The Pleasures & the Pitfalls of Raising (and Teaching) children in your own international school

Blog 5

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

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

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

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

Theme 1:  The practical and economic benefits

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.ettiezilber.com/

 

References

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

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

Three Questions

“All grown-ups were once children… but only a few of them remember it” ~The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I was recently listening to a series of interviews with Joseph Campbell and his reflections on the essential themes that have emerged from sixty years of his life’s work.  He emphasized the interconnectedness of our lives and the human experience, the fundamental role of storytelling in our culture, and the importance of courageously embarking on our individual journeys to fully realize our lives, as highlighted in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell also shared a curious thought when he suggested that adults should read more children’s books to further our own learning and understanding. In fact, this seems to be sound advice, particularly as I recall a memorable and meaningful graduation speech that used a children’s book as its framework to convey a meaningful message.

A friend and colleague, Corey Watlington, was selected by the senior class to deliver the faculty commencement speech. While I am sorry that I do not recall all of the details of the speech, the messages conveyed through the use of a children’s book resonated with all of us. The book’s title is, The Three Questions, by Jon J. Muth, and, following Joseph Campbell’s advice and using Corey Watlington’s idea, the following is a brief summary and reflection associated with the book.

The book’s main character is a boy named Nikolai who is seeking answers to three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is most important? What is the right thing to do? A cast of colourful characters, which include a monkey, heron, turtle, dog, and panda, all play important roles as Nikolai is forced to overcome several challenges due to a terrible storm. Through adversity, his own kindness, and the support and guidance of his friends, Nikolai finds answers to his three questions: “…there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important person is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.”

This is indeed good advice and a reminder, not only for adults but also for our students and those responsible for our educational programs, of the importance of being present and kind. With so many distractions, technologies, and the seemingly ever-accelerating pace of life, this can be a challenge. Still, we owe it to ourselves and those around us to make this a priority. For this reason and many others, I am grateful for the opportunity to work and live in Brazil as the Brazilians have much to teach us about living in the present, enjoying the moment, and appreciating the people in our lives. As a Canadian with a disposition that can, at times, bend slightly towards a future orientated focus, the answers to Nikolai’s questions are always a welcome reminder.

International schools generally embrace a strong emphasis on a holistic educational approach, which includes the well-being and health of our students and communities. To that end, Nikolai’s learning extends to our educational programs and school cultures such that there are high value and support placed on being present, actively valuing our relationships, and ensuring a focus on kindness. Perhaps these approaches are some of the factors associated with Joseph Campbell’s reference to the interconnectedness of our lives and the human experience.

Blog: www.barrydequanne.com

Twitter: @dequanne

Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) flickr photo Alan 
Morgan: The end of a wonderful day. 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeff_sch/9274657293/in/photostream/

 

Developing Entrepreneurs

So this past Friday afternoon I felt honored to be one of the 5 judges in our own Middle School version of Shark Tank. This episode showcased many of our 7th grade students presenting their sustainable entrepreneurial projects to their classmates, as the culminating assessment for their most recent social studies/economics unit…and it was truly inspiring for all of us.

 

The unit was the brainchild of three of the most outstanding educators that I have ever had the privilege of working with (Justin Muenker, Nick Sprague, and Brian Voeller), who together looked to introduce our kids to the power and opportunity of entrepreneurship. They were also simultaneously searching for ways to help Ecuadorian families on the coast, who have continued to struggle over a year after the devastating earthquake which ravaged many of their communities.

 

The unit was a tremendous success, and the best part about it for me was seeing the students so engaged and passionate about finding ways impact positive social change for people in need. They were leading their own learning in very powerful ways, and collaborating not just with their Middle School teammates, but with their High School mentors and with local businesses and organizations as well. It was real world learning at it’s finest, and it was an excellent example of how young people can be empowered to change our world for the better when given the opportunity.

 

Entrepreneurship teaches our kids to think critically and ambitiously, and it builds the collaborative and communicative skills that they will need as they graduate from High School “Innovation Ready”. Pulitzer Prize winning author, Thomas Friedman, believes that entrepreneurship education benefits our young students because it teachers kids to think outside the box, and it nurtures unconventional talents and skills…and I totally agree. This unit has us all thinking about ways that we can continue to transform our traditional approach to curriculum writing, and to leverage our students’ creativity, ingenuity, and imagination. We want to put the learning in their hands, and be educational facilitators as they innovatively find ways to positively change our world.

