By Steve Novotney
“Try to see your child as a seed that came in a packet without a label. Your job is to provide the right environment and nutrients and to pull the weeds. You can’t decide what kind of flower you’ll get or in which season it will bloom.”
- Author unknown but printed by Wendy Mogel, the author of“The Blessing of a Skinned Knee”
She will soon spend two full weeks away. Away from her family and away from her friends.
And for the first time in her six years as Head of School for Wheeling Country Day School, Elizabeth Hofreuter-Landini, will spend an extended time away from her elementary school students while participating in a fully funded fellowship at the Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership’s 2015 Heads of Schools\Program on the campus of Columbia University.
“We have already been warned that we should be prepared not to be real involved with our families or our schools and to have no other life for two weeks,” she explained. “And over the Christmas break we received some homework involving case studies and some reading assignments.
“There are 20 Heads of School that will be participating in the fellowship program, so each of us will be providing a case study involving a situation we have encountered at our own schools,” said Hofreuter-Landini, who will depart the Friendly City for New York City on Jan. 24.
“Not only will we be using those studies during the two weeks, but Columbia University will have them to use as a part of their curriculum involving the training of principals. Using case studies really allows you to get your hands on what you are doing.”
According to the Klingenstein Center, the Heads of Schools Program attracts and selects educators who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishment or potential for excellence and equips them with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for informed and effective practice. The program, founded in 1991, involves working with 19 other school heads. The award provides independent school leaders with an opportunity for focused professional enrichment, renewal, and reflection.
The primary goal of the Klingenstein Center fellowship, Hofreuter-Landini explained, is to examine educational issues and policies facing independent school educators, and each of the 20 participants will choose a concentration for the two-week seminar.
Hofreuter-Landini’s chosen focus will center on the role of parents in the education process.
“I believe it is critical right now for our parents to understand everything about how their children are being educated today,” she said. “I know every time I have been on social media, I’ve see something from a parent asking questions about their child’s education.”
“Education has changed so much since most parents were in school themselves so too often, when their child has questions about their homework, parents are not able to help because the process has changed so much. An example is math homework and how math is taught today as opposed to how it was taught when the mothers and fathers were in class. What usually happens is a parent will show them how they learned instead of learning the new process, and that only leads to more confusion, and it also causes the student not to trust their teacher at their school.”
Hofreuter-Landini, who taught and coached at The Linsly School for 18 years before becoming Wheeling Country Day’s Head of School, believes the mindset of both parents and students are the two most important factors of education.
“We have to help our mothers and fathers,” Hofreuter-Landini insisted. “Parents are so important in the education process, and it doesn’t matter what age the child is. If we can achieve a good level of understanding amongst the parents, then the education process will be reinforced at home, and that can only lead to progress across the board.”
Hofreuter-Landini, a 1985 graduate of Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, also will attend two classes during the fellowship program that concentrate on the many factors involved with today’s global economy and how decisions focused on the future are formulated. The required reading concerns deep learning and “flying blind” with the future of education.
“It is referred to that way because that is the current situation on all levels of education today,” she said. “No one really knows what to expect in the future because there have been so many changes already.
“But recognizing that fact is important for us as heads of schools, and that’s because our parents and our teachers have to understand that, as well,” Hofreuter-Landini continued. “That way, I believe, we can gain control over the situation.”
Following her two-week fellowship, Hofreuter-Landini plans to first address her faculty at Wheeling Country Day School, and then she would be willing to share her experiences – and learned lessons – with any and all educators in the Upper Ohio Valley.
“When I have attended one-day conferences, the first thing I’ve done is meet with our faculty to discuss the areas of education that were covered, so I imagine the meeting I have with them after this fellowship will be a pretty involved discussion,” she said. “And that’s when we will share our ideas with each other because no single person can think of everything or solve every problem.
(To read another Weelunk story about Liz and Country Day, click here: Liz Hofreuter-Landini.)
“And I am always willing to share with anyone – not just the faculty and parents from Wheeling Country Day,” Hofreuter-Landini added. “Adults need adults. It’s about sharing, and it’s about the education of our children. I wish educators in this area would share more than they do now because education cannot exist in a vacuum, and we know that.”