Celebrating 10 Years of Klingbrief

Here’s a letter I wrote to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Klingbrief, a publication of the Klingenstein Center of Columbia University. If you’re interested in the archive, which still contains a lot of evergreen content about education, click here. And if you want to become an official subscriber to the publication (it’s free, peer reviewed, and arrives once a month) click here.

February 2019

Today, this 10th Anniversary issue of Klingbrief arrived in the inbox of 5466 educators. We imagine that, in yours, it joins a letter from your head of school and a note from an advisee. It sits alongside a meeting agenda, an email from a concerned parent, your child’s sports schedule, or a reminder for an upcoming dentist appointment. It competes for your time, in other words, with the business of school and of life.  And we are grateful to you for making time in your days, busy as they undoubtedly are, to join us in pursuit of ongoing professional learning and growth.

Klingbrief was introduced 10 years ago, in February 2009, with a short note from Pearl Rock Kane introducing “[t]his free, monthly publication of carefully selected articles, books, blogs and videos . . . intended specifically for independent school educators.” The very first “brief” addressed teen suicide, offering “three sources . . . that might be of use in the face of such devastation.”  

Then and now, Klingbrief places student learning and wellbeing at its core, and like its very first entry, it aims to cut through the fog, making clear what’s important in independent schools. For the last decade, it has been assembled with much care, thought, and love for the schools — and their programs, policies, faculties, and students — that make up the tangled, prismatic, idealistic, and aspirational community that the Klingenstein Center aims to serve.  

Behind the scenes, not much has changed in a decade, except the growth of the editorial board from five to ten members. The editorial board is tasked with the stewardship of Klingbrief. Each month, we read all submissions and collaborate to determine which to publish. Editors suggest cuts and fight for what they believe should be in that month’s issues, including the “Of Note” feature. Sometimes we agree completely, but some of our best arguments reveal our deepest goals for our publication.  

We consider whether to include the popular book that seems to have already “made the rounds” or to favor the lesser known work. We want each Klingbrief to introduce our audience to as much new thinking and as many new voices as possible. Or, when there’s an issue in the news and on the minds of the sharpest school people we know, we wrestle with our own theory of coverage. Should we always publish articles that respond to current events that are stirring debate and action? Should we push for more or less balance? Should we editorialize? We aim to be organic and to honor the floating conscience of our schools. Sometimes, this leads an issue to be almost entirely “of its time.” And sometimes the entries feel more timeless. More often than not, we publish a bit of both, showing how one can be the other and the other, one.

In each issue we hope that Klingbrief helps us to step out of our schools, which often engage us almost entirely, to hear from others. Before we return to that work, and as we turn 10, I’d like to thank the editors past and present and the schools that inspired them to model lifelong learning. I’d like to thank Dr. Pearl Kane, who, time and time again, helped us to stay true to our purpose. I’d like to thank Dr. Nicole Furlonge, who has continued to support Klingbrief as she begins her tenure as Director of the Klingenstein Center. And most of all, I’d like to thank you, our passionate readers and writers, who consume and contribute to and share Klingbrief each month. With you, we intend to go on, for at least another decade, to meet the challenges and the opportunities, the timeliness and the timelessness, the prose and the poetry of our schools.  

Thanks for reading, writing, and thinking with us!

Stephen J. Valentine
Coordinating Editor, Klingbrief
Montclair Kimberley Academy

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