Drawing on our Montessori legacy, Oak Meadow will be a recognized leader among schools, solidifying its institutional capacity in order to attract and retain the finest faculty while supporting the development of innovative best practices for 21st century learners.
American education is at a crossroads. The new educational model will need to be one that teaches 21st century skills utilizing the knowledge and understandings that are available through recent brain research and other educational developments.
Oak Meadow is uniquely positioned to be a leader under the new educational paradigm. At the heart of our Montessori educational approach is the understanding that education is not the transfer of information from teacher to student, but rather is the nurturing of young minds and spirits.
In the fall of 2010, we began a year-long Strategic Visioning Process involving all of the school’s adult constituencies – faculty and staff, parents and Board of Trustees – in an intensive effort to investigate issues at the heart of what it means to be a Montessori school in the 21st century. We set out to explore our educational program in ways that could and should be ongoing – intending to generate a Strategic Vision that reflects not so much tasks to be completed as ways of thinking and behaving that define who we are as a school. Through the process of defining who we are and how we behave as a school – issues that at their heart involve the question of what is the nature and purpose of education – and through continued striving to provide excellence in education, we would also address the issues surrounding institutional and financial sustainability.
In order to gain insight into the forces that are shaping the new paradigm in education, our community read two books - 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times by Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel and Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina. The themes in these books resonated with Montessori education and offered us opportunities to innovate as educators. During a series of five day-long retreats throughout the year, we uncovered ways in which Oak Meadow is already a 21st century school and we discovered ways that we could be more intentional about providing a 21st century education while remaining true to our Montessori core.
This new Strategic Vision and Roadmap will guide us to continue our explorations of what it means to be a Montessori school in the 21st century.
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Ideas to Guide our Thinking and Actions
Advancing Our School through an Emergent Process
We live in a dynamic and rapidly changing world where fixed plans may undermine our ability to react to evolving situations. We believe that constructing our school’s future is best served by taking a responsive “strategic posture” based on a five-year vision and supported by research data and thoughtful analysis in our approach to planning.
Cultivating the Collaborative Community
The benefits of cooperative work hold mutual advantages to the individual and the community as a whole. Working jointly taps the unique resources of each individual and the outcome is greater than that of any single contributor. Our aim is to embrace the value and teach the skill of collaboration at all levels and across all our constituencies.
Encouraging Active Inquiry
At the heart of learning is our human capacity for curiosity. Preserving and nurturing this innate inquisitiveness is central to a successful learning experience. As a community of life-long learners we cultivate and support active investigation into all facets of learning by students and adults as part of our educational program.
Prioritizing Generative Thinking
Generative thinking employs creative and imaginative thought processes to address complex challenges while allowing new ideas to emerge without rushing to solution. Encouraging generative thinking allows for deeper and more meaningful exploration of significant school challenges and may reveal further questions to be explored and/or actionable solutions.
Supporting Individual Creative Potential
Establishing a climate where the ideas of each student and adult are both sparked and respected is essential to a vibrant educational community. Allowing space for the unexpected and encouraging inventive ideas are basic components of a worthwhile education. By recognizing and honoring these opportunities as they emerge we support courageous learners to reach and go beyond their perceived potential.
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Strategic Theme I:
Solidifying Our Institutional Leadership and Capacity
Oak Meadow has the opportunity to demonstrate the power of Montessori education to the larger educational community and to reveal the efficacy of Montessori as the sought-after new paradigm in education for the 21st century. In order to establish and be recognized as a leadership school, steps must be taken to assure that Oak Meadow is a financially sustainable institution that can attract and retain the finest educators and that can continue to move forward to develop the finest educational program. Marketing efforts that generate an excess of demand for admission must be a priority.
- To strengthen our position as a recognized leader among schools.
- To establish a financial model that ensures long-term institutional sustainability.
- To strengthen our school identity and marketing efforts in order to achieve consistently strong enrollment.
- To explore technology innovations on an institutional level including communications, office systems and facility upgrades.
- How do we balance our desire for affordable tuition levels given the demographics of the surrounding towns with our desire to be a leadership school that compensates its faculty and staff appropriately?
- What is the balance of enrollment revenue variables (number of students, tuition level, and financial aid) that will optimize Oak Meadow’s ability to fulfill its mission?
- What opportunities exist for non-tuition revenue?
- How do Oak Meadow’s expenses compare to peer schools, and are there economies that we can adopt?
- What does Oak Meadow offer that differentiates it from other school options and that resonates with the needs and desires of parents?
- How does Oak Meadow create compelling messages about educational excellence and use those messages to reach the broader community?
- How can new or innovative program components strengthen Oak Meadow’s mission and financial sustainability?
- What is the viability and value of adding the following program components?
- An infant/toddler program
- A 9th grade program and/or a high school program
- Maximizing facility use and program expertise over summer months
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Strategic Theme II:
Sustaining the Finest Faculty, Administration and Staff
In order for Oak Meadow to achieve its goal of leadership as a 21st century Montessori school, it must focus on attracting and sustaining the finest faculty, administration and staff. This will require offering viable and competitive salaries and benefits. Equally important is the need to develop a school culture in which collaborative, creative and critical thinking are nourished, valued and engaged.
- To attract, support and retain the finest faculty, administration and staff.
- To address monetary and non-monetary needs of our faculty/staff.
- To create a culture of collaboration, creativity and teaching excellence through professional development and renewal.
- To support faculty and staff in inquiry and innovation on the integration of Montessori education and 21st century skills.
- To support individuals in their quest toward teaching excellence.
- What does teaching excellence at Oak Meadow look like?
- What are current best practices used by our peer schools to retain, renew, compensate, and inspire faculty, administration and staff?
- How do peer schools provide time and structure for peer collaboration?
- Is there a correlation between compensation and job performance and job satisfaction?
- How do we identify and assess the quality of Oak Meadow school culture?
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Strategic Theme III:
Innovation for the 21st Century
In order to grow as a 21st century educational institution Oak Meadow will critically explore and evaluate Montessori practices and the needs of today’s learners. Key areas of focus will be in adopting new technologies in a meaningful way, highlighting and expanding our focus on creating global citizens, and developing a keener sense of environmental stewardship within an increasingly collaborative school community.
- To integrate innovative best practices for 21st century learning into Oak Meadow’s program.
- To study the relationship between Montessori practices and 21st century learning needs using Brain Rules and 21st Century Skills as a foundation.
- To cultivate a learning environment that promotes understanding and use of new educational technologies.
- To pursue an expanded understanding of environmental awareness and nature-based learning.
- To create global citizens, with socio-cultural awareness who engage in the worldwide community.
- What are current best practices used by our peer schools in the integration of technology into the curriculum?
- How do we best introduce technology into the curriculum as an experience rather than for the sake of the technology?
- How does the use of blogging or global engagement aid the school in developing its brand as a 21st century school?
- How does technology help students become critical learners?
- How can we create a technology savvy school community where the entire OM community can be involved?
- What is the best way to ensure student success in a 21st century world?
- What does it mean to be a global citizen today?
- What does nature-based learning mean?
- How can we foster collaboration skills at every level of our community?
- What is being sacrificed when we add something new to the curriculum?
- What is the right balance between seemingly opposing goals: 1) experiential and virtual learning 2) academic rigor and play 3) technology based and nature based learning?
- What is the need for and purpose of a school-wide Curriculum Coordinator position? How could this specialist support across level program coordination, flow and innovation?
- What is the appropriate balance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related subjects in our overall school program?