second half of the school year, the Lower School will be focusing on the Leading with Others component of our Citizen Leader framework which is centered around our Character Tree and supported by our mission of nurturing individual potential and preparing students to thrive in a complex and interdependent world.


The five competencies in our framework for successfully leading with others include:


  • Empathic

  • Ethical

  • Collaborative

  • Communicative

  • Culturally Inclusive


We will first be concentrating on what it means to be culturally inclusive and how important it will be for our faculty and students to grow in their understanding of this competency if they are to be successful when leading with others.


The Lower School faculty engaged in a professional development session during our January workdays to discuss this competency in the context of our work with young children, and we agreed on the following definition to guide our work in the months ahead:


Culturally Inclusive– students who are culturally inclusive build positive relationships with others by learning about, respecting, and celebrating how we are all alike and different.


Two words really resonated in our discussions– respect and empathy.


We must learn to respect all the differences that exist in our society and grow in our capacity to empathize with other people who experience the world differently than we do.  This open-mindedness allows us the opportunity to make meaningful connections, think beyond our boundaries, and embrace our unifying qualities.


We must make it a priority to get to know an individual for who they are on the inside and avoid making generalizations and assumptions about individuals or groups of individuals based on a label or stereotype given to them by society.


Dr. Steven Jones does an excellent job shifting the conversation from being culturally sensitive to being cultural competent in this video that we watched at our meeting called Creating Investigators of Cultural.  He challenges us to view this as a skill — just like a math or reading skill — that must be taught if we are going to truly prepare our children to be successful in this complex and interdependent world.


We hope you will join us on Feb. 11 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. in the Winston Library for another Community Conversation where will continue to discuss how we can promote a diverse and inclusive learning environment at Ravenscroft and position all of our children to lead successfully with others.

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Citizen Leader Framework in Lower School

This is a guest post written by Dr. Chris Harper, Lower School Guidance Counselor.

How is Lower School Implementing the Citizenship and Leadership Initiative?  

This is an increasingly common question lately.  The more informal question is probably something like “How’s that working in LOWER School??”  The answer to both questions is “remarkably well !”   

In Lower School, citizenship and leadership is being intentionally taught in many ways. Tree Talks are dedicated to exploring the values of our Character Tree as well as the Citizen Leader framework which was co-created by talented folks at Ravenscroft and at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in Greensboro.  We explore aspects of the three primary components of the framework not only in these Tree Talks, but also in guidance lessons and in our daily lives here at school. Quarterly “Launch Lessons,” designed and facilitated at every grade level by our teachers, become seminal touchstones for competencies like self-awareness, accountability, cultural inclusiveness, resilience, and motivation.  Both adults and children find ourselves weaving the constructs into lessons and play.

Leading Self (making good personal choices) and Leading with Others (listening to and working with peers and teachers respectfully) make Changing Your World (making a positive difference where you are) possible….and may translate into larger canvases one day. We are all working together to make these concepts so sufficiently clear and ‘real’ that they begin to inform the children’s ideas and actions. This learning happens only partly through ”direct instruction.”  It happens most successfully through experiencing something together and then talking about it.

This “experiential” learning opportunity is something we would like to offer you on Friday, Nov. 15!  Mr. Joel Wright and Mr. Christopher Gergen, lead facilitators with CCL, have agreed to offer parents information AND the kind of experiences our children have.  

Here are the details:

WHO:    All Lower School Parents

WHAT:  Citizen Leader Learning Experience with CCL

WHEN:  Friday, Nov. 15

  • 8:00 – 8:45 a.m. “Just the Highlights” (mostly listening)*

  • 8:45 – 10:00 a.m. “Experiential Extensions” (listening, talking, participating)*

*These two sessions work together, but can attend just one if time is short.

WHERE:  Parents’ Association Room in the Library and Technology Center

WHY:   Learn about the Citizen Leader framework and “how it is working in Lower School”

Questions may be directed to Lower School Leadership or to Colleen Ramsden, Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs


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The Power of One- Reflections from 5th Grade Teachers

The following is a guest post from fifth grade teachers Rachel Newton and Barbara Paul who recently traveled to Moore, Oklahoma to deliver a U Haul full of books, games, and other much needed materials for schools devastated by the tornadoes in May.

“A frog in a well does not know the great sea”

Our recent trip to Moore, Oklahoma brings this African wisdom to mind.  Everyday we have opportunities, large and small, to step beyond our own comfort zones in order to connect with the greater world.

We went to Oklahoma hoping to help fellow teachers whose lives had been devastated by the tornadoes that ripped through their community in May.  Indeed, we were the ones blessed time and time again by the genuine goodness of people along our journey.  People whose very lives modeled the transformative “power of one.”

