Google Exec Disrupts Innovation

Eustace Breaks Record

I live at an altitude of 5,000 feet above sea level (1500 metres). It seems high when I look down at the tiny headlights of cars passing in the night. The other day, Alan Eustace detached himself from a helium balloon tether at 135,890 feet or 41,419 meters. What’s that, something like five times the altitude of Everest? Are you kidding me? I got scared at the Wild Eagle roller coaster ascent at Dollywood this summer.

But I digress.

What was amazing about the seemingly mild-mannered Eustace was that he looked at the highly technical operation that poor Felix Baumgartner had painstakenly accomplished and said “Yeah, I can do that.” Not only did he do that but he did so without a fancy space capsule, without millions of dollars in sponsorship, and without Red Bull. It was almost comical how he lifted off, simply tethered to the balloon like one of those plastic parachute guys you used to get at penny candy stores in America (when they used to exist). The guy set off a sonic boom that was heard on the ground for crying out loud. (He said he didn’t feel it or hear it).

Apparently, the intent of the mission was to test spacesuit technology for potential commercial use. What was remarkable was how he took the innovation of a man jumping from the edge of space, simplified it and improved it in such a short period of time. That’s the era of innovation we’re in right now; making the complicated simple and remarkable at the same time.

We have to do the same with innovation in schools.

We don’t need a fancy space capsule covered with sponsorship ads and high tech gadgets to jump from the edge of space. We don’t need to overcomplicate technology to the point where we don’t use it that much or that well. Innovation is not synonymous with complicated. It is, however, something that we must implant in our students so that they are not intimidated, but rather in awe as they observe someone jumping from the edge of space and think to themselves, “I can do that.”

I think Walter Mitty might agree.

We Teach Who We Are

One of the many facets I appreciate about the education profession is the opportunity to begin each year afresh as part of a continuous cycle of renewal. The new relationships, new challenges, and new learning and growth opportunities offered during the school year bring us another step forward towards the self-actualization aspirations we set for ourselves, both as individuals and institutions. Serving a school community in this capacity in conjunction with the corresponding privilege of working with students is indeed a wondrous and meaningful experience for all involved.

To celebrate the return to the learning process and to frame our work for the year ahead, I shared the following quote with the American School of Brasilia’s faculty and staff:


“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful, and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” ~Jack Layton

The essential human qualities of love, hope, and optimism underscore the fundamental characteristics of what it means to be an educator, whether in the capacity of a teacher, family member, friend, or supporter. Students need role models who value deep and empowering relationships, who inspire hope for the future, and who are eternal optimists. Schools must be a place where students can achieve their potential in a safe and supportive learning environment that enables them to hope and dream.

In my humble and, albeit, biased opinion, I fully believe that the American School of Brasilia (EAB) is emblematic and embracing of Mr. Layton’s guiding principles. During the first week of school, I was reminded of how much our faculty members not only love their profession and the subject they teach, but also the deep level of care they exhibit for the wellbeing and the learning of our students. I was reminded of how much hope for the future is inspired by teachers, students, and parents, particularly through the positive energy exhibited through their relationships and mutual support. Finally, I was reminded that teaching and learning is an inherently optimistic endeavor. It is comforting to know that EAB’s faculty and staff are eternal optimists when it comes to teaching, learning, and the wondrous potential that can be achieved by all.

In his book The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer highlights the complexities associated with teaching, which extend beyond curricula, philosophies, and teaching resources, through his statement, “[teachers] teach who they are.” If this is true, then our students are most fortunate to be members of a community filled with talented and passionate people who are, “loving, hopeful, and optimistic”, and fully committed, through education, to changing the world to make it a better place.


Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at

Image Credit: Patrick Corrigan


Sebastião Salgado: Genesis Project

I was grateful for today’s opportunity to visit Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis exhibition at Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil (CCCB). The legendary Brazilian photographer worked on the Genesis project from 2004 to 2011, engaging with the most remote locations on Earth. He describes his project as “my love letter to the planet,” with the goal of raising awareness about the beauty and majesty of remote regions of the world and the communities who still live according to ancient traditions. The following is a sampling of Sebastião Salgado’s photo exhibition.

Genesis Overview

Genesis is a long-term photographic project, in line with the main bodies of work carried out previously by Sebastião Salgado; for example, the series of reportages presented in Workers or the series on the theme of the population movements around the world, that appeared in Migrations. This new project is about our planet earth, nature and its beauty, and what remains of it today despite the manifold destruction caused by human activity. Genesis is an attempt to portray the beauty and the majesty of regions that are still in a pristine condition, areas where landscapes and wildlife are still unspoiled, places where human communities continue to live according to their ancient culture and traditions. Genesis is about seeing and marvelling, about understanding the necessity for the protection of all this; and finally it is about inspiring action for this preservation. The shooting of this series of photographic reportages began in 2004 and is due for completion in 2012.

Sebastião Salgado Biography

Sebastião Salgado was born on February 8th, 1944 in Aimorés, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. He lives in Paris. Having studied economics, Salgado began his career as a professional photographer in 1973 in Paris, working with the photo agencies Sygma, Gamma, and Magnum Photos until 1994, when he and Lélia Wanick Salgado formed Amazonas images, an agency created exclusively for his work. He has travelled in over 100 countries for his photographic projects. Most of these, besides appearing in numerous press publications, have also been presented in books such as Other Americas (1986), Sahel: l’homme en détresse (1986), Sahel: el fin del camino (1988), Workers (1993), Terra (1997), Migrations and Portraits (2000), and Africa (2007). Touring exhibitions of this work have been, and continue to be, presented throughout the world.

Sebastião Salgado has been awarded numerous major photographic prizes in recognition of his accomplishments. He is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States. In 2004, Sebastião Salgado began a project named Genesis, aiming at the presentation of the unblemished faces of nature and humanity. It consists of a series of photographs of landscapes and wildlife, as well as of human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. This body of work is conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature.

Together, Lélia and Sebastião have worked since the 1990’s on the restoration of a small part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. In 1998 they succeeded in turning this land into a nature reserve and created the Instituto Terra. The Instituto is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education.


Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at

Photo Credit: Sebastião Salgado

Digging Deep – Assessment

So over the last couple of weeks we’ve been going through the process of interviewing several outstanding educational leaders, who have jumped at the chance to apply for next year’s vacant High School Principal position here at AC. It’s absolutely thrilling to have the opportunity to speak with these candidates about their vision, their educational philosophies, and their different approaches to transforming a school community, and if I’m being honest, I have come away inspired by the quality of leaders that are out there in the international world…so many great schools being led by fantastic, thoughtful, and committed professionals who truly have their hearts and minds set on providing world class educational experiences for their students. Throughout this process however, one commonality has bubbled up and connected us all in a powerful way…our shared passion for digging deep into research based, current, and educationally sound assessment practices for the betterment of our schools, our teachers, and most importantly, for our students.

As you all know, one of the pillars of our new strategic plan is assessment, and the conversations that we’ve already been having are rich, diverse, and tremendously engaging. It’s validating to know that schools all around the world are having these same discussions, and looking critically at the most effective ways to assess student learning. Like us, many of the great schools that we’ve researched, and all of the accomplished educational leaders that we’ve spoken with lately are digging deep into formative assessment and feedback, and analyzing their approach to grading and reporting…leaders are talking about assessment in their faculty book studies, in their focused approach to professional development days, in their grade level and department discussions, and in their conversations around teacher and team goal setting. Schools are also committed to finding more robust ways to use and analyze data, to not only inspire student learning and teacher instruction, but to totally transform school culture!

It’s very exciting to me that we are part of these global discussions, and it feels great to know that we’re all in this together so to speak…able to use this potential worldwide professional learning community to ensure that we’re doing what’s best for our kids here at Academia Cotopaxi. There are some amazing schools out there, working hard to explore and exhaust all possibilities with regards to finding ways for students to showcase their learning, and assessing this learning in truly diverse and authentic ways…please know that I believe that we are one of these amazing schools, and what we have to offer other communities around the world is extremely valuable. I’m proud of how you’ve all begun to dig deep into your own assessment practices, and how you’ve opened up and started to share your thoughts in your weekly team meetings. Whether it’s the unpacking of a Rick Wormeli video on formative assessment, or jig sawing a recent article by Ken O’Connor, or even looking at Robin Fogarty’s latest publication for this year’s faculty book study, you’re all on the right track in my mind. This work is meaningful…and purposeful… and what education is all about in my opinion, and the fact that you’re all so engaged and inspired to roll up your pants and jump in makes me excited for the future of our school…and for the education and future of our beautiful kids.

