Finding Concinnity at the NAIS Conference

Earlier this year, we had the privilege of sponsoring and attending the National Association of Independent Schools’ (NAIS) Annual Conference. It was inspiring to see educators, heads of schools, directors and deans from around the country come together for the betterment of independent schools. It was also really exciting for us to see that the concept of concinnity was a reoccurring theme at conference. Here, we share some of the sessions that we feel embraced the notion of concinnity best.

Collaborative Learning and Creative Improvising

Led by the Providence Day School, this workshop posed solutions to problems that many participants have faced. Answers to questions such as: “Where can we innovate our strategy?” or “How do we choose when to step-up or step-back during board meetings?” were explored through various role-playing and collaborative exercises. We were challenged to live outside of ourselves (at one point, we were asked to embody cows and tigers) to understand the roles of effective collaboration.
One collaborative exercise was particularly interesting. We were paired with an emotional therapy counselor to build a LEGO sculpture. Each LEGO block represented an instance in which we collaborated with our respective colleagues and friends. As we stacked our LEGOs higher and higher, it became clear that immense compromise and balance is necessary to achieve concinnity in a school board setting.
During this exercise, the counselor stated that what transpires in our professional world is a reflection of what occurs in our personal and family lives. Together, we agreed that in order to build concinnity, our professional and personal lives must be in sync.

The Journey Toward an Engaged and Generative Board

During this workshop, presented by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools, we witnessed the unique dichotomy that exists between heads of schools and trustees.

BoardpicExecutive Director Betsy Hunroe initiated the workshop by asking who in the audience was a head of school or a trustee. It was about a 50/50 split.

She then asked, “What is Keeping the ‘ABC’ Board From Being Generative?” Here are a few of the responses:

  • “too many meetings”
  • “too many members”
  • “too many trustees meeting too often, too much turn over in chair, drop parents and faculty”
  • “one term board chair”
  • “unfortunate history of needing to be in the weeds”

Sound familiar?

The five-person panel proceeded to address the issues. One panelist advised against what we might naturally understand as the right course of action. Instead, we should confer with our colleagues to produce a solution together. This notion of an equitable and collaborative partnership is at the heart of concinnity.

Closing General Session

To close the conference, we were treated to a musical performance by the Woodward Academy Big Jazz Band followed by a keynote address by Coach Luma Mufleh of Fugees Family.

Fugees Family Inc. is a non-profit organization devoted to working with refugee children who have escaped war or danger and seek asylum in the United States. The Fugees Academy is the cornerstone of the organization—a middle and high school that educates refugee children. Mufleh described the racism and xenophobia she has faced, as well as uphill battles for funding and even opposition from the government. She spoke about children who would not have survived without the establishment of her school. Her detailed account was powerful to hear.

She admitted that she alone could not achieve the organization’s mission without an equally dedicated faculty and staff. There it is again—the concinnity connection. The harmony they achieved was based solely on their will to work past the small difficulties for the advancement of the bigger picture.

Mufleh encouraged all of us to see the NAIS Annual Conference as a call to action. We should all support high quality and accessible education by meeting in the middle to advance student achievement.

At that moment, there was a connection with everyone in the audience. Mufleh sparked a feeling of togetherness in that we all play a part—regardless of our roles—in the grand scheme of independent education. That’s concinnity.

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