Sir Ken Robinson, a noted thinker on education, said in a recent TED Talk that “life is not linear; it’s organic. We create our lives symbiotically as we explore our talents in relation to the circumstances they help to create for us.” It is just this relationship between the individual student and the environment within which he or she learns that demands our attention as never before.
As we continue our efforts to strengthen and improve the educational programs we offer at Sewickley Academy, we must do so with a clear understanding of how the decisions we make impact the environment in which our students will learn. The environment, of course, consists of more than just buildings. It is the culture and the “feel” of the place, which take their forms from the people who make up our community, students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni. The hiring of great faculty and staff and the admitting of great students, therefore, has an importance well beyond the specific skills or attributes an individual might contribute to the community; the vital essence is the way in which an individual will impact the culture of the community, as every single individual will do to a greater or lesser degree.
Later in his talk, Ken Robinson says, “Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability. And at the heart of the challenge is to reconstitute our sense of ability and of intelligence.” And it is this view that has informed much of our work in terms of pedagogy: how do we ensure that each student within our diverse community is getting what he or she needs to become most fully their best possible self?
When thinking about the complexity of human organizations, it is important to keep in mind that each of us will have an impact on this community even as the community exercises its influence over us. The interplay between the individual and the collective community creates the culture that will support and inspire our students in their learning and growth.