The Story You Don’t Know

So I had a really interesting experience the other day that I wanted to share. This experience inspired me to make a point of reaching out to people, and connecting with others, even people that I don’t necessarily know that well, so that I can share in their joy or be a source of comfort in their lives.There is no denying that kindness and human connection are powerful uplifters, and these two things might just be the most important things that we can do for our world, and for each other…to connect and to be kind. Everyone has a story that we know nothing about, a joyful one or a struggle, and in many cases these stories are dying to be shared, and the people dying to be heard. I made an unlikely connection just a few days ago that changed that particular day for the better, and will continue to put a smile on my face in the days that lie ahead.

 

Last Wednesday morning I woke up really, really early, like I do every morning, to head out for a run. It was a struggle for sure as my energy was low that day and I felt more tired than usual. I had a lot on my mind, and the thought of heading out into the pouring down rain and wind and cold almost made me hit the snooze button. I managed however to crawl out of bed and hit the streets, hoping that the music from my headphones might supply me with some much needed inspiration. When I was about five minutes into it, and freezing and soaked to the bone, I saw something in the distance that snapped me wide awake. It was a person, an elderly woman as it turned out, jumping around crazily the middle of the road, and at first it looked like she may be in trouble or possibly mentally ill, because who is out at 5:00 am in the morning, in the pouring rain, jumping around in the middle of the street?

 

As I got closer I slowed down, and recognized her as the same woman that I see every single morning of my life…the older lady who is always waiting at the bus stop at the same time that I run by. I’ve seen her practically every single day for the past year and a half, but of course I knew nothing about her. As I got to about fifty feet away I turned off my music and took out my headphones, because it was then that it finally hit me…she was dancing and singing at the top of her lungs! I had slowed down to a walk at that point, and as she was twirling around, she saw and approached me, saying something in French that I didn’t understand. I told her that my French really wasn’t that strong, so she immediately broke in English and told me that she just found out the night before that her son, who she hasn’t seen in almost ten years is finally coming home for Christmas, and she can’t stop dancing…so, I did what any of you would do…I grabbed her by the hands, and the two of us began dancing around in the middle of the road together…in the cold and the dark and in the pouring down rain in the suburban streets of Paris, and you know what, it changed my life for the better.

 

As I continued on my run that morning, I reflected on not only how surreal that experience was, but how in life it’s so easy to co-exist with other people each and every day of our lives but to not know anything about them…at all. I got thinking about all the other people that I see every single day, like the cleaners and the guards at our school for example, who I know nothing about. People who have stories and struggles, like we all do, and who might need a human connection or an act of kindness that can easily come from me. We all have people like these in our lives, and there are dozens of missed opportunities each and every day to make a connection that might just change someone’s day for the better. As children we are told not to talk to strangers, but I’m not sure that same rule should apply to adults. I’m thinking that we should all go out of our way to engage with a stranger or two, and to make a new connection each and every day…it won’t just put a smile on their face, it will put one on yours as well…I guarantee it.

 

Gettin back to my new friend (whose name incidentally is Celine, as I came to find out the next morning when I stopped to talk to her at the bus top), we now share this special moment, which brings a smile to both of our faces everyday when I run by and wave. She stopped me to say thank you by the way, the day after the dancing incident, and shared that what I gave her, by stopping and dancing with her, was the most beautiful gift that she has received in a long, long time. She had nobody to share her joy with as she is very much alone, and the fact that a perfect stranger, relatively speaking, had stopped to share in her joy was an act of kindness that has restored her faith in the world. Well, seeing her dancing like that in the rain did the same for me so I guess we owe each other. It’s funny to me that pure inspiration can come from the most unlikely and unusual places, so you better be ready to receive it…and of course, you need to remember to give yourself plenty of opportunities to have your day changed for the better simply by making a human connection, or by simply being kind. Have a wonderful week everyone, only two left until the holiday, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

– Mark Twain

 

Inspiring Videos –

Hit and Run

Believe in Someone

West Jet Christmas Miracle

Surprising Strangers

Random Acts of Kindness Triathlon

 

Related TED TalkKio Stark (How to Talk to Strangers)

Inspiring Poem –  Katherine Perry (Everyone Has a Story to Tell)

 

Related Articles –

The Importance of Connections

Being Kind Benefits You

Kindness Feels Good

Talk to Strangers

The Joy of Sharing Joy

 

Posted in Daniel Kerr | Leave a comment

Just wondering how we went from Thankshaving to Thanksgiving.

