Let’s Celebrate!

So here we are with only three weeks left of school, and I have to say that it’s easily one of my favorite times of the year. Not because summer is right around the corner and because the holiday season is in sight, but because it’s the time of the year when we get to celebrate all that we’ve accomplished as a school. The next few weeks are all about celebrations, and in my opinion it’s a beautiful thing to see…we celebrate our students at graduation and moving on ceremonies, we celebrate academic achievement at our academic award ceremonies, we have our athletic awards night and our major year-end award assembly where we celebrate kids in so many areas beyond athletics and academics, and we celebrate in smaller, more individual ways with year-end MAP scores, positive student directed feedback from teachers, and portfolio reflections around goal completion. So much goes into a successful year as you know, and I love that we are constantly looking for ways to celebrate our kids, and purposely sending them off on their holidays with a true sense and feeling of accomplishment…like I mentioned, it’s a great time of the year!

 

All that said, I know that for teachers these next three weeks can be stressful and overwhelming, and often times we can get so caught up in all that’s going on that we forget to slow down, reflect, and find time to celebrate ourselves. All of these student accomplishments don’t happen without dedicated, committed, and passionate educators, and as we speed toward that final Friday, I want to make sure that our teachers…YOU… are celebrated for all that you’ve given to our community. I know that we have a few upcoming celebrations planned to recognize years of service, departing teachers, and one final happy hour where we can toast each other to an amazing year completed, but before all of that I want to publicly say thank you to each and every one of you for your outstanding work here at AC. 

 

I see how you go above and beyond in so many ways…I see how many hours you put in beyond the regular school day to ensure that our kids are getting the education that they deserve…I see the tremendous effort that you put in to developing strong relationships with our students and with each other, and I see how our school has literally been transformed because of who you are as people…I want to celebrate you! I feel an immense sense of pride when I think about all that we’ve accomplished as a team, and how far we’ve come as a school because of your amazing contributions. I had a chance to reflect last week during a couple of long plane rides, and honestly, it’s staggering to think about how far we’ve come throughout my time here…it’s a fact that most, if not all of the transformative work across our school would not have been completed or successful if it wasn’t for who you are as educators…absolutely incredible. 

 

The biggest piece for me however, has been the unwavering positive attitude that you’ve come to school with each and every day. Throughout the good times and the struggles it has been your inspiring attitudes that have impressed me the most. You always frame every initiative, every decision, and every minute of the day around what is best for our students, and that for me is my biggest celebration of you…attitude is everything, and you’ve inspired me every day with yours…thank you. Here is one of my favorite poems, which speaks to who you are as a faculty…never giving up, always trying to make things better, and forever framing a situation through a positive lens. Enjoy the next three weeks everyone and please take the time to celebrate each other along the way…it’s been quite a year! 

 

The Greatest – By Don Schlitz

 

Little boy in a baseball hat,

Stands in the field with his ball and bat

Says, “I am the greatest player of them all”
Puts his bat on his shoulder and he tosses up his ball.
And the ball goes up and the ball comes down,
Swings his bat all the way around
the world so still you can hear the sound; the baseball falls to the ground.


Now the little boy doesn’t say a word, picks up his ball he is undeterred.
Says, “I am the greatest that there has ever been”
And he grits his teeth and he tries again.
And the ball goes up and the ball comes down,
Swings his bat all the way around
the world so still you can hear the sound; the baseball falls to the ground.


He makes no excuses he shows no fear
He just closes his eyes and listens to the cheers.
Little boy he adjusts his hat, picks up his ball, stares at his bat
Says, “I am the greatest when the game is on the line”
And he gives his all one last time.
And the ball goes up and the moon so bright
Swings his bat with all his might
the world’s as still as still can be, the baseball falls
and that’s strike three.


Now it’s suppertime and his momma calls,
little boy starts home with his bat and ball.
Says, “I am the greatest, that is a fact,
but even I didn’t know I could pitch like that!”

 

Quote of the Week…

Never suppress a generous thought – Camilla E. Kimball

 

TED Talks –

https://www.ted.com/talks/wendy_troxel_why_school_should_start_later_for_teens
https://www.ted.com/talks/ben_dunlap_talks_about_a_passionate_life?utm_source=newsletter_weekly_2016-07-31&utm_campaign=newsletter_weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_content=talk_of_the_week_image

https://www.ted.com/talks/john_wooden_on_the_difference_between_winning_and_success

 

Interesting Articles –

http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin343_a.shtml
https://www.edutopia.org/student-accomplishment-part-one

http://www.theleaderinmeblog.org/celebration-the-internal-motivator-for-student-achievement/

http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/leaders-link/principals-must-celebrate-successes/

http://inservice.ascd.org/end-of-year-a-time-to-celebrate-and-set-goals/

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Graduation Address to the Class of 2017

What follows is a section from my Graduation Speech to the class of 2017.

….we have so many, many things we could say: but collectively they can all be summed up: thank you for your leadership, kindness, company and for the privilege of seeing you grow over the years….. whether you joined in grade 4, or grade 12. We’re more proud of you than we can say, and we look forward to seeing what you do with your lives.Parents – thank you for lending us your precious children… just to be clear – you can have them back now; it’s been good but Grad Trip is not on us – just sayin’!  But seriously, thank you . We’ve done our best for your wonderful children over these years; we have seen them grow into the remarkable young men and women we see here today, and we share your pride. We hope you see in them everything you had hoped when you entrusted them to us.

