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Klingenstein Center Fellowship: Q&A with Headmaster John Nagl
The Haverford School

What are some highlights of your experience at the Teachers College of Columbia University?

The experience was inspirational - even transformational. I think of my responsibility to the School in a refined way; I have a finer vision of where I want to take The Haverford School.

The classes we took focused on the philosophy of education, how to perform and use educational research to inform decisions, and envisioning the future of education. We did this largely through visits to a number of schools in the Manhattan area.

The single best part of the experience was visiting charter schools and private for-profit schools, including The School at Columbia University, and meeting teachers who are absolutely on fire, inspired by the chance to change kids' lives. I hope to find ways to further develop that spirit and that philosophy here at The Haverford School.

This community of Heads of School across America and the world are dedicated to using the freedom and the passion for teaching - inherent advantages of independent schools - as levers to change the world.

Colombia, China, and Germany are just some of the countries represented at the Teachers College, which hosted 11 American and nine international Heads of School. Talk about the dynamic among the participants.

I'm what's called a nontraditional Head of School, mostly because I come from a different world. I come from the Army, leadership of a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., and higher education. I think the hiring of nontraditional Heads of School is an increasing trend as the business model of private education comes under pressure both at the pre-k-12 level and the college/university level.

Working with these Heads of School who have a lifetime of experience in the field, and learning of their professionalism and their dedication to building the best possible schools, was truly inspiring. It made me feel like part of a community of Heads of School across America and the world who are dedicated to using the freedom and the passion for teaching - inherent advantages of independent schools - as levers to change the world.

Although the ideas we contemplated and discussed aren't necessarily completely new to me, being forced to jostle up against other people who had the same responsibilities I do but approach them in different ways and from a different perspective, sharpened my thinking. It really inspired me to come back and make this phenomenal school even stronger and even better. (And I grew a beard.)

Carrie and I looked together at this body of work and created what I hope is going to be a road map to help The Haverford School become more intentional in how it unifies a number of existing programs that aim to develop men of leadership and character and determination.

What research proposal did you put forth?

Education for Character and Values. At the time I applied for the fellowship, Haverford was coming out of the Safety, Character, and Culture Task Force, which framed my decision to think more intentionally about character development in schools.

My second favorite part of the program after the school visits was working with Carrie Pierson, an interesting woman who runs the International School of Trieste. Our independent proposals, shared in advance of the fellowship, were nearly identical. At the Teachers College, we worked together, reviewed the literature, and found that there is a whole body of thinking regarding education for character. Carrie and I looked together at this body of work and created what I hope is going to be a road map to help The Haverford School become more intentional in how it unifies a number of existing programs that aim to develop men of leadership and character and determination.

Stay tuned to the summer issue of Haverford School Today for the full interview with Dr. Nagl.

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