Closing Session with Amy Chua

Seattle Academy Onions Vocal Group started this final session. Bravo on their performance!

Skip Kotkins, during his introduction of Amy Chua, made many of us in the crowd cringe when he made reference to the list of top performing students in the Seattle Public Schools as having names that are hard to pronounce. I’m sure it wasn’t intended to offend, but it was an ouch moment!

None-the-less, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Amy Chua is a good story teller for sure. I loved her energy and humor. Just to clarify, Amy does NOT believe that Chinese mothers are superior. She intended the first two thirds of her book to be funny. The final third of the book took a turn as did Amy’s life. What made Amy change was the fear of losing her daughter. She never intended the book to be a parenting guide. It’s meant to be an honest, self-incriminating look into her journey as a parent.

I actually appreciated hearing Amy’s controversial views on self-esteem and how best to instill it in our children. Granted, I don’t agree with all of what she says, but I enjoyed hearing her perspective. It was evident to me that she parented the way she did because she wanted what she thought was best for her children.

I simply couldn’t help but wish I could hear from her daughter, Lulu. The other thought I couldn’t help but have is that Amy would represent the quintessential “nutty” parent in most of our schools. However, I thoroughly agree with Amy’s belief that we all should apply discipline and hard work to something we love and encourage our children to do the same.

By my account as a first time attendee of the NAIS Annual Conference in Seattle, it was a resounding success!

Be sure to save the date for next year’s NAIS Annual Conference, February 27-March 1, 2013. I hope to see you in Philadelphia!


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NAIS 50th Anniversary Wall

Full of sticky notes that say, “I’m inspired by……..” and participants are encouraged to complete the statement.


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NAIS Diversity Leadership Award Honoring TJ Vassar


TJ Vassar with his lovely wife of 40 years, Linda, before the award ceremony.

I must admit that I’m completely biased, but there is no better person I can think of to receive the NAIS Diversity Leadership Award than TJ Vassar. He has forever been known as the godfather of diversity in our area. I’m looking forward to hearing about his many contributions and accomplishments in the area of diversity, access to education and inclusivity in independent schools.

Pat Bassett was right on when he said TJ is our John Hunter. He is a magical teacher that focuses on developing relationships. Only TJ can make an audience laugh hilariously when talking about diversity and the challenges it presents. What a dynamic personality he has with the gift of bringing people together. We love you, TJ!

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General Session with John Hunter

This general session opened with cute elementary students from the St. Thomas School singing.

I appreciated Marcia Prewitt Spiller thanking the teachers who have joined us today. As she put it, “without you, then what?!?!” I also love the quote Pat Bassett shared with us regarding teachers. “Parents don’t really appreciate a teacher until it rains all weekend.” As a parent of three myself, this statement is so true!

Pat provided us with plenty of information on the transformation of NAIS over the past fifty years. He also went on to give  the four I’s and the six C’s. He discussed the big shifts in schools we will see in the coming years. Since I’m not great at typing and listening, all I can hope is that NAIS will provide Pat’s PowerPoint slides online for easy accessibility to this information. It’s definitely worth taking a look at it.

Finally, we get to hear from a school teacher, John Hunter. He referred to the lineage of magical teachers that he has experienced in his lifetime that made him the teacher he is today. Within five minutes of him talking, you can tell he is a magical teacher himself.

John spoke of the game he invented called, World Peace, a political science simulation game designed for fourth graders. As I watched him teach us about his game, I couldn’t help but think about my own son. Oh how I wish my boy could experience such a talented, magical black male teacher in his youth, in his lifetime!

In watching the short video of the game in action in John’s classroom, you feel the care and concern he has for each of his students. If only every teacher in this exhibit hall walks away and internalizes John’s belief that good teaching is based on relationships. The best learning happens when a teacher touches students’ hearts, not only their minds. I found John truly inspiring. Thank you NAIS for allowing us to hear from this magical teacher!

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Finding Socioeconomically Diverse Students Who Are Ready for Success

I don’t know of an independent school in my area that isn’t interested in increasing the socioeconomic diversity of their student body. I strongly agree with this panel that this is a critically important issue for our schools.

Many boards find the argument that without diversity it’s impossible to have academic excellence compelling. It’s crital to separate the notion of socioeconomic and racial/ethic diversity. This is often a challenge for schools, but very important.

Many schools work with access organizations like A Better Chance, Rainier Scholars, SEEDS, Prep for Prep and other orgs like them. These orgs specialize in identifying, preparing and supporting students from low/middle income backgrounds and ultimately provide them with access to better educational opportunities. College matriculation and graduation of their students is the ultimate goal for these access organizations.

For me, since my school works closely with Rainier Scholars, one of the best ideas I gathered from this workshop is to offer a program at our school to students who could benefit from similar support (but are not students in an access org).

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Transformative Communication Advocacy, Admissions, and Advancement

Get in the social media game and tell your school’s story because in reality other  people are already out there telling their version of your story. Not surprisingly, this workshop from staff of the Ranney School is packed, standing room only.

Every school wants to know how best to market their school and harness the power of social media to share their school brand. As an admission professional, they definitely have my attention!

This school is doing webcasts to talk with parent groups and alumni (State of the School Web Address).

They encourage schools to know the best stories in your school and then frame and market them. Of course, right!!!!

Periodically survey the perception of your school in the community. Dispel the misconceptions and share the positive feedback.

Transparency of purpose has significant value with parents.

I learned a new term, Zag targeting, a way to target your consumer based on their zip code, age and gender.

I love the idea of a digital bookshelf on the school’s web page. All publications go here and allows schools to imbed video into their publications.

Ranney started using QR codes with their ads.

They suggest 5 Points for Communicating with Purpose, Process & Practice

  1. Identify WHICH messages are important to convey
  2. Know WHO will convey the messages
  3. Understand the audience you want to reach
  4. What platforms will you use to deliver the messages
  5. What do you want your outcome to be
All constituencies are potential message carriers for our schools. We need to maximize this incredible marketing opportunity by providing all of them with the information/stories. They will naturally share them with others.


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Exhibit Hall

As I walked through the Exhibit Hall searching for the complimentary lunch, I couldn’t help but feel like I was at the Seattle Home Show with all the vendors.


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