Graduates, I hope you will all look back on your High School years with great affection; the many alumni who have flown in to be here today, and the numbers who constantly visit us throughout the year suggest that this is so for many. But I also know that High School is no bed of roses – or put it another way, it’s a bed of roses but roses have thorns – and it can hurt.

I hope for all of you you are proud of your achievements – you should be – but I know they come at a cost – in time and effort at least; and for some, in other ways too. And we know that for a few of you, it has been really difficult. We’ve tried to be beside you all the way – supporting you, pushing you, pulling you, occasionally dragging you.  I hope it never felt like a kicking; and I hope we got it right; please forgive us when we did not – it wasn’t through lack of care, or effort.  Whatever the reason you found it hard – academic matters, emotional matters, personal matters, social matters, behavioural matters, family matters, and whether you told us or kept it private – you’ve come through it; you achieved despite your adverse situations, and we’re especially proud of you and your achievements today, and what you have done when it was tough. Know that we recognise especially you, and that we applaud especially you.

Now let me speak directly to the whole graduating class. Watch out. Here comes the advice, based on two stories.

Story 1 In 1983 a then-young aspiring musician, Dave Mustaine, was kicked out of his rock band, just as they were signing their first contract. Disappointment, yes. But he used it to drive his ambition and set about becoming the best rock star he could. He practiced, dedicated himself… and his new band, Megadeth, went on to sell 25 million albums.  Dave Mustaine is now a legend of rock. But my message here is not the obvious don’t give up; always follow your dreams.  No, it’s a different message – because the group Dave was was kicked out of went on to become Metallica – who have sold 180 million albums. And 180 million is a lot more than 25 million. In a rare intimate interview in 2003, Dave admits he sees himself as a failure. Close to tears, he said that despite everything he will always be the guy who got kicked out of Metallica. Despite his fame, his glory, his place in the Hall of Fame, Dave Mustaine sees himself as a failure.

So my advice is: find the right standards for success; don’t set yourself absurd targets that mean you’ll never be good enough. Allow yourself to be happy, even when you don’t get what you want. Don’t always compare yourself to others.  Comparison is the thief of joy.  It is tragic for Dave Mustaine that he cannot be happy with his success, and we see similar things on a smaller scale.  Two years ago a student told me he considered anything less than 45 IB points a failure. So with his 43, and a place at Oxford, he saw himself as an academic failure.  I fear for that young man!  When perfection is your only acceptable outcome, you are destined for unhappiness – in academics, in career, in relationships… in life. As writer Tim Minchin said Chasing perfection is the way to have your life pass you by; it keeps you focussed on the future, and out of the moment. It means you will miss small pleasures as you look for bigger ones in the future. It means you will not see the people in front of you because you are thinking about how useful they may be to you. Eventually, you may not even see your children right in front of you because you are looking for the child that does not, and will never, exist. The pursuit of perfection is a diversion from the messiness of real life. Close enough is often good enough and perfect is a myth that’s too costly, despite what modern culture will tell you.

Story 2 involves another danger that can arise even if you are happy with close enough and resist the perfection trap.

A few years ago, I was presenting something at a Primary School parents assembly, in another country, and I had to ask a couple of the seven-year-olds on stage what they wanted to do when they were grown up. One said ‘work in an ice-cream shop’. The other one, to the vast amusement of the audience said he wanted ‘to be a burglar’ (true story!) But in either case we smile because we know that the children are making a guess about what a good life might look like and what the details might be. A great many of our own wishes for the future have this character – they are guesses about what a good life looks like. And we smile because we know that with further experience, self-knowledge and maturity, the picture of a good life undergoes dramatic revision. Eleven years later, at graduation, the hypothesis of a flourishing life will be reoriented to filmmaking, medicine, finance, the law, the theatre, music, engineering, mountain climber, entrepreneur, public charity work and so on. These are still all guesses about what a good life looks like. And they may be more accurate than the ice-cream shop and the burglar (I hope so!) but are they correct?

That’s for you to say; it’s your life. But when I read the business press, look at some of my own friends, and observe the world of work, it seems to me that the notion of a good life seems to have been pushed to the margins –  a nice bonus if it happens, rather than the central life goal it should be. Work has become a job; sometimes a career, but only rarely a calling, a genuine belief in the value of what you do.  And the trouble with that is that even if you do it perfectly (which you should not) – then you will still have fallen short of what you could be; still have let yourself down.   Success in the wrong thing is something of a failure. As Lily Tomlin said Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.

That doesn’t mean that knowing what to do is easy; and it would be naive to ignore the realities of making a living. But if making a living is all you care about, you may miss making a life.  John Kotter wrote between the yellow brick road of naivete, and the muggers lane of cynicism, there is a narrow path, poorly, lit, hard to find, and even harder to stay on once found. And finding that is my second piece of advice here – Seek that path that makes a life and at the same time makes a living; stay on it; show it to others.

Both of these problems – the problem of seeking perfection, and the problem of seeking the wrong thing – are at some level the same problem: the ‘always problem’ that never goes away and that is, to my mind, the fundamental human problem: are you living your days to the best of your capacity, in ways that are aligned with your values, and in ways that you can look back on with pride, knowing that you served others as well as yourself? That’s what we teachers call an ‘exit question’. And this one you should ask yourself every year of your life at least once.  Today is also a good time to ask that question, and as I look back at what you have achieved in your short time with us, I believe the answer to that question has so far been a resounding ‘yes’.

Our UWCSEA goal is to educate individuals to embrace challenge and to take responsibility for shaping a better world. We’re so proud of you. I know I speak for the entire College when I say it has been a pleasure, and a privilege working with you. As well as the great hopes we have for you, we have even greater trust in you.

