Our Head of School Talks Nationally About the Creation of Scorpion School

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Jess Thibault

What did it take to create Scorpion School? Take a peek behind the curtain at the work and innovation that went into our virtual program. 

Head of School, Tobin Bechtel, recently spoke on a National Association of Independent Schools' webinar for other school administrators on the success of our distance learning program, Scorpion School. Using a few different frameworks for innovative thinking, Tobin described the process our school went through to quickly launch virtual versions of our curriculum, community events, and admissions processes. 

While the webinar replay is available only to members of NAIS, here is a summary of the content that Tobin and the NAIS innovation staff shared with other school leaders regarding the role of innovation during this time. 

NAIS Webinar Title: Leading Remote Learning - What's Your Strategy?

Speakers:

  • Tim Fish, Chief Innovation Officer, NAIS
  • Tobin Bechtel, Head of School, Sage Ridge School
  • Jackie Wolking, Director of Innovation Programs, NAIS

Webinar Summary by NAIS:

As most schools have made the immediate shift to remote learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are still questioning what the end of the year, this summer, and even next fall might look like. While schools are making tactical decisions every day to prepare for this uncertain future, this NAIS webinar recording covers strategic thinking tools to help align your unique value proposition with a potential ongoing distance learning approach. The session includes frameworks that provide structure for the continual evolution of your new reality, including pressing questions like, “How do you continue to live your values through remote learning?” and “How can you prioritize programming to ensure stakeholder satisfaction in this new virtual space?”

Insights to Action Along the Mountain

Tim Fish likens innovation to leaving the safety and comfort of "Now Town" -- something that all schools have now been required to do as a result of the pandemic. While schools had to quickly move up the innovation mountain to "basecamp 1," schools now have time to think about the next ascent beyond just launching a bare bones virtual campus. This process of leaving security, venturing out, and then settling again at the next camp is how innovation moves forward. 

 

The Four Quadrants

The first tool that Sage Ridge School used to innovate and create Scorpion School was the "four quadrants." Using this chart and these questions, Sage Ridge was able to maintain the ethos and heart of our programs when moving virtual. 

  1. DNA - What is at the heart of your school that is bigger than everyone? When family and faculty are reflecting back at the end of virtual school, what are the 2-3 things we want them to say we did really well?
  2. Headwinds - What is going to hold you back?
  3. Assets - What can you leverage for the future?
  4. Strategic Priorities - Where are you going and how will you get there? What actions might you take to make progress?

The Four Key Questions that emerged at Sage Ridge School:

  1. What is at the heart of Sage Ridge School that is bigger than everyone?
  2. What about SRS makes us unique?
  3. What evidence do we have? How does it manifest in what we do?
  4. What could it look like via distance learning?

Our Key Takeaways:

→ The Power of Small emerged as a theme among all our faculty as both an asset (DNA) and a priority that we had to find ways to translate to the online environment.

→ Moving virtual has highlighted the need for differentiation even more because the student reactions to the situation have varied widely. Some are thriving and accelerating with their free time; some are feeling isolated. Our unique strength is the way in which we are meeting each kid where they are at and supporting them through these challenging times.

 

Kano Model 

The Kano model is not specific to schools. It was created in the 1980s and is used across various industries. It is also an excellent tool for thinking about innovation at this time.

The Kano model asked Sage Ridge to look at happiness and performance indexes with various school programs or attributes. 

  • What are the things we can't be terrible at?
  • What are the 2-3 areas where we really want to shine?
  • What are the few unexpected surprises that we can layer in that underscore our performance?

Sage Ridge used these questions to think about various programs as we moved virtual, from admissions to community events. These questions prompted school administration to both prioritize our most essential functions and produce some new and exciting offerings in the virtual world. 

One such innovation is our virtual coffeehouses. Our music teacher, Dominic Vitale, put out a call for video performances and filmed himself MCing the event in between clips. The resulting film was shown on a community meeting webinar for the whole school and the webinar chat window was alive with encouragement from our students to their peers!

"We are having kids who would have never thought about getting up in front of the audience of 200+ kids to perform, all of a sudden coming forward with their own ideas." - Tobin Bechtel

 

New Perspectives Fuel Innovation

As is the case with innovation, the new perspective that this time of quarantine and distance learning gives us can be used to fuel new ideas. As we look at our school and community in a new way, from our virtual perspective, Sage Ridge faculty and administration continue to learn and find opportunities to continually improve and strengthen our school. 


 

  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Distance Learning
  • Highlights
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