How to Find an International School Job

While much of the world is making its list and checking them twice, you’re making another list and checking it tenfold. The dreaded “where am I going to land next year?” list. It can really distract you from the joys of the holiday season. The fairs, the child care while you’re gone, the cover letters, the Skypes in your suit top and gym shorts (you thought you were the only one?) and the agony of the wait.

It’s not easy. Well, relax. You only go around this carousel once. Enjoy the ride and stay focused on your passion. So, here goes, my annual “how to land an international job” list with updated revisions for 2014.

1) Don’t wait for the fairs: Thanks to technology, the only thing fairs have become is where candidates who have already Skyped several times go to sign contracts and shake hands. If you wait for the fair to start talking to schools, you’ve missed the boat. Most experienced int’l educators know this. If you’re new to the game, start checking school employment websites now and don’t wait for the fair postings.

2) Apply to all jobs directly on school web sites. You can often “avoid the herd” if you find listings with the school’s “HR” email or other non-agency or intermediary address to apply to.

3) Show up in the off season: There’s a LOT to be said for heading to say, Berlin, and hitting the handful of int’l schools in the area just to say “Guten Tag” and introduce yourself to the department head or director of studies. They may have an opening, they may not. But having a bit of face time and showing a professional interest in the school will pay off when and if they have something. When a fellow showed up at my door in the Swiss Alps with his backpack and muddy Mammot boots saying he was hiking the “Haute Route” but wanted to say hello because he always wanted to teach at my school, I wanted to hire him on the spot (and trade places, to be honest).

4) Okay, #3 doesn’t help you now, but it’s a good one to keep in mind. Next, find out something the school needs or does that your unique talents can help. For example, if you find out they are starting a technology program or introducing the PYP, or a service program, or something in their profile that attracts your attention outside of the usual, then make that a part of your focus. Schools appreciate when you point out their unique strengths and want to be a part of it.

5) Change your CV to highlight SKILLS, not where you worked or went to school. Right at the top of the page: “Teacher Leader” (and then you list of bunch of really cool stuff you did). Then “Outdoor Leadership” (and then make that list). Where you worked and went to school should be a bunch of one liners on the second page. No one cares about that stuff anymore. It’s what you can you for us that counts.

6) CONSUME the website and find unique facts to use in your cover letter that other people miss. You’d be amazed at what you can find if you dig a little. I quoted a passage from an alumni that I found way back in the archives of a school’s magazine. I believe it helped me land an interview.

7) Clean up your digital footprint and make your own. Google yourself again and make sure you’re presented as the professional you are. You don’t have to have a Twitter account but more and more professionals have websites highlighting their work. This doesn’t hurt when schools research you online and you can use the link in the package you present.

And whatever you do, stay strong, stay connected with people who support you and meditate with an open mind and an open heart. I didn’t waste my blog on what I’ve been through this past year, but let’s just say it’s keeping me Cosmically Conscious

Enjoy and God Bless.

Let the Colors Shine!

So this week I want to talk all about giving thanks, and being grateful, and taking the time to slow down in our pursuit of educational happiness to simply embrace being happy…we work so hard as quality educators and as quality schools that it becomes very, very easy to get lost in the work, and blinded by where we need to go to accomplish our strategic plans, and overwhelmed by the areas that still need our attention, which will hopefully transform our schools into the ones that we’re all dreaming about. Slowing down, and taking a deep collective breath, and celebrating the work that’s been done along the way is the key to allowing the good work to continue in my opinion. Last Friday for example, we held our Thanksgiving day celebration as an entire school community, where we gave thanks to each other, we shared a meal together, and we reflected on all that we’ve accomplished so far this year as an AC family.

