Harvard Day 2

28 Jun

Day 2 was met with much trepidation and anxiety from the principals attending the institute. There was a certain air of mystery surrounding the day. It makes one think that when we don’t communicate effectively, then we can create anxiety among our constituency. That anxiety can lead to reluctance and fear of change.

We took a beautiful bus ride to Beverly, MA, to Project Adventure ! It’s located on Moraine Farm, which was designed by one of the fathers of Landscape Architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted !

The day started in a large group practicing perceptions of different leaders. The consensus is that the positive sincere leader has a better effect on everyone.  Do you need an exercise to know that? No, but it is effective to see it in action. We then split into small groups and proceeded to the challenge course. Each small group had our Harvard appointed facilitator and a Project Adventure trainer.  We spent a while building bonds and learning to trust one another. One of the norms of the workshop is to be honest.  That’s a tough task when you’re thrown into a group the night before. However, the PA trainer quickly broke us down and we began to communicate openly and honestly. The techniques I learned today will stay with me and be beneficial at MCHS.

We then did some very challenging group puzzle activities. Imagine 8-9 leaders in one group trying to solve a problem together. Often, we are expected to decide, or solve a problem, alone, immediately. This problem solving session helped us see the necessary steps we need to address and initiate when solving a problem. While today was full of activity we did much reflection, as well. So often, as leaders we don’t get the time to just reflect on what the people we work with really need. I feel I had some of that time today. It was quite emotional. We are here for our kids, for our families and four our city, and the everyday work can sometimes cloud that vision.  Trying to keep your passion in check when every minute of your day may bring a new problem is tough. Today, I revisited why it is so important that the whole city get behind our kids, our teachers, and our schools. The stakes that rely on the success of MCAS are so high we can’t afford to take it lightly.

We then moved to the first High Element challenge. It got serious, quickly. If you don’t trust your team, you don’t do this! You mount a ladder, then climb to about 30 feet above the ground on hooks pounded into a tree, then walk across a wire while supporting your body on a loose rope. Your team has hold of you on a harness.  I went first and hurried up the ladder, then got to the tree. I was out of my comfort zone almost immediately. My breathing changed, my knuckles were white as I squeezed the small hooks, and got out onto the wire.  My speed of movement slowed to very cautious and I had to control my breathing.  Knowing that my team is there, and hearing them support me made me think.  What about our kids who have no “team?” What about our teachers and staff who feel they have no team? What a scary thought. Everyone should feel supported! Everyone should feel safe enough with their supporters to get out of the comfort zone. That’s our job. Support our kids, support our colleagues, and cheer them on to just try, try, try. What an invigorating experience!

After a brief lunch we worked more on building trust and setting goals.  We did a cool exercise with symbolic pictures, but I can’t get them to post right now. I’ll put them up later. I still have some reading to review for tomorrow’s session.

Thank you,


Info for ya

Experiential Learning Cycle Developed originally by David Kolb, the concept of experiential learning explores the cyclical pattern of all learning from Experience through Reflection and Conceptualizing to Action and on to further Experience.

Experiential Learning Experiential Learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience. David A. Kolb helped to popularize the idea of experiential learning drawing heavily on the work of John Dewey and Jean Piaget. Kolb’s work on experiential learning has contributed greatly to expanding the philosophy of experiential education. Experiential learning is learning through reflection on doing, which is often contrasted with rote or didactic learning.


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