 

I really enjoyed my role as judge at this event honestly, and as I looked out into the audience, and tweeted out the engaged looks on their faces, I was struck by how proud I am of our teachers…education is changing rapidly and so are we, and it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. Have a wonderful week ahead, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

The best way to predict the future is to create it! – Peter Drucker

 

Great TED Talks – Entrepreneurship 

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

https://www.ted.com/talks/maya_penn_meet_a_young_entrepreneur_cartoonist_designer_activist
https://www.ted.com/talks/gary_vaynerchuk_do_what_you_love_no_excuses

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

 

Interesting Articles – 

https://www.proposify.biz/blog/kids-entrepreneurship
http://www.investopedia.com/slide-show/young-entrepreneurs/

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245038

http://www.mikemichalowicz.com/the-37-greatest-business-ideas-for-young-entrepreneurs/

http://www.thesekidsmeanbusiness.org/educators_guide/additional_lesson_plans.php

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonma/2015/02/24/twelve-of-todays-most-impressive-young-entrepreneurs/#14bc77367560

 

Inspiring things – 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFShW-qxPM4
https://www.upworthy.com/a-dad-took-his-2-year-olds-most-memorable-words-and-illustrated-them-beautifully?c=pop

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oXWPHFoFTg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emHZTnbN370

Like, get over it!

In 1680, the English King James told architect Christopher Wren that the newly-completed St Paul’s cathedral was “awful, artificial and amusing”. In 1680 ‘awful’ meant ‘awe-inspiring’; ‘artificial’ meant ‘artistically made’ and ‘amusing’ meant ‘amazing’.

The two graphics here illustrate a very similar point – and I am sure many of us have had similar experience, one way or another.

These flippant examples may seem a bit obscure – but a quick internet search for funny grammar images (here’s a good one) shows that the issue of correct or incorrect language raises strong emotions. And I was marking TOK essays from my grade 11 class last week, and wondering to what extent I should correct split infinitives, or allow sentences (like – ahem! – this one) to start with a conjunction. More importantly, I was wondering if examiners would see through informal writing to the genuinely profound ideas in the essays – and so perhaps there is a genuinely more serious point here. Outside of language acquisition course, there is nothing in most IB/IGCSE marking criteria about good grammar – and when we have so many students being examined in English as a second, third or fourth language, that’s got to be right. On the other hand, accuracy in communication is important, and grammar facilitates that. As a child I was always taught that ‘breaking the laws of grammar’ is a bad thing. So do these laws of grammar matter? I have come to think that the answer to this centres around what we think about the nature of laws, and I am reminded about how much we construct the world around us, rather than simply find it, already made. I think there’s actually a moral point here too.

We sometimes tend to think that breaking the laws of grammar is a little like breaking the laws of Singapore; if you go through a red traffic light then whatever your intention, you have broken the law – fact. Mrs. Eyegouger, my Primary School teacher, felt much the same about my errors with apostrophes. I have come to think differently, and that the laws of language are more akin to the laws of physics than the laws of the land. Suppose we found an object which hovered in mid-air, and did not fall when dropped; what would we do? We could declare the object illegal, lament and take appropriate punitive measures, (Mrs. Eyegouger) or we could revisit our understanding of the laws of physics. The latter seems more sensible. It’s impossible for an object to break the laws of physics (apologies to the warlocks among you) because the laws explain how things behave. Similarly with language – the laws of grammar are descriptions of how things are, not how we would like them to be.

So my visceral disgust at double negatives may not be without logical reason but the fact is that people do say “I ain’t done nothing wrong” and we all know what they mean, n’est-ce pas? Similarly, the word ‘like’ has recently evolved into an all purpose linguistic swiss-army knife, capable of remarkable flexibility (great article here). King James would have thought that was awful; to me, it’s awesome – and we both know what we are talking about. Languages change, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them. What’s more, language drift is a one-way current (for more on that see this wonderful book or watch this short TED talk).

As linguist Cukor-Avila said, “I tell my students, eventually all the people who hate this kind of thing are going to be dead, and the ones who use it are going to be in control.” While that may not the most uplifting sentiment, it is surely accurate.

