Interview with Nishant N. Mehta, Head of The Children’s School

This month, Brownieland Pictures spotlights The Children’s School, a progressive elementary school currently serving students from age three through sixth grade (but expanding to seventh and eight grades by fall 2018) in a diverse community in Midtown Atlanta. Grounded in principles of excellence, innovation and play, TCS graduates passion-driven young adults who lead lives of purpose in an interconnected world.

We had the pleasure of checking in with Nishant N. Mehta, Head of The Children’s School, to learn more about TCS and his role at this independent elementary school.

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What got you involved in the work you do at The Children’s School?

I’ve known about and admired The Children’s School (TCS) for some time now. It’s recognized nationally for its commitment to equity and justice, areas in which I have deep experience and passion. When the school began its search for a new head of school in summer 2012, I decided to apply for the position and hope to lead a school whose mission and work I had respected for so long!

What impact does TCS have on solving the issues facing our community?

TCS is aptly named. We embrace childhood and all of the joys that accompany it. One of the biggest cultural crises we face is an assault on childhood. One of my favorite quotes from Calvin & Hobbes is:  “Childhood is short and maturity is forever.” Our children are asked to grow up more quickly and take on the burdens and challenges of adulthood before they are ready, challenges that rob them of their creativity and imagination. Most children are overscheduled and overcommitted in the name of interests and enrichment, while it’s actually about relieving parental guilt or padding the child’s resume for future college applications. Whatever the reason, these are destructive habits if done too often. Children need lots of playtime, unstructured opportunities to indulge their imagination, get bored and take responsibility for their choices at a young age, feel seen and heard. Children learn to respect others when they feel respected. TCS doubles down on such initiatives.

Another cause the school cares about deeply is equity and justice. Our children learn to care for others from the time they enter our school at age three. Our community’s demographic – families, students, faculty and staff – reflects this commitment, as does our curriculum and partnerships with other individuals, teams, and nonprofits with whom we work to impact and take responsibility for in the city of Atlanta.

What are some causes you are passionate about here or elsewhere?

Besides the issues already mentioned, I’m passionate about leadership and growing leaders at all levels in our school. As a city, state, country and world, we need every individual to take initiative and ownership of the issues facing all of us. As the world has gotten smaller, divisions between peoples and nations have become more apparent and pronounced taxing our resources, governments, and good intentions. World peace will not seem like a laughable or impossible concept if each of us rises to the challenge rather than throwing our hands up in the air and deflecting responsibility on others.

What do you want the legacy of The Children’s School to be?

I believe TCS can disprove the quotation from Calvin & Hobbes. While the childhood years may end eventually, TCS teaches us that the spirit of childhood need never end. During the hiring process, we actively seek adults who still carry that spark from their childhood years and will bring that joyfulness into their community. We’ve found that problems are easier to solve, teams are more productive and happier, and work does not feel as challenging, boring, or impossible anymore.

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