Carroll GECS On: A Conversation between Steve Wilkins and Renée Greenfield

Carroll GECS On: A Conversation between Steve Wilkins and Renée Greenfield
Carroll Connection, 2021-22

After an exciting 16 years of leadership from Steve, Carroll is transitioning leadership to our new Head of School, Dr. Renée Greenfield, in the coming year—and they sat down to have a chat about what they value most about being at Carroll, and what lies ahead for the Carroll community.

STEVE: At Carroll, we use the expression “give each child” (GEC) to describe how we teach and support our students. What does GEC mean to you, as the incoming Head of School?

RENÉE: I hear GEC a lot around here, both as a noun and verb! I would define GEC as what educators do after they’ve taken the time to analyze and act on what is best for their students. At Carroll, the teachers are constantly adapting and shifting to match what they’re doing to accommodate the needs of their students—they’re led by how the student learns and how they think.

Most schools have a schedule of what they teach each year for a particular grade or age, and they follow that cycle consistently. A Carroll teacher puts the student at the center of what they’re learning, and when, and how. Teachers are constantly adjusting according to how things are going for them, and Carroll gives the time and space in the schedule to do that work.

I think that ability to adapt comes from the amount of time and effort Carroll has invested in professional development. Our teachers have the knowledge and skills to know what students need, and to respond, because we’ve made it a priority.

STEVE: How would you say Carroll uses data to determine how to GEC?

RENÉE: We use it everywhere, but I want to say: I remember you early on, 15 years ago, talking about data-inspired instruction versus data- driven instruction.

STEVE: With data-driven, I think you can get pretty boring, pretty fast. Our teachers are actually inspired by their capacity to change a kid’s life, and watching that data go from not too good to quite good... to really good.

RENÉE: Exactly! It’s incredible to look at the data we gather with teachers, and map all the ways students are progressing, and make a plan for the future.

It’s like a feedback loop that lets them know where teachers need to change things to meet a student’s needs, and it’s so important to the teachers to have that as a resource for their next step, or how they’re going to adapt. It puts some pressure on an educator to shift what they’re doing, and it’s not an easy job, but that’s the kind of teacher that wants to be here.

STEVE: How do you think Carroll can ensure we have the highest quality teachers and tutors who can actually GEC?

RENÉE: I talked about how important professional development is before, but I think it’s about teacher induction, mentoring, and coaching, together with the professional development. Research shows, and in all my experience, if you do those things, you support and retain the best teachers. I think Carroll attracts amazing human beings who want to do really meaningful work as educators.

To me, the most important factor in determining whether a teacher is right for Carroll is whether or not that teacher can work in real relationship with kids. Can they convey not just that they’re their teacher, but that they really care about them as human beings? Are they connected? That feeling of connection is the only way a student’s going to learn, or take risks, or be vulnerable.

STEVE: So as we talk about “gecc’ing on,” I want to ask: what fires you up about working with students who learn differently?

RENÉE: For me, it’s that moment. I’m sure you’ve experienced it. I’ve experienced it. It’s also amazing to watch it happen in front of you.

This relational thing happens - between a teacher and a kid or a group of kids where they’re in the flow of learning. It’s like time doesn’t matter, and something amazing happens - that connection is being made.

This is what fires me up because you can’t learn that in a book—you learn that on the job. It’s what teaching and learning is all about, and it’s why I do this work. The other thing that fires me up is just thinking about what’s to come. What are we going to learn in the next few years in this age of technology that will transform more kids’ lives?

STEVE: Well, you are totally coming to the right community if that’s what fires you up! Those things happen at Carroll all the time, and I know they’re going to keep happening.

Kids succeed here where they didn’t think they could—all the time, all over the place.

Carroll has achieved so much under Steve’s leadership over the last 16 years. It is an honor to be involved with such an incredible organization that transforms lives every day. I am excited to see Renée Greenfield build on this great momentum as our next Head of School.

Devin O’Reilly P’20, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees

This article is part of a series from Carroll Connection, A Timeline for Transformation: 2005-2021.  

  • Carroll Connection 2021-22

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