Does that mean we don’t bother correcting students’ written work from infelicities? Of course not. Some styles are better suited to some occasions than others – and using “c u l8 r” in an English examination is a choice; probably not a very good one (texting is a fascinating dialect).  So we need to be aware of the various universes of discourse that are available to us. I have come to see that rather than correcting students’ work (which can be perilously close to telling them how to conform to arbitrary social mores – hardly the right message) I am seeking to sensitise them so they can make the right choice choose to convey their message to their audience. In most cases, that will look like traditional correcting, but I think there’s a world of difference. Literally.

I remain your humble servant / BFF (delete as appropriate)

Nick

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By Nicholas Alchin | Twitter @nicholas_alchin

The Maker Portfolio and University Admissions

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

I am always focused on the end-game. The end-game for students is the next level after they leave K-12. Preparing students to compete and succeed is difficult. There is always a huge debate over where time should be allocated, what subjects are more important, and what skills will be required ten years after graduation.

I do believe there are always trends, and finding those trends can be difficult. Most of the data we gravitate towards, is data that we are directed to look at. The trick to finding trends, is to find new questions to ask. In order to find those questions, I try and look at data through a variety of lenses.

College Admissions Data

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) publishes a report called the State of College Admission. I decided to research the 2014 and 2016 reports (data range from 2006-2015) after being very intrigued by a 2007 article titled, Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard. 

The author, 

Of course, evolution is not the same as progress. These kids have an AP history textbook that has been specially created to match the content of the AP test, as well as review books and tutors for those tests. We had no AP textbook; many of our readings came from primary documents, and there was no Princeton Review then. I was never tutored in anything and walked into the SATs without having seen a sample SAT question.

As for my bean sprouts project, as bad it was, I did it alone. I interview kids who describe how their schools provide a statistician to analyze their science project data.

I started to wonder, aside from academics, are university admission processes valuing all the extracurricular work students are doing, and all the stress and time involved in this competitive process. Many extracurricular options involve technology, and require significant investment in time and money.

The data from NACAC was interesting. There are four common summary columns: Considerable Importance, Moderate Importance, Limited Importance, No Importance.

I decided only to review the change of “importance” in the No Importance category. The first three categories are variable. No Importance is not variable, it is absolute, and reflects a definitive negative statement.

The concept is fairly simply. I have 100 points. I weight each of the four categories until I run out of points. In this game, I can decide to declare something a waste of time and effort by using that last category, No Importance.

Here are the results:

Google Sheet View 

This data is troubling. Aside from IB/AP scores, most internal non-academic criteria are losing importance.

Why Has the Value Decreased?

Looking on Reddit and some forums, I found some interviews between admissions officers, students, and parents. Interestingly, I found a comments from these people that resonated with the Harvard interviewer from 2007.

A few things were clear from this small, but powerful, sample:

  • Students working on or in teams need to clearly explain their roles and their contributions; simply being on a team is not enough.
  • Students working without structure, and on original independent projects, are very interesting to the admissions team.
  • Students working inside of a managed program are not really that different from one another.

The value has not decreased, but the supply of students who are doing the same things, and have the same basic profiles, has increased. The demand for those students is lower than the demand for students who are more independent.

The Maker Portfolio

In 2013 MIT introduced a different option for admissions. They called it (and are calling it) The Maker Portfolio.  “In many respects, the Maker Portfolio has been a resounding success. Over the last two years, more than 2000 students have used it to show us the things they make, from surfboards to solar cells, code to cosplay, prosthetics to particle accelerators. We believe the Maker Portfolio has improved our assessment of these applicants and offers us a competitive advantage over our peers who have not developed the processes to identify and evaluate this kind of talent.”~Chris Peterson, Hal Abelson

Since then, a quick Google Search will reveal other universities are aligning with MIT. Washington University, Tufts, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, California College of the Arts, and more are now offering this option for admissions.

What does this all mean to K-12 education and educational technology?  Activities that used to be hobbies, now need to be student lead within the curriculum. Students need to find an interest, and develop it themselves with as little support as possible. A student should be able to articulate their specific contributions, failures, and growth through a variety of methods, and in a very succinct manner.

