It seemed natural that such a publication would originate at the Klingenstein Center, a place that, for many, is the nerve center of independent school education. Of course a project like Klingbrief, one that hopes to organize and articulate the trends wafting through the independent school community, would gain its footing in the place where so many of us gain our professional footing.
It seemed obvious in that it mimics a natural function of the professional communities within and among independent schools. Recommended readings and viewings fly around daily in our schools. Klingbrief seeks to capture the best of those readings and viewings and hopefully dig up some new ones. So, it’s a collection both of what people are paying attention to and what people should be paying attention to. It’s both soothing – i.e., here’s what people are talking about – and provocative – i.e., if you’re not paying attention to this, you should.
I'm writing about Klingbrief here, on a blog devoted to leading online, because I think the enterprise is a great model for other groups looking to make similar contributions in similar spaces and ways.
Here's how Klingbrief works:
Each month, a call for submissions goes out to subscribers, and each month, shortly after that, submissions pour into the Klingbrief inbox (the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interest in submitting). Those submissions are whittled down by the coordinating editor, who then distributes, again via email, a first draft to the other editors. The editors debate the merits of each submission, ultimately selecting approximately ten submissions for publication. The publication goes live toward the end of each month.
What's remarkable about the publication is that the editors are only in the same room once a year -- when they meet at the National Association of Independent Schools' conference. We come from schools across the country:
Here's why I think Klingbrief is a noteworthy example of online leadership:
The agendas of independent schools are too important to be left only in the hands of those people who hold top administrative positions. Likewise, the teachers in our schools, the ones who have direct contact with our most precious resource – the students – are often too busy to read widely during the school year. Klingbrief serves administrators and teachers alike, and by extension, schools and students. For example, in one 2013 issue, Chris Lauricella paired, in a single submission, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Race to Nowhere. In his words, these works “represent two visions of how we do or do not respond to the pressures placed on higher achieving youth in America. These two works, arousing controversy as they make the rounds, offer us a litmus test of our complex feeling about achievement in 21st century America.” By showing both sides of the debate, Mr. Lauricella framed the discussion in a responsible manner, helping leadership teams at schools do the same.
The peer review aspect of Klingbrief ensures quality. If your submission is accepted, you know it has been compared to other submissions; you know it will be in good company; you know it will become part of the Klingbrief legacy. A few words on this legacy, which is already apparent after only 20+ issues: Klingbrief is filled with evergreen articles, making it a treasure trove for leadership teams or administrators looking to pursue a certain discussion. In it, you can find thematic strands ranging from the way technology is affecting our brains to the way privilege functions in our schools. Looking further into the future, it becomes possible to see the Klingbrief project in another light as well. No doubt it will serve as a historical record of the kinds of issues that occupied the minds and lives of independent school educators – the items they battled against, the subjects that stoked their passions, the insights that helped them advance their particular form of schooling in a fierce and deliberate manner.
Finally, and perhaps most important, I think that anyone working in an independent school has a responsibility to hold, and express, an opinion about what independent schools should mean. Should we flip our classrooms? Should we allow social media in our schools? In what kind of professional development should we invest? What tensions should we embrace in order to avoid becoming provincial in our thinking? The Klingbrief stream is rich and varied, passionate and diverse, authentic and challenging, like our schools on their best days. It would not be possible without the passions of its contributors -- and the simple online tools that allow those passions to be shared, shaped, channelled, and distributed.
The Klingbrief editors are presenting at the NAIS conference in Orlando on Thursday, February 27, from 1:30 - 2:30. Our presentation description and slides are below: