New Ways of Doing School: What We’ve Learned From the ISACS Conference

New Ways of Doing School: What We’ve Learned From the ISACS Conference

Heilicher faculty at the Independent Schools Association of the Central States annual conference. 

By David Shaw, Music Specialist

On Friday, November 4, 2022, the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) held its annual conference at the St. Paul RiverCentre. Heilicher teachers and administrators attended this full day of professional development along with 700 other independent school educators from Minnesota and the Midwest. This was the first time since 2019 that this learning event was in person, and I found the conference to be invigorating and thought provoking. It was an opportunity to network with colleagues from peer schools as well as hear from speakers of distinction.

One of the best sessions I attended was presented by Alison Park, the founder of Blink Consulting, an educational consultancy that is critically rethinking diversity. Park has collaborated with schools and organizations to help create communities where all can thrive. Park has been a conference facilitator at the ISACS Diversity Summit, Asian Educators Conference, and NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) Annual and People of Color Conferences. She taught in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors and has served on the boards of independent schools. She earned her B.A. at Yale University and two M.Ed. degrees at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is challenging enough without worrying about ending up in the news, whether it’s because schools aren’t doing enough or because they’re doing too much. In her session we explored how communities are “going public” with concerns about DEI and how the definition of diversity is evolving. One of my takeaways from the session comes from when we were examining trends in today's society. She asked, “When are we as a society going to move towards a counsel culture and move away from being a cancel culture?” How do we bring back a balance where there are opportunities for everyone to learn from feedback and authentic engagement with challenging issues that are actually indicators that things are progressing?

The conference’s keynote speaker was Dan Heath, the co-author of four international bestsellers: “Made to Stick,” “Switch,” “Decisive,” and “The Power of Moments.” Heath’s focus in his address was how moments can change a life, as outlined in his book. He highlighted how positive moments are dominated by four elements: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. If we embrace these elements, we can conjure more moments that matter. He shared how two educators developed a unit of study that students remembered many years later while weaving in other life-changing moments from the corporate and customer service world. As Heath said in his presentation and in his book, “Many of the defining moments in our lives are the result of accident or luck — but why would we leave our most meaningful, memorable moments to chance when we can create them?”

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