Tag Archive for professional development

Visiting Teams and Professional Learning

[I am trying a new, compact format for blog posts so that I share here more often. Let me know what you think.]

ClassroomI just finished serving for on a NWAIS Accreditation visiting team for four days. These teams perform a vital function in supporting the long-term viability of independent schools. They provide every school with an outside perspective and targeted feedback to help improve their programs. They also represent powerful professional development for visiting team members. Over three and a half days, one dives deeply into the values and functions of a school, touring the campus, interviewing community members, reading the school’s self-study, and poring over supporting documents. The school is asked to provide full transparency into all of its processes, so conversations go deeply quickly.

A Visiting Team is comprised of professionals from peer schools that cover the diverse functions of an independent school. This team included two heads of schools plus experts in academic program, student life, technology, enrollment management, teaching, and experiential programs. NWAIS designs the teams to cover the breadth of school functions and provide the school with feedback targeted to its particular character. Collaboration is strong, as team members work closely to share observations, discuss findings, and review each others’ writing.

Serving this year was intentional, as I am leading our self-study process starting later this year. The new NWAIS Demonstrations of Success and Generative Questions focus much more on values and practices than the old format. This is much improved over the old format, in which the school documented all aspects of its programs, a time-consuming process of questionable, long-term value. Principles and practices are easier to capture and review and arguably better support the long-term success of a school. Since this is a big change from the old format, it is quite helpful to live the new process on a visiting team before leading it at one’s own school.

If you would like to serve on an accreditation visiting team, tell your head of school, who will recommend you to the NWAIS director of accreditation.

Proud of Northwest Independent Schools

Yesterday, our association of Northwest independent schools stated its unequivocal support for educational equity by organizing our annual educators conference around themes of inclusivity and transformational moments. The conference drew 1,500 attendees, historically its largest draw. Our conference planning committee was extremely thankful to Lakeside School for hosting this large event.


The conference consisted of two keynote presentations, several featured presentations, and dozens of participant-led workshops. MK Asante started the day off with a gripping, humorous, and emotional accounting of his youth and how one critical moment in an independent school saved his life.

Featured speakers delivered superb workshops during the day. Presenters included Alison Park, Janice Toben, Elizabeth McLeod, Michael Gurian, Thomas Hoerr, Jennifer Bryan, Heather Clark, Rosetta Lee, Maketa Wilborn, and Cindy Goldrich.

Northwest teacher leaders and program directors led the breakout sessions, which covered topics from Writing as Healing to STEM Educators for Social Justice. Attendees expressed a ton of enthusiasm for these peer-led session, as audiences filled the rooms and flowed out the doors. U Prep was proud to lead four breakout sessions.


When classrooms proved too small, people got creative and went outdoors.


Phillip Craig From Oregon Episcopal School created a unique “sacred space” in the Lakeside library. I was very impressed by how the environment brought together concepts of mindfulness, contemplation, consideration of others, and spirituality. Most of our schools have nothing like this.


I attended the featured presentation by Heather Clark, instructor of anthropology at the UW and teacher at Rainier Scholars. Heather skillfully guided the audience through an anthropological perspective on diversity and inclusivity, interspersed with examples from participants.


Steven Jones delivered the closing keynote, “Manage or be Managed by our Unconscious Bias.” Jones began with a personal recollection of the Million Man March, which took place 20 years ago. Attendance was still robust at the end of the day, reflecting attendees’ engagement and interest.

Here is the Twitter “transcript” of the conference.

NWAIS Educators Conference Focuses on Social Justice and Equity

Tomorrow, over one thousand independent school educators will gather at Lakeside School in Seattle to study topics of educational equity and social justice. Our regional association has assembled an outstanding lineup of keynote and featured speakers, as well as breakout sessions led by independent school teachers and program specialists.


Fall Educators Conference

Transformative Moments:
The Journey to Inclusive, Welcoming Schools


Keynote Speakers

MK Asante

Best-selling author, award-winning filmmaker, rapper, professor, and independent school grad, who CNN calls “a master storyteller and major creative force” presenting:
“How a Blank Page Saved My Life”


Steven Jones, Ph.D

One of the country’s top cultural competency experts presenting:
Manage or be Managed by our Unconscious Bias

Featured Speakers Include

Janice Toben
and Elizabeth McLeod of the Institute for Social Emotional Learning presenting:
The SEL Toolbox

Michael Gurian, New York Times Best Selling Author, presenting:
Teaching Boys Effectively and Teaching Girls Effectively

Thomas Hoerr
, Head of The New City School (St. Louis, MO) presenting:
Teaching Ferguson

Jennifer Bryan
, Ph.D. presenting:
Gender and Sexuality Diversity

Heather Clark
, Rainier Scholars and University of Washington presenting:
Navigating Culture

Rosetta Lee
, Seattle Girl’s School, presenting:
Inclusion in the Early Years and Navigating Ouch Moments

Alison Park
, Blink Consulting presenting:
Facilitating Inclusive Conversations About Diversity and Social Justice and Talking About Socioeconomic Status and Class

Maketa Wilborn
will be offering Graphic Facilitation and Facilitating World Café Networking Opportunity

Cindy Goldrich
, Ed. M., ACAC, is a Mental Health Counselor, Certified ADHD Coach and Teacher Trainer presenting:
The Impacts of ADHD and Executive Function Deficits On Your Students Learning and Behavior


Additional breakout sessions presented by your colleagues and peers.


More information at NWAIS.org