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Understanding Ransomeware


                     By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

On Friday, 12 May 2017, a large cyber-attack using it was launched, infecting more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries, demanding ransom payments in the cryptocurrency bitcoin in 28 languages. This type of malicious attack is classified as ransomeware.

The ransomeware concept is fairly simple. Once the package infects a system, it begins to encrypt all the data. The data is still on the machine, but it is not accessible unless the user enters a decryption key. In order to obtain the key, money must be sent to the “owner” of the ransomeware. Usually this money is requested in the form of cryptocurrency, to make it difficult (if not impossible) to trace the payment.

Ransomeware Targets Everyone

Schools often believe that certain security measures and protocols followed in the corporate world do not apply to them. There is often a consensus on-campus that technology needs to be friendly and open. Because of this cultural approach to planning technology many rules and regulations are simply not followed, especially if those rules and regulations are designed for extreme scenarios.

For example, it would be odd to find a school that did not have user managed passwords for email. When users get their email account, they change and manage their own password. However, if someone recommends that school personnel setup multistep authentication, that expires every thirty days, that recommendation is probably going to be rejected. Any multistep authentication process requires that users learn more about security and manage security more regularly. If a user makes a mistake, the delay for resetting their services is often considered unacceptable.

IT policies and procedures that would prevent a school from being a victim of ransomeware, or other sophisticated attacks, are going to be policies that create barriers and limits. These measures would slow people down at times, and restrict certain types of technology from being used on-campus.

Managing network and data security is a discipline that must be followed regardless of an organizational mission or definition. Best practice scenarios need to be studied as universal best practice scenarios. Studying best practice scenarios for only a single type of organization (like a K-12 International School) limits exposure to case-studies, creative ideas, and threat assessment.

Ransomeware Prevention and Protection

Investing money and IT security planning have something in common. If a person makes a future decision, strictly on past performance, they are very likely to be investing in a plan that is expensive with lower future yield. IT security threats work because they are original, and because a purchasable defensive solution was not available at the time of the threat.

Many organizations make the mistake of preparing for the future by buying protection for a threat that is no longer unique.  This is useful if the threat resurfaces, but it is useless against new threats.

If an organization truly wants to be well prepared for ransomeware threats, everyone in the organization should be able to answer ‘Yes’ to this statement:

“I can take my laptop/desktop/primary device and throw it away right now without severely impacting my work or life.”

Answering ‘Yes’ to that statement means that a person understands the data  is more important than the machine is resides on. Just like investing in retirement, only diversification will save someone during a new and aggressive IT security threat.

There are numerous ways to achieve a high level of data diversity and redundancy. Here are a few that can be implemented with policy and practice:

  • The standard for file storage should be in the cloud.
  • Do not use SYNC software such as Google Drive Sync or OneDrive sync.
  • Laptops given to staff and students should have very small hard drives to discourage hoarding data and storing old files.
  • Weekly or Monthly archiving of data should not be in the same environment as data for daily work. For example, I use Google Drive everyday for work, but once a month I backup the important data to DropBox. The larger archives are for emergencies, and held within a different environment.
  • Offline backups on external drives are good, but hardware can fail. Consider what data is critical and make sure the offline backup is not the primary copy.
  • Systems like TimeMachine can actually corrupt data if they are backing-up automatically. Consider manually initiating backups, only after you have scanned your machine/servers for malware.
  • Photos and media can be challenging to keep organized in the cloud. Services like Google Photos, Instagram, etc. are designed for media. Use media centric services to manage media.
  • Email is not for data storage. If email is compromised, the communication threads should be all that is lost.
  • Schools using local network shared drives and NAS systems (Synology etc.) need to be restrictive and vigilant with permissions. If these services have been planned with “Ease of Use” as the driving force, they are at risk of being turned into an engine that will rapidly spread a threat.
  • Limit non-cloud based data sharing to special groups or departments to reduce the need to constantly update and patch these systems.

A final note to those who are making and enforcing policy. A single human vector who introduces one of these threats onto a network can create a cascade of destruction. Allowing anyone to circumvent a policy because of their title or position is placing everyone at risk.


WannaCry RansomeWare Impact
The ransomware campaign was unprecedented in scale according to Europol.[9] The attack affected many National Health Service hospitals in England and Scotland,[50] and up to 70,000 devices — including computers, MRI scanners, blood-storage refrigerators and theatre equipment — may have been affected.[51] On 12 May, some NHS services had to turn away non-critical emergencies, and some ambulances were diverted.[12][52] In 2016, thousands of computers in 42 separate NHS trusts in England were reported to be still running Windows XP.[46] NHS hospitals in Wales and Northern Ireland were unaffected by the attack.[10][12]
Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK in Tyne and Wear, one of Europe‘s most productive car manufacturing plants, halted production after the ransomware infected some of their systems. Renault also stopped production at several sites in an attempt to stop the spread of the ransomware.[53][54]
According to experts[who?] the attack’s impact could have been much worse if no kill-switch was built in by the malware’s creators.[55][56]
Cybersecurity expert Ori Eisen said that the attack appears to be “low-level” stuff, given the ransom demands of $300 and states that the same thing could be done to crucial infrastructure, like nuclear power plants, dams or railway systems.[57]
List of affected organization
São Paulo Court of Justice (Brazil)[58]
Vivo Telefônica Brasil) (Brazil)[58]
Lakeridge Health (Canada)[59]
PetroChina (China)[16]
Public Security Bureaus (China)[60]
Sun Yat-sen University (China)[61]
Instituto Nacional de Salud (Colombia)[62]
Renault (France)[63]
Deutsche Bahn (Germany)[64]
Telenor Hungary (Hungary)[65]
Andhra Pradesh Police (India)[66]
Dharmais Hospital (Indonesia)[61]
Harapan Kita Hospital (Indonesia)[61]
University of Milano-Bicocca (Italy)[67]
Q-Park (The Netherlands)[68]
Portugal Telecom (Portugal)[69]
Automobile Dacia (Romania)[70]
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Romania)[71]
MegaFon (Russia)[72]
Ministry of Internal Affairs (Russia)[73]
Russian Railways (Russia)[74]
LATAM Airlines Group (Chile)[75]
Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (Spain)[76]
Telefónica (Spain)[76]
Sandvik (Sweden)[61]
Garena Blade and Soul (Thailand)[77]
National Health Service (England) (United Kingdom)[78][12][10]
NHS Scotland (United Kingdom)[12][10]
Nissan UK (United Kingdom)[78]
FedEx (United States)[79]
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Saudi Telecom (Saudi Arabia)[80]
Posted in Tony DePrato | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaving Well

