By Jan Baldwin, LL ‘14, gcLi Scholar ‘21, Middle School Dean of Students and Chair of the Visual and Performing Art Department, Stuart Country Day School (NJ)
There is an old video from the 1970s that shows one person dancing at a rock concert. He continues to dance alone until a second person joins. Then more people begin to dance until it becomes the norm for all to dance to the music. Without the second person, there was no leader, just one person dancing. The leadership lesson has been shared countless times. No followers, no leader.
Let’s shift our perspective. What is the obligation for that first person to acknowledge and dance with the second person? I watched the video again and there is only a cursory nod from the leader. Maybe all educators need to question that style of leadership and shift that paradigm.
This year has been tough. Survival was the real game for many of us. But as we move out of the pandemic mode of teaching into a new reality, let’s think about collaboration and mentoring.
I found myself chatting with a first-year teacher this week. This person expressed how having a mentor may have really helped him. He didn’t have one. I realize that there was barely any time to consider a mentoring program this year. Our school was focused on wellness, DEI, and hybrid lessons. Upon reflection, I realized that as a Department Chair and veteran teacher, I needed to work harder to support our new faculty with more than a cursory nod.
We check in with our students. We double back to make sure that they understand the material. We create Peer mentoring programs for students. Do we do this with new faculty? Administration wonders why faculty leave after two or three years and even pursue another career. We need great educators. We need teachers with a passion for their subjects and for their students. We need to find a better way to keep them dancing with us.
I need to give credit to my many mentors that have inspired, supported, and encouraged me to take a risk, stretch, and create. One of the mentors that I leaned on was Ted Fish, former Executive Director of gcLi. Ted encouraged me to take the skills that I had in communication and collaboration and use these in a larger leadership role. When I returned to school, my colleague at the leadership institute and I began the initial work to create the National Center for Girls Leadership at Stuart. This program has grown into the #LEADLIKEAGIRL national conference. This conference is embedded with workshops that are designed for students. Each workshop is run by girls for girls about aspects of leadership and includes sharing projects that they have led.
This year NCGLS has created an internship program for rising sophomores. The students shadow every department at school. The best quote of the year was,”The school is a business!” This is another example of mentoring to pay it forward. Our Business, Admissions, and Advancement offices have all mentored these students with hands-on projects. They meet regularly to check-in and monitor their progress and address questions and concerns. This should sound familiar to anyone who has been mentored.
I have always viewed leadership as the ability to encourage others to share in your vision and then to join the dance. With constant connection, collaboration, shared vision, and clear communication, leadership becomes action. We can build the confidence to take risks and create a climate of resilience instead of fear. The entire team is dancing together. As a theatre director and a Dean, I need everyone to be dancing. Education requires the same.
I am excited to participate as a scholar at the Leadership Lab this summer. It is my opportunity to mentor emerging aspiring leaders in education. We have a new opportunity in this post-pandemic educational vista. I want to be the person that encourages and inspires teachers to become their best selves and take leadership into action.
Let’s pay it forward.
Ms. Baldwin is the Dean of students in the Middle School at Stuart Country Day School and Chair of the Visual and Performing Art Department. She has studied Leadership at NAIS and the Gardner Carney Leadership Institute. Ms. Baldwin has also participated in a conference at the Institute for Social Emotional Learning, Global Leadership Institute, and NAIS leadership. Ms. Baldwin has presented workshops in leadership and public speaking at NJAIS and #Leadlikeagirl. She is a faculty member for the Center for Girls Leadership at Stuart. As an adjunct professor, Ms. Baldwin has taught Architecture and A survey course of Art and Performing Arts history. She has taught classes in Leadership, Public Speaking, Theatre, Cinematography and Architecture at Stuart. Ms. Baldwin holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Theatre from Skidmore College Cum Laude and a Master’s of Arts in Education with Distinction from LaSalle University.