It’s been fun to walk in to many team meetings this year and hear you talking about John Hattie’s latest research, or Ron Ritchhart’s latest work with Harvard’s Project Zero, or Kath Murdoch’s latest tweet on inquiry, and I know how eager you all are to enhance many of our current practices. Please know that we will get there together sooner rather than later simply because of how committed we all are to making our school the best it can be for our students. Keep up the incredible work everyone, and feel good that the work that we’re currently doing is in line with what’s happening in the best schools all around the world…it’s definitely is the right work to be doing! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week….

The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answerAlice Wellington Rollins

Assessment Articles and Websites –


Happiness 101 with Erin Threlfall

In my last post I asked the question, should we be teaching kids how to be happy? Thank you to those of you who wrote in to share your thoughtful comments and resources. To examine the subject further, this month I interviewed my friend and former colleague, Erin Threlfall, who is the founder of Happiness 101, a social and emotional curriculum that seeks to teach kids the habits they need to develop into happy adults. Here’s what she says about how and why we can teach the habits of happiness.

Tell us about Happiness 101. How did it start and how does it work?

Happiness 101 is a social/emotional learning curriculum that teaches children the habits for well being. Based on research from the world’s leading gurus on happiness, as well as scientific research on health and vitality and the benefits of meditation, Happiness 101 is a curation of practices (many of which are ancient) that are easy for children to embrace, enabling them to have a solid foundation for well being as they move into adulthood.

Often in life, we don’t seek out habits for well being (happiness) until we are experiencing a crisis, a loss of some kind, divorce, sickness, discontentment with life choices, etc. Rather than waiting until we are “broken adults,” I believe that we can empower children, at an early age, with the tools that they need to be happy, resilient, healthy adults who are poised to make a positive difference in the world. This isn’t to say that they won’t experience sadness, but with the knowledge of Happiness Habits, they will be more resilient and better able to deal with those moments of crisis. My students like to think of the program as their “happiness tool box,” filed with strategies to help them lead the most meaningful, happiest life possible.

Happiness 101 started out as an action research project I carried out with my grade 3 class at Bali International School. My students and I asked the question: What happens when we teach children the habits for happiness?  At the time, I focused on 5 basic habits: Exercise (we used Yoga), Meditation, Expressing Gratitude, Reflecting on Happy Memories, and Practicing Random Acts of Kindness. Over the years, my students have helped me to expand the habits, (they’ve even renamed some!) and have shaped the lessons so that they are most effective. We saw that Happiness 101 was a perfect tie-in with the IB Learner’s Profile, and the habits actually helped us to deeply embody the attitudes. Happiness 101 now has six key pillars: Build Into Relationships, Express Gratitude, Reflect on Happy MemoriesPractice MindfulnessSpread Kindness, and Take Care of Our Bodies.

Happiness 101 came with me when I moved to the United Nations International School in New York. My students here have fully embraced the program, and I have had fabulous feedback from both the students and their parents. Other teachers in lower grades have picked up the habits as well and are seeing positive results with their learners.

I consider myself the curator and chief promoter in this project, which has taken shape with the help of Jackie Rendina, a teacher at the Canadian International School of Hong Kong; Carl Massy, a life coach and Happiness strategist who founded the World’s Biggest Gym; The David Lynch Foundation, the leading organization promoting Transcendental Meditation, and about 200 students who have made significant contributions to the Happiness 101.  (Just to name a few of the inspiration sources!)

 What age group is Happiness 101 for? How can high school teachers effectively use your strategies with skeptical teenagers?

 The program is great for children of all ages, as the habits can be modified to be developmentally appropriate. Because I am a grade 3 teacher, this is the age group with whom I have done the most work, but I also have teachers in grades K-6 who are putting elements of the program into practice.

High school teachers won’t have to prod the children- the high school students have been incredibly receptive when I give workshops to this age group. Ideally, we would target students before they get to the challenging middle school and high school years, and then just continue to build upon and reinforce the habits.

Why do kids need to learn the habits of happiness?

Research conducted in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, South Korea, and through UNICEF reveals that debilitating depression amongst children is rapidly increasing. Drug abuse, self-mutilation, eating disorders, and suicide amongst youth are increasing at alarmingly high rates, and are happening earlier and earlier. This seems shocking for most of us, as we believe children are inherently happy, but data is telling us otherwise.

