Monday, February 27, 2017

High Hopes for #NAISAC 2017

       Surely you've heard, likely even felt or uttered, the idea that leaving a conference with one great takeaway makes the experience worthwhile. I'm guilty of that. I say "guilty" because that attitude, which creeps towards cynicism, accepts a rather low placement of the bar. We should expect more. With the 2017 National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference beginning in two days, I've been thinking about words that capture my high hopes for the experience:

  • Dynamism. Some schools finally are changing in significant, far-reaching ways. even shattering some traditional models. I want to sense an upsurge in that sort of energy. It has to propel us to create a system in which we constantly are re-thinking, re-designing, re-birthing ourselves.
  • Courage. Whether in the development of truly innovative programs (as suggested above) or in creating safe havens for people who feel threatened, I crave stories that embolden us. I want new heroes to venerate.
  • Vulnerability. Tied to courage, I want to know the struggles, the failures, the fears. Risk, if it's worthwhile, entails amenability. Too often in sharing our triumphs we gloss over this. But it's in staring it down and proceeding that we grow stronger.
  • Serendipity. If we remain open to possibilities, the chances of serendipity increase. Where and when might you hear some amazing idea? What old friend might you meet up with? What new connection might you make?
  • Gasp-worthy. At least once I want to be truly awed, to feel that visceral "Wow!". That would be the gem, each facet radiant with the previous four bullets.
       Ultimately, all these point to what we all want to find every year at annual conference: an injection of inspiration, right into an artery through which it surges to the very tips of our fingers and toes and neurons. Inspiration which nourishes us with those essential vitamins and minerals of school leadership, oft-depleted at this time of year. Yet one of the most amazing things about this conference is that while it pulls together hundreds of folks who need this inspiration, they manage at the same time to provide so much of it.


Sean Williams said...

HI Mark - found your post via Twitter. Three comments on this piece. First, I find NAIS to be HUGE. There is so much content that it's daunting. I attend maybe 3-4 conferences per year (EMA/SSATB; PRSA; IPRRC; and probably SHRM) and get the most out of the ones that are scaled a bit smaller to allow for maximum discussion. Sure, I'm a "vendor" -- but I want to learn more about independent schools even from the standpoint of being an (adjunct) university educator. I'm interested.

Second, I define success - much as you have here -- not just from the core business needs, but really about meeting people and having substantive conversations. That can be a challenge in very large conference. That's where the "dinearound" concepts, lunchtime/breaktime and doing the community involvement come in -- anything that gets me time with individuals.

Finally, I may not need the "WOW!" -- continuous improvement and learning is good for me. Something for me to write about, some questions I might ask as follow-up, an opportunity to contribute to a discussion...all of these are good for me.

I can't make it to NAIS this year -- but will follow on Twitter to see what's up! Good luck --

Sean Williams

Mark Crotty said...

Hi, Sean,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, NAIS Annual Is huge and can feel overwhelming. I've been to around 20 and still feel that sometimes. But the Indy school world is a highly-interconnected one, so you build a network of close colleagues pretty quickly.