I Love My Phone

So as much as I try to deny it, and for as much as I try to justify it, there’s just no getting around it anymore…I’m addicted to my iPhone. I guess I really started to think deeply about it a couple of weeks ago when I was planning a parent workshop on the dangers of screen time and children. That, coupled with a great book that I just finished reading titled, The Big Disconnect, got me thinking about my own relationship with screens, particularly my phone, and the changes that I need to make to get to a healthier place in my life. It took a while but I guess it finally hit me…I need to do a better job of modeling a healthy screen time relationship not just for my own sake, but for my kids and my colleagues as well. The other thing is this…I’m not alone, and I bet if you think about it you’ll see that we’re all in this same boat together.

As educators we often discuss and debate the place that screens have in schools, and obviously these are really important conversations in this day and age. Actually, with all the research now out about how our brains are changing due to the excessive use of technology, these might just be the most important discussions that we can be having in schools…but you know what, it’s hard and really, really tricky to get it right and to find that healthy balance. One of my favorite quotes from the aforementioned book states that technology has been “designed to serve us, please us, inform us, entertain us, and connect us, and now our digital devices have come to define us”, and it’s true…we don’t just love our devices, we’re addicted to them. I’m worried about our society honestly, and how chained we are to technology and social media, and I’m wondering where it’s going to take us…will it get worse before it finally gets so bad that it wakes us all up and then gets better, or will it simply just get worse.

The thing that I’ve realized in my own life is this…it’s on me. With all the concern that I have about my own children and how much time they are spending on their devices both in school and out, the best way forward is to change my own habits and to lead by example. You see, my son loves the word “hypocrite”, and enjoys using it whenever I ask him to get off his iPad, and you know what, he’s right when he says it. Just last week he texted me from the same room and told me to get off my phone so I could come over and watch a video that he wanted to show me…unbelievable…but that was the final straw. So we finally came together as a family and created a family tech plan, which holds us all accountable for our daily use, and sets parameters for when and how we can engage with our devices. Like all habits though it takes time, energy, commitment and a whole lot of discipline to change them, but it’s been so freeing. With all the new found time we can bike ride, play outside, play games, be creative and imaginative, cook together, read (not on our devices), and we can talk more to each other…nice!

Anyway, the reason I’m sharing all of this with you is because I suspect that many of you (all of you) can also afford to take a critical look at your own relationship with screens, and find ways to build a healthier relationship. We have a responsibility as educators to model the behavior that we want to see in our kids, and if we want to decrease the amount of time that they spend on their devices then we need to show them the way…right now we aren’t doing a very good job of that…I know I’m not. The most important thing that we can do as adults is to model better screen time behavior for our kids…think about your screen habits after you read this and make a change or two…take it from me, it’s freeing and life changing for the better! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

Smart phones are so convenient that they’re an inconvenience

– Haruki Murakami

 

Related Articles –

The Perils of Screen Addiction (and How to Beat It)

Funny (sad) Comics

Your Brain and Smartphones

What is Screen Addiction?

Parents are Patient Zero

 

Book Recommendations –

The Big Disconnect

How to Break Up With Your Phone

 

Related Videos –

Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy

9 Signs of Screen Addiction

Ruining Lives– Simon Sinek

How is Your Phone Changing You?

Changing Your Brain

Posted in Daniel Kerr | Leave a comment

There Are No Good Guys, and Other Teachable Moments from the Kavanaugh Hearing

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

Brett Kavanaugh, now United States Supreme Court justice, is the latest in a string of men publicly demonstrating that there are no good guys.

Hang onto your #notallmen comebacks. There are no good guys – and there are no bad guys.

This type of binary thinking (good vs. bad) is problematic. Whether considering the sexual abuse epidemic in the Catholic church, or the extraordinary number of stories from the #metoo movement, a common theme is that people accused of assault are rarely pure villains. Someone out there is usually willing to vouch for their character, even to summon a respectable letter from the community attesting to their wholesomeness and good deeds. To take this as evidence that they have never once behaved inappropriately, however, is a logical fallacy with potentially serious consequences.