Technology investment must shift not only to equipment and resources that allow students to plan and create, but also to systems that will help schools optimize schedules and planning to ensure academic rigor is not sacrificed.

I encourage everyone to review all the resources that went into this post, and I leave you with this comment from Chris Peterson from the MIT Admissions department, “Sometimes students ask me if MIT wants students who are well-rounded. I usually say I don’t care as much if you’re well-rounded or pointy, what I care about is evaluating the space enclosed by the shape.

Resources

  1. Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard
  2. Former Ivy League admissions officer reveals how schools pick students
  3. Hi I’m Nelson Ureña, I am a former admissions officer from Cornell and currently an admissions counselor
  4. 10 College Admissions Secrets: An Inside Look From an Elite College Counselor
  5. 3 Hooks in College Admissions
  6. When Makers Apply to College
  7. I’m an MIT Admissions Officer & longtime FIRST person, AMA
  8. Admissions Revolution As 80 colleges unite to create new application and portfolio platform
  9. 2016 State of College Admission Report from NACAC
  10. 2014 State of College Admission Report from NACAC

 

 

 

Students Leading Us to a Future that Still Values Expertise

Let’s play a game, akin to the old Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the others.” Try to guess which one of the following teachers’ workshops would have occurred 15 years ago, versus the others you may have seen on a conference schedule as recent as 2017: Assessments for the Whole Student, Saying Goodbye to the “Sage on the Stage”, Students Leading their Learning, and finally, Unit Planning for the Engaging Teacher. I realize that it’s not much of a challenging game in that the question virtually answers itself. Any educational professional with even a nominal ear to the ground listening for clues to the future of international education as of late will have internalized something very transformative by now about the role of both student and the teacher in the classroom. Namely, we are hearing that all things innovative, forward leaning and authentic in the classroom now embrace the student, his interests and aspirations, and most importantly, her self-directed learning process as the gravitational center of our pedagogical universe.

In the face of increasing global connectivity, escalating social change and the promise of a future brimming with jobs that haven’t even been invented yet, educational leaders must now grapple with and redefine what it means to truly prepare our students for the radically changing world that awaits them. Thankfully, our profession has in recent years begun leaving behind industrial age conventions on uniformity, orthodoxy and teacher-centric doctrines of “what to know to test well” for greener fields seeded in experiential learning, student led inquiry and a more urgent focus on “how to creatively think.” This seismic event impacts virtually everything we talk about when envisioning our schools, from curricula, assessment and teacher training, down to budgeting, the role of technology and even facility planning and construction. Though unclear, and even daunting, we are all excited as educators for what is coming.

Yet in this dizzying, thrilling new egalitarian landscape of the future, where students are not merely part of the conversation in crafting their academic experience, but are now expected to be fully endowed “leaders of their own learning,” we now need to ask what role schools must play in averting what Tom Nicols has ominously called “The Death of Expertise.” How do we create learning environments that celebrate and cultivate student agency and responsibility for their own learning while still inculcating them with that essential respect, and even awe, for the beauty of legitimate scholarship and hard won virtuosity in a given discipline which they have not yet achieved? We as educators are vexed by the paradox of modern technology and the boundless largess of the internet, for with its vast bounty has also risen a parallel challenge where too frequently, it seems everyone’s opinion now has equal weight, regardless of merit or evidentiary grounding. In its worse incarnation, a form of narcissistic intellectual populism has been increasingly driving too much of public opinion on everything from climate change and health to welfare policies and societal responses to income or gender inequality. And we must face the fact that our students are in no way immune to such specious forms of ill-conceived hubris, based all too frequently on no more than a speed reading of Wikipedia.

Many contemporary social theorists are noting that this new age of unlimited information access and its resulting “consumer centered information society,” rather than producing an educated public, has instead birthed whole swaths of ill-informed and all too easily outraged partisans who give proof to perhaps Mark Twain’s most acerbic observation: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Our challenge now as educators tracks closely to how we successfully prepare students for a future where creativity, individuality, emotional intelligence and self-determination will be critical difference makers, while also continuing to instill in them respect for the trials, sacrifices and devotion that are ultimately required in the attainment of genuine knowledge. I like to think we can find a remedy for this conundrum in an even stronger reliance on teaching our students the rigors of critical thinking, hard-nosed source analysis and evidentiary based conclusions. Thus even as we effect this most exciting of transformations that empowers, licenses and validates the student as the primary engine driving the learning process, our task now might demand we hold even more fast to some very fundamental principles that have already been with us a very long time.

