Nathaniel W. Coffman, Ed.D., Head of School

Educational Leadership Philosophy

As a school leader it is my duty to:

I. Build a community where students and teachers feel a sense of ownership and responsibility and are empowered to pursue excellence as learners and leaders.

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.” – Clay P. Bedford

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler

Teaching and learning have fundamentally changed over the last fifteen years. The teacher and the librarian no longer control the content flow to students. In an instant, a student can watch a video explaining any high school math or science concept. Students can access almost any historical document in seconds and, almost as quickly, can browse a hundred different newspaper articles, websites, books, and videos about the event.

As teachers we need to help our students: learn how to sift through the overwhelming amount of available information, slow down and focus, deeply explore conflicting ideas, and communicate effectively using a full range of mediums. It is our duty to expose our students to people, literature, music and ideas that are unfamiliar and confusing to them. We need to inspire them to see beyond their personal bubbles of iTunes, car pools, and organized activities and to realize that there are an abundance of opportunities and responsibilities for those willing to constantly grow and learn.

II. Maintain an environment where everyone feels safe enough to take risks and stumble while exploring both their individual and collective potential.

“This we know. All things are connected… Man did not weave the web of life; He is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, He does to himself.” – Ted Perry, inspired by Chief Seattle

“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.” – Booker T. Washington

Our increasingly interconnected world is also increasingly segregated. We have created a race to the top mentality where mistakes are not allowed on the path to selective colleges and where many young adults find themselves lost without the structure of school and parents.

As an independent school, we have a duty to build an interconnected community where every student is a part of a team or ensemble with an ambitious collective goal that will require both tremendous effort and collaboration to achieve. We must make the school physically and emotionally safe enough that students will take risks and build the resilience that comes from the mixture of success and struggle that makes any adventure worthwhile.

Our students need to construct their own understanding of the world. A truly exceptional education is one that supports this construction, encourages growth, allows for experimentation, trial and error; and most of all, empowers students to develop their own best sense of self. If we have the right mix of collective and individual responsibility as well as support and accountability, our students will develop into the compassionate collaborative leaders that our world needs.

III. Consistently and enthusiastically model positive values and behaviors (compassion, curiosity, accountability, respect, faith, work ethic, and optimism to name a few) that bring out the best in others.

“Goodness without knowledge is weak and feeble, yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous.” However, the combination of the two, “form[s] the noblest character, and lay[s] the surest foundation of usefulness to mankind.” – John Phillips

“If you nurture your mind, body, and spirit, your time will expand. You will gain a new perspective that will allow you to accomplish much more.” – Brian Koslow

As teachers, administrators and staff we must consistently grow as professionals, as individuals and as servant leaders. We do this by modeling the values and habits we expect to see in our students. We ask each other questions to help clarify ideas and improve our pedagogy and programs. We create regular professional development projects on campus and pursue off campus learning and service opportunities. We treat our colleagues with the respect and warmth that we would like to receive. Whenever possible we involve the students, faculty and staff in the institutional decision-making process.

Our process for holding each other and the students accountable is values-based and transparent while respecting the privacy and dignity of the individuals involved. We expect all of our adults and students to live and work together in a community that enjoys a healthy argument while respecting the individual, the community, and the decision-making process.