This year, Baltimore City had the good fortune to host the 2017 NAIS conference—and The New Century School didn’t pass up the convenient opportunity to attend!
NAIS stands for The National Association of Independent Schools, a nonprofit membership association that provides services to more than 1,500 independent private K–12 schools in the United States. They define independent schools as . . . “independent in philosophy: each is driven by a unique mission. They are also independent in the way they are managed and financed . . . each is primarily supported through tuition payments . . . They are accountable to their communities and are accredited by state-approved accrediting bodies.”
NAIS’s mission, according to their website, is to empower independent schools and their students. “The association offers research and trend analysis, leadership and governance guidance, and professional development opportunities for school and board leaders.”
The NAIS Annual Conference, then, is the “premier professional development and networking event for administrators, trustees, and teachers at independent schools.” In the course of this year’s 3-day event, the theme of which was “Make Your Mission Matter: From Vision to Values,” thousands of participants attended. See highlights in the short video below.
TNCS Head of School Alicia Danyali was thrilled that the conference was in Baltimore; previous conferences have been held at various cities across the United States. She wanted to experience the conference first-hand, she said, having never been able to attend until now. She networked with various groups, visited the different vendors associated with education, and sat in on some of the speaker sessions. She describes it this way:
They have an unlimited amount of resources for independent schools. The conference is attended by well-versed, well-educated people in the field of education in every aspect. They had individual booths for everything—from admissions to school psychology to gender-specific schools to service learning to extracurriculars. Debbie Rothman, for example, had a whole day dedicated to health education. She helped us develop our health education program at TNCS.
(See Right from the Start: Talking with Elementary Age Children about Sexuality for more on Baltimore’s health education guru Debbie Rothman.)
In addition to local, well-known education experts, internationally acclaimed speakers also presented. The keynote speaker, in fact, was Sir Ken Robinson, whom Ms. Danyali calls, “one of the biggest and most respected names in education.”
His landmark 2006 TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” (shown below) and subsequent follow-ups have earned him the distinction of being the most watched TED Talker in the history of TED Talks!
Ms. Danyali explains that her primary reason for going was to network, in particular about her particular professional interests:
I think about us as a young school, and I also think about what would be vital to network about in reaching out to these experts in the field who can help us to grow. Especially now that we’ve grown into a middle school, one of my focuses, of course, has been restorative, and how that looks and how people deal with behavioral issues. I’m also always going back to character development—how do we identify self as a learner? I think about students I’ve taught and people I’ve hired. What stands about them and how they’ll model behaviors to influence our population? It can be really challenging in a multicultural population. So this was a good way to get names and information.
See TNCS Brings It Full Circle with Restorative Practices! for more on how Ms. Danyali has adopted restorative practices at TNCS.
“Another area I was very interested in was how to involve schools in helping the environment,” she said.
“The conference brought a lot of like-minded people together, and I’m grateful to have gone.” Another aspect they offer is webinars and recordings. She plans to utilize this service next year, when the NAIS conference will be held in Atlanta so she can stay closer to campus but avail herself of the presentations and break-out sessions on best independent school practices.
She also took home some great reading material thanks to the conference’s pop-up bookstore!