On the final day of the NAIS Conference in 2017, speakers addressed two sides of a crisis in education: youth purpose. Sir Ken Robinson, who passed away in 2020, blasted today’s schools for failing to feed and nurture children’s souls, while school leaders showed innovative programs that are succeeding in creating soulful student citizens.

“If you create a system to do something, don’t be surprised if it does,” said Sir Ken Robinson. Like industrial farms that churn out mile after mile of perfect carrots, Robinson said today’s schools are built around principles of manufacturing to churn out a single type of standardized student — and the soul of the child gets crushed in the process. “Many students go through schools without finding out what they are good at,” said Robinson. …


Photo by Josie Lopez on Unsplash

Most of the parenting books on the market today are a backlash against so-called “intensive parenting” techniques, such as helicopter parenting, snowplow parenting, etc. I do agree with the idea that parents should back off and allow children to make mistakes and fail. But I think the focus on helping students develop resiliency, also called “grit,” is misplaced. I think focusing on helping children develop purpose is a better approach.

Victor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor and founder of the modern-day purpose movement, disliked America’s enshrined concept of the “pursuit of happiness.” He said “It is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy’. But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to be happy.” Frankl argued humans can’t pursue happiness, success, or grit. …


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Dear Teachers and Parents:

Given the advertising from the $5 trillion global wellness industry, it’s understandable that most people equate wellness with happiness or at least feeling relaxed. But true wellness does not mean you have to feel happy or at peace all the time, especially right now. It’s natural to feel sad, depleted, and anxious during times of uncertainty. True wellness, says psychiatrist and best-selling author Lisa Damour, is “having the right emotion at the right time, and being able to cope with that emotion.”

So rather than fixate on happiness, we can pursue coping strategies that allow us to build resilience and cope with the emotions we feel during chaotic times in our lives (and there will be plenty ahead). Happiness and peacefulness may well ensue. …


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The following was a letter read during a year-end virtual Reimagine Learning Workshop at Graland School in Denver, which was facilitated on June 4, 2020 by World Leadership School. With tears in their eyes, teachers headed off for a well-deserved summer break.

My name is Sara Knickerbocker and together with my spouse, Ryann Peyton, we have one child, Archer, who just finished 2nd grade in Carrie Vonderhaar’s class. I am excited to be joining the Graland Board of Trustees and appreciate the invitation to be here today to speak on behalf of the parent community. I am a psychologist by training, but before that, an independent school teacher. …


(An earlier version of this article appeared on Getting Smart on May 3, 2020)

Coronavirus has closed schools around the globe. As teachers are forced to rethink learning for next year, it is now sparking what will likely be the largest-ever experiment in teacher training.

As a history teacher at Collegiate School in Richmond, VA., Brad Cooke was known for taking students off campus to explore his city’s history of enslaved people and engage in collaborative projects. Now he finds himself using Zoom, Google Classroom, and other tech tools to teach history in an utterly new way. “It’s exhausting,” he says. …


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Note: Statistics in this story have been updated as of Wednesday, March 4

As the founder of a student travel company, I’ve had numerous conversations this week with school leaders on whether to cancel global programs in light of coronavirus (COVID-2019).

These are the most engaging conversations around risk management we’ve ever had with our school partners, some of whom we have worked with for more than a decade.

So I am beginning to see coronavirus in a new light: yes it’s a potential crisis, but it’s also a rare opportunity for schools to engage their communities in deep conversations about risk and learning. …


In June 2019, World Leadership School lead a weeklong program for teachers on the US-Mexico border at El Paso, Texas. The following are reflections from the program leader, Shayna Cooke, and faculty.

Homeward today. Two weeks of being immersed in the migrant crisis at our southern border have taken their toll on my heart. I have met with attorneys, spoken with judges, sat through hours of criminal court deportation dockets, learned from leaders in the ACLU, interviewed Border Patrol, sat with and learned from undocumented migrants who want nothing more than to be invisible, helped a 20-year-old mother bathe her 6-month-old son for the first time since she started her trek from Guatemala on June 10th. I also helped welcome refugees whose horrific journeys through the desert have ended successfully … for them. Four children have died in the desert or river in the time that I have been here. I know you have seen the photo of the father and daughter from El Salvador who drowned yesterday in the Rio Grande. If you haven’t, find it and look at it until you can’t see it anymore for your tears. I love this work. I can’t imagine my life without this work but it also breaks me. There is so much suffering and so much pain here. …


Sheryl Koyama, Deerfield Academy

So right now I’m feeling a little bit like Paula Poundstone during Lightning Fill in the Blank on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Just in case you haven’t listened to this NPR show, the person who is in last place going into the final round goes first, filling the air time in a moderately humorous way until the people with real knowledge have their turn, but given my high regard for Ben, this feels appropriate.

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Nearly two years ago I wrote an ambitious sabbatical proposal that focused on three areas: to improve my skills as a leader of international student programs, to explore academic support at other schools, and to become “proficient” at Spanish (possibly not the best choice when your Head of School is from Colombia and your Dean of Faculty is from Argentina. Not easy to fake that one…) I made good progress on all of these goals and while I could spend my short time with you giving you a travelogue of my adventures in Bogata, La Ciudad Perdida, Cartagena, Orlando, Newport, Seattle, Vancouver, Boulder, Denver, Miami, Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido, Mexico City, London, Corfu, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, Lima, Ollantaytambo, Cusco, and Heath, I am, instead, going to draw upon the great example set by Mary Ellen Friends when she gave her sabbatical report. …


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  1. The most important thing I learned was that you don’t need to live in a fancy house or use modern technology or text pepole to make the strongest friendships. In a village where we use a hole for a bathroom and it takes some of us an hour to walk to school, we made closer bonds in two weeks than I ever could in America. I find myself wanting to go back regardless of the comforting amenities of the US, for the people made me feel at home in a country across the world.
  2. It’s hard to describe and pinpoint exactly how I’ve changed. However, I do know that I am immensely grateful for what I have and look forward to spending more time outside. I also will be more conservative with my resources, as well as be more patient, understanding, accepting, and helpful, especially around the house. I also see everything in a much bigger picture now. …


The following journal entry was written by a student at Saint Gertrude High School in Richmond, VA, who traveled to World Leadership School’s El Paso program in June 2018.

My eyes were opened to the realities of the US-Mexican border when I traveled on a recent World Leadership School program to El Paso, TX. Upon arrival in El Paso, we met a group of refugees from South and Central America who were brought to the retreat center where we were staying. These families had been processed through US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and released to the retreat center, where they would make plans to be united with family members living in the United States. My friends from school and I played with play-doh, colored, and passed the soccer ball around with the children. In addition, we were able to talk to the adults in Spanish about their lives. I enjoyed being able to connect with them in another language. Some people spoke a native language as well as Spanish. …

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World Leadership School

World Leadership School partners with K12 schools to reimagine learning and create next-generation leaders.

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