The “ power of one” can generate the connection of many.  You just never know who the ripples in the water will touch.  If we can encourage our children to live daily with open hearts, full of compassion and gratitude, we can empower them to lead themselves, to lead others, and in turn, together we can change the world for the better.  We are humbled to have been a small part of Ravenscroft’s 150 year legacy of service.  Our lives are more enriched by our journey and those we connected with along the way.

  • Thank you, Ed and Sandy (former Ravenscroft faculty member), for your unbridled carpe diem spirit. Anderson, S.C.

  • Thank you for your prayers for road mercies, Mae.  Tupelo, Miss.

  • Thank you for your guidance, Abbey.  Tupelo, Miss.

  • Thank you for your inspirational courage, Little Rock Nine. Central High School, Ark.

  • Thank you for your gracious hospitality, Uncle Mel and Aunt Regina. Little Rock, Ark.

  • Thank you, Andrea Stewart, for the creative gifts you bring to education.  Bethany, Okla.

  • Thank you for your compassionate leadership, Susie Pierce (Superintendent of Moore Schools). Moore, Okla.

  • Thank you, Ginger Tinney and the Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE) staff for your dedication to Oklahoma educators and the children they teach.

  • Thank you, Paul and Portz families for reminding us of the importance of honoring those who came before us and Aunt Joanne who cared enough to make a homemade angel food cake, just because. Marissa, Ill.

  • Thank you, Jennifer (former Ravenscroft student), for reminding us about the joy of serendipity.  Asheville, N.C.

Thank you, Ravenscroft for believing and allowing us “to choose to dwell in possibility.”

-Emily Dickinson

 We are grateful.

Mrs. Paul and Mrs. Newton with Moore Superintendent

Barbara Paul and Rachel Newton– Fifth Grade Teachers

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The Power of One

During winter break, I felt like one of our Lower School’s voracious readers. The time off allowed me an opportunity to read every day ─ for an extended period of timeand the texts I read were ones that I was interested in, I had chosen, and were “just right” for me.  No wonder our Lower School students enjoy reading so much!

 I read a wide range of texts that included:

These texts have nothing in common. Now You See It is a nonfiction book written by a Duke University professor who is passionate about redesigning the way our schools and workplaces function. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a work of fiction about a 9-year-old boy struggling to deal with the loss of his father after the 9/11 attacks. The 2012 winter edition of Ravenscroft magazine features articles on leadership and community giving. The Women of the Bible tells the stories of 52 female heroes in the bible, and this week my study group was reading about The Widow with Two Coins.

It was when I read the following quote by John Replogle in Ravenscroft magazine that I made a connection with a common theme in the different texts:

 “Finally, as beneficiaries of the legacy of leaders that have built the School before us and with four daughters, we felt compelled, as Steve Jobs put it, to make our dent in the world. We can’t expect other people to provide an extraordinary education for our children without being a positive contributor to that end.”

I read John’s quote shortly after I had read a chapter from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that included this piece of dialogue between 9-year-old Oskar and his father:

 “Well, what would happen if a plane dropped you in the middle of the Sahara Desert and picked up a single grain of sand with tweezers and moved it one millimeter?”

 “I guess I would have moved a grain of sand.”

 “Which would mean?”

 “Which would mean I moved a grain of sand?”

 “Which would mean you changed the Sahara.”


 “So? So the Sahara is a vast desert. And it has existed for millions of years. And you changed it!”

Too often we hesitate to initiate or participate in change efforts because we question how much influence or impact we will actually have in creating substantive, positive change.

The Widow with Two Coins gave an offering of less than a penny at church; she didn’t question whether it was an amount that would make a difference, it was all the money she had and her faith led her to give everything she could.

As I read Cathy Davidson’s book and realized how her words were challenging me as an educator to change the way school is designed for students, I also recognized that thousands of other educators were also reading her book and being changed as well. One book, written by one woman, has the potential to lead and inspire countless educators to change the way schools function for children. One individual will make a positive difference for schools across the globe.

I am excited about our leadership initiatives here at Ravenscroft because I already see so many members of our community making a difference locally, nationally, and globally. I believe as we become even more intentional with our efforts, our students will become change agents that others will be reading about and learning from.

The reading I did during winter break – though the texts may have been filled with variety – inspired me with one simple realization: an individual and their actions have the power to make a difference in creating positive change.

Number one image from: http://www.richardcleaver.com/2011/11/18/the-one-percent-in-canada/

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Learning Through Loss

Why does it often take an unfortunate experience in our lives to make us pause long enough to reflect on important life lessons?

 My stepfather recently passed away to an illness he had been battling for a little over a year, and as my family and I have been healing together, I have spent some time thinking about my own life and what lessons I can learn from this loss.

 There are of course the obvious ones such as live life to its fullest; don’t take anyone or any experience for granted; visit the doctor regularly; and live in the moment. But I also have learned something valuable about leadership and successful teams.