For me Thanksgiving has little meaning. Being French, Thanksgiving is not something that I have grown up with. While I studied it at school, from a civilisation point of view, it really is not something that resonates with me. However, what we experienced as a community a few weeks ago and for the second year in a row, is powerful especially when we look at what it used to be until two years ago.

Until 2016-Thankshaving

Before November 2017, thanksgiving at Academia Cotopaxi was the occasion for the whole school community to have a lovely meal together on a half day and then everyone would go home at midday. We would have a typical Thanksgiving meal at school with some turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes etc. Students, teachers, administrators, support, maintenance and security staff, we were all eating together. Administrators would serve food to the rest of the community, we were thanking one another and it was lovely indeed!

But, wait!

A team of educators starting questioning what we were doing. Eating turkey in the morning before sending people home to eat some more. So we used  some critical thinking and applied it to this community practice. Did we really need this? Did our community need to dedicate a whole morning to have a giant meal together? Were there some other communities out there who could benefit from our support during Thanksgiving time?

From 2017-thanksgiving

In 2017, a National Honor Society student shacked things around. She started working with a local organisation to support families in need in Quito and Ibarra areas and then began a whole community effort. A school wide holiday drive to collect food and toys. All donations were centralised in the different divisional offices in the school and on Thanksgiving day, in the morning, students and teachers all worked together to organise the donations for each family. According to how many family members and how many children per family we made boxes with food, toys and added holiday cards that our younger students designed.

This year, we got even bigger as we supported some Venezuelan communities and an Ecuadorian community in the Andes. Several families took part in the delivery of the food and of the toys. On Saturday, my family and I took part in the delivery about 3 hours from Quito. The local, Italian priest and Olga welcomed us in the community center and explained to us that the truck that we finished loading with food and toys the day before had not arrived due to a technical issue. However, a previous toy and food delivery from our school had arrived the week before so we were able to give every child a gift. But what was the most amazing is when the children arrived at the community center, they all came to shake our hands and they even had prepared a dance and a couple of songs for us. It was beautiful and very touching indeed.

Next steps

While Academia Cotopaxi will continue the Holiday drive for food and toys next year, I also hope that we can sustain some strong links with the communities that we are helping. That we can organise more trips like those. That we can also continue to reflect upon what we do. That we develop more meaningful service learning opportunities. 

It really feels that we have gone from Thankshaving to Thanksgiving and that is Thanksgiving that resonates with me.

For what it’s worth…

Posted in Frederic Bordaguibel-Labayle | Leave a comment

Somebody’s Son, Somebody’s Daughter

So over the last several weeks as a family, we’ve been joining other parents, students and teachers in the heart of Paris to give out food, clothing and toiletries to the homeless. It’s an initiative that was started by an inspiring 6th grade boy, who wanted to make a difference in the lives of others who are less fortunate and struggling. It’s a wonderful example of how one person with a beautiful idea, and a desire to act, can have a profound and positive impact on a local community. It hasn’t just changed the lives of the homeless men and women that we meet, it has changed us as a family as well, as my own kids begin to internalize the responsibility that we all have to give back and to pay it forward.

 

The last time that we went I began to feel a small connection with some of the regulars, and I even started to engage in conversations with a few of them, which of course impacted me greatly. Seeing them on the street as you pass by is one thing, but to start truly seeing them as people, with stories and families of their own is quite another. As an educator, it’s easy for me to start thinking about what it might have been like when they were just little kids, and to begin wondering about their lives leading up to this point, and about how they got to a place where they are now living on the street. Once they were young boys and girls, going to school and playing on the playground, with friends and teachers and mothers and fathers, and dreaming about a future that was very different than their current reality. They were and still are somebody’s son and somebody’s daughter, and it is heartbreaking to see them struggling so badly…it certainly makes you want to act, and to find ways to help ease their struggle even if it’s only for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning.

 

All of this of course, makes me wonder about the responsibility that we have as a school to make service learning a huge part of our culture, maybe even the biggest part, so that all of our students become involved in projects and initiatives that impact the lives of others who are less fortunate. Like most international schools, we are made up of very privileged families who have the means to affect incredible change locally. At ASP we’ve always had a culture of service, and we have fantastic service projects happening all the time, which makes me proud. This year however, we’ve been working very hard to create and expand many impactful initiatives, and to align these across the divisions so that they are “school-wide” opportunities for our students and families to give back. Not a day goes by lately that I don’t walk past boxes and boxes of clothing and food donations stacked up in the foyers, or hear about student led groups raising money or making sandwiches or donating their time to find ways to give back. It’s something that seems to be gaining momentum in our school, and it feels like culturally, it’s gaining traction.