So I was going through the end of the year event calendar this morning over coffee, and I honestly can’t believe that we’re so close to the finish…how did the school year speed by so fast? I also can’t believe how much we still have left to do before we send the kids off to their summer holiday. The last month of the year is always tricky in my opinion, as we struggle to connect the excitement and promise of summer with the pressure and anxiety of finishing strong and leaving well. It’s hard when we see the finish line in the distance, to not get distracted or complacent as all of the emotions of the last five weeks begin to set in. I wrote a post several years ago that I like to send out every year around this time, as a challenge and reminder to all of us that the next four weeks might just be the most important weeks of the year. Tomorrow we officially begin the homestretch, and we all need to be at our best. Beginning today, we all need to commit to finishing strong and to leaving well. Here’s the message again, and please, please take it to heart…

As we stare down the last month of school, I want to challenge us all to re-commit to our students, their learning, and to each other, and to dig deep to finish what we started. I’m challenging us all to LEAVE WELL. You see, sometimes when schools and educators aren’t careful, there can be a tendency to take the foot off the gas so to speak when speeding toward the end of the year. It can become very easy to let complacency creep in, and to ease off on the work, the effort, and the attention to student learning. Losing focus and looking ahead to next year and to new adventures can quickly turn what has been a wonderful year into a disappointing end result simply because the finish wasn’t strong and the goals weren’t seen through to completion. In my opinion, we’ve put ourselves in a great position to end the year on a high, and to be able to look back on the year with an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment. It’s an exciting time of the year I know, and the kids are happy and smiling…we all have one eye focused on our summer adventures, and we can see the finish line on the horizon…I’m asking you however, to not lose sight of the importance of what’s still left to do.

Finally, I’m asking you all to pay careful attention to our beautiful kids over the next several weeks. Many of them are navigating the rough emotional road that leads to saying goodbye to their friends, saying goodbye to a school that they love, and saying goodbye to the identities that they’ve forged during their time with us here at AC. It’s also very easy for all our kids to get caught up in the promise of summertime fun, and to get distracted from the goal at hand, which is to work hard right up until the end, and to set themselves up to move on with confidence, pride, and with the right mindset. Talk to your kids…ask them how they are feeling…give them extra support if you see them veering off track, and be the amazing role models and mentors that they’ve come to expect. Don’t let them off the hook, and go above and beyond (even though you’re tired) to make the final four or five weeks their best of the year. Starting the year strong is so, so important as you all know, but it’s comparatively easy compared to the challenges of May and June. Finishing the year strong is where the rubber hits the road in my opinion, and it’s here that all master teachers and school wide leaders worth their salt show their mettle.

For those of us moving on to new adventures, like me, remember that we’re only ever as good as our last exit…….and for those of us returning, know that students remember the educators that we are in June…..so let’s make sure they remember the best of what we have to offer. The last few weeks are going to speed by everyone so please commit to making them count. Let’s all feel great about what we’ve accomplished so far this year…it’s been amazing…but we’re not done yet! Finish strong, leave well, and wrap up the year with a beautiful bow…Happy Mother’s day to all you amazing Mother’s out there as well…you certainly deserve more than just a day! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the week…

If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a brand new hello – Pablo Coelho

 

TED Talks to watch this week…Happy Mother’s Day!

https://www.ted.com/playlists/247/talks_by_fierce_moms
https://www.ted.com/talks/takaharu_tezuka_the_best_kindergarten_you_ve_ever_seen

https://www.ted.com/talks/karim_abouelnaga_a_summer_school_kids_actually_want_to_attend#t-328163

https://www.ted.com/talks/spencer_wells_is_building_a_family_tree_for_all_humanity

 

Leaving Well Articles – 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frederick-w-schmidt/on-retiring-and-changing-jobs-leaving-well-as-a_b_7442014.html

https://www.thindifference.com/2016/07/leaving-well/

http://teach4theheart.com/how-to-finish-the-school-year-strong/

http://www.gettingsmart.com/2015/05/finishing-the-school-year-strong-they-deserve-your-best/

http://www.teachhub.com/end-year-strong

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Best of Saudi… Six years later

Back in 2011, we had just completed our first year living and working in Saudi Arabia.
We published a blog post on the Top 10 Best Things about Living in Saudi Arabia to our personal blog which was later published to TIE Online Blog. Now, six years later, we are finishing our 7th year in Saudi Arabia and thought there was a need for a reflection and update to this top 10.