Puppets on a String


CC0 License: https://www.pexels.com/photo/bag-electronics-girl-hands-359757/

 The post is inspired by a L2talk I did at the Learning2 Europe conference in Warsaw.

“Every storyteller has a bias – and so does every platform”-  Andrew Postman  “My Dad Predicted Trump in 1985 – It’s Not Orwell, He Warned, It’s Brave New World.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 02 Feb. 2017

I am an addict. Are you too? Don’t you hate it when you can’t find your phone, and a friend has to call it.  Maybe the first thing you did this morning was check your phone and the last thing you did today was check your phone.  Think of it, we walk and text, and even drive and text. Have you had this happen,  you are in a social situation and you go the bathroom  to check an update. You are standing on a street corner and suddenly realize you are on your phone swiping at it, unconsciously. Then there is the feeling you get when you post a picture on a social media feed. The “likes” start coming in. It feels good, really good,  and then you check back and back. You post an update and there no “likes”.  You start wondering to yourself what is going on?


(CC BY 2.0) Photo taken by Angus MacAskill “Rat” https://www.flickr.com/photos/19951543@N00/3908678004/

I am sure you’ve heard about B.J Skinner’s rat experiment. The first rat had a lever in its cage, and every time it hit the lever food would come out. The second rat in the same set-up, hit the lever and nothing came out, no food. The third rat, same set-up, when it hit the lever a little food came out, then nothing, and then a lot, and then nothing again. The third rat developed an addiction. It quickly realized as long as it hit the lever it had a chance of getting some food.  This is called the principal of variable rewards. That feel good feeling, the dopamine rush. Behavior design as explained in this article (Scientist who make our apps addictive by Ian Leslie 1843 Economist October.November 2016) is a critical part of every app development. Tech companies employ behavior economist, psychologist, and psychiatrists in the creation, design and curation of our apps ecosystems to ensure we keep coming back.

So many of our interactions with devices are subconscious.  In Eric Pickersgill thought provoking photos series “Removed” (do spend some time on the link) he highlights the idea of being alone together as Sherry Turkle so aptly describes in her book Alone Together. We are often physically together with another person in a space sometimes even intimately but our mind’s burrowed in a phone.

As adults, we are quick t0 point the finger at kids for not being able to manage their screen-time. Think of this, the first time an infant will interact with a digital device is watching a parent using one. What does it feel like for a child in a pram looking up at their parent to only see a blank expression immersed in their smartphone.  The dinner table conversation interrupted by parents checking work emails. Mary Aiken in her book “ The Cyber Effect” states we are asking the wrong question.  Mary Aiken writes “We should not be asking at what age is it appropriate to give a digital device to an infant, but be asking the question when is it appropriate for an adult to interact with a digital device in front of an infant.”

A good example of behavior design is Snapchat and the new feature “streaks.”  The idea of streaks if you have a dialogue with a friend over 24 hours and you continue this over days, a flame emoji shows up.  In tandem a number counting your interactions keeps tally. Should one of you stop posting, an hour glass shows up giving you a heads up that the streak will disappear if you do not stay on. For adolescent’s social media relationships can be a gauge of their social capital.  Streaks adds a layer of complexity to the interactions.

I am not against digital devices. I have been working in Education Technology as a coach, coordinator, IT Director and Director of eLearning for over 20 years. I love the seamless and frictionless experience of our digital environments.


By Jim McDougall from Glasgow, Scotland (Puppets on a String Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It is a fact that our online data  (health apps, social media, travel, online games, GPS, shopping, search etc…) is collected, analyzed, and then sold to third parties,  or curated to give us a personalized online experiences with a clear goal to manipulate our behaviors. We as educators have an ethical responsibility to be skeptical of behavior design’s narrative. Let us challenge our learning communities to question the complexity and consequences of behavior design in our lives. Stuffing a digital citizenship lesson for 15 minutes during a Friday morning advisory is not enough. We need to make this narrative an integral part of the living curriculum.

