Learning and Growing Together

By Kristin Sanderson

As the first hints of spring are upon us and March marks our sixth month of school, I am mindful of all the strides we’ve made advancing our important work at Miquon. I’d like to take a moment to share some of these things with you.

In February, I had the privilege of attending the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) conference, representing Miquon in a large gathering of school leaders from across the country and abroad. With other heads of school, I attended one workshop that resonated particularly with me — Trustees and Heads working together for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. Our conversation in the session focused on the ways in which all of us contribute to and benefit from being part of a diverse community. The discussion reinforced what we at Miquon already know — that interacting with people from a wide variety of backgrounds stretches and opens us in ways previously not known. In noticing, learning about, celebrating, and simply being with a set of individuals — all of whom are unique entities that bring diverse experiences and perspectives to the forray — our thinking becomes more generative, our thought processes more creative. Understanding this concept on an intellectual and philosophical level is the underpinning of our work, and we are emboldened to press forward to dig deep into the richness that each and every one of you contributes to our community.

One of the ways this plays out at Miquon is through an emergent curriculum, a practice which values bringing together a variety of voices and perspectives to create a whole that is richer than the sum of its parts. Gathered with the larger community of independent schools at the conference in San Francisco, it was exciting to reflect on how deeply engaged Miquon is in this essential work. As the Board Steering Committee for Diversity and Equity continues its explorations, the African American girls affinity group finds support in one another when they gather for lunch, and we prepare to send staff members to the upcoming White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia next month, we are actively taking steps to dig deeper into this work, with an openness that acknowledges there is more work to be done.

Here at Miquon, our children experience and benefit from the tenets of Progressive pedagogy, and we believe it is important for adults to have opportunities to do the same. The value of investment in one’s work and the ability to follow one’s passions doesn’t end with childhood. Progressive institutions place a premium on the role of a teacher as a learner, and teachers here are always eager for opportunities to have new experiences. Miquon staff learning happens in many ways, be it through the spontaneous conversations of diverse thinkers or through carefully structured opportunities for professional development. This year, we are engaged in a collegial process we are calling “learning teams,” or small groups of staff members from different areas of the school who are united by interest in a particular topic.

Following our whole staff attendance at the Progressive Education Network conference in New York last fall, we began generating a list of topics that each of us wanted to pursue more deeply. From that list, we formed seven learning teams, each focused on an interest area that could be of value to the whole school:

  • All-school (curricular) theme
  • Japanese Lesson Study/math circle
  • Music composition
  • Real jobs/realwork
  • Recruitment and retention of diverse staff and families
  • Restorative practice/peer mediation
  • Social justice

Each group is directed by the interests and background knowledge of the team members. Some groups are researching different practices to share and present to the full staff this spring. Some groups are testing their ideas for implementation, preparing to share how the idea played out in practice and discuss whether we might benefit from implementing such an initiative school-wide.

The process of meeting and working in our learning teams has already proven to have many benefits. Not only has it brought together staff who do not always have an opportunity to collaborate, the effort has also allowed them to self-direct their own learning and generate creative thought by bringing together people with different perspectives. Ultimately, our hope is that investing in the learning process for teachers will ultimately impact the Miquon educational experience for our children.


Pictured above: Principal Susannah Wolf ’81 shares a Miquon memory book with Karen Goldberg ’76. Photo credit: Mike Batchelor