I begin Happiness 101 with a class survey to assess the student’s well being, and their perception of their own happiness.  On average, a third of the students who take the survey reveal that they are not happy. They site high pressure to succeed, stressful schedules, bullying at school, and difficulties in their home lives as the main causes for their unhappiness.

With this knowledge in front of us, I would say that it is incredibly important that we intervene early to help change these statistics. I have seen that children who practice the habits show increased self confidence, greater connection to community, and higher success rates in school as a result- it’s a win-win!

Many critics say our obsession with happiness is a concern of privileged developed countries; what do you say? 

I’ve wondered a lot about this as well, but through my work within developing countries, I know that we all want to be happy. Many of the habits within Happiness 101 are already embedded in the cultural practices of countries in South America, Africa and Asia, which is why I believe that many of these children could teach those of us in “first world countries” a thing or two about happiness! I know I learned the most about this topic when I was living and working on a refugee camp in Ghana. So maybe it is true- maybe happiness is a first world concern because we have gotten so lost along the way.

Either way, the UN acknowledged the importance of happiness and well being as “universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world.” In July 2011, the UN General Assembly invited countries to measure the happiness of their people and to use this to guide public policy. The UN has also declared March 20 as “International Day of Happiness.”

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if schools measured the happiness of their community and used the results to guide school policies. I can say that my classroom environment has shifted dramatically since taking on the practices. If we teach children about happiness at a young age, I dare to believe that they could go on to create happier societies as adults.

What I love most about Happiness 101 is that the program does not promote coddling children or praise where praise is not due. Instead we look at ways to empower children to deal with life’s upsets, establish resilience, and take responsibility for their own happiness while recognizing the part they play in creating a happier community.

Where can we learn more about Happiness 101

To learn more, people can like the Facebook page: Happiness 101, Teaching our Children the Habits for Happiness. There, I post strategies and updates.  I am in the process now of creating a website, student workbook and teacher guide, and am also available for workshops.  My TEDx talk also tells more about the program.

Thanks, Erin!

Teachers, I’d love to hear from you. Are you using similar strategies in your classroom?

What I Know About Kids…


So I was speaking with a young, prospective teacher the other day about his future in education, and at the end of our conversation he asked me a really good question…a question that I had to stop and think about for a minute or two…he asked, ”what do I REALLY, TRULY  need to know about kids if I’m going to be an accomplished educator one day? I want to begin to develop myself in these areas, and I want to make sure that I know what it takes to inspire young people”. Well, that question has stuck with me for several days now, and I’ve gone back and forth with what would make my top ten list. Here is what I’ve settled on for today at least, although I’m sure we could all add many more “truths” if we really wanted to bring this answer to life…feel free to send me some this week if I’ve left something off that is totally egregious in your mind…here we go!

1.       They’re Curious…I marvel at the curiosity of our kids every single day. The way that they look at the world, the questions that they ask in class, the perspectives that they have on something that completely opens up my mind to another way of thinking, and the attention to detail that they give to things that I usually take for granted. Curiosity is something that many adults tend to lose as they grow older, but kids never, ever lose sight of the wonder of our world…and the learning that is tied to every single experience. Let student questions guide your next lesson or unit and watch their curiosity explode and inspire you…the curiosity of a child is one of life’s greatest forms of entertainment in my opinion. How curious are you about life and learning and the world around you? Let your students be your guide!

2.       They Want to Achieve…every student wants to learn, and every student wants to feel some measure of success each and every day. Kids are thirsty for new knowledge, and simply clamoring to showcase their passions and talents and awesomeness to you and to their peers…how are you structuring your class, your daily student experiences, your units, and your assessments to allow for student success? Think about that…does every one of your kids have the opportunity to find success in your class every single day? If not, then it might be time to re-think your approach…all kids want to achieve, so how are you consistently allowing for that to happen?


3.       The Make Mistakes…this is where authentic learning comes from! It’s the process of learning from these mistakes which is so powerful, and it’s how we as educators choose to react to these mistakes which will frame the experience in the mind of a child. How conducive to risk–taking and failing forward is your class, and how do your students view their mistakes when they happen? Are the seeing them as opportunities to grow and to learn and to develop, or are they ashamed or afraid or hesitant to take a risk and to stray outside of their comfort zones? This week conduct a mistake audit with your students to ensure that the right message is being sent. Mistakes should be true celebrations for our students because this is what learning is all about! If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not growing as a person…are you sure that they’ve all internalized this?