If a child understands that the adults in their life believe a religious leader/neighbour/doctor/family member/teacher is a ‘good guy’, and we’ve taught children to internalize people as being on one side or another of a good/bad binary, how might that impact their interpretation of a sexual assault? How might that influence their likelihood of reporting the ‘good guy’, or seeking help?

As educators, we can support children to see people as nuanced, and work to dismantle this simplistic good vs. bad misconception. Doing so may also encourage a healthier self-concept by giving little ones the chance to recover from mistakes that inevitably accompany learning. Otherwise, when a child uses binary thinking to judge themself, a simple misstep may create unnecessary internal conflict. Educators who cultivate a growth mindset with students will recognize this approach.

I do not mean to equivocate minor childhood gaffes with actual crimes, and this is not to say that someone who commits sexual assault in high school (allegedly) should be excused their behaviour and rewarded with a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court of the United States. Certainly we must face consequences for our choices. But, is Brett Kavanaugh entirely evil? Plenty of supporters would say no, and I agree: nobody is completely good or completely bad.

Other teachable moments from the Kavanaugh hearings:

  1. Sexual assault is not normal teen behaviour – it is violent behaviour. Let’s keep saying this loud and clear, and teaching children about consent early and often.
  2. Binge drinking is not normal teen behaviour; less than 1 in 3 American teens report drinking at all, and only 13% report binge drinking (defined as 4-5 beers in a row)[1]. Let us not normalize underage drinking.
  3. If a yearbook quote can follow you to a job interview in your 50’s, so can a social media post. Take care with online footprints.

If the recent U.S. Supreme Court nomination process came up with your students, how were you able to use it as a teachable moment?

 

[1] 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/results.htm

Posted in Emily Meadows | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Trust Me

So I’ve been writing a lot about the importance of positive relationships and school culture these days, and one day I’m sure I’ll change my focus to something else, but today is not that day. Today I want to briefly talk about what’s at the core of both of these things, and the one thing that drives all of our relationships, our school initiatives, and our daily interactions with each other…today I want to talk about trust. The thing about trust is that it looks different for everyone, and inevitably it takes time to arrive at a place where a solid foundation is set in both our individual, personal relationships, and in larger groups like grade level teams, departments, and in a whole school faculty. Some people are trusting by nature, even to a fault, while others are more reserved and cautious depending on past experiences. It can be hard to give over your trust to someone you don’t really know, and even harder to rebuild trust once it’s broken, and the really tricky bit is that without trust, nothing meaningful will ever happen in schools.

If you look deeply into what separates a great school from good one, it ultimately comes down to the level of trust that people have with each other. In great schools leaders trust people to do their jobs and they don’t micromanage, teachers trust each other and are vulnerable enough to share what’s working and NOT working in their classrooms, people have the courage to have hard conversations with each other while presuming positive intent, and in great schools there is a trust that all decisions are being made around what’s best for students and student learning. Ernest Hemingway said it best in the quote below, “the best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them”, and as we dig into some transformational work over the next couple of years, we need to continue to trust each other…nothing is more important and foundational than that.

Obviously, it’s very easy to say go trust someone and much harder to actually do it, and if you find yourself struggling for whatever reason to trust a person or to be trusting in a larger group setting, the best way forward is to identify what it is that’s stopping you and act. A perfect example of this happened to me last week, when I was involved in a miscommunication with a couple of teachers, which could have negatively  impacted our relationship had we not sat down and cleared it up with a some difficult conversations. In the end, these conversations identified the miscommunication, cleared up some expectations, and ultimately strengthened our relationships. Our level of trust with each other increased dramatically because we had the courage to talk about it and not let it linger and fester and grow into resentment. A major component of building trust is the ability that we all have to confront issues that can possibly be divisive, and to have these difficult conversations from a place of positive intent. In the end we all want the same things…to be valued, to be heard, to be respected, and to do what’s best for our school and each other…and it all comes down to trust.