 

We have an opportunity this year, as we start work on our new strategic plan, to really commit to the idea of service learning, and to make it a pillar for our school and community in the years to come. We can look for ways to embed service into all that we do, and to make it an expectation, and a reality, that all our kids, teachers and families give back in one way or another to benefit and positively impact the lives of others. One student last week wrote, when asked what he wanted for the future of our school, that ASP needs to find something to really believe in and and to stand for, and through this give all students a chance to be a part of something that is larger than just themselves…well, what about service? It’s my opinion, that building an intrinsic motivation in kids to give of themselves is one of the most crucial things that we can give them as educators…talk about affecting change, not just when they graduate and head out into the world, but right now while they are in school. There are opportunities everywhere we look to make a positive difference in our world and we have a responsibility to act.

 

Anyway, I’m excited about the direction that we’re heading as a school with regards to service learning, and I’m thrilled that we are using the strategic plan work to think about how we can bring it even more to life in the future…exciting times for sure. Have a wonderful week everyone, only three more before the holiday, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others

– Mahatma Gandhi

 

Tenille Townes – Beautiful Song and Video

Somebody’s Daughter

 

Inspiring Videos –

Making your Mother Proud

My Morning Coffee

Returning the FavorFull Episodes

Compassion for Strangers

Pay It ForwardOldie but Goodie

 

Related Articles –

The Power to Inspire

Leader in Me

Service Learning in Schools

What the Heck is Service Learning

Purpose and Goals

Practice Kindness

 

Service Learning Websites –

Good Character

National Youth Leadership Council

Global Issues Network

Service Learning Projects

129 Great Examples

 

Posted in Daniel Kerr | Leave a comment

Lesbian teens have higher rates of pregnancy than straight teens (and why we need to include everyone in sex education)

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

It’s true: lesbian teens have higher rates of pregnancy than those who identify as straight. Also, gay males are more likely to be responsible for a pregnancy during their teen years than straight males. It may sound counter-intuitive, but research backs these numbers up[1] [2].

Earlier this year, I published an article in the American Journal of Sexuality Education entitled “Sexual Health Equity in Schools: Inclusive Sexuality and Relationship Education for Gender and Sexual Minority Students[3]. In it, I argue that, while researchers do not know for certain why lesbian teens are at higher risk for pregnancy, it likely does not help that the vast majority of school-based sexuality and relationship education programs exclude gender and sexual minorities (GSM) from the curriculum[4]. Indeed, I point out in the piece that a number of issues that sex education aims to address, such as age of first intercourse and number of partners, condom and birth control use, and dating violence disproportionately (and negatively) impact lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth as compared to their heterosexual, cisgender peers.

It is perhaps less surprising that gender and sexual minority teens are not responding to school-based sexuality education when we consider that they are essentially ignored in most programs. Of those that do make mention of anyone other than heterosexual, cisgender people, it is often through messages that are pathologizing (i.e. exaggerating the relationship between sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS), or the ‘information’ is downright inaccurate. A number of U.S. states actually mandate that their schools’ curricula be discriminatory against LGBTQ people[5]. GSM students do not see themselves reflected in most sex education programs, and might simply check out during those lessons, leaving them without the knowledge and skills necessary to nurture their sexual and reproductive health.

As most of the data supporting my article was collected in the United States, it is theoretically possible that other countries are doing a much better job at including GSM students in their sex education programs. This is unlikely, however, given the relatively restrictive legal, political, and social situation for GSM people in many parts of the world[6]. Also, of the few countries that have collected information about GSM students, none has shown that this demographic fares as well as their heterosexual, cisgender peers in outcomes targeted by sex ed[7].

Want to do better for your students? Consider adopting the K-12 Sexuality Education Standards published by the public health organization, the Future of Sex Education. The content of these standards is accurate, evidence-informed, developmentally and age-appropriate, and designed to be relevant to a diverse student body. These standards are being used to some degree in 32 states in the U.S., so international schools following an American curriculum in particular will appreciate staying up to speed with current best practice. Adopting an inclusive sexual health and relationship curriculum is one step toward a more just and fair education for all students.

You can link to my full, published article here.

How does your school ensure that gender and sexual minority students have access to sexual health and relationship information? 

 

[1] Charlton, B. M., Roberts, A. L., Rosario, M., Katz-Wise, S. L., Calzo, J. P., Spiegelman, D., & Bryn Austin, S. (2018). Teen pregnancy risk factors among young women of diverse sexual orientations. Pediatrics, 14(4).