4.       They’re Malleable…as we all know, kids are constantly learning and growing and questioning and making mistakes…therein lies so much of their beauty. We have the opportunity…actually, the responsibility to help shape them into the amazing adults that they are destined to become. We need to be heroes, role models, change agents, and searchlight souls for each and every one of our kids as they meander through their adolescent years. Encourage them to stretch their thinking, challenge them to break out of their comfort zones, hold them accountable to becoming their best selves for others and their community, and guide them through this difficult journey…that’s our job as educators! We need to leave a lasting and positive impact on their lives simply by being who we need to be for them. Every experience that you have with a child is a chance to have them walk away a better human being…how open and aware are you to that responsibility?

5.       They Want/Need Feedback…they are desperate for it actually, even if they say otherwise. Kids are constantly watching us as adults, and trying to figure out who they are as people, and where and how they fit in the world. They need honest and authentic feedback about their learning, about how to become better human beings, about how to problem solve, about how to make friends, about how to approach difficult situations, and about all the rest. Feedback is key to your relationship with your kids but feedback does not mean telling kids what to do…that’s a very important distinction. Good feedback sets the stage for students to learn on their own, even if it’s a difficult lesson. Be real with your kids, and give them strategies to deal with the situations in their lives. Everyone wants feedback, it’s just how you deliver it which will make all the difference.

6.       They’re Beautiful…I know, that’s an easy one. If you don’t have your breath taken away by the beauty of a child at least once a day then you’re in the wrong profession. Any time that you feel yourself running out of patience, or feel your mood starting to sour, or if you simply need a pick me up in the middle of the day, then pop out to the playground and open up your eyes and ears. Beauty personified is the laughter, the learning, the interactions, and the unadulterated joy of kids playing outside on a sunny day…truly. Children are gifts that all educators have been given, and sometimes we get so busy with our planning, our grading, our own professional development, and our relationships with each other that we forget to stand back and marvel! Nothing in our world compares to the beauty of a child, and it doesn’t cost a thing…it’s effortless and just waiting for you to be inspired by it! Stand back and take it all in…


7.       They Need You…being a quality educator is like being a chameleon of sorts. You need to be different things to different kids at different times of the day. You need to be their teacher, their surrogate parent, their mentor, their role model, and their friend all in the span of six hours. We need to be giving them the best six hours of their day, and we have to develop strong enough relationships with each of them so that they trust us to wear all of those hats effectively. Even the kids that are the most difficult to connect with! The kids that are the hardest to reach are the ones that need us the most…you can tell a lot about yourself as an educator by the relationship that you have with your toughest kid…think about that for a second…what would your toughest student say about you as a teacher?


8.       No Two Kids Are the Same…I cannot believe how each one of our students can be so unique, and how they all seem to learn in such different ways. We’ve been talking a lot about personalized learning of late in our leadership team meetings, and we’ve been looking at different and effective ways to address the individual and diverse learning needs of our kids. As you all know, good teaching is all about really knowing your kids, and understanding how they learn best. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest things to do as an educator because it takes so much time, effort, patience, and expertise to find the right balance and approach to inspire student learning in ALL of the faces in front of you. It’s a mistake to paint even two of your students with the same brush so to speak, and it’s a great idea in my opinion to reflect on the following question early and often…”how well do I really know my students, and do I really know how to best inspire their learning?”


9.       They Need Boundaries…kids love to push boundaries and they love to test their/our limits. It happens every day with all of us, and it’s fun to watch at times…it’s what growing up is all about. For me though, it all comes down to how safe they feel when they are at the edge, and how confident they are that they’ll be rescued if they stray too far. Setting up clear expectations with your students is paramount for success, and developing that level of trust with them so that they know there are boundaries in place to save them if they fall. Kids are going to take risks and make questionable decisions, and they are watching to see how you respond. How able are you to pull them back in if they cross the line, and what is your reaction when they do?

10.   They Will Rise to Your Challenge…I think we all know by now the research that shows how students will live up to the way that we think about them as people and learners. If we treat them as scholars and as the incredible human beings that they are then that’s what they will become. It’s important to challenge our students so that they are surprised by all that they can accomplish. We need to inspire them to find their sparks and passions, and inspire them to believe in themselves and their abilities. Our children are wonders, and gifts, and they will go above and beyond anything that we can imagine if we allow them the opportunity. Let’s set them up for success and in many ways, let’s get out of their way! Take a minute or two this week to take a step back and watch your students…watch them as they struggle and learn and fight to understand and persevere…it’s a beautiful thing and it’s a joy. Set high expectations and watch them exceed them all!

