This fall, my daughter had her theater debut, acting, singing, and dancing in The Sound of Music. Her joy on stage—palpable even with a mask—reminded me of the years I spent in high school and college in the theater. Ultimately, I fell in love with technical theater, learning to run the sound board, hang lights, stage manage, and, eventually, executive produce large-scale productions. I loved working with a team to bring so many different elements of the production together.

At the beginning of February, we released our MSON Course Catalog, and it felt a bit like pulling the curtain  back on opening night. It’s a team effort involving our Academic Liaisons at each school, teachers proposing new courses or continuing with longstanding ones, and our staff scheduling across multiple timezones (to uphold our commitment to synchronous class sessions). It’s my favorite time of year in our program. Students are already signing up for new classes such as German I, Cancer, Advanced Economics, Tenements to Townhouses: Stories of Urban New York, and The Science and Ethics of Sports Performance.

Please peruse our Course Catalog and check out our teacher videos!

But MSON’s strength goes beyond  our courses. This year, we have found new ways to deepen our community. We’ve run two semesters of a collaboration with Close Up, a civic dialogue non-profit in Washington, D.C., allowing 9th and 10th-graders from many of our member schools to participate in deliberative democracy from around the country. We’ve also gathered our teachers and administrators at workshops led by REAL Discussion to double down on our commitment to seminar-style instruction and excellent, equitable class discussion. 

If our course catalog release is opening night, our Annual Workshop in June is the cast party. We have a lot of fun while checking in with our mission, reflecting on our practice, and planning for the upcoming year. This year, we’ll be together for the first time since 2019 in Nashville at our host school, University School of Nashville. I cannot wait to see our teachers and liaisons there.

As many of you know, this will be my last course catalog release and last Annual Workshop—the finale of this particular act for me, and the search is under way for my replacement. As I look ahead, I’m even more convinced that our model for online learning—honed since 2012—is the right one. More and more organizations of all kinds—from start-ups to Harvard—are working to build and develop online learning programs consistent with our philosophy of relationship-based, community experiences. We have built something special and lasting that is a model far and wide.

Happy Spring!

Food for Thought

Some of my most interesting reads from the last few weeks:

Innovation, Teaching, and Learning

Nine Big Questions Schools Must Answer to Avoid Going “Back to Normal,”  Big Questions Institute
A Whole New World: Education Meets the Metaverse, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek et al.,
Brookings (accompanying interview on EdSurge’s podcast)
Taking Best of Innovations, Lessons of Pandemic Education, Harvard Gazette (Q&A regarding Harvard’s Future of Teaching and Learning Task Force Report)

On My Bedside Table

The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France, James McAuley
For Small Creatures Such as We, Sasha Sagan
Going There, Katie Couric