 

To tell you the truth, there was a moment during the student speeches when I looked around and got a little choked up, and I found myself holding back the tears. The sun was shining in the crisp, clear Ecuadorian sky, the entire audience was smiling and happy, with our first graders sitting with our ninth graders, our juniors holding hands with our littlest ones, our parents and teachers standing side by side beaming from ear to ear, our guards and maintenance workers cheering loudly at every opportunity, and the gratitude that I felt inside at that particular moment came spilling over. If we all stop to really think about it, there is so much to be thankful for in our lives that it’s making my head spin. We work in a beautiful school, in a beautiful country, with amazing students, and incredible teachers, and engaged parents, and a loyal and proud support staff, and an inspiring educational leader (Madeleine Heide), and a strong vision for the future…I could go on and on and on. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s so easy to get caught up in our day to day lives that we can forget to take the time to recognize, and internalize all that we have to be thankful and grateful for. I’m asking you all this week to think deeply about the blessings that you have in your lives, and the areas/people/opportunities in your life that deserve your gratitude. Then, I want you all to shout it from the rooftops, and let the gratitude spill over into words, and actions, and reflections. Like Madeleine said the other day, being grateful in silence just isn’t good enough anymore!

 

I want to start by saying thank you for your unwavering commitment to our students, and to their learning. I want to say thank you for being so good to each other, and to me, and for approaching every educational conversation with an open mind and with positive intent. I want to thank you for finding your educational voices, and your educational courage so quickly this year, and I want to thank you for being the kind, caring, and hardworking people and professionals that you all are. Finally, I want to thank you for pushing back so that we make our decisions through a critical lens, and with an eye firmly focused on what’s best for our kids…I’m thankful to be here with all of you, and I’m grateful for the chance to work in such an inspiring school community…what are you thankful and grateful for? Pass it around this week and pay it forward…let the people you care about know how grateful you are to have them in your life, and don’t leave any stone unturned. I love this week’s quote by the way, as it clarifies how powerful sharing your gratitude can be…it’s time to clean your glass everyone and to let the colors shine! Have a fantastic week and remember to be great for our students and grateful for each other!

Quote of the Week…….

Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery. It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors

–          Richelle E. Goodrich

 Gratitude Videos – (Please watch…they just might make your day)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nj2ofrX7jAk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5lZBjWDR_c

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRlh5xNzFx0

 TED Talk – (Inspiring)

http://www.ted.com/talks/haas_hahn_how_painting_can_transform_communities

 Articles About Gratitude and Giving Thanks –

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/gratitude-school-transformation-elena-aguilar

http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201211/giving-thanks

http://online.wsj.com/articles/thanksgiving-and-gratitude-the-science-of-happier-holidays-1417183949

http://www.unstuck.com/gratitude.html

Open the Door

   A few weeks ago, this article, “A veteran teacher turned coach shadows students for two days—a sobering lesson learned” made the rounds on my Twitter feed. It shares what an Instructional Coach learned by shadowing two high school students for two days. The information was disheartening. The students sat for extended periods of time, were asked to listen instead of participating, and were redirected to the point of potentially feeling like their presence in school was a “nuisance.”

In thinking about it though, I wondered what would happen if the same Instructional Coach shadowed a teacher at that school for two days or a week. To get the full picture of course, would require arriving early and staying after school for meetings or events. It wouldn’t be a high-quality experience unless she shadowed the educator into the evening and maybe even through to the weekend workday.

I’m not defending the lackluster learning environment she encountered. Instead, I’m wondering though if this is the place to stop the search? Maybe we need to look more deeply into why teachers might be teaching the way they are.

When observing in a classroom, I search for an entry point to the teacher’s instructional practice which would allow me to focus on what she/he needs to do next, to improve. It is hard to do with all that is happening in a classroom setting, especially in a rich and engaging elementary classroom where there is so much going on. Watching to see what is going well and can be built upon, isn’t easy.

What I do know though, is I’ve never encountered a teacher who gets out of bed in the morning and says, “My goal is to be boring, ineffective, or lackluster today.” If it is happening there is a reason.