Do we want to end up being puppets pulled by the strings of choreographed digital ecosystems which we do not control?

I think it is important to understand schools are most likely the last place where children interact with digital devices with balance and pedagogic purpose. We cannot take this for granted.

If we ignore behavior design we will loose something. Free will. I and you do not want to lose this.

John @ http://beyonddigital.org

Dial 911 (or 999 or 112 or 15…): Emergency Services Worldwide

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

My Facebook feed right now is a stream of photographic evidence that my friends are enjoying spring break – Petra, Bali, Prague, Kenya. Of late, I have wondered: what happens if you have an emergency in, say, Petra? This dreary thought began recently after I witnessed someone having a seizure in public. I was on the phone to Hong Kong emergency services within seconds, and therein came my second fright: the woman who answered could not understand me in English, and I do not speak Cantonese. Though a police station was across the street, it took twelve minutes for an officer to get to the scene, and longer for the ambulance to arrive.

Thankfully, the man seemed to recover by the time we left his side (there was a group of us looking after him as we waited for the medics), but I was shaken. The U.S. Department of State webpage notes that emergency service response times for police, fire, and ambulances in Hong Kong are good. And medical care here, in my experience, is excellent. So, if it took fifteen minutes to get an ambulance to a well-known public location in a city with developed infrastructure, what can we expect elsewhere?

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I’ve been thinking about this. I grew up traveling. I lived in Moscow, back when it was part of the Cold War Soviet Union and we could barely get groceries much less proper medical care. I’ve been all over the world, often by myself, including to remote mountain locations where the closest shelter was hours away by foot, and hospitals must be reached by helicopter. I thought I was essentially immune to travel scares.

However, when it comes to accessing treatment for a major medical emergency, I am starting to second-guess my carefree approach. (Full disclosure: likely this has to do with becoming a parent, and now being responsible for a life more precious than my own). From language barriers, to cell phone service, to paramedic training and response times, to hospital quality, there is a lot of variation in the ability to access emergency care when you travel. Diversity of experience is a valuable element of living abroad, but how much diversity is worth a compromise in health and safety?

Do medical services play a role in deciding where you live or travel? Where have you had a particularly positive or negative experience with emergency care?

Transitions

“Light precedes every transition. Whether at the end of a tunnel, through a crack in the door or the flash of an idea, it is always there, heralding a new beginning.” — Teresa Tsalaky

I have been thinking a lot about transitions lately. We recently hosted the incoming Head of School for a one-week transition visit. I am also preparing to transition to Switzerland and the exciting changes associated with working at a new school and living in a new country. Like other international schools, we are preparing to say goodbye to beloved teachers, students, and families as they transition to other parts of the world, while also looking ahead and confirming the details for new teacher and family orientations. It can sometimes feel that life in an international school setting is one of constant transition where change in the norm and not the exception. While this seemingly perpetual state of transition is inherently filled with challenges, the opportunities for growth and new experiences are significant when we are able to effectively manage our transitions.

When a thoughtful colleague, David Chojnacki, heard that I would be transitioning to another school, he recommended I read William Bridges’ book, Transitions. I am grateful for this reference as Bridges’ book is a must read because, in some form or another, we are all going through a transition! The book’s main message is that all of life’s transitions embody a similar pattern and, by recognizing and accepting these patterns, the tough times associated with a transition will not only make sense but will be more bearable. To that end, it is important to differentiate between “change”, which is what happens to us, and “transition”, which is how we manage our feelings while we wade through these changes throughout our life journey.

Transition is an internal, emotional, and psychological process. In contrast, change is external, situational, and does not require those affected to transition. Transitions are longer processes that require those affected to gradually accept the new situations that result from the changes. Bridges’ frames all transitions in terms of a three-phase process involving an Ending, a Neutral Zone, and a New Beginning.

An Ending recognizes that a transition begins with letting go of the pre-change reality. In international schools, a significant number of teachers, students, and parents begin the process of letting go each semester as they prepare to move on to new endeavors. Depending on each individual, Endings are usually characterized by emotions such as denial, shock, anger, frustration, and stress. Emphatic listening and open communication for all involved are important strategies for getting through and supporting those who are experiencing an Ending. Recognizing that an Ending is about letting go is an important step towards what the author calls the Neutral Zone.

