Q&A with Head of Upper School Scott Small

We recently sat down with Head of Upper School Scott Small to learn more about his educational leadership philosophy and his passion for MICDS.

Q: How did you come to lead the Upper School at MICDS?  

A: When the position opened up in 2011, I was wrapping up my 12th year of teaching and coaching at MICDS. While I did not really have ambitions to be a school administrator, I did feel compelled to ensure that I was serving students and colleagues well and felt like this role was potentially an opportunity to expand that service to a community that I care deeply for. Applying for the Head of Upper School position ultimately was an opportunity to either transition to a role with broader impact and service or, if not chosen, at least to reaffirm the commitment to the community that I hope my work in the classroom reflected.  

Q: What are you most proud of at MICDS?

A: I am most grateful for the learning ethos that I get to be a part of each and every day. It is easy to take that for granted, but I know how much hard work our faculty and our students put into nurturing and preserving a learning environment that is even greater than the sum of its parts. From the example that my colleagues set in establishing truly profound classroom experiences to the response that this engenders from our students, each school day yields some remarkable intellectual breakthrough or validation of the commitment that we make to our collective social-emotional growth as well. I don’t think we always appreciate how special this truly is, but it is born of phenomenal effort and that is something we should all be proud of.

Q: What are some of the best ways to build community?

A: The best way to build community has always been fully ensconced in the spontaneous points of connection that our students (and our adults) engender on a daily basis, in moments grand and small. It takes intentional commitment to be actively engaged to nurture and sustain community.

Q: What makes the Upper School at MICDS distinctly unique and special? 

A: There are so many things that make our US community special. To highlight one piece that flies under the radar sometimes: the pride that our students take in championing their community to visitors. During hiring season, one of our unique practices is to have our student leadership interview teaching candidates. Without fail, our interviewees cite their interactions with our students as the highlight of their visit and are often enthusiastically surprised by the unprompted and unscripted poise and passion that our students lead with.  

Q: Describe your philosophy on educational leadership.  

A: If we are earnest in our commitment to graduating young people who will excel as students and as humans, then our educational environment must promote empathetic, intellectual curiosity and a passionate commitment to engage in global problem-solving. Establishing such a culture, paying intentional attention to the meta-curriculum of a school, and building greater purpose and meaning across content all represent powerful opportunities to impact outcomes for each of our students. 

Q: What are your favorite MICDS traditions? 

A: There are so many it is impossible to narrow it down to one. The Ram Run that takes place before the annual Homecoming football game is such a joyful moment of community that is student-initiated and focused on celebration. Our Senior Boat Race that week is also a fun moment that shows just how cohesive our senior advisories have become over their four years together (even if their boat fails to successfully make the voyage across the pond). Club Fest each fall is a huge reminder of just how many opportunities our students have to be in community, pursue causes and interests that are important to them, and is another reminder of student leadership and empowerment. I am also moved each year by the students who lean into the challenge of our Prize Speaking contest and the unwavering support they get from the entire assembly of peers and teachers on that day. It highlights the sense of awareness and appreciation that our students have for each other when they take intellectual risks and put themselves out there. 

Q: What is your favorite place on campus, and why? 

A: The quad/courtyard between May Hall and the library. It is such a serene ecosystem and a contemplative spot.