As a teaching principal, I believe my job is always to be on the lookout for ways to improve teacher practice. If I was to shadow a teacher all day for many days, I believe I would see and need to consider the following as affecting the both the teaching and learning:

Teachers might be hyper-focused in the wrong ways because of a lack of focus in the school. Often initiatives seem focused, when launched. However, depending on where each teacher is in relation to the effort, there are hidden, invisible steps for each person to get there. Add multiple initiatives, as many schools do, and suddenly it isn’t always clear what the goal is or where things will head. At that moment, we all hold on fiercely to what we can.

Teachers might not have the training necessary to teach effectively, especially if we are adopting new practices. We know that learning and understanding are significant tasks. We know it takes years for our students to develop real understanding. It is the same for our teachers; however too often we expect understanding and change after a weekend workshop or a book study. Teachers who need more time to learn, often can’t get it.

Teachers might be overwhelmed with all the other non-teaching things they have to attend to and manage. Teachers are not only teaching a course or class; they are also sponsors for clubs, coaches, and chaperones. While it might not seem like a direct link, it does speak to what we all do when we are busy, stay with what is simple and straightforward to manage.

Teachers might be struggling with the real pressure of working with parents. While this partnership is vital, it can be difficult. Today’s parents are highly involved and can cause significant stress for the teacher. Navigating those relationships is important. However, many parents feel comfortable when “doing school” can be easily labeled and quantified. For the teacher then, it can be easier to simply teach like we’ve always done it.

I would be hard pressed to find a teacher who would let me shadow them for two days or a week. It would be a highly revelatory and open experience.  It would take courage on the part of the teacher to do what they do and then trust me to learn from the experience as a way to help shape future decisions. However, as I write this, I believe it is something we should strive for: opening the door to being seen and to seeing.

Real change and real progress require real transparency. Until our schools (not just our teachers) can be places where honest inquiry into our work can be the norm, we will continue to hear stories like this and we will continue to be amazed things haven’t changed.

 

Digital Fluency Project

During a recent school governance conference, the attendees, who include school directors and board members, reflected on how schools of the future will be different from what we know today. Our facilitator, Lee Crockett, invoked the often used but, at times, little understood concept of a “21st Century School” to challenge our current thinking (If you are interested in learning more about these concepts, Lee Crockett overviews his book, “Literacy is not Enough,” in an informative video interview).

While I was interested in the substance of the discussion, I was also intrigued by our collective reactions and discomfort as we struggled to predict the future of education. Given the rate of technological change, few people, if any, are likely able to accurately predict how technology will ultimately influence the traditional nature of schools. What we do know is that schools and learning will look very different from what we experienced as children.

So, how do we move forward? Fortunately, educational and technological theorists are thinking deeply about the future of education and the result is the emergence of several frameworks. The Global Digital Citizen Foundation and its 21st Century Fluency Project represent one such framework that articulates an educational focus on ensuring that learning continues to be meaningful. While there are indeed other helpful models, the 21st Century Fluency Project presents a framework that will challenge all of us to reflect on the role technology plays in the learning process, both at home and at school. In summary, the model complements traditional learning with a concentration on attaining five related digital fluencies: creativity, collaboration, solution, media, and information.

The future of booksEAB is strategically addressing these changes in several different manners, ranging from the implementation of a 1-to-1 program, to a shift from one traditional library to three iCommons (Information Commons), to weekly technology training workshops for teachers, to a change in instructional practices and collaboration expectations. On a personal note, I am teaching a high school Leadership class this year, which includes experimenting with a blended learning model, meaning that learning is taking place both in person and through an online setting. We are using an infrastructure called Haiku, which is a digital K-12 online platform. An exciting element of the course is that this platform enables us to learn, in collaboration, with students from two other international schools, one in the U.S.A, and one in Mumbai. Through the power of the Internet and technology, our class has been expanded and enriched through the inclusion of students from other parts of the world. This has taken the learning experience of our students to a higher level of interest, diversity, and engagement.

A question: If you were asked to highlight the most important skills students will need for future success, what skills would you list? How does your list compare with the following list of the most important skills generated by professional educators and researchers?

