This past year, Lorri Palko has taught several sections of One Schoolhouse’s online course, Building Trust With Faculty. In this course, Lorri advises leaders on how to build professional relationships that support healthy communities of trust. As she prepares to teach the summer sessions of the course, Lorri talked to Sarah Hanawald, One Schoolhouse’s Assistant Head for Professional Development and New Programs, to reflect on what she’s discovered about independent school leadership in the past year.
Academic Leaders have been under tremendous pressure for the entire year. They felt like they needed to perceive what needed to be done, make a judgment call on the action to be taken, and follow through accordingly--and to do all this quickly. This year, there were so many issues that school leaders had to react to and act on quickly that they didn’t realize their fast actions had imperiled some of their relationships with teachers on campus.
In a lot of cases, that happened because leaders didn’t have empathy skills that were adequate for the challenges they faced. Let me be clear--these are kind, caring individuals. Academic Leaders are drawn to their work because they care intensely about their communities and the people in them. But empathy doesn’t mean being understanding and warmhearted. Empathy is our ability to understand what someone else is experiencing, and to put aside our own judgment and perspective. When leaders move fast, especially under stress, it’s all too easy to overlook the way that our unconscious biases and beliefs can get in the way of our ability to really see things from someone else’s perspective.
One challenge for leaders was that many fell into the trap of listening to others with what I call a “Me Focus.” With this focus, the listener isn’t seeking to understand, but is instead focused on their own thoughts, feelings, and judgments. This leads to statements like “I know just how you feel.” The listener thinks they’re making a connection, but the speaker feels unrecognized and unvalued.
Another missed opportunity to build trust is when leaders view a conversation as a problem to be solved rather than an authentic connection with another person. If a leader is focused on constructing a response, they’re not really listening to what the other person is saying. Shifting that focus to asking questions and following another’s lead is what it takes to begin to build empathy.
Effective leaders cultivate self-awareness. Self-awareness is the gateway to being a leader who inspires trust and confidence from others. We cultivate self-awareness by allowing ourselves to recognize and name our emotions. Self-awareness allows us to quiet the inner critic who says, “You’re not good enough, you can’t do this.” When we save space and time for wisdom and intuition to come forward, we give ourselves permission to choose a higher thought and take inspired action.
Self-awareness allows us to access the highest expression of empathetic conversation, which is holistic listening, when you use all your senses and your intuition to truly understand what the other person may be saying, or not saying, but still revealing. When leaders are self-aware, they can bring all of themselves to a conversation--and they can recognize, acknowledge, and honor the complexity and vulnerability of another person’s experience. When a leader can listen this way, then real professional trust can be earned and rebuilt.
Join Lorri for Building Trust With Faculty June 14 - 25, 2021 or July 12 - 23, and learn how to better support teachers who are facing change, disruption, or challenges professionally and in their lives. Participants will learn how to lead affirming coaching conversations that foster healthy, trusting relationships, so that the resulting professional culture provides support for faculty members that mirrors the schools’ concern for and support of students.
One Schoolhouse Board Congratulates Head of School & CEO Brad Rathgeber on 10 Years of Service and Extraordinary Leadership
On behalf of the 2020-21 One Schoolhouse Board of Trustees, it is my honor and privilege to congratulate and thank Brad Rathgeber, co-founder and original board president of Online School for Girls, and current head of school and CEO of One Schoolhouse, for 10 years of extraordinary executive leadership of this dynamic educational organization.
In the winter of 2009, four independent girls’ schools – Harpeth Hall School (TN), Holton-Arms School (MD), Laurel School (OH) and Westover School (CT) – formed a non-profit consortium to become the world’s first online single-sex school and the first online independent school: the Online School for Girls (OSG). They came together with common beliefs that online education was an increasingly powerful way to learn, and that there was great value in creating an online learning environment built on the traditions of independent schools and girls' schools. Their foresight has proven to be incredibly accurate.
Brad and his colleagues have created a unique supplemental educational organization that provides courses and programs for students and adult learners across our independent school community and across the globe. A smart business model and affordable pricing has allowed all types and sizes of schools, and even individual students, to benefit from One Schoolhouse’s programming. As a result, hundreds of schools and thousands of students benefit from Brad’s leadership annually. Via One Schoolhouse's mission to empower learning and transform education, he has helped numerous schools and associations solve problems and transform their delivery channels.
This recognition for Brad in June 2021 is extremely timely because of his leadership as One Schoolhouse pivoted to support schools through the COVID-19 pandemic as they transitioned to remote instruction. He and his team provided advice, guidance, training, tools and resources every step of the way. As a result of their impact, thousands of educators were better prepared to provide quality remote and hybrid learning experiences this past fall.
During his tenure, Brad has also represented himself and One Schoolhouse with great aplomb through his service on the board of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA), 2012-2018; National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS), 2013-2019; NCAA’s High School Review Committee, 2013-2020; and Educational Records Bureau (ERB), 2019 – Present. In addition, he is a regular contributor to NAIS’ Independent School Magazine, NBOA’s Net Assets magazine and other professional publications. And he is visible at educational conferences and meetings across the country, learning, growing, and sharing industry expertise.
We thank Brad for his service to One Schoolhouse, for his stellar leadership of an innovative and impressive leadership team and faculty, for his contributions to the entire PK-12 independent school community and most of all, for his friendship and collegiality.
With gratitude and admiration,
James R. Palmieri, Ed.D.
Board President, One Schoolhouse
Executive Vice President, NBOA
Comments from prior Board Presidents:
From Kathryn Purcell, One Schoolhouse board president 2017-2020: “Working with Brad has been an incredible professional and personal experience – one that allowed me to grow and learn as much as to serve One Schoolhouse. Brad is a consummate educator and professional. He is both visionary and incredibly adept at management and operations. He is always ahead of the curve, looking beyond the horizon, and fearless about taking on challenge. One Schoolhouse has thrived under his able leadership, and for that, we are immeasurably grateful. “
From Cathy Murphree, Online School for Girls board president 2012-2017: “Brad is a multi-talented leader-visionary, master communicator, relationship-builder, networker, effective team leader – and his positive energy is unsurpassed! One Schoolhouse has been so fortunate to have Brad at the helm; independent schools, teachers and most importantly students have all benefited from Brad’s OSG/One Schoolhouse leadership.”
From Karen Douse, Online School for Girls board president 2011-2012: “I succeeded Brad as board chair when he was hired as OSG’s Head of School. Brad’s greatest gift, then and now, has been his strong vision for the role of online education in the future. It is that unwavering vision that has resulted in the success of One Schoolhouse today.”
Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)