So, I’m asking us all this week to look inwardly and to identify anything that might be stopping you from trusting someone, or from being a trusted member of a group. Then, find the courage to move past it through a conversation, some self reflection, or a simple re-set of mindset, and then…take the leap! Think about Hemingway’s quote and trust someone…it’ll make all the difference. Have a great week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them

– Ernest Hemingway

 

Inspiring Videos –

Prom Dates

Show Love

 

Related Articles –

The Importance of Building Trust

Workplace Trust

A Trusting Classroom

Building Trust

Teach for All

The Trust Factor

 

TED Talks –

What We Don’t Understand About Trust

How to Build and Re-Build Trust

 

Simon Sinek –

Committed Leadership

Posted in Daniel Kerr | Leave a comment

A Collection of Tales from the Road – Introduction

In this series of blog posts, I will record and share some stories of a rather long bicycle ride of 40,100 kilometres through 60 countries.

This post is a shortish introduction detailing some facts and figures and how I have structured the large task of compiling so many stories.

Some of the accounts you can read in this series are of things that were meant to be a little bit of fun but turned out to be shockingly bad. Some are sad stories that turned out to be funny (in hindsight at least). Many are just things that happen on a tour, the kindness of strangers, the thrill of the ride. Some are of times when I was desperate, others are accounts of diamond moments.

I want to do this partly because I do think that some of these stories might entertain you. They may seem far-fetched and hard to believe, but are true nonetheless, as I recall them. Mainly I just want to put them into writing. Memories of these things will always pop-up in my mind’s eye, but this document is immortal, so will forever be a place I visit as a bank of fond memories, even when I’m losing my marbles.

People keep telling me that I should write a book one day, and I immediately wonder- Why?

Because when people suggest this, my mind goes naturally to producing something that would be practical, but what useful advice do I have for people who like to explore? I am not sure that I would be a respectable source of information for the intrigued anyway, so i’ve decided to keep it simple and just write about random happenings, as these are the things that people have most enjoyed hearing about.

 

It’s been 18 years since my first tour (as an adult), and as I have mentioned in other blog posts, the world has changed a lot in that time. With only a few thousand kilometres left, the journey will be completed next year having pedalled more than 40,100km on tour, which is the circumference of our planet at its widest, so it’s actually slightly rugby ball shaped (see this post). 

This process of reflection, and my current location in the west of Canada, mean that I am already starting to feel nostalgic. It’s certainly been an investment to put it mildly, and a large part of my life. Indeed longer tours become a way of life, or a lifestyle. I wonder whether touring is now an obsession? I guess I’ll know soon enough. But for this circumnavigation at least, it is definitely something I know I need to complete, to get out of my system and be content for the rest of my life.

Over the course of my adult life so far, I visited 70 countries. In 10 of these, for whatever reason, I didn’t get on a saddle, so the memories I will share in this series of posts will be from 60 countries.

It’s difficult to find a commonly accepted definition of a country, nation, territory. Borders, or political boundaries have been fluid in some regions, and as I’ve mentioned in a previous post LINK ; countries are rather arbitrary in times of change.

For me, it has become more about the land and less about the country I happen to be in. People and cultures blend, the earth ebbs and flows from pastures to desert, mountains to jungle, back down to the ocean.

As I come towards the end of this 40,100km ride around our world, it is the knowledge of what the earth looks like, at 4-D ground level, that will stay with me as one nice whole visual bubble of information, made up of millions of data points and pedal strokes.

Note: Because of changing political and economic geography around the world, I have recorded what happened and where, as it was then. So some references may seem outdated, and so they will likely remain. This was pertinent in the cases of Tibet, Mongolia, Kosovo, Macau, Hong Kong, Armenia & Nagorno-Karabakh, Myanmar etc…

I decided that the best way to organise these memories is not on a timeline, which I could have called the ‘Chamois Cream Chronicles’, but rather in a typically teacher like alphabetical order, which I am yet to decide a name for. Alphabetcycles maybe?

I have written about something from each of these countries, and will work through the alphabet one country at a time. So the first blogpost will be about Albania.