[2] Institute of Medicine. (2011). The health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people: Building a foundation for better understanding. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

[3] Meadows, E. (2018). Sexual health equity in schools: Inclusive sexuality and relationship education for gender and sexual minority students. American Journal of Sexuality Education. doi: 10.1080/15546128.2018.1431988

[4] The Guttmacher Institute. (2016). Fact Sheet: American Teens’ Sources of Sexual Health Information.

[5] Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). (2017). State Profiles.

[6] Carroll, A. & Mendos, L. R. (2017). State-sponsored homophobia: A world survey of sexual orientation laws: Criminalization, protection and recognition. International Lesbian and Gay Association.

[7] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2016). Out in the open: Education sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Paris, France: UNESCO.

 

 

Posted in Emily Meadows | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Theatre Should Be Core Education

A version of this article was published in the Spring, 2018 print edition of The International Educator.

Why Theatre Should Be Core Education

By Kassi Cowles

More than ever I feel that arts, and theatre in particular, should be part of the core curriculum for high school students. Even in the more holistic programs, like the International Baccalaureate, the arts are one of the only areas that students may opt out of. Language and literature, maths, sciences are mandatory—no escape–and I suppose the assumption is that these areas develop critical thinking and responsible citizenship more directly, or in a more predictable way. The IBDP mandates creativity through extracurricular pursuits which can have a lasting impact on students who already love the arts; but allowing students to opt out of studies in the arts as an essential subject sends the same tired message: the arts will always be on the periphery of language and logic, the subjects that comprise the core of how we prepare young people to contribute to and understand society.

To relegate arts to the extracurricular fringes is to do a great disservice to students, and to discount the impact that theatre in particular can have is an even greater oversight. Theatre encompasses all forms of art and anyone with experience in theatre, especially in high school, knows that it’s ideal for examining all aspects of the human experience—there’s nothing theatre doesn’t touch. It provides the richest opportunity for self examination, for developing community, for understanding the physical and metaphysical infrastructure that hold communities together so they can create, which is what we were born to do. The very lessons and experiences that season us, that cultivate the virtues that will lead to a more peaceful world, they are all found in theatre.

I’ll start by suggesting that if students can’t study theatre as a year-long course, then they should at some point be part of a theatre production. Creating theatre means creating a society where everyone has a job and responsibility. Not everyone can be a performer and not everyone wants to be. Theatre needs mathematicians and architects, designers, technicians, musicians, managers, dancers, builders and movers, writers, philosophers, anthropologists, critics, and of course an audience to collaborate with. Students can access the experience of theatre from an entry point that most interests them, and realize what it feels like to be a part of a community with a common goal.

Through this process they will redefine what it means to be in a physical space. They will respect space. They will experience how something physical, the theatre, becomes something conceptual, cultural, spiritual: Theatre. The impact of this alchemy on young people cannot be underestimated; like house to home, it is the process by which community and belonging are embodied, where they become cultural and creative imperatives. Students who have been touched deeply by theatre will understand the synergy of creative communities and will seek the resonant feeling of synergy in whatever future communities they create.

This is because theatre increases awareness. Although it can be studied academically, theatre provides opportunities to move the educational experience into a space beyond the mind, which many students in rigorous academic programs desperately need. It is a physical art, and it asks, of performers especially, for an awareness of the sensory experience that can only lead to a better understanding of the performers themselves. As Rebecca Solnit says, “empathy is first of all an act of imagination.”

Empathy is also the practice of awareness. And this is where the most reluctant participants have the most to gain. They feel terror, doubt, embarrassment, alienation, to which I say, yes, good, feel it! Feel it deeply in this moment where you are safe. Perhaps the honest and palpable fear that theatre provokes in a student will help him to empathize with those whose fear and terror are not for play, and whose alienation is systemic. At the very least, theatre will teach students how to listen (for their cue, for their chance!), to examine the effect of their choices, and to broaden their field of perception. If this alone is the only gift studying theatre provides, then it is immeasurable, as the general dullness of our sensory awareness is what leads us to misunderstand ourselves and others.

Finally, theatre teaches service. It has a higher purpose. The more committed students are to collaboration the more they will fight to find points of resonance with the material, even if they hate it, and with each other, even if there’s tension. They will be vulnerable and they will extend themselves, creatively, physically, emotionally, philosophically, into unfamiliar realms so that they can reach each other and the audience, finding moments of temporary alignment even in the most diverse crowds. I tell this to my theatre students often when they have doubt or conflict as performers: in the end, this isn’t about you.  In the end, theatre is about communing with an art form that cannot exist without the community that keeps it alive.