With that said, our priorities have changed mainly because we have two children. That, along with our longevity here, has altered the list. First, let’s revisit the original:

10) Labor Costs
9) Location for Traveling
8) Bahrain
7) Shawarma
6) Availability of Food
5) Coworkers and Our Jobs
4) Gas
3) Weather
2) Housing
1) Money

Six years later…

1) Money

This is a no brainer. This was the top of our list back in 2011 and is still here. Almost no one is here for anything other than the money or perhaps family. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. We doubled our salary moving here back in 2010, and it has gone up another 50% since then. That, along with the free health care, housing, utilities, and flight money home, it is overall an outstanding package that rivals all but a very few in the world for international teaching.

2) Nursery on Campus

Again, this rises to a high spot because of we had our children in the past five years. Above all, this is what is keeping us in the country for the time being. Our school provides a free nursery on campus. So, our boys ride with us to work and ride with us home from work. They are about 100 yards away from us at all times, and the nursery care, facilities, and curriculum are outstanding. The ratio of children to staff is around 3.5:1. You would be hard pressed to find another school that has this benefit.

3) Lifestyle

This remains high on the list and has been enhanced the more we have stayed. Needless to say, we have become quite spoiled. While our compound isn’t the greatest in the city, compound life in and of itself is relaxing, fun, and enjoyable.  It can be a fishbowl at times, but you really can have as much privacy or be as social as you wish. We have a housekeeper, gardener, and guy to wash our car. Our kids can run around the compound freely at a very early age. There is a great swimming pool area and decent little recreational center. Our neighbors are our co-workers which overall is a pleasant experience, because we all know we are in this together. We’ve had some pretty cool compound parties and get togethers over the years.

4) Professional Development Opportunities

This is a new one to the list too as we didn’t quite understand how fortunate we have been to be able to attend such amazing conferences for professional development opportunities. Many of these have been paid for by the school or district, which makes it even better. We’ve had training from experts in the field of education at some of these conferences and have learned so many new skills that have allowed us to immediately impact learning in our classroom but also make us very marketable to future employers.

5) Our Respective Schools and School District

With the hire of a new superintendent four years ago, our district and school has really seen some major changes and will continue to do so for years to come. Both mine and Jamie’s schools have had their challenges in the last few years, but new leadership at the top has really made a difference. Our campus is cleaner and nicer looking, there is an increased importance in safety, technology, infrastructure, human resources, and budgeting. A new superintendent is coming in the Fall of 2017, so let’s hope he can keep up the positive momentum as our campus builds a new school to move into in 2020.

6) Friends

This seems a bit low on the list, but the sad reality is that despite all of these amazing things on this list, friends will come and go in an international lifestyle. Leaving your home country for the first time, you’ll start losing ties to those friends the longer you stay overseas. It is only natural. However especially in a place like Saudi, you’ll find many other like minded people (who else would move here?), so developing friendships sometimes happens overnight. We’ve said goodbye to many good friends but others have also come in not as a replacement but a wonderful addition into our lives. It will hit our children the hardest when we leave here next year. They’ve grown up with some of the kids on the compound, and this is truly “home” for them. Kids are resilient, and we are confident they will make new friends at our next location. Social media will ensure we can maintain close ties with everyone.

7) Weather

Again, with the exception of mid May through mid September, the weather in Saudi is amazing. The weather also allows for a lot of lifestyle activities described above on the compound. You get used to the heat, and you are able to get in a few extra months of pool time.

8) Food

We’ve come to enjoy middle eastern food quite a bit. Not only shawarma, but other foods like mixed grills and the amazing breads and cold appetizers you can get here. Our kids love the India food here as well as the Filipino bread downtown.  There has been an influx of big name western restaurants that have moved in the area such as 5 Guys, Red Lobster, and The Butcher Shop. Chik-fil-A will obviously never be here and there still isn’t a Zaxby’s, but Raisin Cane’s is coming next month.

9) Traveling

Again, this seems very low on the list, but traveling is just simply now a part of our lives. Our three and five year old boys have been to eight and 14 countries respectively. I had to retire my 10 year old passport with over 35 countries stamped, James is already on his secon passport, and Jamie will renew next year. Saudi is a fine place for traveling to not only the middle east but zipping back to southeast Asia, Africa, or to Europe. Flight costs have risen steadily, but you can still find some good deals. Our only issue is now we pay for 4 tickets instead of 2 which hurts the overall budget and limits our traveling.

10) Leaving Saudi Arabia

This used to be my #1 reason because I always though that the best thing about living here was any time you were able to leave. Saudi can be tough to live in with inefficiency, terrible and dangerous driving, extreme temperatures, sexism, racism, the inability to immerse yourself with the culture, and a wide variety of other things that can make you frustrated.

However, Saudi has been very good to us since we moved here in 2010. Summarizing this list, we’ve paid off debt, both of our children were born and raised here, we’ve had wonderful childcare every day (for free) at our school, and we’ve met some wonderful people along the way that we hope to stay in touch with for years to come. So when we finally do leave for the final time in June 2018, it’ll be very bittersweet.

Posted in Eric & Jamie | Leave a comment

You Can’t Call Your Child That: International Naming Laws

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

I am beginning preparations for our multi-legged journey of summer. Traveling with a toddler is certainly different than traveling as a couple. Forget about watching full-length films, and my liquids and gels zip-lock baggie is crammed with regulation-sized baby food pouches, instead of toiletries for myself. Plus, we plan on spending longer at immigration now, thanks to our baby’s name.