Below is a list of the countries i’ve cycled, and HERE IS  A LINK to an interactive map of the screenshot above that I’ve created, locating each country and therefore story with a numbered pin in the order I’ll write. I do hope you enjoy reading about them all:

  

The full list of countries visited can be found here:  LINK

Stories so far: Albania, Armenia

Visit our website at www.pedalgogy.net to learn more.

 

Posted in Matthew and Niamh | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Sound of Your Own Voice

So I stumbled upon this book over the summer while I was teaching a class in Prague, and it really got me thinking about (and reflecting on) how important the skill of active listening can be to effective communication. It sounds funny and ridiculously obvious to even say that listening is a key component to communicating well but honestly, listening, really listening, is much harder than you think. Most of us are guilty of talking too much and not truly listening to what others are trying to say, and it gets in the way of effective communication all the time. We get so eager to be heard, and to be a part of the conversation, that we simply can’t wait for the other person to finish speaking so we can get our thoughts out there. Most times we start formulating our thoughts and responses in our own minds while the other person is talking, and keeps us from really hearing what they are trying to say. I’ve been guilty of this lots of times, but I’ve been trying very hard of late to make active listening my top priority when having conversations…but you know what, it’s hard to do.

I’ve spent the first few weeks of school watching how people communicate with each other and it’s super interesting. What I’ve noticed is that we love the sound of our own voices, and that most conversations are driven by a person’s desire to speak as opposed to listen. We interrupt each other all the time, we repeat what we’ve said multiple times, and we don’t stop to process what it is that a person is trying to say…all of this stops us from really “hearing” people, and it fosters way too much miscommunication, it promotes inefficiencies, and it causes a lot of frustration. The thing about active listening is that it’s something that we can all get better at with some practice, and there are a few easy steps that we can all try to get us started. Take a look at the many resource links below and familiarize yourself with some of the strategies. I’m sure most of you already know all about active listening but here’s the thing…it’s one thing to know all about the steps of effective communication, and a very different thing to actually do it in your day to day practice.

The other part to this, which might just be the most important part for us as educators, is how we communicate with our students. After my weekly learning walk last week I asked you all to reflect on how much time you spend talking in front of your kids, because if you really stop and think about it, I bet it’s too much. When I was in the classroom as an elementary school teacher I talked way too much…I loved the sound of my own voice and I took a lot of pride in myself being an entertainer. Thinking back, I wonder how much time I took away from the students’ opportunities to question, to ponder, to struggle and to voice their own opinions. It’s tricky being a teacher because we often see ourselves as the keepers of the knowledge, and the sages who will impart all of this information to our kids, but ultimately that’s a trap and not the most effective way for kids to learn.

Okay, that’s enough talking from me so I’ll wrap this up. As a final word I’m asking us all this week to reflect on ourselves as communicators, and to watch how we engage in our conversations. Let’s ask ourselves these questions…are we talking too much, are we interrupting others, are we getting distracted, and are we really trying our best to listen to others? My bet is that with a little effort and some personal recognition we can all get better at communication, and ultimately, we’ll all get a little closer to finally being heard. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to a true conversation 

– Chinese Proverb

 

Inspiring Videos –

Good Neighbours

Deliveries of Kindness 

 

Related Articles –

Why Listening is Important for Teachers
Some Reasons Why

Talking too Much

Why We Talk So much

Reasons to Listen More

 

Active Listening Resources –

Become a Better Listener

Effective Communication

Active Listening Skills

The Big 6

8 Steps to Listening Better

 

TED Talks and Related Videos –

5 Ways to listen Better

Listening to People You Disagree With

Teacher Talk Time (John Hattie)

People talk Too much (Ellen…funny)

Posted in Daniel Kerr | Leave a comment

Scheduling , Why Wait?

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

If your phone battery is not at 100%, would you still use it? Or, would you sit and wait for it to charge?

If your water bottle is 50% empty, would you continue to use it, or would you immediately go refill it?

If a schedule is 70% ready to be built, would you start building it, or wait until you have 100% of the information?

