You went to school in a place that saw you and valued you for who you are, that saw the many limitless possibilities of who you could be, and made it the mission of their every waking moment to help you create that reality?
You worked in a place that saw you and valued you for who you are, that saw the many limitless possibilities of who you could be, and made it their mission to help you create that reality for yourself?
This is MIS. The words of our mission and our promise are powerful, but there is something magical about a place that gives every human being that enters her doors a sense of freedom and value…a space to be true to what they know is right, to be true to themselves and their own growth and learning.
In the first week of school I was doing my rounds visiting classes and was accosted by a group of eighth grade girls who wanted to add a woodworking class to their elective list. The catch was that the woodworking class was offered at the same time as their favorite elective, National History Day, so they wanted to see if we would open another section of woodworking for them. They had already spoken to the woodworking instructor, and he had agreed to take on an extra section if they could get approval—I asked them to get signatures of anyone who wanted to add the class, to take care of some other logistical details we needed to facilitate adding the class, and within the next two hours, the course was set up and full! This agility on the part of the school and the fearless pursuit of learning and self-advocacy embodies the MIS spirit and this year’s theme: Be True.
I recently met with an architect who was interested in working with us on our current master planning process. In his follow up thank you note, he said:
It was a generous gift to learn about your work, and witness the spark of engagement between your faculty and students. The way that your teachers/guides adroitly shifted to welcoming a stranger in their classroom, while sharing their passions and purpose, and the poise and emotional intelligence of the students, started so many mental wheels spinning.
Your community of learning is not limited by normal boundaries, or disciplines. The way your vision of the future is strengthened with new environments should be just as unlimited.
He noticed two things that have been a priority for us this year: highlighting the incredible teaching going on at MIS and launching our shared vision into the future as we map out our future campus.
On the first, I want to share a little about how we support our faculty:
At MIS, we believe that the school has an ethical responsibility to support each teacher in his or her pursuit of professional goals. We believe in the creative genius that each teacher brings to the team and classroom and encourage everyone at MIS to discard artificial limits and constraints that do not work to the betterment of the students, the teacher, the team, and the school.
To this end, our staff have goals meetings that align with their strengths and how they want to grow each year. Feedback happens every day, not just once a year via a clipboarded checklist.
We set up parent-teacher conferences much this same way. Parents kick off the year with a goals meeting, and check progress towards shared goals for the student at subsequent parent-teacher conferences. Communication happens differently, too, with informal, frequent feedback, and lots of opportunities to learn about the why behind what (and how!) students are learning.
The second thing my architect friend reflected on after his visit was the facility planning process. As we think about crafting a campus that will live on beyond any of our time at MIS, two things rise up as foremost in the thinking about our new spaces: 1) being able to adapt to new opportunities as our students create their passions (like the students in woodworking), and 2) growing and preserving the importance of each learner’s experience as they come on to campus. What will happen when we hold true to Be True as we map out our future?
At MIS, we do not believe in doing things because it’s the way they’ve always been done. We don’t believe in hunting for deficiencies, and we reject purposeless decisions. We do believe that, by embracing and valuing individual strengths, by making decisions with intent and strong reasoning, and by being brave in our quest for education that works, we will make real and meaningful change in our world and our future. Welcome to MIS 2018-2019. Be True!
Ande Noktes is the Head of School for Midtown International School. She has 20 years of experience in education and educational administration. Her many years abroad and multicultural family at home have reinforced her passion for globally-minded, gifted education in the strategy and day to day practices of the school.
Head of School