My husband and I decided to give our baby my last name (we both kept our names when we married). After our child was born, we were surprised to learn that we did not get to choose the last name; it is required by law that the father’s name be printed on birth certificates in Hong Kong. (Fortunately, as Americans, we were able to correctly register the birth with U.S. social security, so the passport does bear my family name, Meadows).

With different surnames on these two official documents, whenever we cross the Hong Kong border, there are lots of please-wait-one-moment’s and serious glances between officials. If my husband is present to reassure the concerned men in uniform, it tends to go more smoothly. Once, when traveling without him, I was asked if my husband and I were divorced. When I answered no, they inquired whether we had marital problems. I know better than to make a fuss at immigration, but I was fuming inside.

International naming laws
Naming laws are interesting. When I lived in France in the 90’s, new parents had to choose from a list of traditional, government-approved first names (mostly those of Catholic saints). This law has since been dropped, but French authorities can still reject a name if it is determined to be against the child’s best interest (Nutella, Babar, and Manhattan are apparently unacceptable). When I returned in the early 2000’s, there was a spate of French children named Dawson, from the popular American TV show, unheard of in Napoleon’s day[1].

Understandable regulatory practice?
It turns out that neither Hong Kong nor France have the most authoritarian laws when it comes to naming babies; Sweden is notoriously strict. Though, as an educator who has worked many years in early childhood classrooms, I cannot blame Swedish officials for rejecting Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (pronounced like Albin, of course). New Zealand parents can’t legally call their child King, 4Real, or Mafia No Fear. Twins in New York, however, were legally named Winner and Loser. Again, as someone whose career revolves around children’s well-being, this dichotomous choice is difficult to understand.

Or perpetuation of hierarchical social structure?
In international education, I have taught children with names that may not be familiar to Anglophones. But, to the family, these names are cherished. At what point, are a family’s wishes less important than the (culturally-biased) judgment of the government?

Around the world, sexism is passed down through our naming structures. One study[2] explains that, in Botswana, girls are commonly given names that refer to appearance, while boys are given names associated with power or intellect. “The proper naming system is an example of the way this society uses language to legitimize gender imbalances”.

Male dominance has been maintained through naming laws. I dated a French man who did not know his father, but carried his last name from birth. My then-beau and his mother petitioned the courts several times to change his family name to that of the woman who raised him; the process took over a decade before it was successfully complete.

Gender norms, too, are perpetuated through names. Poor Blaer’s parents in Iceland were surprised to learn that they had broken the law by giving their daughter a name that was “too masculine”. “Naming customs reflect aspects of the organisation of society.”[3] Naming laws are laden with the values (i.e. religious background, sexist tradition) of those who created them and, as in our case, may not be compatible with the values of new parents.

Even if our upcoming border crossing goes without incident, pulling out my son’s documents is a reminder that he was born into a world where, more often than not, women bear children, but men have the privilege of naming them.

How have local laws impacted the process of naming your baby?

[1] Apparently, Napoleon came up with the French naming law.

[2] Rapoo, C. K. (2002). Naming practices and gender bias in the Setswana language. Women and Language, 25(1), 41.

[3] Bahr, G. & Wetherall, A. (1999). Women and their personal names: Making sense of cultural naming practices. Women’s Studies Journal, 15(1), 43.

Posted in Emily Meadows | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Thanks for the Compliment

​So a couple of days ago I was welcoming the kids off of the school buses, like I always do to start the day, when a little girl walked up to me and gave me a beautiful and heartfelt compliment. She wasn’t fishing for one herself, and she wanted absolutely nothing in return, it was just an authentic gesture that was inspired by an experience that we had both shared together just a few days earlier…and you know what, it absolutely made my day! It made me instantly think of that great Mark Twain quote, “I can live for two months on a good compliment”, and to be honest, I haven’t stopped smiling since. It got me thinking about the power of compliments, and how if given with true sincerity and at the right moment in time, they can totally be day changing…maybe even life changing. 

I came across some interesting research out there which suggests that to our brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being given money. This journal article also suggests that using compliments is an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during any form of rehabilitation, and finally how compliments can actually be an integral component of cementing a person’s skill development. This is not surprising to me at all, as I’ve seen it first hand with my students and with my own two children. I also know the positive and immediate boost that I receive when someone compliments me on something.The thing is, it’s easy to go days or even weeks without either giving or receiving one, so I think it’s time that we all start making compliment giving a priority throughout our daily routines.

We can all do a better job at not only finding opportunities to sincerely compliment the people that we come across each and every day, but also at how we receive a compliment when it’s given. It’s hard for some of us to take a compliment without becoming uncomfortable, uneasy, or even cynical about someone’s intent…it’s hard to just stand there and smile, accept it, and say a simple thank you, even if it is the best and most appropriate response.

I found another interesting article by Eric M. Roberts, which lays out six important reasons why we should all begin to compliment more. Here they are…

  • Compliments encourage others who are struggling
  • A compliments can truly be all that stands between someone being successful or giving up
  • Compliments help people learn new tasks
  • Compliments strengthen and soften relationships
  • Compliments increase our circle of influence
  • Compliments help you become less cynical

Like me, Roberts recognizes that most people are pretty stingy with the giving of unsolicited compliments, even when we know that they are a powerful and positive experience for both parties. Anyway, I’m not sure that the compliment that I received from that little girl will last me for two months, but it’s going on four days now and I’m still thinking about it…that’s pretty darn powerful. I want to challenge us all over the next few weeks, as we speed toward the end of the year, to purposely look for opportunities to make someone’s day with a compliment. Be sincere, genuine, and authentic in your delivery, and be gracious and thankful if you happen to receive one for yourself, which I know you all deserve. I’ll be spreading them around as well, and I’m excited to see the smiles. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it! – Ruthie Lindsey

