"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn."
- John Cotton Dana
Randolph is a place that celebrates learning. Our educational philosophy highlights the aspects of individual learning, relational learning, and learning for the greater good. To cultivate a great environment for student learning, we work hard to ensure that our teachers are individuals who have a great appetite and capacity for learning, always willing to challenge themselves to ensure that they in turn can inspire and challenge students. We have established goals for ourselves to create purposeful initiatives to celebrate, recognize, and further develop a community of exceptional learning.
Just prior to spring break, the opportunity came for us to share a bit of what we do and to learn from other independent school educators from around the state. On March 15-16, Randolph served as the host for the biennial conference of the Alabama Association of Independent Schools (AAIS). The theme of our conference was “Learning in Your Own Backyard,” providing us the chance to be reminded of and inspired by the creative and innovative spirit found right here in Huntsville. Everything in Huntsville seems to require an acronym, and this was no exception. In his opening remarks at the conference, Jay Rainey noted the popular acronym, NIMBY (Not in My Backyard), and how we were turning that to capitalize at this conference on IMBY (In My Backyard). Each school, and each conference participant, had something to offer, and we focused on sharing, collaborating and learning from one another.
A couple of our students got in the act as well. Working with their teacher, Peter Townsend, AP Graphic Design students John Parvin McBride and Hannah Byers worked together to design a logo depicting the essence of the conference. They settled on a theme of bees. Bees? Yes, bees. Schools are hives of activity. Local honey reflects the flavors of particular plants nearby to yield a unique product. Schools should consider more ways to tap into local resources and talent. The conference is an opportunity to pollinate new ideas to take back to our schools. You get the idea.
So, on March 15, 250+ educators from across Alabama (and a few special guests from Mississippi) gathered at Randolph to share and to learn. Classroom teachers shared with their colleagues on a variety of subjects and teaching methods including flipped classrooms, STEM-based education, design thinking, responsive classrooms, technology in music, capstone experiences, community learning, and much more. The ideas were student-focused, innovative, and creative. But the learning didn’t stop with classroom teachers. Admissions professionals had the opportunity to learn from one another and to spend quality time with guest Janice Crampton, the Executive Director of the Association of Independent School Admissions Professionals. Arts directors, business officers, coaches, and school heads worked together to collaborate on ways to enhance their work for the benefit of students. Keynote speaker Lorrie Jackson of Finalsite addressed the importance of capitalizing on virtual networking opportunities. Twenty-one Randolph teachers and administrators led workshops and roundtable discussions, and they were joined by over twenty additional educators who shared their learning and insights throughout our time together.
A highlight of the conference was the Monday morning keynote address* by General Charles Krulak, president of Birmingham-Southern College. Through poignant vignettes of his own life experiences, Gen. Krulak reminded us of the very important and precious opportunity we have to influence young people, to help them grow to be leaders with moral courage and impeccable character, to question and to grow and to always be learners. His words were encouraging and challenging, and a strong reminder of the very important work we do in our schools.
The conference also provided the opportunity to celebrate over 45 years of independent school leadership through AAIS. Much has changed since the AAIS formed in 1969, and this conference was the last before AAIS merges with another organization, the Alabama Independent Schools Association (AISA). Palmer Kennedy, AAIS President, and Michael McLendon, Academic Programs Director for AISA, shared their perspectives on the strength and opportunities that result from the merger of the two organizations. The re-structured AISA will unite over 70 independent schools enrolling over 25,000 students across the state, and will focus on supporting and advocating for independent school education in Alabama.
Another of our keynote speakers, Damian Kavanagh, a Vice-President of the Southern Association of Independent Schools, offered encouraging reminders about the importance and essence of great teaching, challenging us to look boldly to the future while being reflective and honoring all that is part of our history. He encouraged the new AISA to remember that we are part of something much larger, and offered support to all that we are doing to advocate for independent school education in our state and nationally. Randolph’s Jay Rainey will serve on the Board of the AISA, and we look forward to the opportunity to work closely with schools around the state to ensure that the values we hold for ensuring that we are able to deliver outstanding, mission-appropriate learning opportunities to our students are upheld at every turn.
In a world where budgets are often tight and time is certainly a precious commodity, it is a privilege to work in a culture where professional development is highly valued and supported. This conference provided an important two-days of learning, sharing and growing, right here in our own backyard.
Randolph is committed to being an educational leader, and we hope that this was just one of many opportunities that educators will have to come together, both physically and virtually, and to continue to learn from one another. It was a privilege to serve as host, and a great reminder that the best teachers are those with an appetite for learning and for sharing that love with their students.
*To view a video of General Krulak’s address, go to www.nfhsnetwork.com and search for Randolph School. Scroll to the bottom of the posted videos to find AAIS keynotes.