Quote of the Week…

A child is a gift whose worth cannot be measured except by the heart. – Theresa Ann Hunt


Five Reasons Your One to One Program is Failing

1) You haven’t had an honest conversation about adult control; If you think about it, the phrase “one to one” democratizes teaching and learning by putting the teacher and student on equal footing, doesn’t it? Have you been fact-checked during class?. One time I actually said that Wikipedia was lying after my point about the Battle of Bull Run was challenged. (It was a bad day). The adults need time to come together and talk about how this revolution is impacting the culture of their classes and how they will redefine what control means. This is not easy but it is a very important conversation and one that will bring out much angst.

2) You built the spaceship but can’t find a pilot: So many schools have done this: Spent millions ‘kitting’ out their classes with the latest and greatest without the integration framework in place. (I am NOT talking about IT systems, this is an education point). If you can’t define HOW Google Docs will improve literacy for each child then you should turn off the I-Pads and go back to the note pads.

3) No one knows what “one to one” means: I bet if you ask a number of people in your school, many will give different answers. The obvious is that it’s one student per one device. But is it? What about the other relationships? Teacher to student? Student to student? Device to device? All of the above? This lack of vision is critical. I have a feeling in a lot of places it means that the students have a device that has to be in sync with the adult’s device at all times, which to me sounds a lot like…school.

4) It’s a culture shift, not an add-on: One to one is not like painting the house a different color; it is breaking down walls and throwing out the furniture. It is the biggest investment your school has made since you built a new primary school. It’s not doing what we’ve always done but with a distracting internet connection. You must have the hard conversations about what this means. We invited students to talk to the staff about how confused they were about having to use Edmodo and then Google Sites and teacher’s home web pages, all in different classes. They basically told us to focus and get our acts together on what we wanted this program to be. (“And a little child will lead them”…Isaiah 65).

5) What’s the product? Web 2.0 blew the doors off the information age. We shifted from consuming content to creating it with the ability to share it with millions. Wow. So, how are you harnessing this power? The democratization of content sharing means that your students actually have the ability to engage with the world and get feedback (most commonly in the form of ‘likes.’) So, why aren’t they? If your product still consists of students giving PowerPoint screencasts of the Napoleonic Era then YOU FAIL!!

And in keeping with tradition of the 80s video, I could only come up with this really weird Eddy Grant one (talk about creating bad content) and still wonder how Electric Avenue ever became a hit.


“You are so brave.”      “I can’t believe you are doing this.”      “I would never be able to do this.”

The above quotes are from my friends who are not International Educators. They are not from people who are in jobs where announcing you are resigning 6 months before you actually leave, is standard practice. (And even earlier if you are an administrator.)

But I am. And I just did. (My husband did too.)

What they all want to know is “How do I feel?”

I feel like I’m floating, untethered. I am rising away from what anchored me for the past six years. It is a great, adventurous and alive feeling. That said, it is an absolutely petrifying feeling too.

But this isn’t my first rodeo. I have performed this leap before, and it has always worked out. In fact, I used to do it as a kid when my parents would resign one job, head into the job fairs and find another. My memory? It was so Vegas, baby! They were big rollers and winners, living out there on the edge. The best part? They routinely ended up on an adventure they had never considered before.

Looking back now, I’m amazed by my parents’ mindset. The whole thing was an adventure. From recruitment to getting the job, it was all about envisioning yourself doing something different in a place you’d never heard of before. My father used to say, “We wanted to pick somewhere with an interesting name!” They believed if things didn’t work out… Ha! Of course, they would!

So, fast-forward 20+ years and here I am. Duel income, one kid, college tuition on the horizon, both of us in what might be the best and most productive years of our careers, and I’m feeling… untethered.

The recruiter in me understands why we need to have contract deadlines and even why those deadlines are getting earlier and earlier.