The Neutral Zone represents the bridge between the old and new in which we can still be attached to the past but also looking ahead to the future. The Neutral Zone is a place of uncertainty where people wonder about how they will adapt to the change they are currently experiencing. It is during this time that we can experience feelings of self-doubt, fear, anxiety, and skepticism. In contrast, the Neutral Zone can be a time of real growth and represent an incredibly rich time in our lives, as is beautifully illustrated through Danaan Parry’s trapeze metaphor.

The New Beginning phase is one where new understandings, values, attitudes, and identities are established. It is during this time that we emotionally and psychologically commit to the new reality that has been created through the change process. This commitment is usually accompanied by feelings of acceptance, importance, hope, and enthusiasm. This is also a good time to recognize and celebrate the third phase of the transition process.

William Bridges’ writings remind us to recognize that life’s transitions follow a similar pattern and to embrace our endings, neutral zones, and new beginnings. As we look ahead and begin to prepare for the end of another semester, I would like to wish everyone and all of our schools the very best as we embrace the positive changes and transitions that are such an integral part of international communities.

Blog: www.barrydequanne.com

Twitter: @dequanne


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Parent Partnerships

An effective educational program requires full and shared participation from students, parents, and the school. Similar to a tripod in which all three legs are needed to provide support, a student’s development and realization of potential will not be fully achieved if even one of the legs – students, parents, and school – is not fully engaged in the learning process.

While we often talk about the role of students and schools in education, it is also important to reflect on the role parents play in student development. To that end, I would like to take this opportunity to express, on behalf of our community, our deep levels of gratitude for the positive difference parents make in the development of EAB’s programs, contributions to our school’s growth, and the learning experienced by our students.

What does an effective parent partnership look like? The Inclusive Schools Network emphasizes that effective parent partnerships are built on three guiding principles: Respect, Responsibility, and Relationships.

With a primary focus on meeting student needs, an effective partnership is one that is built on mutual respect in which both the school and parent contributions are valued. Together, the family and the schools’ perspectives are invaluable to the educational process. This is why the focus on parent involvement in decision-making processes and the commitment to seek parent feedback is of paramount importance. With respect also come recognition of limits and an understanding of corresponding responsibilities.

Joyce Epsteen, the director for The Center of Parent School and Community Partnerships at John Hopkins University, effectively frames the focus on responsibility: “Our charge is to create parent-friendly schools and school-friendly homes”. A parent-friendly school is responsible for ensuring an inclusive environment that is committed to working with all students and families and creating structures that enable parents to be full partners in the learning process. A school-friendly home is responsible for reinforcing the school’s values and educational program. There is also a key responsibility for both partners to ensure that communication is constant, two-way, and meaningful. The large number of parent participation, workshop, and feedback opportunities offered by EAB and the similarly large number of parents who attend these events is an encouraging indicator that there is a high degree of responsibility assumed by both the school and parents towards the development of our students.

The third guiding principle is relationship building, which represents the foundation of any effective partnership. With a strong focus on trust, collaboration, and communication, we must ensure that there is an opportunity to contribute, make a difference, and feel valued as members of a dynamic community.

Yes, this can be hard work and there may be times when everyone may not always be in agreement. However, it is the common goal of providing our students with the best possible educational program that reinforces our focus on the ideals associated with respect, responsibility, and relationships.

Finally, in relation to the theme of parent partnerships, I would like to thank our parent volunteers as the extent to which they support EAB is both heartening and inspiring. The support from parents in the last few weeks alone has ranged from the work of the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO), to the organization of Silent Auction during last weekend’s World Fest, to serving on the Canteen and Food Services Committee, to donating to EAB’s Envision program, to serving as members of EAB’s Board of Directors, to name but a few examples. The hard work and commitment of our parent volunteers makes a real difference in our school and is greatly appreciated by the EAB community.