 

Great Articles –

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-gottsman/conscious-relationships_b_5062756.html

https://familyshare.com/3357/the-power-of-a-compliment

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200403/the-art-the-compliment

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2012/11/09/study-receiving-a-compliment-has-same-positive-effect-as-receiving-cash/#60bb01546007

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/compliments-activate-same-part-your-brain-does-receiving-singh

 

Inspiring Videos –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opMQxa1JkuM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vik-Dy3jrE

http://edition.cnn.com/videos/health/2016/01/22/your-brain-on-compliments-sanjay-gupta-orig.cnn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5yCOSHeYn4

http://www.upworthy.com/11-times-teachers-totally-blew-us-away-with-love-for-their-students

https://www.ted.com/talks/kio_stark_why_you_should_talk_to_strangers

Posted in Daniel Kerr | 3 Comments

Breastfeeding at School


Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

Shortly after I told my principal that I was pregnant, she let me know that she supports breastfeeding parents, and would make accommodations if I decided to go that route[1]. This was meaningful in two ways: 1) A supportive principal makes life easier and, 2) She didn’t leave it up to me to go digging around for this information. Her gesture mattered[2].

Breastfeeding can be hard; it is a round-the-clock commitment that doesn’t stop when you go to work. I’ve known more than a few mothers who have dealt with the stress of a dwindling ‘stash’ (stored frozen milk) as they transition out of maternity leave. There are several factors, however, that can make breastfeeding more do-able for working educators.

Space
As a school counselor, I had a private office buffered by a team of efficient and discreet administrative assistants. I knew I’d be able to close the door for a moment of privacy to feed my baby or express milk (known by my mama friends as ‘pumping’). Some international educators live on campus, and can pop home for a feed. But most people working in a school are surrounded by children in a room of windows for the majority of their day. What then? I’ve spoken to educators who pumped while hiding in storage closets, tucked between shelving units, and, yes, in the toilet.

“A dedicated nursing room is what’s needed. Period.”
– Breastfeeding educator in Brazil

“If the school met with the teacher before their return and asked what they needed in terms of space and time, and provided them with options, that would help a lot.”
– Breastfeeding educator in Jordan

“Parents with children under age two should be exempt from school-related travel.”
– Breastfeeding educator in Turkey

Time
Let’s say there is a satisfactory nursing room at your school. Now nursing parents must find some time in their schedule. If you are like the educators I know, you might eat lunch at 3:00 pm because that’s when your students leave. You might avoid your water bottle because you aren’t sure when you’ll next get to visit the restroom. This is the reality of working in a school. But pumping and storing breast milk for an infant can easily eat up half an hour or more several times per day. Teachers’ schedules are rigid, and their time without students is typically dedicated to important duties such as lesson planning or meeting with parents.

“If someone had offered to take my recess duty for me so I could pump, I would have broken down in tears of gratitude.
– Breastfeeding educator in Africa

“Give moms paid maternity leave and encourage them to take the full amount of leave.”
– Amanda Olson Vanderstelt, Breastfeeding international educator in Texas

Politics
Beyond finding the time and space for breastfeeding or pumping, educators may see the task is daunting for political reasons. There is a lot of judgment around how we feed our babies. Even well-meaning remarks like, “Good for you!” when I tell people I breastfeed imply that my decision is being assessed. Conversely, some people may see nursing as too personal or private for a work environment. Indeed, many women are nervous about breastfeeding outside the home. Depending on one’s relationship with school leadership and colleagues, it may be uncomfortable to ask for the time and space to pump. Providing the school’s policy upfront can reduce anxiety and create a more welcoming space for breastfeeding parents.

“Meet people where they are. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another.”
– Erin Robinson, Principal & breastfeeding mother, UWC South East Asia

“How about giving men a real paternity leave? Nursing in the first several weeks is like a full-time job. I wish my husband could have been around to help out with the tasks that started to build up at home.”
– Breastfeeding spouse of a teacher in the Middle East

“Contacts in human resources should have a working knowledge of policies related to parenting, and be available to craft a plan for employees returning from maternity and paternity leave.”
–  Breastfeeding administrator in Europe

The Law
Depending on which country you work in, there may be protections for breastfeeding parents, or not. U.S. law guarantees nursing mothers time and space (not a bathroom) for pumping on the job. The World Health Organization, however, has reported that breastfeeding laws in most countries are inadequate. International schools must uphold the laws of the country where they are located, but truly family-friendly schools will ensure that, even when not legally required, nursing parents are provided the necessary resources and support to breastfeed or pump at work.

How does your school support breastfeeding parents?  

[1] There are benefits to breastfeeding, and benefits to formula feeding. The decision of how to nourish a child is extremely personal, and this post is in no way meant to be an endorsement of breastfeeding over formula.

[2] This was Maya Nelson at Hong Kong International School, who has also seen to it that a breastfeeding/pumping/feeding room with changing table, couch, and private bathroom has been built into the school’s new campus.

Posted in Emily Meadows | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Appreciating Teachers

“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”  ― Jim Henson, It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider

To all of the teachers at the American School of Brasilia and around the world: Happy Teachers’ Week! Your work, dedication, and commitment to the development of others are important and deeply appreciated. To that end, the following is a link to a previous post entitled, Why I Hated Meredith’s First Grade Teacher, which shares a moving story about the difference a teacher can make in a family’s life.

