Masked teacher teaching elementary school children.
Strengthening the Capacity of Friends School Leadership

Friends Council offers two leadership development programs aimed at strengthening the capacity of aspiring leaders in Friends Schools. These programs, our Leadership Institute and SPARC, are learning cohort programs offered over the course of two years in a retreat style format. 

Leadership Institute
Established in 2003, the Leadership Institute – officially known as the Institute for Engaging Leadership in Friends Schools – is integral to Friends Council’s work supporting the Quaker ethos of Friends schools. Every learning cohort participates in a two-year program during which participants work one-on-one with leadership partners who are successful heads of Friends schools (in schools other than their own) and conduct action research projects in Friends schools other than their own. 

As the 10th learning cohort is launched this year, 2022-2023, we are gratified that participants repeatedly underscore how important the program is to developing leaders for the unique role of Friends school headship. This includes developing their capacity and skills for the distinctive practices of Friends school governance as well as supporting them in becoming conversant with and practiced in Quaker pedagogy and decision-making processes. These emerging leaders express appreciation for exploring the peculiar art of sustaining the Quaker value-based ethos of a Friends school. 

“Participating in the Institute for Engaging Leadership was the most important and meaningful experience I have had with Friends Council,” says Melissa Carroll, Head of School, Princeton Friends School (NJ). “It provided a cohort of colleagues to network with, and it provided the necessary mentorship to move into servant leadership as a Head of School.”

Spirited Practice and Renewed Courage Program - SPARC

​​Friends Council's Spirited Practice and Renewed Courage (SPARC) is a leadership development program based on principles from Parker Palmer's "Courage to Teach" work. A group of twenty teachers from Friends schools take part in this collaborative community that uses reflective tools for self-directed professional development. Over a two-year cycle, the learning cohort explores the art and calling of teaching through critical reflection, dialogue, and feedback. 

SPARC is in its tenth cycle, and the ripple effects of this spiritual leadership program are gaining strength. More than 170 Friends school educators have now experienced this unique program. Many schools send teams of two or more faculty members to participate. Schools report experiencing a deeper engagement of the Quaker dimension in their schools and classrooms as SPARCers return to share reflective tools with their colleagues. SPARC participants emerge as confident faculty leaders contributing to collegial professional development in their schools through Friends Council’s Membership Renewal Process, accreditation processes, sharing clearness protocols as a tool to connect with teenagers, co-leading a school's Quaker self-study process, and more.

This fall 24 educators from 16 Friends schools across the country gathered in person for two and a half days on the beautiful and peaceful campus of Pendle Hill in Wallingford, PA. Led by Deborra Sines Pancoe and Shu Shu Costa, participants used reflective practices: journaling, walk & talks, threshing, and discussion to explore their teaching practice. Parker Palmer writes, “While techniques and methodology are important, the source of good teaching emerges from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” The SPARC program helps educators identify their own gifts and to nurture the heart of being a teacher. One signature strategy used during SPARC is the use of a mediating “Third Thing” - often a story or a poem – as described in Sam Intrator’s book, Stories of the Courage to Teach. Intrator writes, “Putting this third thing in the center of the circle which establishes a plumb line for the dialogue that is owned neither by the facilitator nor the participants.” 
Following this first gathering of the 10th SPARC cohort, one participant wrote, “the Stepping Stones activity led me on a path of revelation for the rest of the workshop activities. It let my inner teacher speak. The Silent Walk and Work with a Third Thing followed the metaphor that grounded me for the sessions and led to more personal insights."

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