Blog: www.barrydequanne.com

Twitter: @dequanne

Reference:

Williams, P. (2015). HOW DO WE BUILD EFFECTIVE PARENT-SCHOOL PARTNERSHIPS IN INCLUSIVE SCHOOLS? Retrieved from http://inclusiveschools.org/how-do-we-build-effective-parent-school-partnerships-in-inclusive-schools/


PORTUGUESE VERSION

Parceria Com os Pais

Um programa educacional eficaz requer a participação plena e compartilhada dos alunos, dos pais e da escola. Semelhante a um tripé, onde as três pernas são necessárias para fornecer apoio, o desenvolvimento de um aluno e a percepção de seu potencial não serão alcançados se, mesmo uma das pernas, alunos, pais e escola, não estiverem totalmente envolvidos no processo de aprendizagem.

Embora muitas vezes falemos sobre o papel dos alunos e escolas na educação, também é importante refletir sobre o papel desempenhado pelos pais no desenvolvimento do aluno. Para isso, gostaria de aproveitar a oportunidade para expressar, em nome da nossa comunidade, a minha profunda gratidão pela diferença positiva que os pais fazem no desenvolvimento dos programas da EAB, nas contribuições para o crescimento da nossa escola e o aprendizado vivido pelos nossos alunos.

O que torna uma parceria eficaz? A Rede de Escolas Inclusivas enfatiza que parcerias efetivas com pais são construídas com três princípios orientadores: Respeito, Responsabilidade e Relacionamentos.

Focando primeiramente nas necessidades dos alunos, uma parceira eficaz é aquela construída sobre o respeito mútuo, no qual tanto a escola quanto as contribuições dos pais são valorizadas. Juntos, a família e as perspectivas das escolas são inestimáveis para o processo educacional. É por isso que o foco no envolvimento dos pais nos processos de tomada de decisão e, o compromisso de buscar o feedback dos pais é de suma importância. Com respeito também temos o reconhecimento dos limites e a compreensão das responsabilidades correspondentes.

Joyce Epsteen, diretora do Centro de Escola para Pais e Parcerias Comunitárias da Universidade John Hopkins, enquadra o foco na responsabilidade: “Nossa responsabilidade é criar escolas amigas dos pais e casas amigas da escola”. Uma escola favorável aos pais é responsável em assegurar um ambiente inclusivo que se compromete a trabalhar com todos os alunos e famílias e criar estruturas que permitam aos pais serem parceiros de pleno direito no processo de aprendizagem. Uma escola-casa amigável é responsável por reforçar os valores da escola e o programa educacional. Existe também uma responsabilidade chave para ambos os parceiros em assegurar que a comunicação seja constante, bidirecional e significativa. O grande número de envolvimento dos pais, workshops e oportunidades de feedback fornecidas pela EAB e o número similar de pais que participam desses eventos é um indicador encorajador de que existe um alto grau de responsabilidade assumido tanto pela escola como pelos pais em relação ao desenvolvimento dos nossos alunos.

O terceiro princípio orientador é a construção de relações, que representa a base de qualquer parceria eficaz. Com forte foco na confiança, colaboração e comunicação devemos garantir que existe uma oportunidade de contribuir, fazer a diferença e se sentir valorizado como membro de uma comunidade dinâmica.

Sim, isso pode ser um trabalho árduo e haverá momentos em que nem todos vão estar de acordo. No entanto, é o objetivo comum de proporcionar aos nossos alunos o melhor programa educacional possível que reforça o nosso foco sobre os ideais associados ao respeito, responsabilidade e relacionamentos.

Por fim, em relação ao tema parcerias entre os pais, eu gostaria de agradecer aos nossos pais voluntários, pois a forma com que eles apoiam a EAB é encorajador e inspirador. O apoio dos pais nas últimas semanas incluiu o trabalho da Organização de Pais e Mestres (PTO), a organização do Leilão Silencioso que ocorreu no World Fest no final de semana passado, o Comitê da Cantina e Serviços de Alimentos, até a doação feita ao Programa Envision da EAB associado ao desenvolvimento e levantamento de fundos, e ainda serviram como membros do Conselho de Administração da EAB, entre tantos outros exemplos. O trabalho árduo dos nossos pais voluntários faz uma diferença real na nossa escola e é muito apreciado pela nossa comunidade.

Reference:

Williams, P. (2015). HOW DO WE BUILD EFFECTIVE PARENT-SCHOOL PARTNERSHIPS IN INCLUSIVE SCHOOLS? Retrieved from http://inclusiveschools.org/how-do-we-build-effective-parent-school-partnerships-in-inclusive-schools/


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