For one thing, it’s basic competition. Because most of our schools look for candidates who have international teaching experience, our schools end up all trying to get the same, best possible people, from the same, very small pool of applicants. This pushes us to make a move earlier and earlier. (However, Last year at the NESA Leadership Conference James Strong spoke about recruitment as a means to strengthen and improve schools. Besides the fact that we are all fishing in the same pond, Mr. Strong also pointed out that the very short timeline created by the signing deadlines worldwide might compromise our real ability to find the right fit.)

Also, and let’s be honest here, we all, recruiters and candidates alike, want to avoid the fairs. Nothing is more stressful than knowing you have to find or fill a job with the competition right there next to you. So the recruiter in me understands why we want to discover, vet, and hire people before Bangkok, Boston, or Iowa. However, doing so means we need to know what we have to hire for, so we can actually offer those jobs ahead of the fairs.

Not only do we need to know who is going, we also need to consider who already within our schools might want to move into a position, thus creating another vacancy. This all takes time. And time is what none of us has come Fall. No one wants to be or act in desperation. Recruiters are rushed to find and fill spots. Candidates (who are often teaching couples with children) are in a very difficult position because they are essentially making decisions knowing in the back of their minds- we must get a job. For some, leaving a school for the right reasons might lead them to accept a job at another school for the wrong reason- time. But who can afford to be jobless or what school can afford a vacancy for long?

Now let me switch up my headgear and pop on my candidate hat.

I do believe we are unique as an international education profession. I do not know of another profession, especially teaching in our home countries, where resigning requires you to let everyone know you are leaving many months in advance of actually going. Besides the stress it causes the people quitting jobs before they have new ones, there is the interesting conundrum of letting parents and students know your news early too. (Not to mention how our own children feel announcing to friends in October- I won’t be here next year!)

Yet, it is standard practice for those of us in this business to not only know we are leaving, but to let everyone else know too. Which forces us to discuss our plans (or lack of plans) for months. Parents, students, and other teachers all weigh in, wishing you well and often lamenting your departure. But to have that conversation with so many interested parties for months, first about why you are leaving; then around where you are going and how that might be… It really does create the longest goodbye.

For candidates, there is so much to weigh, consider and plan out and yet once you send the “This is my final year” letter you lose so much control over what will happen.

Recruiting is a unique and challenging time for all of us. Though I do wonder if it doesn’t lead to a little bit of natural selection of our ranks. Being able to live untethered might actually separate those of us cut out for this work from those that aren’t. Which is important. It is who we are.

Which is why- the week following my “big news” I’m trying to feel about it as my father once did. The man was always able to look on the bright side. Instead of worry, when he too decided not to return to a job and school for the following year, he would live in that space of pure optimism. It will all work out as it should, even if what happens is the last thing in the world you thought would happen.

I can hear him now, “Leap off the cliff with a wide, bright smile on your face because you are living a life where you really do get to go for it.”

Good luck to those of you leaping this year.

Photo credit: Nat Ireland via Flickr CC

Flipping Out Over On-Loom Learning


Everything was going so swimmingly as we ate our sandwiches together and my daughter multi-tasked with the pleasant voice of a YouTube video showing her how to make the infamous “Panda” on her rainbow loom.

Then, “SNAP”, one of the elastics broke in the middle. Hours of work, wasted, followed by tears and the requisite bedroom door slam. Over an hour of life, wasted. The pleasant girl on the video continued on her merry way, narrating how simple it was to complete one of the most complex tasks of the modern era.

I hit the pause button.

Don’t get me wrong, Khan academy and flip classrooms transformed learning math and a bunch of stuff for me forever. With this same girl, we learned the opening licks to “Don’t Stop Believing” on the piano without looking at a piece of sheet music. But there was something about this loom video that made a pleasant learning experience all wrong, even if she could hit ‘pause.’

It made complex stuff all too simple. It didn’t show the hundreds of takes the girl had to take to get “Panda” just right. (There had to be, it’s way to difficult to do it the first time). It didn’t show the struggle, the others grappling with the same problem, the broken elastics on the floor.

In my panic, I scrolled down to the comments whilst she wailed in the other room. “Look,” I
yelled with encouragement, “There’s a bunch of people who got upset just like you!” She emerged, wiping the tears, and I read them to her.

“Thanks for wasting two hours of my life.”
“There’s no way I could ever do this. Everytime near the end an elastic always breaks.”
And along with a bunch of profanity-laced ones I did NOT read, was simply, “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”

The tears stopped, then the giggling started. I put my arm around her and said it was okay and that I bet the girl on the video had the same troubles. Thank goodness for the failure feedback from the audience. It saved us.

