Preparing Boys for Life.

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Most Likely to Succeed
Dr. John Nagl

One of the most intellectually interesting tasks associated with being The Haverford School's ninth Headmaster is choosing the summer reading book for the faculty every summer. I find book suggestions at conferences on education, in discussions with fellow heads of school and other educators, in online fora, and during engagements with fellow parents and Haverford School teachers. I try to alternate between books on character development and books on teaching and learning, and diligently search for just the right book for where the school is during any given year and the direction in which I would like to get it to go.

This year, I think we hit the jackpot. I learned about the book Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era at the National Association of Independent Schools annual conference in Baltimore in February. Written by Tony Wagner, a professor at Harvard's Innovation Lab who describes himself as a recovering high school English teacher, and by Ted Dintersmith, a partner at Charles River Ventures, Most Likely to Succeed was the basis for a film of the same name; you can watch the trailer below.

Most Likely to Succeed challenged our faculty to think about how education should change, given that our boys will live and lead in a world very different from the one in which we grew up, at the tail end of the industrial age. They argue that we no longer live in a knowledge economy; increasing access to the internet means that knowing more facts than the person next to you is no longer a true competitive advantage. Instead, they contend, we now live in an innovation era, and "What matters most in our increasingly innovation-driven economy is not what you know, but what you can do with what you know." In our opening meeting this year, I challenged our faculty to answer the question, "What can our boys make or do at the end of a school year that they couldn't do before the school year started?"

In our opening meeting this year, I challenged our faculty to answer the question, "What can our boys make or do at the end of a school year that they couldn't do before the school year started?"

That answer will vary by grade level, by student ability level, and by subject, but it is an exciting way to think about what and how we should teach our boys. This is the kind of thinking that has led The Haverford School to create a design and engineering laboratory in the Upper School, to design a similar space in the plans for a renovated Middle School, and to launch Design Days in the Lower School this coming year.

In addition to Most Likely to Succeed, the hardworking Lower School faculty read Launch, by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani, to help them prepare to use "Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student". The book title is an acronym intended to remind students of the design thinking process:

Look, Listen, and Learn

Ask Lots of Questions

Understand the Problem or Process

Navigate Ideas

Create

Highlight What's Working and Failing

I'm so proud that The Haverford School is working hard to instill creativity, intellectual rigor, and the pure joy of learning in every one of the boys we're fortunate enough to teach this year.

Every seventh day, our Lower School boys will use the six-step design thinking process to create, innovate, and make—a process that we know enhances learning now and helps instill a lifelong love of learning in those who learn it early in life. An important article in the Business Section of The New York Times over Labor Day weekend argued that, given the changes we're going to see in our economy over the next several decades, creating lifelong learners is the single most important attribute we can instill in our children. I think so, to, and that's why I'm so proud that The Haverford School is working hard to instill creativity, intellectual rigor, and the pure joy of learning in every one of the boys we're fortunate enough to teach this year.

We're going to continue to teach content, of course, as well as social and cognitive skills. We'll help our boys discover who they are and help them find their passions. We'll encourage them to grow as men of character and prepare them for lives of meaning. And we'll endeavor to help them develop the skills and competencies that they'll need to succeed in an ever-changing world. It's important work, and we can't wait to get started!

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