Like other schools, we are commemorating this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week with a variety of activities that include a morning breakfast, a relaxation room with professional massage therapists, the distribution of school t-shirts, an afterschool social event, and a parent and embassy sponsored evening celebration.

Given the unique honour and responsibility teachers are given to guide and support learning, these words from T.H. White are for you:

 “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”  ― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Thank you, teachers, for supporting learning and making a real and positive difference in the lives of our students and greater communities.

Blog: www.barrydequanne.com

Twitter: @dequanne


EM PORTUGUÊS:

Agradecendo aos Professores

“[Crianças] não se lembram do que você tenta ensiná-las. Elas se lembram do que você é.” – Jim Henson, It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider

Desejamos a todos os professores da EAB e ao redor do mundo: Feliz Semana dos Professores! Seu trabalho, dedicação e comprometimento com o desenvolvimento das pessoas são muito importantes e profundamente apreciados. Para isso, o link a seguir é sobre uma postagem chamada Por que eu detestei a professora da Meredith do primeiro ano, que fala sobre uma história emocionante sobre a diferença que um professor pode fazer na vida de uma família.

Este ano estamos comemorando a Semana de Agradecimento aos Professores com uma série de atividades que incluem um café da manhã, uma sala de relaxamento com massoterapeutas profissionais, um evento social após a escola e uma noite de comemoração patrocinada pelos pais (Obrigado à Organização de Pais e Mestres da EAB!).

Dada a grande honra e a responsabilidade que os professores têm ao guiar e apoiar o aprendizado, essas palavras de T.H. White são para você:

“A melhor coisa em estar triste,” respondeu Merlin, é aprender alguma coisa. Essa é a única coisa que nunca falha. Você pode envelhecer e abalar a sua anatomia, também pode ficar acordado à noite ouvindo o distúrbio das suas veias, você pode sentir falta do seu único amor, pode ver o mundo ao seu redor devastado por lunáticos cruéis ou ter sua honra pisoteada nos esgotos de mentes baixas. Então só há uma coisa para isso – aprender. Aprender porque o mundo gira e o que o faz girar. Essa é a única coisa que a mente nunca pode perder, nunca alienar, nunca se torturar, nunca ter medo e não acreditar e nunca pensar em se arrepender. Aprender é a única coisa para você. “Olhe quantas coisas existem para aprender.” – T.H.White, The Once and Future King

Agradecemos aos professores por apoiar o aprendizado e fazer uma diferença real e positiva na vida dos nossos alunos e comunidade.

Blog: www.barrydequanne.com

Twitter: @dequanne


Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) Flickr photo by Tony 
Hammond: When It Comes to Aboriginal Art, It Can Branch Out Into 
the Imagination! 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/8525214@N06/32420843740/
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The Pleasures & the Pitfalls of Raising (and Teaching) children in your own international school

Blog 5

I have so often heard the comments, “I could never take my children overseas; I couldn’t do that to them,” or “ my partner/spouse and I want to start a family so we are leaving the international school to return ‘home’”.  Well, all I can say is, ‘what a pity!’  What a pity for these families, who, perhaps do not realize the many advantages of living overseas and raising their children as Third Culture Kids within the school family, and …what a pity for our international schools, when we cannot access or acquire the skills of many of these quality educators.

Therefore, my motivation to research this particular family paradigm was both altruistic and selfish.  Altruistic, because I wanted others to enjoy much of the pleasure I observed among staff who had their children in their school and my own personal experience having my children here, too. I have observed the wonderful family atmosphere at schools which have many staff children on roll. Selfish, because, as a school Director, I wanted to grow the pool of skilled and professional candidates for my schools.

Being a pioneer in this field of research, I was able to coin my own moniker for these children of educators who are studying in the same school – EdKids. (how exciting!)

So, I would love to expand on the themes from my research (see blog 4) one at a time.  I would love to hear from you on each category. Let me hear how you view these observations and commentaries.  Have you had similar experiences? Different experiences? What would you recommend can be done to improve the positives?

Theme 1:  The practical and economic benefits

The practical benefits of family members working and studying in the same school include the seemingly obvious fact that parents and children have the same weekly and yearly timetable, calendar, and holidays. Educator families have similar holidays, similar community events, and common relationships. The daily morning schedule, breakfast, family commute to and from work/school make daily life do-able.   As one educator said, ‘it simplifies life’.

The advantage of free tuition for dependents was a great benefit. Since many believe that the quality of private and independent school education is higher than in public schools, sending one’s child to a private school would not be a financially viable option ‘back home’.  The economic advantages are numerous, as well.  While salaries are all over the spectrum from low to high, educators quickly learn that it is NOT the salary which is ultimately the important variable.  Rather it is the potential for disposable income or savings.  Since many schools also offer travel, health, housing, utilities, professional development allowances,  much of the salary can be relegated to savings each month – or exciting travel or purchase opportunities.

Add to that, a double income of a teaching couple, plus the income tax exclusions (for U.S. citizens).  The final equation is that educators may be able to live a more financially dignified lifestyle overseas than back home.  And, with financial stability, comes a certain level of calm, or, at least lessening of anxiety.  You can imagine how this plays into the equation of raising your children.

Love to hear your thoughts!  Ettie    ettie.zilber@gmail.com

Let me know how I  can support your students, parents, staff and Board

https://www.ettiezilber.com/

 

References

Zilber, E. (2005). International school Educators and their Children.  JRIE., vol. 4 (1), 5-11.

Zilber, E. (2009).  Third Culture Kids: Children of International School Educators, John Catt., Ltd.

Posted in Ettie Zilber | Leave a comment