  • Problem Solving
  • Creativity
  • Analytical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Ethics, Action, Accountability

Now, let’s examine these skills in the context of Bloom’s taxonomy:

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The list of skills generated by professional educators and researchers correspond directly with the higher level thinking skills of Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating associated with Bloom’s taxonomy, rather than the lower level skills of Remembering, Understanding, and Applying. It is these higher-level thinking skills that guide the ongoing development of EAB’s educational program.

As EAB continues its work towards the continued implementation of effective and relevant teaching and learning practices, we will also continue to be guided by the approaches presented above in conjunction with Lee Crockett’s guiding concepts of relevance, creativity, and real-world application.

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

Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY-ND 2.0) flickr photo by Johan Larsson: https://www.flickr.com/photos/johanl/6966883093

Teachers’ Day

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” ~ Carl Jung

In Brasilia, Teachers’ Day is commemorated each with year with a designated holiday on October 15. In the spirit of this special day on conjunction with the October 5 World Teachers’ Day, it is fitting to celebrate and recognize the inspiring work of those passionate individuals who have chosen education as not only a career, but also a calling. A sincere thank you to all teachers for their efforts, day in and day out, to continuously seek ways to make a difference in the lives of students through deep levels of care, professionalism, commitment, and hope.

Teachday1Teaching, at its essence, is about the ideals intrinsically associated with developmental relationships, which are, in turn, based on a profound belief and optimism for the future. It is the moral imperative of an educator to commit to an unwavering belief that all students are capable of reaching their potential and to an insuppressible hope for a better future. While these are indeed lofty goals, an educator’s prerogative is to accept nothing less than these ideals. Borrowing from Robert Browning, a student’s reach should exceed his or her grasp, or what’s education for? Thank you, once again, to all teachers for inspiring students to reach beyond their grasp and for making a difference in the lives of others, recognizing it make take years, or even decades, for these differences to be fully realized. Is it too much to conclude that the ideals of teaching and learning, embodied through a hope for the future and belief in others, contribute to defining the very essence of our humanity?

Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token to save it from that ruin, which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. An education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their choice of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.” ~ Hannah Arendt

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

Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY-ND 2.0) flickr photo by Philippe Put: https://www.flickr.com/photos/34547181@N00/7035269431/in/photostream/

Mission-Driven Learning

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche.

The ‘why’ highlighted by Nietzsche is equated, in schools, to foundational documents, such as mission statements. These essential documents act as guiding principles for all facets of education, ranging from day-to-day instructional approaches, to business office and human resource decisions, to the building of new facilities, to educational program implementation, to co-curricular and extracurricular activities, and to long-term, strategic planning.

By way of example, I had the privilege of receiving an invitation to work with our Grade 3 classes on the development of a class mission statement. Once my introduction was completed, the outstanding Grade 3 teaching team led the students through a process to create a unique mission statement for their class. Through an effective and collaborative process, the students worked diligently to arrive at a consensus, which resulted in the following mission statement:

In third grade, it is our mission to explore new things, to make new friends, and improve ourselves so that we can solve problems and become responsible citizens of the world.

This statement will guide the learning and development of all Grade 3 students throughout the remainder of the year. Furthermore, it is no coincidence that the student mission statement expands on the tenets of our school’s overall mission. By design, everything at the American School of Brasilia (EAB) is framed and guided by the school’s key foundational documents.

EAB’s ability to provide our students with the best holistic education possible will be achieved through a partnership between students, parents, and the school, towards the realization of the ideals presented in the mission, vision, core values, and motto.

IMG_1815
EAB’s Foundational Documents

MISSION
The American School of Brasilia serves the International and Brazilian communities by providing a U.S. and Brazilian accredited pre-K through 12th grade program and International Baccalaureate Diploma in a culturally diverse atmosphere. Our English-language school develops and supports the whole child in achieving his or her own potential. Through a differentiated, innovative learning experience, we cultivate responsible and contributing citizens, leaders, and environmental stewards with a strong foundation of academic excellence.