Here are the correct answers: Use It; Drink It; Make It Now

Start Now, it is Never too Early

I have built many schedules. For new schools, new programs, residential life, and events. In my experience the most important rule about academic scheduling, PK-12, is to start now, because it is never too early. Literally, after the first week of the academic year, most schedule issues arise. Issues need solutions. Solutions need a process. Processes take time. Time is always the main currency of any PK-12 organization, and currency should not be wasted.

Scheduling is All About Percentages

Imagine  planning a very  traditional elementary school schedule. The homeroom kind of schedule found in many American Schools.

There are 50 teachers. In August the school is getting 10 new teachers. Do I wait for those teachers to arrive to plan the schedule?

Let’s state that another way. I have 83% of my team. Can I make a plan with 83% of my team? Yes.

Observable data and experience would easily indicate that very few people in a school want to be responsible for scheduling. This data would also indicate, that more senior staff are more likely to have the desire to be involved, as they are aware of the issues.

And, do not forget, these 10 new people probably have email or other methods to communicate their goals for scheduling well in advance of the start date. There is no need to wait for their arrival, to incorporate their ideas.

More than 50% of any team can get a tremendous amount of work done. The Pareto Principle is a further reminder that only 20% of the total team is needed to produce 80% of the required output. That is 2 out of 10 people, assuming they have the skills to do the work

Many times the motivation to wait is not related to waiting on data. It is the inverse. The person believes they have enough information. Therefore, they can simply wait to finish the work at an ebb in the their annual workflow. I know have done this many times, and it would be the misjudgment that haunts me the most frequently.

Percentages work both ways. Scheduling is deceptive. People often seem to look at all the information and conclude, “I can wait. I have 90% of the work done.”

In my experience, that last 10% takes just as long, or longer, than the first 90%. The last 10% often involves meeting niche requirements for students, negotiating time sharing with another division, a pending change to a curriculum that will add (or subtract) required hours, etc.

This is another reason to start scheduling for the next year, as early as possible. The time to complete the work is deceptive and often inconsistent.

Waiting for 100% of everything is a waste of scheduling time, and waiting to complete 10% is also a waste of scheduling time. Both strategies can have the same result: an incomplete schedule on opening-day.

The Reality of the Flexibility

There is something I like to call, The Reality of the Flexibility.

Often new scheduling ideas come from a sense of concern: Our children need more…or Our Children need less. Legitimate, and exactly what a school loves to hear from their staff.

However, most schools follow a curriculum, and have to meet requirements outside of their control. For example, a governing body may require every student have four, forty-minute Spanish classes every week. A curriculum connected to a third-party organization might insist that every high school student complete 120 minutes of mathematics every week. This list is endless and often complex.

Having discussions about making changes is important, but most suggestions can be quickly sorted into the “possible” and “impossible” categories.

The day has a finite amount of time, and the year has a finite amount of days. The number of changes possible in any schedule is usually a very small percentage of the total. The reality is, the schedule is usually not that flexible.

The Ideal Timeline

If you want to see some dramatic improvements in scheduling, and have a more pleasant summer vacation, I recommend the following:

  • After the first month of school, create a schedule planning document. Send it to anyone who is involved in scheduling. If you need to see a planning document, email me directly. tony.deprato@gmail.com
  • Have new ideas for schedules submitted by the end of the third month of school.
  • At the top of the second semester, top of the third quarter, or bottom of the second trimester (hopefully you see the pattern) have the first version of all the new schedules ready.
  • Gather feedback. Adjust. Repeat.
  • Do course requests if required.
  • After spring break plan a new schedule walkthrough for every division. Find the problems before they are real problems.
  • Gather feedback. Adjust. Repeat.
  • Have all final schedules in the hands of teachers, students, and parents by the last week of school. Include the following line: “Schedules may change slightly without notice.”
Posted in Tony DePrato | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Culture & Global Citizenship

An important focus area associated with this year’s review of ISZL’s mission, vision, values, and learning principles is that of our school and community’s culture and how it relates to global citizenship. With our staff and students representing 34 and 60 different nationalities respectively, in addition to the school’s offering of 25 language courses, ISZL is clearly an international community that embraces diversity, culture, and language. To what degree, then, does the concept of global citizenship define ISZL?

