Thinking – The Most Important Harvard Lesson

Thinking – The Most Important Harvard Lesson

It’s the final full day of the Harvard Leadership an Evolving Vision course and the whole week has be a massive thought gathering of self reflection and challenges about change in the most ambient and historical learning environments in the world. Along with the wonderful keynotes and workshops, the privilege of being at Harvard and forming global connections with outstanding educators have been memorable highlights.

Today, I was elated to sit in the Harvard Wideners Library and walk through the book stacks that almost goes back 100 year. The Library was built as a memorial by the mother of Harry Widener who died on the Titanic back in 1912. As part of the bequeath, mother stipulated that no brick should ever be removed from the building so consequently extensions over the years have gone underground.  The long tables with their lamps and the complete silence provided the opportunity to reflect on the week about education for the future and what it would look like in concepts such as:

– How we learn?

– When will we learn?

– Where will we learn?

– What will we learn?

– Why will we learn?

Sometimes as school leaders, we get caught up in the daily operations of our schools and spend an onerous amount of time managing rather than demonstrating true leadership. Part of this course has taught me to be a futuristic thinker and go beyond the now to imagine and create the possibilities by evolving my leadership skills. Taking risks is acceptable if we have a true picture of what we value and believe, and provided that we test our assumptions. Staying inactive is not leadership but purely holding the status quo and being a maintenance provider. It’s quite a daunting task when you consider all the variables that are around you including the vast array of political and non political agendas that permeates the workplace each day and the high expectations that we place on ourselves to succeed in the presence of our superiors and colleague.

Earlier in the day, I took a tour of Harvard with a 1st year student and she mentioned that her SAT scores were not the highest in senior years but managed to gain acceptance in Harvard through her essay and interview. No one knows the exact criteria for gaining admission to Harvard but I would say the power to think and follow a passion are high on the list. Not everyone who has completed Harvard ends up to be successful as we would predict. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and the Oklahoma Bomber was a graduate.

Harvard professors make people think and ask profound questions about themselves rather than tell them what they should be doing. The power to think has been the true learning throughout the week for me. This sounds self evident but quite often as school leaders we wait until the next curriculum, resource or pedagogy to emerge rather than try and create from our imagination that’s underpinned by our values and beliefs. In addition, the professors have provided self reflection tools of strategies to implement and carry through our vision.

Over the next few weeks, I will be continuing with my travels and reflecting on what I’ve learnt at Harvard. This will be my time  for futuristic thinking and to imagine the education that I would envisage for our students in their preparation for the future world, rather than accept the present social norms as the best possible model.

The Public Education Foundation Harvard Club Teachers Mutual Bank Scholarship has provided me with the opportunity to learn and understand myself as the  construct to be able to be a futuristic thinker. I remember they said that the scholarship will be life changing – so true! Next year, I trust that many of my colleagues will apply and attempt to share the Harvard experience with me.

One thought on “Thinking – The Most Important Harvard Lesson

  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us John. It is a powerful place that leaves a lasting impression no doubt. Would you say that the strength of your experience was in the place, the people you were learning with, those you learned from, or a sum of the perspective and reflection? Can’t wait to see how your experience further shapes your work at MEPS!

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