Moving — and the Therapeutic Benefit of Children’s Literature

Moving. For most people, the topic does not conjure up positive images.

I’m a planner, so I spent the better part of a year preparing for “the big move” from St. Louis to Chicago. I purged, planned, and prepared. I think this approach made the experience more organized but also more all-encompassing and exhausting.

I’m also a reader, so, when I’m working through a challenging patch, I sometimes go looking for a book. Au contraire, it is not a self-help book I seek, exactly, but a children’s literature selection that might fit the bill. This is how I happened upon Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst.

I had fond memories of a book with a similar title, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, in which — my readers may know — our protagonist repeats, throughout a series of mishaps and discomforts throughout the day, “I think I’ll move to Australia.” I invoke this as a silent mantra myself every now and then, which tells you just how much Viorst’s original 1972 Alexander book stuck with me. So, you can imagine my delight in finding …Not…Going to Move.

My new read did not disappoint. And what an interesting pair of books! Taken as a set, through the author’s gifts for humor, repetition, and cadence, we explore both the lure and dread of change.  Thanks, Judith Viorst.

 

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Alone Together

Alone TogetherAfter a full career as teacher, independent school leader, and consultant, Edes Gilbert recently returned to St. Louis. And there, thanks to mutual colleagues, I have had the privilege of beginning to get to know her.

It was in this context that Edes presented me with a copy of Alone Together, a memoir of her early life. As the story of her experiences as a child and adolescent in the 1930’s and ’40’s unfolds, we are given a window into family life of the time. Among the interesting themes is the mid-twentieth century view of the needs of children and the role of their parents, a stunning contrast to today. Parents, educators, and the children in their care will find the book thought-provoking and rich material for discussion.

 

The Fault in Our Stars

Crossroads College Preparatory School lost a member of the Class of 2013 to cancer this school year. Meredith’s death has been felt deeply in this school community, as you might guess. As adults, we do our best to support her schoolmates dealing with this loss, we are struck with both profound empathy and admiration as we watch her parents and siblings carry on, and, of course, we wrestle with our own existential questions. Premature death rattles our sense of fairness, stirs up our anxieties about loss of our own loved ones, and reminds us of our mortality.

fault 2I learned recently that a member of Meredith’s class and her mother were enjoying an audio book version of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a young-adult novel about the relationship between two teens with cancer diagnoses. Curious, given genre and themes, and eager to digest the book before the soon-to-be-released movie opens, I got a copy. I read it in nearly one sitting.

Hazel, our protagonist, is bright, verbal, acerbic, scrappy, and very much a teen. Think Juno meets cancer. She quickly captured my interest and heart. Her love-interest, Augustus, and the supporting characters are sufficiently complex to seem real. And, while there were moments when I was annoyed with Green for seeming to too intentionally play with our emotions, overall, I think the plot works. The reason to read The Fault in Our Stars, however, is its deft touch with those existential questions.

Quick, pick up a copy before the movies comes out.

Women, Leadership, Independent Schools: The Careful-What-You-Wish-For Paradox

Women make up only one-third of the population of heads of independent schools, a statistic that has made little movement in the past decade. What are the variables at play?

My colleagues Liza Lee, Head of School at Columbus School for Girls, and Melissa Boocock Soderberg, Head of School at Columbus Academy, joined me in exploring this question during the fall and winter months, culminating in a presentation at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference in February.

Using the work of Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, and Mary Davis Holt in Six Paradoxes Women Leaders Face in 2013 (Harvard Business Review, 1/03/13) as a springboard, we considered trends beyond the independent school world, examined data available from NAIS, and reflected on our own experiences. Here is the last of four posts about what we learned.

The Careful-What-You-Wish-For Paradox

Combining professional life with family life brings its own challenges, and these seem to play out differently by gender. As a result, we see some women opting out of the workforce and others working full-time while carrying more than “their share” of the family- and home-related work.

Opting out: Flynn, Heath, & Holt, citing results of the Parenthood and Economy 2012 survey produced by Forbes and TheBump.Com, report that “more women than ever aspire to walk away from work to stay home full-time to raise children.”

An unequal load: In her popular and controversial 2014 book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg reports that, according to the latest data, women do “40% more child care and about 30% more housework” than their male partners in families with a father and mother both working full-time outside the home (p. 106). Earlier this month, in a report entitled, “5 questions (and answers) about American moms today,” Pew Research Center noted that leisure time for fathers averages 28 hours per week compared to 25 hours for mothers, with a wider gap on weekends.

To what extent does the tug of family life inhibit progression to independent school headship – and to what extent does this differ for women as compared to their male counterparts?