VISION
At the American School of Brasilia, each student pursues an excellent academic program in a supportive and nurturing learning environment, whose rigor and relevance is evident through the five pillars of academics, arts, leadership, service learning, and activities. In an EAB education, our students are:
…provided a differentiated education, that optimizes academic potential;
…exposed to the arts, achieving proficiency in at least one area;
…provided the opportunity and support to develop as citizen-leaders;
…engaged in meaningful and sustainable service learning experiences;
…involved in co-curricular activities or sports.

CORE VALUES
Trustworthiness – Respect – Responsibility – Fairness – Caring – Citizenship

MOTTO
Celebrating Diversity and Cultivating Citizenship

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

Photo Credit: Matt Hajdun / Caira Franklin

Whose Child Is This?

So last week we had our first quarter parent-teacher conferences, and it was incredibly fulfilling to see and hear these partnerships working together to support our kids. There were so many meaningful conversations happening all over the school, each revolving around our students as young learners, and it was inspiring to see our teachers sharing their data and evidence of where the kids currently are, and where they are going with regards to each student’s academic and personal success. These were very much two way conversations, as the parents were giving authentic feedback and suggestions about their child from their perspectives, and our teachers were busy taking notes, digging deep, and genuinely asking for any information at all to help them support each child in their classrooms. As I was walking around with a big smile on my face, I got thinking about the tremendous value and importance of parent-teacher relationships, and how fostering these partnerships is truly one of our biggest priorities as educators.

 

Obviously, our goal as educators is to find ways to connect with all of our students to inspire learning, and it’s imperative that we work closely with the ones who know their children the best. Parents are such valuable resources for all of us, and I wonder if we’re doing enough to bring them into the mix. Successful conference days for me are ones in which there are no surprises of any kind…teachers should be constantly in communication with parents to celebrate success, alert them to any issues or concerns, or to just reach out and provide information of what’s happening with their child’s education. Sometimes as educators we get anxious about an overly involved parent, or a parent that feels like their child isn’t being supported or extended in appropriate ways, and we get defensive and take it as a personal attack on our professional ability. But really, if you look closely at the root of any concern, it’s just a concerned mother or father asking to be involved, and wanting to support their child from home. As I see it, it’s all about proactive communication and finding ways to work together as a team. Obviously, some parents need a little more communication than others, we all know that, but that’s a good thing isn’t it? I’d rather have an involved parent than an absent one, and it’s just a matter of looking for ways to understand what they really need from you. It comes down to both of us wanting the same thing in almost all cases, which is an outstanding education for their child, and if we look to develop these relationships early and often then we all win.

 

It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite poems titled, “Whose Child is This?”, and I’d like you to read it and think about your relationships with the parents of your students…maybe there’s some room for growth or a relationship that can be mended or improved? Think about it and reach out and be proactive…we have a wonderful parent community here at Academia Cotopaxi, and they have world class teachers educating their children…let’s come together for our kids and strengthen these partnerships. If we try to do this in isolation then we’re missing out on the most important resource that we have at our disposal…enjoy the poem and take it to heart. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and proactive with their parents.

Whose Child Is This?

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

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

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

Quote of the Week…..

Children need models rather than critics —Joseph Joubert

 TED TALK – Building Relationships Between Parents and Teachers (Megan Olivia Hall)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kin2OdchKMQ

 Parent –Teacher Partnership Articles/Videos –

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/film-festival-parent-teacher-partnerships

http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Building_Parent/

https://oldweb.naeyc.org/ece/1999/02.asp

http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/going-to-school/parent-involvement/parent-teacher-partnership/

http://www.readingrockets.org/article/building-parent-teacher-relationships

True Heroes

So this past week I held a leadership assembly for our beautiful Middle School students as part of our Blue Sky Monday initiative. We talked about the power of empathy, a culture of kindness, the role and opportunity of bystanders, and finally, heroic acts. At the end of the assembly, after some great conversations and a few poignant videos, I asked the kids a simple question which solicited some emotional responses that really got me thinking…I asked, “who are the true heroes in your lives?” I asked them to think deeply about this for a minute or two before responding, and I asked them to think about it from a truly personal perspective…heroes that impact their lives in a very real way…not Lionel Messi or Steve Jobs or Oprah Winfrey, but heroes that impact their life throughout their day to day existence. Well, the hands eventually shot up and the answers came hard and fast as they began to talk about the special teachers in their lives…and it made my heart almost burst with love, pride, and happiness.

