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Transformations: Ours and Yours

By Christine Mason, CEI Executive Director

Are you feeling the impact of all the events in the world, your school, your life? It is astounding how one event, one thought, one action, leads to another and another.

Life. When I was working with teacher mentors, principals, and new teachers in DC Charter Schools, in 2005, I met Dr. Atiba Vheir, a transformational psychologist, who has become a good friend. A transformational psychologist, an interesting title — a title that reflects her path and her work with students. Dr. Vheir has helped to stimulate CEI’s transformation. Starting in 2009, as I left DC charters and formed CEI, I have worked with educators  in India, Dubai, and Finland and explored possible projects with researchers, entrepreneurs, and other executives in New York, Chicago, Dubai, Oman, and elsewhere. Since 2009, I personally and professionally have gone through transformation upon transformation. As I can imagine many of you have. I have flown monthly to Ohio to lead school improvement, spent weeks with grandsons in Connecticut and weekends with grandsons here in Virginia, met with a billionaire inventor and school leaders in Chicago, watched as my mother aged and my siblings retired, and listened to transformational presentations by Michael Fullan and others at the NAESP annual conferences. We at CEI have come to know many school principals, their visions, their stresses, their fatigue, and their perseverance –their ability to keep going, to continue to lead and mentor, throughout the phases of Common Core implementation, more stringent teacher and principal evaluation, the attacks on schools, school bullying,  adding rigor, and on and on. I could not have invented or imagined a more dynamic and exciting, albeit challenging,  journey.

Transformations, life altering events that shape our nature, our future, our individual worlds, and our planet. Extreme, radical change.

Great Souls. CEI’s transformation from a small organization with 600 subscribers to Wow! Ed’s current circulation to about 6,000 and links to NAEP’s database of 22,000 has been informed by many hours spent with great souls — both the unknown heroes and famous leaders. CEI’s path has been shaped through singing and visioning with the Peter Yarrow, planning cognitive neuroscience research with Dr. Bruce Wexler, skyping with Dr. Rony Berger from Israel and Dr. Koncha Pinós-Pey in Spain, meditating with many yogis, and participating in gatherings of leaders and students at Carnegie Mellon University’s(CMU) LearnLab, an international educational symposium in Finland, and the 2013 Science of Compassion seminar in Telluride.

Searching for Wow! Since 2010, CEI has attracted waves of interns and some incredible research and training associates with diverse backgrounds–with expertise in technology, engineering, astronomy, art, teaching, policy, and educational leadership. We have partnered to review the benefits of principal mentoring and the nature of rigor in classrooms, invented a “Heart Centered” approach to education, conducted surveys, led seminars and focus groups, and brought teams of experts to schools. CEI throughout this time has been committed to advancing education and sharing our journey with you.  We continue to search for the Wow!, to bring inspirational stories of schools and principals to you, to try to uncover and discover the role of education during a time of transformation for this planet– a time of strife, pain, anger, fear, and also a time of reinvention, problem solving, and celebration.  From the hardships and the horrors of wars and terrorism, to the advances in medicine, science, and technology — searching for the implications for school leaders and opportunities for students.

In a blog in August 2013, CEI presented a challenge to you to focus on Compassion, Consciousness, Courage, Confidence, and Community. Our 5 Cs. During this time I have continued to uncover layer upon layer of knowledge regarding these 5 Cs and the implications for learning and classrooms. My focus has led to deep conversations with many great souls and many everyday heroes. During the past 40 days, CEI’s transformation has also been shaped by a 40-day yoga challenge I gave myself. 40 days of four yoga sets that targeted physical challenges for me. This discipline has impacted my body, brain, acceptance, and insights.

What’s Next? CEI’s successes and struggles have led us to being here right now at another juncture. We are awaiting word back on several proposals and also seeking opportunities for the next ventures. What’s next? The answer begins with “What the World Needs Now.”  CEI is being transformed by our and your successes, those great souls and everyday heroes we have encountered along the way, and the greatness and inspiration of schools at the vanguard. This month I attend another gathering at the CMU LearnLab, bring more on STEM to a Virginia school, and meet with Dr. Michele Rivers Murphy and Koncha Pinos-Pey at the Mind and Life Institute’s Conference in Boston. As we progress, I am offering more yoga, offering more meditations, and intensifying my understanding of consciousness through delving into Mindfulness, reading about Dr. Paul Gilbert’s approach to compassion, and preparing for a presentation by the Dalai Lama at the Mind and Life Conference.

And for you?  We hope that your understanding of 21st Century Leadership is enhanced through our leadership and insights.  Transformation is needed in education. Transformational leaders are needed. We continue to envision adding more “heart” and wisdom to schools, to preparing leaders to help individual students awaken to their interests and strengths, to creating an environment, a stage, and a haven for healing


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