The NAIS report on The State of Independent School Leadership 2009 offers some relevant data:

  • Among participants in the Aspiring Heads Fellowship Program who decided not to pursue headship, personal and family commitments were most commonly cited. Over half of the fellows “opting out” cited personal-work balance, family commitments, time commitments, and long work hours as reasons.
  • Among the heads of school surveyed by NAIS, 21% reported the perception that the job is too demanding with children at home. Among the female heads surveyed, 34% expressed this belief. Among administrators not in headship, that figure was 39%; and among female administrators not in headship, 44%.
  • When surveyed about greatest sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the work of headship, female heads reported the greatest dissatisfaction with the amount of time they have for themselves and families – with 64% reporting that they are somewhat or very dissatisfied with this aspect of their jobs.

As my co-presenters and I reflected personally on this conundrum, we each shared anecdotes of laying claim to certain responsibilities by virtue of “being the mom,” no matter which partner had the more time-demanding job. The division of labor varies by family, of course, but shopping for children’s clothing, for instance, seems to be a common mother’s duty. In my own household, I sheepishly confess, I seem to be the standard-bearer on matters of order and cleanliness.

Could we share the family and home responsibilities more equally among men and women? And would that change the gender distribution in headship?

I leave you with Sheryl Sandberg’s 2010 TEDWomen Talk on this topic, in case you haven’t seen it. Don’t have 15 minutes to watch? Fast-forward to the “Make Your Partner a Real Partner” segment, 10:06, for the nugget relevant to today’s post.

Women, Leadership, Independent Schools: The Promotion Paradox

Women make up only one-third of the population of heads of independent schools, a statistic that has made little movement in the past decade. What are the variables at play?

My colleagues Liza Lee, Head of School at Columbus School for Girls, and Melissa Boocock Soderberg, Head of School at Columbus Academy, joined me in exploring this question during the fall and winter months, culminating in a presentation at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference in February.

Using the work of Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, and Mary Davis Holt in Six Paradoxes Women Leaders Face in 2013 (Harvard Business Review, 1/03/13) as a springboard, we considered trends beyond the independent school world, examined data available from NAIS, and reflected on our own experiences. Here, in several parts, is what we learned.

The Promotion Paradox

It is as plain as day that women are qualified to lead in terms of skill and talent, yet we capture far fewer job slots at the top.” — Flynn, Heath, & Holt

Is this true in the world of independent schools? Let’s take a look at the numbers: current demographics, data on aspiration to headship, and the few studies that have examined independent school career trajectory by gender.

Current demographics. Gender demographics in independent school “middle management” posts in fall 2013 showed relative balance in several positions: Associate Head, Assistant Head, and Middle School Head. Upper School Heads tend to be male; Lower School Heads tend to be female.

Promotion Paradox

Aspirations. NAIS reported in The State of Independent School Leadership 2009 that 12% of female member-school administrators expressed the intention of obtaining a headship in contrast to 22% of member-school administrators overall.

Pace of career trajectory. Another variable to consider is career point when headship is reached, suggests Sea Crest School Head Tekakwitha Pernambuco-Wise. She reports that, within the cohort of heads of independent schools studied in her dissertation research of 2011, “It took women an average of five years longer than their male counterparts to attain their first headship.” Similarly, in her exploration of gender and headship in Friends schools in 2000, Martha Bryans found a six-year differential.

 

Women, Leadership, Independent Schools: The Double-Bind Paradox

Women make up only one-third of the population of heads of independent schools, a statistic that has made little movement in the past decade. What are the variables at play?

My colleagues Liza Lee, Head of School at Columbus School for Girls, and Melissa Boocock Soderberg, Head of School at Columbus Academy, joined me in exploring this question during the fall and winter months, culminating in a presentation at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference in February.

Using the work of Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, and Mary Davis Holt in Six Paradoxes Women Leaders Face in 2013 (Harvard Business Review, 1/03/13) as a springboard, we considered trends beyond the independent school world, examined data available from NAIS, and reflected on our own experiences. Here, in several parts, is what we learned.

The Double-Bind Paradox

Flynn, Holt, & Heath assert that the personal qualities considered leader-like in men are often seen as negative in women. They cite a 2007 report from Catalyst, with the compelling title The Double-Bind Dilemma for Women in Leadership: Damned if You Do and Doomed if You Don’t, revealing that female leaders are either perceived as competent or liked — but rarely both.

This video from the Pantene Philippines #ShineStrong campaign illustrates the point clearly:

My personal experience with this phenomenon includes being labeled a “bossy girl” as a child — associating shame with my inclinations to organize and direct. As I shared with our NAIS Conference audience, I have had conversations with other female school leaders who express the same lament. We need to be aware of the messages we give our assertive “tween girls,” in particular. And as educators and parents, we have critical roles here.

The recently-launched Ban Bossy movement is an effort by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organization and the Girl Scouts to address this very concern. Their work has met with both applause and criticism as you might guess (see Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” Campaign Meets Critics. Christian Science Monitor, 3/20/14). I find the movement heartening and the resources they offer, worth a look.