And in the end, what’s left when the show is done is so much love. High school students fall in love with theatre precisely because their hearts and minds are primed for such intense experiences to leave a permanent impression. They cry and grieve when it’s finished because it can never be duplicated. In the process of creating theatre, students will have learned about community and collaboration, empathy, compassion, awareness for themselves, the material, each other; they will have pushed through barriers of doubt, frustration and fatigue, they will have touched on the subtle fluctuations of the human experience that they may not yet understand, and yet somehow in their bodies, in a way without words, they do understand.

For young people, theatre has the capacity to shape their perception about what it means to belong and to create belonging. And there is nothing more at the core of being human than this.

 

Posted in Forrest Broman | Leave a comment

Sex Ed and World Peace

A version of this article was published in the Fall, 2018 print edition of The International Educator.

Sex Ed and World Peace

“Sex and gender equality is so basic and essential to peace and security.”

                                                                                                            —Sex and World Peace

Years ago I told a colleague I was teaching The Kite Runner in my literature class. He immediately had a problem with it. He said, you can’t teach that book, there’s that awful scene where the boy gets raped. It’s not appropriate. But what about all the seminal texts we teach where women are raped or abused,I asked, (I listed several on our curriculum). It’s different, he said. Why? It just is.

I’ve only every worked in elite international schools. Over the course of my career not one school had an intentional and updated sex, gender, and relationship program, where we could examine these concepts in a holistic, interdisciplinary way.

Coincidentally, in several of the schools I’ve worked at there have been instances of sexual violation and coercion: teachers violating students, students coercing others into performing sex acts. There have been students recovering from rape and sexual trauma where we could offer no in-school support; I’ve witnessed the sexualized bullying of students identifying as LGBTQ; and I’ve taught students with such a misunderstanding of sexuality and reproduction that future sexual trauma feels inevitable.

And then I read the news.

The correlation between weak and non-existent sex Ed and examples of sex and gender inequality in society, is so obvious, we’re missing it. We’ve been too busy, in our elite programs, preparing students for success, preparing them for power. We haven’t taken the time to teach where power comes from and all the ways it can be stolen, lost, wielded, and recovered. Because sex, in a broader term, intersects with all the things that cause war: power, politics, race, gender, identity, tribalism, masculinity, money.

The book Sex and World Peace takes a holistic view of this complex problem. The authors claim that the barrier to a peaceful world is gender inequality, and that inequality is a form of violence. As teachers in international programs, it’s vital that we teach this now. Relevant and thorough sex Ed is one way to help promote equality and reduce sexual crimes in college, in the workplace, and in the home, because often the root of these actions is systemic ignorance. When sex is something we are afraid to talk about in school, students will seek answers elsewhere: from pornography, from youth culture and group think tendencies, or they will rely on the information (or lack thereof) that they inherit from their families, most of which is likely out-dated and insufficient.

Many international schools will say they can’t teach sex Ed because it goes against the values of the host country, the parents, or the school itself. Given the far and interdisciplinary reach of sex and gender issues, there’s also the question of who feels qualified to teach it. Despite these barriers, we cannot continue with fear and apathy, releasing students into the world without so much as a discussion on consent.

Since so many international students are graduating with little to no sex Ed, I argue that the change has to come from the programs themselves, not from the schools alone. In order to graduate, a student in the IBDP, for example, must complete a 4000 word EE, fulfill their CAS and TOK requirements; and now, imagine that they must also pass their Sex, Gender, and Relationship class—a course purposefully designed to teach them that understanding the complexity of sex and gender issues is responsible citizenship.

Will a class like this deter schools in conservative countries from offering the IB programs? In the end, I doubt it. International schools are in the business of making money–for profit and for better programs in their schools; and anyway, what are the implications for a school that drops their affiliation with an international program that believes that sex Ed is a human right? Sex education should not be considered dangerous or unnecessary. The #metoo and #timesup movements have cracked open a dialogue about systemic sexism and have revealed a desperate need for better education and healing around these issues.  And there are ways to adapt the content to different contexts without sacrificing core knowledge.

So what could this program look like? Core topics could include Sex and the Self (sexual health and identity), Sex, Power, and Ethics (a great time to teach consent), Sex in the Digital Age (a way to support students through the barrage of messaging and media). Deeper examination could include the history of sexual beliefs in different cultures–another great way to illuminate the relationship between sex, gender, and inequality. A strong TOK class pushes students to question the architecture of their beliefs; a strong sex Ed program should do the same.

Imagine if students graduated with an updated vocabulary with which to think and talk about sex and gender; with a sense of confidence in themselves as sexual beings—aligned, of course, with their own context and values; and with an understanding that sex and gender intersect with many other sensitive issues that they are likely to encounter in life.

