Inspired Learning

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Dear Mid-Pen Community:

It has been two weeks since Mid-Pen announced my appointment as Head of School, and I am still feeling as excited and grateful as I did that day. My good friend Ted Lasso put it well when he said, "I feel like (I) fell out of the lucky tree and hit every branch on the way down, and ended up in a pool of cash and Sour Patch Kids." (What?  You haven't watched Ted Lasso yet?!  I encourage you to get on that immediately...and this is not a paid announcement!) 

Thanks to each of you for being a reason why this school is so wonderful—it's all about the people and the relationships here, as we know. And while I certainly have learned a lot about Mid-Pen since I arrived in July, I know I still have much more to learn from all of you this year.  

I will be kicking off my official "entry process" later this month, which will include observing classes, meeting alumni and their families, attending sporting events and arts productions...anything that will help me build my understanding of our community and culture.  Importantly, it also will include conversations with colleagues, current parents, and students

I first learned about this process from Al Adams—the longtime Head of School at Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco and my boss when I was the Assistant Head there—who wrote an article about the importance of starting one's leadership position as a researcher of sorts. I have engaged in thorough entry processes many times now, and I love the opportunity to act as an anthropologist in my own school as I listen, analyze, and synthesize.  

As I've already done with trustees, I will be asking everyone to share their perspectives on our school to learn more about what seems to work well and what doesn't, as well as hopes and dreams for our future. During our conversations, I will be doing a lot of listening and asking a lot of curious questions of everyone. I will analyze the notes from those meetings to identify trends and areas of divergence, and I will share my findings with the Mid-Pen community during the second semester. In essence, I am going to engage in an action research project, which has been described as "a collaborative activity among colleagues [and community members] searching for solutions to everyday, real problems experienced in schools...Rather than dealing with the theoretical, action research allows practitioners to address those concerns that are closest to them, ones over which they can exhibit some influence and make change." I certainly believe that the best kinds of evolution in schools happen when people in the community have a hand in shaping it. The qualitative data I will gather and analyze will be an important step towards mapping our collaborative effort to preserve our mission while growing and evolving our practices.

All of this will put me in the best position possible to lead around the strengths, challenges, and opportunities that were described in the Head of School position statement, which our search consultants at RG175 developed in partnership with the search committee after completing their own listening tour of the school. Whether it is preserving the school's mission, finding ways to upgrade technology, or creating new programs that will be housed in our new building in the coming years, there is obviously a lot to be done together. My entry process will also inform how we will continue to implement our Strategic Plan, The Mid-Pen Promise, as we keep it at the forefront of our thinking and planning for the future.

Beginning later this month, I will meet individually with colleagues here on campus during the school day, and I will meet with small groups of parents/guardians in Zoom meetings. Each of the family Zoom meetings will be limited to participants from 10 families so that we can hear from everyone who participates; dates and sign-up information are below, and also will be shared in weekly E-Blasts. Starting in January, I will set up small group meetings with students here on campus. 

One thing that is important to know is that, while I will take notes during conversations, I will never attribute statements to any person. I want all of you who participate to feel that you can speak honestly about your thoughts and experiences— whether positive, negative, or somewhere in between—without worrying your name will be attached. My goal is to summarize what I've heard from the community and synthesize it in ways that will help us move forward with clarity and purpose.  I want to hear whatever you want to share, and I hope as many of you are able to participate as possible!

Click here to sign up for one of these dates, which include many evening times as well as some lunchtime options:

  • Monday, October 25, 6:45 pm to 7:45 pm
  • Monday, November 1, 6:45 pm  to 7:45 pm
  • Tuesday, November 2, 12 pm to 1 pm
  • Monday, November 8, 6:45 pm to 7:45 pm
  • Wednesday, November 10, 6:45 pm  to 7:45 pm
  • Friday, November 12, 12 pm to 1 pm
  • Monday, November 15, 6:45 pm  to 7:45 pm
  • Friday, November 19, 12 pm to 1 pm
  • Monday, November 29, 6:45 pm  to 7:45 pm
  • Wednesday, December 1, 6:45 pm  to 7:45 pm
  • Monday, December 6, 6:45 pm  to 7:45 pm
  • Tuesday, December 7, 6:45 pm  to 7:45 pm
  • Thursday, December 9, 12 pm to 1 pm

Thank you for engaging with me in what will be a fascinating deep dive into...ourselves!

In gratitude,

Karen Eshoo
Head of School
Instagram: @hos_midpendragons

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