If we are interested in seeing more women in leadership positions, we need to encourage the qualities that will enable them to be successful there.

Quote-Graphic_Gavin

 

 

Women, Leadership, Independent Schools: The Pay Paradox

Women make up only one-third of the population of heads of independent schools, a statistic that has made little movement in the past decade. What are the variables at play?

My colleagues Liza Lee, Head of School at Columbus School for Girls, and Melissa Boocock Soderberg, Head of School at Columbus Academy, joined me in exploring this question during the fall and winter months, culminating in a presentation at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference in February.

Using the work of Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, and Mary Davis Holt in Six Paradoxes Women Leaders Face in 2013 (Harvard Business Review, 1/03/13) as a springboard, we considered trends beyond the independent school world, examined data available from NAIS,* and reflected on our own experiences. Here, in several parts, is what we learned.

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Robyn Mackenzie/Shutterstock

The Pay Paradox

Citing a 2012 report from the American Association of University Women, Flynn, Heath and Holt state that though women are better educated than ever, earning almost 60% of all college degrees, they earn 23% less than men on average. They attribute some of this differential to different career paths and cite a study that shows a gender differential of 12% among college graduates when choice of profession is factored out.

What’s the landscape in independent schools?

Among the 1,077 schools responding to both the executive compensation and head’s gender questions in the NAIS survey of fall 2013, 363 schools – 34% – are headed by women. For those schools, median head’s salary for men exceeds median head’s salary for women by 21%.

Might this be explained by the greater representation of women heading small schools and elementary schools? To some extent, perhaps. Yet, even in these schools, women are earning less for the same work. Let’s take a closer look.

In the smallest schools, with enrollment of under 200, we see fairly even gender distribution in headship, with women actually in the majority at 51%. The salary differential still exists here, though less so. In these schools, median head’s salary for men exceeds median head’s salary for women by 14%.

In the next cohort, schools with enrollment of 201-300, 43% of the heads are women. In these schools, that salary differential is 15%.

In elementary school headship, women weighed in at 46%. In these schools, median head’s salary for men exceeds median head’s salary for women by 28%.

Why aren’t women serving in headship in larger number?

One explanation could be that pursuing and remaining in headship is less financially rewarding for women than it is for their male peers.

 

*Special thanks to NAIS’s Martha Lucia Galindo, Ph.D., Senior Statistician and Hilary LaMonte, VP for Data Analysis and School Leadership.

American Promise

Educators and parents everywhere should take the time to watch and discuss American Promise, a documentary that tracks the lives of two African-American boys, Idris Brewster and Seun Summers, over a twelve-year period including shared years at The Dalton School. The filmmakers are Idris’ parents, Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster.

Both provocative and intimate, the film stirs thinking about many topics, among them: the experience of African-American boys in independent and public schools, parental anxiety, attention and motivation, the college placement process, and dealing with family tragedy.

Most profound, from my perspective, was the illustration of the impact of the key or (to use Robert Brooks’ term) “charismatic” adult in a child’s life. In this case, the role of charismatic adult is filled for Seun by his public school advisor or guidance counselor. Applause for her! We should wish such a presence for every child in every school setting.

Kudos to Connecticut Association of Independent Schools Commission on Professional Development for leading the way in facilitating shared viewing and discussion in their region.

You’ll find American Promise live-streaming on POV on PBS through March 6.

The Health of the Head: Wisdom from Rob Evans

School leaders attending the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) Heads of School Conference last week received a dose of Rob Evans’ acuity, compassion, and humor. In remarks entitled “The Health of the Head,” Rob offered four important strategies for finding and maintaining balance in this demanding role.

1) Make choices. Improving time management for better life balance is “a myth,” says Rob. He asserted that many of us, as school leaders, suffer from “closet omnipotence” fueled by the propensity for guilt of the hyper-conscientious. We fall into the trap of believing that we can fix anything if we just work hard enough. Rather than focusing on working more efficiently, we would do better to make choices more deliberately, spending precious time on one thing rather than another in a more intentional way.

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2. Connect with peers. Citing research, Rob reminded us that anxiety has a negative impact on performance and that stress is intensified by isolation. He urged us to seek opportunities to spend time with colleagues outside of school.

3. Focus on our strengths. Applying what we know about successfully supporting the growth of students, Rob recommended that we spend less energy on our weak areas and, instead, maximize – and enjoy – our stronger attributes.

4. Lighten up. Armed with a handful of school-related anecdotes, as usual, Rob sent home the message that we need to laugh and to find a perspective in which we can see the humor in our work.

For more on this topic, see Rob Evans’ blog post for Jossey Bass (5/05/10), “Seven Secrets of the Savvy School Leader.” If you’d like to delve more deeply, head for the book of the same title (Jossey Bass, 2010).