Students shouldn’t have to wait until they reach university to deeply examine these issues, as most of their core beliefs about their sexuality will be shaped in high school anyway. They deserve support. The explicit choice not to educate students about sex increases ignorance, secrecy, shame, and allows for misguided people and collective behaviour to shape the understandings of vulnerable communities—and teenagers are a vulnerable community. If we want a more peaceful world (and who doesn’t?) sex education is vital.

 

Posted in Forrest Broman | Leave a comment

Child Safeguarding

So last weekend we hosted an international child safeguarding conference here at ASP, with over 150 participants representing 24 countries from all around the world, and you know what…it was really, really heavy. It was run by the committed and inspiring leaders of CIS (Council of International Schools), who hit us all very hard over the four days with the “why” behind this non-negotiable reality…that we need to make child safeguarding the top priority of international schools around the globe.

As a school, we arranged a half day release for our students so each and every english speaking faculty and staff member could go through specific sessions and keynotes, and we all left forever changed. The opening keynote began with the promise that “there is life before this conference, and life after this conference”, suggesting that the participants would be profoundly impacted as a result of what they learned…and they were right. It was intense, disrupting, and ultimately incredibly inspiring to know that we have embraced this initiative as a community to better protect our kids…what could be more important than that?

I came away from the deep dive session on Saturday evening feeling validated that we have a really strong safeguarding foundation in place as a school, but also a little overwhelmed by the work that we have left to do to become a leading school internationally in this area. As the designated child safeguarding lead for ASP, I am personally passionate about this work, and excited to engage with all of our stakeholders to ensure that we have put all measures in place to protect our kids from every possible angle.

Historically, International Schools have not done a good enough job of protecting our children from physical and sexual abuse and neglect, and we haven’t been great at identifying and reporting low level concerns…that needs to change. CIS is taking the lead as a organization, and as only the 2nd international school from around the world to take part in the CIS Child Protection Conference training, we need international school leaders to get in front of this right away…every school is affected by this in one way or another, even if they don’t know it yet, and the statistics and stories that were shared throughout the conference opened up our eyes to the urgency of this work…please go down this road as a school if you haven’t already…it’s a responsibility that cannot be ignored any longer.

Over the next several weeks we will be training our coaches, our French speaking faculty and staff, and looking for ways to ensure that every adult that comes in contact with our children (volunteers, interns, parents) has the proper safeguarding training, as well as a deep understanding of the “why” behind the work. We will also be meeting with an outside consultant to audit our facility spaces, to make sure that we haven’t left any stone unturned. I’m proud of our school for taking this on, and even though it will take an incredible amount of time and effort and resources, it will be worth every second and every penny. To save even one child from harm in the future will make this work worthwhile, but I have a strong feeling that it’s going to save many more than just one.

Thank you CIS for leading this out for our international world, and thank you in advance to the international schools who will bring a safeguarding conference to their community in the near future…don’t wait…your children’s safety is at stake. Here is a beautiful poem that speaks to the importance of rallying as a community so we are all in this together. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Whose Child Is This?

‘Whose child is this? ‘ I asked one day
Seeing a little one out at play
‘Mine’, said the parent with a tender smile
‘Mine to keep a little while
To bathe her hands and comb her hair
To tell her what she is to wear
To prepare her that she may always be good
And each day do the things she should’

‘Whose child is this? ‘ I asked again
As the door opened and someone came in
‘Mine’, said the teacher with the same tender smile
‘Mine, to keep just for a little while
To teach her how to be gentle and kind
To train and direct her dear little mind
To help her live by every rule
And get the best she can from school’

‘Whose child is this? ‘ I ask once more
Just as the little one entered the door
‘Ours’ said the parent and the teacher as they smiled
And each took the hand of the little child
‘Ours to love and train together
Ours this blessed task forever.’

– Jessie Girl Rivera

 

Quote of the Week…

Every child you encounter is a divine appointment 

– Wess Stafford

 

Inspiring Videos –

Some Gifts Are More Thank Just a Gift

Children’s Reactions

Become a Better Person(TED Talk)

Find Your Nearest Mom

 

Articles and Websites –

Council of International Schools Resources

Keep Kids Safe

Safety Rules

Posted in Daniel Kerr | Leave a comment

Stop the Downturn: Data for Student Support

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

For many years I have been involved in student support planning. As an EdTech professional, I am heavily involved in managing and using student data. Student assessment data is normally used to make lists of students that need support.

The ideal scenario, is that students get the help they need BEFORE the grade falls below the recovery level. There is normally a point in the term where the grade cannot be recovered. The mean will be too low. If the school uses a few final exams to determine the final grade, the situation is even more dire for students who have early downturns.

