The Rider and the Elephant

One of the keynote speakers at the recent NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) conference, Dan Heath, used the metaphor of the rider and the elephant to symbolize the challenges we face in changing from old ways that are no longer useful. If the elephant graphically represents the disproportionate influence of emotion over reason, then we have to stack the deck differently in order to overcome this natural imbalance. Heath suggests, as have others, the power of “intrinsic motivation” as the key to success.

I believe our teachers and students create intrinsic motivation at Williston by virtue of the close working relationships they develop and the collaborations that result. One such transformative moment came to life in the children’s theater production, our annual offering to area elementary school children during their February vacation week. This year, the show “Story Theatre: Journeys of Transformation from around the World and Beyond” was student-directed by senior Emi Caliguiri, who cast both Middle and Upper School students and created precisely the kinds of crossover experiences that make Williston so unique. Congratulations to Emi for an outstanding directorial job.

Story Theatre

A scene from Story Theatre: Coincidentally, there was an elephant in the play.

Zero Degrees of Separation

kevin kudlaImagine my reaction when I dropped by my colleague Kevin Kudla’s English classroom the other day while he was conducting a writing workshop with his students on a topic from The Great Gatsby. When I asked him about the origins of the assignment, he said that the idea originated at my dinner table.

While we hosted author Debra Munroe as part of the Writers’ Workshop Series, Mr. Kudla ate dinner with Ms. Munroe and the discussion touched on the importance of setting in works of fiction. After their first meeting, Mr. Kudla began an email correspondence with Ms. Munroe, and their conversation found its way into his classroom as a creative assignment for his eager students. He shared this story with his class, giving voice to the very kinds of collaborations that we urge our students to consider as they pursue their Williston educations. It is our aim to help our students cultivate such integrative skills and use them throughout their lives.

If we think of learning opportunities at every nexus point in our community, at every scheduled or chance meeting, then the possibilities of building a truly collaborative learning environment are limitless.