If we consider this question from a more macro perspective with respect to ISZL’s greater context, we quickly note that, although the Canton of Zug does not include a large metropolis centre, it has a remarkable degree of diversity in its population. According to 2016 census statistics, non-Swiss residents comprised approximately 26% of the population while the city of Zug records an even higher level at 31.7%. Switzerland currently hosts residents from about 140 different countries.

A recent conversation with local educational leaders highlighted this diversity. As part of our outreach to further connect with the Swiss community, we invited the leadership team from Kantonsschule school to visit ISZL with the hope of initiating a partnership. At one point, we were asked about the number of nationalities represented by our student population, and we proudly stated the number to be about sixty. We are somewhat surprised when the visiting school representative responded by stating that they have about the same number of international students. This commonality has, in part, established that we seem to have more in common with local schools than may have been understood initially.

While the Swiss government has implemented policies to attract international residents, there also seems to be an approach to global citizenship that may be instructive to ISZL’s culture and values, particularly given our focus on further integration with the local community. By way of example, the Swiss Federal Immigration department publishes a document called, “Welcome to Switzerland”, which provides information for new residents arriving from abroad. One of the most interesting aspects of the publication are the quotes from foreigners living in Switzerland and their focus on integration and diversity. For example, Sabir Aliu from Kosovo stresses the importance of communication:

“Our neighbourhood means more to me than just having a roof over our heads. This certainly has something to do with the fact that the people who live here gradually realised that living happily together requires effort from all of us. It doesn’t matter whether one is Swiss or a foreigner, old or young. One has to start talking to one another. This is the only way to change things together.

Anna Gruber from Macedonia challenges us to think about integration at a deeper level:

What bothers me slightly is that the word integration is often reduced to learning the language or to whether one wears a headscarf or not. But integration means a lot more: It needs people who have the will to become involved with a new country and a foreign culture. And on the other hand, it needs a society which allows this. Mutual understanding and tolerance just cannot be stipulated by laws.

The publication also quotes Swiss citizen Bruno Moll who provides us with transition advice:

Responding to prejudices and opening doors, not closing them – this is my aim. Not only as a Swiss person, but from one person to another, I would give the following advice to new residents arriving from abroad: They should approach our country inquisitively and not shut themselves away with people in the same situation. Of course, I would advise them to learn our language and explore our mentality. I would prefer them to see what we have in common, instead of the differences. They should ask questions and try to discuss with their fellow citizens. They should definitely climb our mountains and join the strollers on Sundays. They should go shopping at the weekly markets and read, watch and listen to our media. To put it simply: They should try to become a part of things. Of course, I also wish this for ourselves, the natives.

Some of the common themes that emerge from these quotes are the concerted and purposeful efforts for understanding through listening and talking, engagement with our local community, and respect and openness to different ways to comprehend the world around us. As a community that focuses on the development of students, these values and dispositions translate well to a school environment. This thought can be taken a step further to argue that ISZL’s context and its location in the Canton of Zug will inevitably have a strong influence on ISZL’s culture.

When reflecting on the question of “Who are we?”, it seems prudent to consider the influence local culture has on our school, which can range from a traditional farmer’s lifestyle to the more than 30% of foreigners living in the canton, among other factors. The influence of external factors on ISZL’s culture also furthers our work associated with the International Baccalaureate’s mission, “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”  This focus on culture and global citizenship may also be referred to as cross-cultural cognition, which can be defined as the ability to think, feel, and act across cultures. To that end, it would be natural to conclude that the concept of global citizenship plays a critically important role in contributing to defining ISZL and answering the question, “Who are we?”.


Twitter: @dequanne

Blog: www.barrydequanne.com


 

Posted in Barry Déquanne | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Just wondering about the end of the honeymoon.