Here are some recommendations for making certain that you are using student data correctly, and promptly, to support those who are beginning to have unfavorable results.

Set the Bar High

I start my trend analysis at the C+ level, or “average”, level. I look for students who have a C+, and see if they had a C+ the week before. This can be done fairly quickly in a spreadsheet with live data sets.

Students who have moved from a C+ to a C, a C- to a D, etc., would all need a weekly review.

This seems tedious, but I firmly believe interventions need to happen as early as possible in the process.

Do not Assume Students are Lazy

I am often guilty of assuming a student is simply not trying hard enough, or not paying attention. I think this is a very common initial reaction to falling grades.

Every student deserves to have the benefit of the doubt. Take the time to look at least 1-2 weeks back in the grading. Look for courses they are not struggling in, and see how the assessments differ.

Most importantly, take time to engage the student. Ask them about the situation, and listen for clues. Many times teenagers seems cagey, but they simply may not be able to articulate the problem.

Check the Class Average

Class averages often hold insight into student issues. If you have a class, and the average is 80%, and the grade distribution is on a normal curve, then prepare to have many students struggling.

That bottom group of students is going to be fighting all term for a low B or high C (80%-76%). This does not mean they need extra support, but it does mean that they need to be using their time very efficiently. The margin for error, and laziness, is very low.

Also, do not jump to make the class easier. Some topics are tough, and they should be.

Convert Standards Grades to Numbers

This is an internal process. Students and parents will not see the conversion. This is not about creating a 100 point scale. This is simply a better way for administrators to quickly review data. You can use any scale you wish.

If you have only three standard’s indicators, and you are only grading against four standards, you would generate 12 data points, per student, per assessment. That is 216 data points per 18 students, per assignment.

Assigning numbers to letters, using a simple find-and-replace function, would make it possible to run common mathematical analysis.

Require Regular Comments

End of term comments are nice, but they are useless for a true support intervention process. Teachers need to be required to tag assignments at the student level when those assignments indicate a downturn.

Many administrators are often sitting in a room without the teacher trying to understand the data. Simple comments bring clarity to assessment data. This is true even in standards-based environments.

I would even argue semester and trimester comments are useless. Action needs to be swift, and data needs to be updated weekly.

Require Teachers to Update Grades Often

Obviously, without data, no action can transpire. Data needs to be updated every 5-10 school days. If a teachers gives 4 significant assessments in a month, and updates their grades only once every 4-6 weeks, how far will the grade(s) fall before an intervention can happen?

Keep in mind there is a gap between the time the issue is discovered, and the engagement with the student(s). Every day matters. Make a point to be the annoying administrator who is sending “gentle reminders” about grading and data updates.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Tony DePrato | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Confronting fascism in the classroom

What do we do when confronted with a student who says he admires the ideology of Mussolini? Or when a student asks, “Aren’t Jews generally more rich?”

These and other interactions have been happening in my classroom recently as I teach authoritarianism (first Mussolini, now Hitler, later, Stalin and Castro) in IB History. A few years ago, I think I would be much more alarmed by these kind of statements, but now, although I am still somewhat alarmed, I like to think I have more patience in responding. I take my role as an adult mentor seriously. The students need to know that expressing admiration for fascism and repeating anti-Semitic stereotypes might be condemned in many social situations. But they also need to know why.

I’m a history teacher. But I don’t care much about whether my students remember the exact date of Indian independence or the name of the terrorist who inadvertently started World War One. I do like it when they know these, and it is helpful to their understanding of context and their internalizing a timeline of events- but I believe that facts should be learned only in service to thinking about ideas. It’s much more important to me that my students understand the conditions of British imperialism in India (and imperialism elsewhere) and the Indians’ urge towards sovereignty than it is that they know the date (18 July 1947) India was declared independent. It’s more important that they ponder through the tangled web of events that began World War One, and consider how nationalism and rivalries played a role, then focus on memorizing the name of Gavrilo Princip. Therefore, I organize my history classes around concepts (imperialism, power) rather than content. After all, we can’t teach everything. A case study (British imperialism in India) can illuminate a concept when we study it in depth, and other case studies (French imperialism in West Africa, British imperialism in China, Belgian imperialism in the Congo) can add more breadth to a student’s understanding. Then we can circle back the concepts we began with.