 While this has certainly been a difficult time for me, my mother, and my sisters, it has been made easier knowing that the Ravenscroft Lower School was in good hands during my absence. In times of personal crisis, it is a blessing to be able to focus ones full attention where it is most needed. This was made possible for a number of reasons:

  • I am surrounded by wonderfully talented people
  • There is a sense of shared leadership and involvement
  • I am (somewhat) comfortable with not being in control and have released responsibility to others
  • Others have a sense of ownership and responsibility

 What’s the potential impact of my personal reflection for you?

 Whether you are reading this as a parent or an educator, the questions I leave you with are:

  • Have you released enough responsibility in your classroom or home so all members of the team can function with confidence and independence in your absence?
  • Is there a sense of shared leadership in your classroom or home so all members are involved in the decision making process and have a sense of ownership and responsibility in the team’s success?
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Impact and Influence

Drop of Water

I recently spent the weekend with a group of my college girlfriends who I was lucky enough to play basketball with during my time at Duke.  This is an amazing group of successful woman who are doctors, international development analysts,  business owners, environmentalists, educators, and mothers.  Our conversations, as you can imagine from such a diverse group, were rich and thought provoking.  What I was taken back by, however, was the person and related experiences who dominated our conversations– our college basketball coach.

Some of the women graduated 15 years ago, but because of the impact and influence this one person had on our lives, we found ourselves up at the wee hours of the night discussing our experiences with her.  The stories included the challenges and successes, and had us smiling, laughing, and reliving painful experiences.  I was amazed how each one of us could distinctly remember at least one simple act or thing that was said to us that changed us—for better and for worse.

As a coach and educator, I was reminded about the importance of leading and serving our students and athletes in a positive way, and being mindful of the power our words and actions have on these young people who are entrusted to us.

It doesn’t matter if the children are 5 or 18, or if they “like” their teacher; these adults are people they spend a considerable amount of time with and are asked by their parents to listen to and respect.  It only makes sense that what these adults say and do will make a significant impact on the lives of the children that interact with them–some for the better and some for the worse.

Our job, as educators, is to work as hard as we possibly can to monitor what we say and do to ensure that years down the road, our students will be telling stories about the positive difference we made in their lives.

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Multiple Perspectives

Depending on where you sit in this car, or which direction you decide to focus your attention, you potentially can have a very different perspective of the journey compared to the other people riding in the same car.

As I prepare to take on a new leadership role for the Lower School, I have been thinking a lot about how I can best navigate this new journey, and this picture reminded me how important it is to value the multiple perspectives that exist in our School community.

The driver of the car often has to spend a large amount of time focused on the road ahead with occasional glances to the left, right, and rear view mirrors.  Sometimes the actual enjoyment of the ride can be lost on the driver because they get too busy concentrating on the destination and making sure to avoid any obstacles that may enter the road along the journey.

I think it is important as a leader to have a clear vision and to focus a lot of attention of accomplishing established goals, but it is equally important to respect and appreciate the past, and to slow down and take some rest stops to enjoy the present.  In order to do this successfully, a leader can’t be alone in the car.  They need multiple passengers who have the ability to provide different perspectives depending on when they get in the car and which seat they sit in.

All views are necessary in order to ensure a safe, efficient, successful, and enjoyable ride. We must have people looking into the future with a clear vision of what lies ahead; they set goals, plan strategically, anticipate challenges, and provide support and momentum to move forward. We need people looking left and right to remind us of all the amazing (and not so amazing) things happening all around us; they challenge us to stop and evaluate how things are going, remind us to celebrate what is going well, and they cause us to question whether we need to change directions.  We also need  people who remind us to look back in order to reflect on past successes and areas of difficulty that we can learn from.  And we can’t forget about the people not even in the car and the perspective they provide looking from the outside.

Which seat do you sit in and how can your perspective help the Lower School on our journey?

Photo from:


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Leadership in Pictures

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Group (4)

The above picture was one I chose when asked to find one picture that represented the most important aspects of effective leadership.

Why did I choose this picture?

I was first drawn to the picture because of the young children featured; something about their curiosity and closeness made me want to look further.  When examining the picture more closely, I saw a diverse group of children gathered around someone who was barely visible, but who was clearly a key element to bringing them together as a group.  When I studied the children’s body language I saw respect, focus, curiosity, and eagerness.

How does it represent effective leadership?

I see a leader motivating a group of people to work together towards a common goal.  Regardless of the differences that exist in the collective group, the leader is finding a way to make connections between and among group members, bring out the strengths in individual members, and keep everyone focused on the mission and vision.  The leader is working hard behind the scenes and empowering the members of the group to take initiative and find innovative ways to accomplish the group’s goals.  It is clear the leader is well respected and the children are interested in what he/she has to say. Although we can’t see the person leading this group of young children, I am confident he/she is preparing to send them off to something exciting and meaningful.

What picture would you choose?

This was part of an activity that several members of the Ravenscroft faculty engaged in with representatives from the Center for Creative Leadership. The image used for this post was part of the Visual Explorer Collection.

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