This is what we’ve always said about online learning, that it cannot replace the vitality of the social context of learning, successes, and failures. The pain of the process as opposed to just the finished product. We know these things as educators.

Then what happened surprised me and I took note. My daughter picked her broken loom off the floor, took off the old elastics, and tried again. This time, she improvised her own creation without a video. Except what she did was that she pretended as though she were narrating it herself. She took on the same, patient inflection of the girl from dreaded “Panda” and forged ahead with her own newfound confidence and optimism, returning to her nimble craft like never before. (I tried to film some but she caught me). I had never seen her use a “teacher voice” and she was so caring and attentive to doing the task and being helpful at the same time that it distracted her from the struggle and she returned to form. It was remarkable.

She recovered. She re-created. She improvised and copied. She found her footing again. And most notably, she became somewhat of a teacher in her own right in a way that allowed her to get back to her “creative confidence” that she had lost only minutes before. I had never seen this effect of the “flip classroom experience” and wondered how other students were managing in the absence of their own social contexts (without throwing their laptops or entering their own profanity comments below the video.

It was cool. And yes, I got the bracelet when she was done.


Almost forgot the requisite 80s video. This one was a no brainer.

True Colors

You Are The Weather!

So there’s this little girl that I know who might just be the happiest person that I have ever met. I fortunately get to see her every morning, and her contagious warmth, smile, and attitude brightens my mood without fail, and sets the tone for my day. She’s like the weather for me, and everyone around her, in that she changes the mood, the energy, and the outlook of anyone lucky enough to cross her path. Last Friday, when she arrived at school, I was busy dealing with an issue that had started my day in a less than ideal way, and my frame of mind was less than perfect to start my morning with students and faculty. She blew into my office like a warm breeze, dripping with sunshine and rainbows and it instantly snapped me back into the right frame of mind. Since that moment, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we as educators are the weather for each other, as well as for our students each and every morning when we arrive on campus. We are either warm, sunny days or cold, cloudy ones, just waiting to influence and affect everyone else around us. The beautiful thing about this kind of weather however, is that we have a choice in what the forecast looks like, and an opportunity to make it anything we want. This little girl chooses to be sunny and warm because that’s her outlook on life, and even if it’s miserable outside, and she’s caught in a torrential downpour, I don’t think she has ever really had a rainy day in her life if you know what I mean.


It’s not hard to recognize how your attitude, or the attitude of the people around you, profoundly influences your life. Attitude is contagious, and it is the one thing that you have complete control over when you wake up in the morning. The decisions that you make to look at situations as a problems or as opportunities, and the chances that you have to frame or re-frame the events in your life into positives are what make you who you are for yourself, and maybe more importantly, who you are for the others around you. Think about the impact that you have on your students each and every day, and how a bad mood or a curt response can influence their opportunity to learn…to feel safe…to feel supported…to take risks…and to internalize how adults deal and respond to difficult situations. We are teachers, and role models, and change agents for our students and our community, and the most important thing that we have to offer is not our content knowledge or our advanced degrees or our wonderful life experience…it’s our attitudes toward life and learning. So, what’s the forecast for your Monday morning…or the upcoming weeks…or the rest of the year? Will you choose to be like this little girl (who just happens to be my beautiful daughter Gabby), and be that perpetual warm sunny day, with blue skies and gentle breezes…or are you going to something less inspiring? Either way, that decision will impact our community, our students, and our relationships with each other in very real and profound ways.


Oh yeah, here’s a trick that most of you already know. If you feel your mood deteriorating down to cloudy or rainy, or if you’re struggling in one way or another to keep that smile on your face and that spring in your step, take a few minutes and get out to the playground at recess or lunch and take a look around. It is impossible in my opinion to not be snapped back to sunny after seeing our beautiful kids running, and laughing, and playing. That’s a guaranteed way to adjust your attitude and be reminded of what’s really important in our lives. Their forecast is always like a gorgeous summer day, and it’ll rub off on you in a hurry. Remember everyone, and take this to heart…you are the weather for our community each and every day…so what’s that going to look like? I choose sunny and warm! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and the weather for everyone around you.

Quote of the Week……

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. – Anthony J. D’Angelo

 Soul Pancake Experiment Video-

Great Article on Learning Life’s Lessons –

 Articles and Websites on Positivity –