So when a student asks a provocative question, I need to remember that they are a student. My IB History kids are 16 and 17 years old, and many of them are encountering this material in-depth for the first time. They haven’t previously read ‘What is Fascism’ by Benito Mussolini or ever actually seen a video of Hitler giving a speech. I want to hear their natural curiosities instead of shutting them down. They need to work through the attraction of Hitler’s nationalism to Germans of the time, and the appeal of Mussolini’s open-ended ideology. I don’t want my students to pay lip service to the ideals of democracy and republicanism and world peace; I’d rather they arrived to these ideals after thinking through, even briefly empathizing with, the alternatives. 15 years of experience teaching has helped me arrive at a working solution. I am explicit about explaining how such ideas may be received in social and academic contexts today. I also invite them to reflect more on their own thinking: “What do you admire about Mussolini? Why do think others might have admired him (or admire him today)? Why might others condemn him?” Last week I showed a news clip of neo-fascists in Italy. I wanted the students to see how neo-fascists present themselves and how others respond in the real world today. I encouraged my student asking about Jews to talk to her Jewish friends: “How do you think they might answer when you express that idea about Jews being rich? What would you say if you heard someone say all members of your religion are rich, or middle-class, or poor?”

If I want my students to take their ideas seriously, then I need to take them seriously too. If we don’t listen to our young people and give them space to work out (challenge) their ideas, they will be even more in danger of extreme ideologies- because immunity comes from knowledge, not ignorance.

Posted in Allison Poirot | Leave a comment

Tis the Season, A 2019 Job Seeking Primer

Sorry I haven’t written in awhile. Been super busy transitioning to a new amazing team of educators in a very special country.

No matter how much I write about the unique experience of seeking a job in international schools, I always learn something new that has helped me and hopefully will help you as you venture into this perilous (and exciting) phase of your learning journey.

So, here’s my job seeking primer for 2018. Good luck. And remember, you WILL get a job.

1) The fairs are done before they start. I think you know this by now, but most jobs are filled by January and the top schools are done by Oct./Nov. You should have built a relationship with a school prior to the fair. By the time the fair rolls around, meeting people is usually a formality.

2) Design a clean, clutter free CV that tells a story, not just a list of mundane tasks like everyone else. More text with 10 font is not a better story. There’s no reason you can’t organize your experience by headings such as “Innovation,” “Experiential ed,” or “Personalized Learning,” that matches the mission of the school instead of something that looks like a common app. It takes more work, but if you really want to work at a certain school, they will be impressed to see the alignment of your experiences with what the school values.

3) Check the school web sites that you’re interested in, not just the search agencies. Desirable places like the UWC network and some of the other top schools don’t bother to advertise.

4) Non profit vs. For profit: There’s an expression that the difference between profit and non is that one is resource rich and community poor and the other is the opposite. That’s a pretty good analogy as for profits can be ruthless when it comes to the bottom line, but that doesn’t mean that non-profits are perfect. Make sure you understand the culture of the organization you are joining before you jump in. Speaking to current employees (not just managers) usually is a good indicator.

5) Job jumping=low rating. Yes, there are a lot of teachers that are in it for the travel. From a recruiters’ perspective, a string of 2 and 3 year gigs (or less) is not a good sign no matter your excuse. You should build up a solid foundation of several 4-5 year gigs or longer to establish yourself as a desirable candidate.

6) Social media matters: We all know this by now, but keep an eye on your digital footprint and make sure that it’s compatible for working in schools. Child safeguarding is job #1 of professional school environments and they check.

7) Always give your direct supervisors as references, even if it’s hard. Good schools are going to call the Director or Head even if you didn’t list them as a reference. It’s a red flag when your only references are colleagues, past directors, or department heads. Have the hard conversations if you have to, but list the direct managers.

8) No surprises: Be up front with anything that might be an issue. If you have a child with disabilities, a partner to whom you’re not married, or anything that could be an obstacle for securing a work permit or a job, be up front even if it may cost you the offer. There’s nothing worse for an employer than finding out deal breaker issues after you’re at the contract stage.

9) Visit schools during your holidays just to say “hello” and introduce yourself, even if there’s not a job. As a Principal, I love it when traveling teachers want to visit and see what we’re all about and have a chat over coffee about their experience. Some of my best ‘interviews’ have been with folks on their holiday. They’re real.

10) Be willing to take a pass. Don’t be desperate. Watch for the signs of a bad deal. If a manager gives you five hours to think about an offer or if they don’t let you speak to current employees or are vague about the health insurance, etc. then wait. If you’re good, you WILL get a job. Trust me, it somehow works out, especially if you love what you do and want to make the world a better place. God only knows we need you.

Good luck. I’ve been on both sides of the table and it’s humbling. Keep your friends close, be yourself, don’t be afraid to turn down something if it doesn’t feel right, and don’t ever, ever give up.

Posted in Stephen Dexter | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment