If my experience in private schools has taught me one thing, it’s that the values of community, inclusion, and togetherness are the foundational blocks for everything schools work to achieve through their mission statements. These concepts were instilled in me through my experience attending an independent school as an adolescent many years ago. The thought sharing and community visions that were practiced on my campus as a youth would later be recognized as practices that bind all schools as an industry, helping them grow to new heights in times of success and maintain during times of crisis.
As an admissions representative at an independent boarding school, I had the opportunity to travel around the globe with many admissions professionals from different schools that set the examples of relationship building and thought sharing that will be highlighted in this post. It was through these interactions that I first learned that most schools are not competing with each other, but rather representing individual parts of the private school industry as a whole. School fair after school fair and conference after conference, one thing became very clear when speaking with other admissions representatives: we are all in this together.
On every bus, at every restaurant, and every hotel lobby information was shared, thoughts were discussed, and questions were answered. Veteran admissions professionals, newbies, talkative and quiet types alike all discussed their schools, their perspectives, things they have noticed, and the experiences that shaped them into the professionals they are today. The conversations were not only helpful, but perspective-changing. This kind of thought sharing is how we are able to know how schools are operating all over the country—and on tours with international schools, around the world too.
When viewed in this scope, isolationism cannot exist in the private school world for the industry to be healthy and moving forward. The challenges are forever growing, and the global intricacies today are too great to face individually.
Reflecting on how schools overcame the effects of the financial crisis, the ever-changing social norms in our societies, and now, the management of all the mitigation needs as a result of COVID-19, the one constant that links the eventual success of all these situations is thought sharing. It should be clear that in order to survive times of crisis as individual schools, thought sharing must be at the forefront of policy and advancement as an industry.
National, regional and local associations have always done a great job at providing a platform for discussion amongst each other. Recently their efforts to provide studies and collaboration about procedures for the opening of schools, communication plans for families, and best practices for every level of school administrator during the pandemic have been pivotal data sets to make policy decisions. We have also called upon our own personal connections to see what their thoughts are, what they are planning, and how it’s working. This sharing of information ensures the best outcomes for creatively surviving challenging moments in our past and most assuredly will be pivotal in tackling the challenges of the future.
We are all fortunate to work in an industry where thought sharing and cooperation elevates us. The more we analyze our successes and failures and share that data amongst one another, the healthier our market will be and the better product schools will produce for their families. This process, whether it occurs on international trips, domestic school fairs, or in annual conferences, is precisely what helps advance our industry year in and year out. It creates a sense of community and involvement, which is exactly the type of culture that is already promoted on your campuses.
During times like these, this principle is more important than ever. Solutions in independent schools are rarely one size fits all, but the communication of what is working well with others can produce the results that will define growth versus stagnation or survival versus closure. Given that, there has never been a more opportune time to continue your pursuits on becoming lifelong learners in your trade and in your personal development. Experience, learn, and share your thoughts with others—because in the end, it could be the great idea or experience from someone else that begins the next chapter in your school’s history.
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