One student talked about a former third grade teacher who taught her to read when she arrived at the school with next to no English…another student talked about a teacher who spent several mornings before school meeting with him in the gym to work on his basketball skills…and another talked passionately about how a counselor had helped her when she was feeling bullied by a small group of girls a couple of years ago. The sad thing was that even though we ran way over time, we eventually had to end before I could get to the dozens of hands that were eagerly awaiting their chance to share…but I heard them loud and clear, and it confirmed what I already knew…teachers are true heroes in the lives of their students! I left the assembly thinking about how excited and desperate the kids were to share a story about how a teacher or two had impacted their lives in a profound way, and I wondered if we as educators internalize this message enough? Do we really understand and embrace the power and opportunity that we all have to change and shape a life for the better each and every day…through each and every interaction that we have with our kids? Teachers are our world’s greatest and truest heroes, and if you don’t already, it’s time that you all start to see yourselves as such…

I bet every one of you has a similar story about how a teacher in your own life has changed you for the better, or helped you get to where you are today. Someone who took the time to listen, to inspire, to acknowledge, and to believe in you as a learner…someone who saw that spark in you, and who saw the potential that you had to offer the world. Well, that’s who you are for our kids, and it’s as simple as taking the extra time to truly get to know your students, and to dig deep to find their sparks that will eventually set our world on fire in beautiful and inspiring ways! I’m asking you all to wake up every morning from now on  committed to being real life heroes for our students, because that’s what you are whether you’ve internalized it or not. Our world’s true heroes are not actors, or athletes, or the celebrities that garner all the media attention…it’s the world’s teachers who work tirelessly and passionately to love, to save, to inspire, and to educate our young learners who will eventually make our world a better place. It’s teachers who save the day, and provide the hulk-like effort that is needed for our kids to see how special they are for our world…every one of our kids is an unwrapped gift, and it’s the day to day heroic acts of a teacher which help open it up for the world to enjoy. Have a wonderful week everyone, and remember to be heroes for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the week….

Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.
Fred Rogers

 What is a Hero Videos –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zegboN3w1Dw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l48FyAmQNOc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_pGiUeVFEU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2LNK2MW_xQ

 TED ED Website –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfJ5XG5i2aw&list=PLD9F05BD1BE124A13

 Articles and Websites –

http://dailyedventures.com/index.php/2013/03/03/heroes/

http://www.inspiringeducators.net/

http://awakenings2012.blogspot.com/2012/08/teachers-as-heroes.html

http://www.contextsustainability.com/who-are-your-teaching-heroes/

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/celebrating-unsung-heroes-george-lucas

http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/us/cnn-heroes

Great Commercial –

http://www.values.com/inspirational-stories-tv-spots/70-everyday-heroes

A Global University

So if you’ve been following any of my previous posts over the past few weeks, you know that we’ve been interviewing several outstanding educational leaders to be our next High School Principal. The process has been inspiring in many ways for sure, but my favorite part is when we ask them one final question to wind up the interview. The question is, “what is your blue sky vision for a school…no limits on money, resources, staffing, or anything else…you have everything that you need to bring your vision to life…what would that school look like?” Well, the answers have ranged from conservative, to reserved, to traditional, to idealistic, and all the way up to mind blowing and to truly visionary. In many cases however, a drop of cynicism arrives at the end and the answers get qualified with, “but we’re being held back by the traditional entrance requirements and structures of the world’s universities, and until those change, we’re prohibited from really bringing these visions to life”. Well, I’ve been hearing that for a number of years now, and I know there’s some real truth to that I guess, so here’s my idea…let’s start our own university and stop waiting for something that is in many ways out of our control. Bear with me, open up your mind, and take a second to dream…here’s the idea…