The beginning of the school year has a lot to do with the end of the year. It’s mad. But the difference is that there is a certain level of excitement due to the fact that lots of things are different: new schedules, new courses, new teachers, new students, new families, new facilities. Moreover, at Academia Cotopaxi, we run our Week without Wallsprogramme and our Senior Retreat in the second week of school. Lots of novelty or at least many ingredients that give to the beginning of the year this distinct flavour and this keeps everyone on their toes. Also, academically, students rarely get a lot of summative tasks, so things remain quiet. I like to refer to this period as the honeymoon. But it is coming to an end. Now, Back to School night is over. Now, I did my first formal, weekly grade check with written follow-up to students and parents. Now, I have received the first applications for students who are planning to retake summative assessments. Now, our lunchtimes are busy with college visits. Now, I am dealing with the first discipline issues.  Now, this is all becoming more real, so we need to start that next chapter and be ready for it.

While everyone is still perfecting their goals for the year, I learned from last year that I need to get in classrooms as much as possible, as early as possible. First of all, I feel that staying in the office may give this impression, not always true, that I am not available. We also know that we could spend an entire day locked inside, in front of our screens dealing with electronic communication. Not exactly why I am doing this job. But it is also evident that our schedules can build up quickly with a variety of imperatives. So, I asked my awesome secretary to carve some time out and block my calendar with thirty-minute slots for mini-observations. By doing this, it actively reminds me to go out and spend some quality time in class. And every time I do this, I feel so refreshed and pumped up. Observing and then talking to teachers about student learning and about their craft is what really makes sense. Not only am I learning a lot (probably a cliché but so true) but isn’t it rewarding to have a teacher who wants you back in their class to show you how they acted on the post-observation conversation? On top of all the other pieces that announce the end of the honeymoon, this is my favourite one because I feel this is the best way for me to feel prepared for the next chapter. I hope everyone had a great honeymoon and that you will all enjoy that next chapter.

For what it’s worth…

Posted in Frederic Bordaguibel-Labayle | Leave a comment

Life is a Lower School Playground

So one of my favorite things to do during the school day is to get outside and watch our kids interact with each other on the lower school playground. Actually, if I really think about it, it’s probably my most favorite thing. Throughout my career it has always been such a joyful and fascinating experience for me to stand back and watch life unfold so authentically for kids during these relatively short bursts of time, as they struggle to learn about life and their place in it. You see, for the most part, kids learn all about academics inside the classroom, but they learn all about life outside on the playground, and if you really stop to think about it, everything that we encounter throughout our lives can be found at any particular moment out at any given recess time.

Over the years I’ve seen broken hearts and broken bones, first crushes and first kisses, new friendships and fist fights, and everything in between. The learning that happens out on a lower school playground is truly profound, and it’s here where these daily experiences shape the lives of our kids. Out on the playground kids learn to take risks and to take chances, sometimes winning and sometimes failing but always learning. Kids learn about rejection and what it feels like to be excluded, and they learn about how to make friends and the joy that comes along with being included. They learn to use their imagination and they try out different approaches to getting what they want, and they learn all about the power of language and how to use words to encourage or to hurt…it’s all happening out on the playground each and every day. For me, watching when they don’t know I’m watching, it is sad and joyful and heartbreaking and heartwarming and exhilarating but always, always beautiful. There is laughing and crying and playing and so many ups and downs it’s hard to keep up with it all honestly, but one thing is for sure…every day when kids line up to go back in they are always changed, and inevitably they have learned a little bit more about themselves and about how to navigate this thing called life.

I remember many of my own lower school playground experiences very well even now, just like you do I bet. The courage that it took for me as a 5th grader to ask that girl to be my girlfriend, and the crushing embarrassment that I felt when she eventually liked a different boy and broke up with me in front of everyone. I remember my first fight when I tried to stand up for one of my friends in 4th grade, and I remember losing a friend in 3rd grade because I tried to be cool in front of some older kids. I remember being afraid of an older bully, and doing what he wanted for a long time, until I finally learned to stand up for myself, and I remember learning that being nice and treating people with kindness was the best way to make friends, even though it took me a while to figure that out. It’s funny to think that all of those experiences have shaped who I am today, and have given me the skills to be a successful adult. The way I see it, life is a lower school playground, and everything that you need to learn or have learned most likely happened out there between the swings and slides and monkey bars. I love watching kids out at recess time…it burns so bright…it is much of life’s important experiences and learning distilled down into one short, twenty or thirty minute blast.

