The Hewitt is a prestigious independent girls’ school situated on Manhattan’s Upper East side, a stone’s throw from Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Coinciding, as it did, with beautiful Autumn sunshine and the US Mid-term elections I was struck by the school’s wonderful energy and positivity: they are determined to lead and not follow, with innovative teaching and with a palpable sense of engagement with the key issues of the day and how these affect young women. In this and many other ways the school struck me as a perfect partner for our school: we share ambitions and ethos with our American cousins but we can also learn a lot from each other.
I spent the first couple of days observing lessons and meeting with girls and their teachers. This was refreshingly familiar – questioning and problem solving are the basis of their approach to learning. Like our own students, Hewitt girls were articulate and thoughtful and seemed to really enjoy the chance to work hard and develop their understanding. Cross-curricular work and projects are very much on the agenda, as is an active and well equipped Design and Technology department – known in US terms as the Innovation Lab!
Meeting with members of the faculty it was clear that we share a passion for opening youg minds in our subject areas and are ambitious for their students to develop into happy and successful young women. It was interesting to note how strong social and political concerns are within everyone’s consciousness in the USA right now, and it was heartening to see the celebration by the school when a record number of female representatives were elected to office.
The weekend was spent with a collection of teachers and students from like-minded schools to explore using the notion of purpose within schools. This very current educational movement starts with the idea that if students are able to decide what motivates them, their ‘why’, they are empowered to make responsible decisions that bring fulfilment and genuine success. My R&P students will recognise that this idea is not so new - it is largely drawn from Aristotle! It was fascinating to see how innovative US schools had taken this notion and put it into practice in many ways with obvious benefits for their students in terms of their well-being and outcomes. It was also heartening to see so many parallels between this approach and our current focus on the Royal High Learner Habits.
Although I am still readjusting to the time zone it is great to be home at RHS and I look forward to developing this link further in the months and years to come.