 

As you all know, waiting for universities to change to fit these visionary ideas of school is a slow moving and frustrating exercise, which will get us nowhere fast…so I think we, as an international community of schools and leaders and families should set up our own university, or seven, around the world that will allow us to funnel our amazing students into higher level education in a way which can transform how we do school in Grades Pre-K through 12. We’ll call it the GLOBAL UNIVERSITY or something like that, and the entrance requirements will not be focused and fixed on SAT scores, grade point averages, or IB diploma marks…it will be based on how a student’s passion and potential can be used to affect meaningful and sustainable change in our local and global communities. Maybe they submit a project or proposal based on one simple question, “how are you going to use your talents, passion, and abilities to inspire and affect change for our world?”. They are admitted then not because they can do traditional school well, and jump through all the hoops that universities currently require, but because they have a plan to inspire and affect change…a completely different set of entrance requirements (and when I say different I mean better). Think of all of the incredible kids (and we all know several) who don’t test well, or struggle to fit into a vision of what a traditional university student looks like, and who don’t get into the schools of their choice…it won’t be about that anymore…it will be about finding the sparks and passions of each individual student, and providing them an opportunity to develop these in a university setting that sees them for who they are and what they can accomplish…of course it would be a full inclusion university because we all know that every human being has the ability to inspire regardless of the physical or cognitive hand that they’ve been dealt.

 

We could set up universities like this in New York, and Toronto, and London, and Singapore, and Sydney, and Johannesburg, and Buenos Aries (or Quito), and have a pipeline of international students, or any graduating student from around the world for that matter, arriving each year to work together on projects and issues that will immediately change our world for the better. Students will work together across disciplines on projects that need our global attention, and head out into the world on semester or yearly internships, which will put them in real life situations that challenge their perspectives, their ideals, their views on the world, and most importantly that challenge themselves as people. Future doctors working in struggling communities which need medical support…future lawyers working together on human rights cases…future tradesmen and engineers working together to re-build war-torn communities and improve their infrastructure…future educators pushing into communities, schools, and homes to give our less fortunate children around the world the education that they deserve, and what if they do their student teaching in our international schools to support our new vision of school…musicians and artists inspiring and fostering creativity in our world’s children and communities that are in desperate need of color and sound and art…future veterinarians looking at ways to support and save our global stray and abused animal population…and future scientists looking into cures, and alternative energy, and environmental issues, and water and food shortages…seriously…students required to travel out into the world where they are most needed, and graduating with the knowledge that they have been the change that they want to see in the world…we send them off then as graduates to continue their chosen work as true global ambassadors and change agents, with a commitment to community service and affecting change wherever they end up.

 

The best part about starting this university however, is what it could do to transform our world’s schools. It would effectively allow all of our future visions of school to flourish and explode into what we’re all dreaming about. It would break the rusty bars that hold us back because we wouldn’t be focused on grades or averages or test scores anymore, and we could literally tear down the walls and create Pre-K to 12 schools that educate kids according to their passions…true inquiry all the way through. No more solitary, individual, and isolated classrooms, no more single subject teachers or curriculums, no more single grade-level bands, and no more traditional assessment practices. It would be projects, individual and collaborative opportunities, letting kids run wild with their ideas and passions and interests, and we would be facilitating it all the way as educators…feedback, feedback, feedback, and meaningful formative assessment which inspires an open mindset in kids, gives them small successes at every turn, and engages and celebrates them for the creative and unique individuals that they are. We could work together as schools to engage kids on global issues, and get them to push out into their local communities to begin affecting change at a young age. Of course we’d be teaching skills along the way, and providing meaningful opportunities to kids at their developmental level, and giving every kid daily opportunities to read and write and question and research and all the rest…I’m not saying it would be easy to transform our traditional schools into the ones that we’re dreaming about, but it sure would be fun to be freed up to try!