I think it would be a powerful and moving documentary or screen-play for someone to film or write, to follow a student or a group of students navigating and living through a year or recesses…think of the messages and learning that could be shared and taken from all that a child encounters on a lower school playground throughout a school year. Luckily, as educators, we get to watch and see the movie play out from day to day in our own school, and I get to hear the sounds of kids learning played out operatically each and every day, performed in the key of life…so good. Anyway, with all that in mind, take a trip out to the playground this week and see what I mean…even if you’re not a lower school teacher. It will bring you back and make you smile…life is a lower school playground and it’s a beautiful thing…open up your eyes and take it all in, you’ll be happy that you did. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…

Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do

– Mark Twain

 

Ted Talks – (Time to re-visit these older talks)

5 Dangerous Things 

Why Do We Play

Tales of Creativity and Play

 

Related Articles –

Let Your Kids Play!

Lessons from the Playground

Kids Need Playgrounds

 

Fun Videos –

Starry, Starry Night

A Lesson in Courage

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The Compassionate School

compassion

The Compassionate School

I felt a sense of incredible pride when The International School Yangon (ISY) opened its doors to students for the 2018-19 school year on 15 August. Last year, ISY worked closely with consultant John Littleford at redefining who we are as a school. I have to be honest and say I fully anticipated the process would result in a simple tweaking of the mission that was in place when the process began. I was pleasantly surprised when the process led us toward a rethinking of who we are as a school and what is important to us. A new mission emerged, one that I think is incredibly daring and bold and that gives thought to the kind of school we want to be and to what is important to us as a community. This year, for the first time, we started school with this new mission in place. I felt incredible pride in what we had accomplished and how we have defined ourselves.

I firmly believe the mission statement of a school is its promise. It is a statement of commitment to our families about what we do for students at our school and the kind of people we hope students will evolve into by spending time in our classrooms, interacting with our teachers, engaging with our curriculum, and exploring the opportunities we provide. The new ISY mission statement reads, The International School Yangon is a community of compassionate global citizens. It is very simple and to the point. Yet, I find the words to be rich in meaning. Several of the words stand out. For example, the word community speaks to the environment we share at ISY and how we are all a part of a common purpose and share certain beliefs. For me though, the word that stands out strongest is compassionate.

When we speak about what it means to be a compassionate school, we are talking about taking learning to a whole new level. Educational researchers Carol Ann Tomlinson and Michael Murphy state that, “compassion suggests we understand and care about what another person feels, but do not attempt to feel it ourselves. In that way, compassion…is more likely to lead to action…because it calls on us to be kind and to see the need for action rather than to simply experience the feelings of another.” This is at the heart of why I see our mission as being so bold. Our mission commits us to working with our students to go beyond simply having empathy for others, or raising funds because we feel sad for another’s situation. Instead, it commits us to strive to “understand others and to learn from them.” It is a call to make the world a better place for all.

Another bold part of our mission statement is the complete lack of terms like “lifelong learner,” or “academic excellence.” This is by design. As we explored what we want for our students, we realized we want them to be more than learners. We want the learning to be meaningful and purposeful. As we develop compassion we begin to see how our learning can make a difference and contribute to the world where we live as global citizens. In this sense, learning is the process that contributes to the outcome our mission commits us to.

I’m looking forward to the year ahead. As a school community, we will be exploring further what it means to be a compassionate school. We’ve designed a vision statement and strategic teams to support our mission as we strive to make this mission a live one. We want it to resonate for every member of our community so that it really is a guiding statement that drives everything we do.

 

Tomlinson, C. and Murphy, M. (2018). The empathetic school. Educational Leadership, 75(6), p.23.

You can find more posts on my blog  Gregory A. Hedger’s Blog

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