Joined by 160 principals from around the world, principal Dr. Stephen Covert made the trip in July to Harvard University to attend a week-long conference for principals. The conference, which is formally known as the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Evolving Vision Conference, focused on the application of the basic tenets of leadership.
Covert and Dr. Harriet Moore, principal of Macintosh Middle School, both attended the summer event, making it the second year that the Sarasota District has sent two principals. The district paid for part of their trips, and the Harvard Club of Sarasota paid the remainder of the expenses.
The conference began with team-building activities with a small group of 10–12 principals. Describing the ropes courses, some of which were 100 feet in the air, Covert said, “It was way scarier than skydiving for me, but it was [about] building that trust with that small group of principals.”
Throughout most of the conference, principals attended sessions led by professors, mainly teachers from Harvard. For Covert, there were several sessions that were particularly impactful, especially Professor Chris Dede’s session. Dede spoke about the use of educational technology and, according to Covert, how to “create technology for students that makes the world alive.” Covert said he hopes to implement many of the ideas Dede introduced in his lecture including more interactive technology for students.
Covert’s favorite session revolved around the psychology of accomplishing goals. Professor Robert Keegan’s session helped principals look deeper into understand the reasoning behind the actions they take and the actions they want to take but do not. In the end, Covert said, the main message was “If you want to change the behaviors, you have to change your beliefs.”
Other sessions that Covert attended focused on creating a positive culture at school, as well as developing relationships with students and teachers.
For Covert, the experience at the conference was “eye-opening.” A learning experience as well as a networking opportunity, the conference allowed for him to meet principals with similar gifted programs, like the principal of a gifted school in Tasmania.
“I met people from all over the world. They were amazing,” Covert said. “When I shared with them all about Pine View, they were equally amazed.”