 

Anyway, there you have it…an idea that is fun to dream about in my opinion and one that probably isn’t that far away from being realized. I know that there are several schools around the world already doing things like this, and I know that there are universities that have alternative entrance requirements and opportunities like this already on offer…but…like the principal candidates that we’ve interviewed have indicated, we’re still being held back in a way that makes it difficult for all of us to move forward. So, let’s do it ourselves…I know that it’s not simple, and it will take a lot of money and planning but that’s the easy part in my opinion…money doesn’t change the world, ideas do…and this one isn’t all that bad I think. A Global University that frees us up to transform the traditional model of school…let’s get started! Have a great week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. Oh yeah, if you like this idea, then forward and pass it on…you never know, someone might just like it and look to take it forward…crazier things have happened…at the very least it’s fun to dream, and honestly, if you’re not dreaming as a school or as an educator then you’re doing yourself and our world a disservice.

Quote of the week…

Best way to predict your Future is to create it – Abraham Lincoln

Great Educational Videos– If you follow this link you will find Eight short talks about education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education: Thank you Bret Olson for sharing…Check out Bret’s blog…good stuff http://pushingforward.me/

http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/14/09/8×8-hgse-faculty-share-their-bold-ideas-improve-education

Anyone Can Cook…

…But only the fearless can be great.” Chef Auguste Gusteau. (‘Ratatouille.’2007. Pixar Films).

I watched this film for the umpteenth time with my daughter the other night. (Yes, the one featured in the Rainbow Loom entry and the one who is still mad at me for posting her photo without official permission. That’s a violation of some digital likeness policy, right?)

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In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.Anton Ego, “The Grim Eater.”

There a so many debates going on in education right now it is almost impossible to categorize them, but one that has caught my attention as of late is the argument over the ‘gate-keepers’ of quality. We are doing a lot of hand-wringing over the lack of “rigor” in innovation. Will student centered learning water down standards and make kids dumb again? (I still chuckle at that phrase…it’s like Domino’s pizza saying that they are going to be more pizza focused). What will happen to quality? I recently read a scathing review of High Tech High’s project-based learning by a parent that basically stated his child was falling way behind math and other subjects while they were “playing around.”

But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the *new*. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. -Anton Ego

The genius of this film is not that the inspiration comes from an unlikely source, but that it comes from the most unlikeliest of sources…a culinary RAT. However, it’s not as simple as the rat showing he can cook (“Anyone can cook, that doesn’t mean anyone SHOULD”). He has to mask his genius behind a bumbling human who happens to be the illegitimate child of the deceased Gusteau.

Collette, the love interest of the bumbling boy, says repeatedly to “follow the recipe,” a piece of advice she shares while jealously guarding her precarious position in a male-dominated culture. To get along you need to go along, with discipline, focus and attention to detail. There is no love in her work. You have to work hard and follow convention to get ahead.

Gusteau didn’t just say anyone could cook. He added “only the fearless could be great.” His book made cooking accessible. Anton Ego and the sous chef, resented that. They were the gatekeepers, the protectors of quality resisting the dismantling of standards and the death of haute cuisine.

Last night, I experienced something new: an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist *can* come from *anywhere*. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more. -Anton Ego

The film doesn’t make it easy for “the rat” to succeed. He struggles against every convention and notion of what a great chef needs to be. But the rat persists because it’s his passion. Innovation does not mean giving every child a trophy or a gold star. It does not mean the death of standards or classical based education. It does not mean that because we believe that ‘anyone can cook’ that anyone can be the best. It does not mean because our children are learning in different ways that they won’t get into college or have a future.

What it means is that it is our job as educators to open that possibility, not deny it. After all, it was no coincidence that Anton’s last name was ‘Ego.’

Of course, there’s only one suitable 80’s video for this one…Enjoy Eat It and Anton Ego’s final speech