Beautiful Places and Moments: Myanmar

Mergui Archipelago, Southern Myanmar

When cycling the world, visa duration is a serious consideration. Upon entering Thailand we were issued a 28 day stamp, as no actual visa is required for many nationalities. While this certainly saved us some money, it didn’t ease the slight tension that goes with pedalling with a time restriction. Nevertheless we thought it would be enough and were just grateful for the ease of entry. We were planning to cycle from Trat (border with southern Cambodia) to Satun (border with northern Malaysia). This is around 1500km. So the daily distance calculation was fine, but it did not leave much time for side trips and relaxing.

We began to find our rhythm in this friendly and relatively developed country (compared to most others on our tour thus far) after only a few days and quickly discovered that bike touring here is wonderful. We really didn’t want to rush, so after running a workshop in a school and hopping across the gulf to Hua Hin, we started looking at our options for extending our stay. In short; it is possible to extend the days on the visa-free regime by applying at any of the dozen or so immigration offices around the country. We were willing to do this and pay the fee in order to avoid overstay penalties, but then the idea came to mind of dipping into Myanmar. We are glad it did.

The new Myanmar E-visa ($50-  3 day processing) enables many tourists to enter at airports and some land/sea ports including Ranong-Kawthuang in the extreme south. There is very little information about this on the internet as anything other than a ‘Visa-Run’ for tourists/sexpats in Thailand wanting to go out-and-in for another 30 day stamp.

We had to dig around to find out whether there were any trips we could do to see some of Myanmar for a few days. There most certainly are. Using Kawthuang as a base a few tour companies offer 1 or 2 day boat trips to islands in the Mergui Archipelago. We visited 4 islands in the south including the entertainingly named Cock’s Comb, and staying in a wooden bungalow next to the beach on Horseshoe Island. It was basic but blissful. We were delighted to be pretty much on our own snorkelling and kayaking, playing frisbee and kicking- back.

Many islands in south east asia are now overdeveloped for tourism and their beauty and isolation somewhat compromised because of it. These little islands in Myanmar though are still uninhibited, untamed and au-naturale. Well worth the trip even if pricey at $180 dollars all in, but it’s difficult to put a price-tag on that experience.

The logistics involved with getting to the jumping off point, the town of Kawthuang, were not clear when we arrived at the Thai frontier. To be fair, everyone was helpful and finding a boat (yes this is a by sea entry point) to take us across on the 30 minute ride to Myanmar was easy. After some bargaining with eager drivers, it cost us about $7 to get ourselves and bikes across. When arriving in Kawthuang  remember to report to immigration at the dock. We forgot to do this for 5 hours and only remembered when sipping beers after we had ridden right out of town to Pulo Tonton island, a good place to go as an out-and-back day ride if you want to experience the diverse culture of this part of the country. Thankfully the immigration process when we arrived back in to Kawthuang town was simple and involves no more payment.

I have mixed feelings about the town.  It sure is different to Thailand; Intermittent power, Indian/Malay food and spices, ludicrously cheap drinks ($2 for a litre of Rum). Overall I think the change of environment and atmosphere broke up our Thai ride perfectly. However, we sure were glad to get back to 7-eleven and Cafe Amazon land, with a fresh 30 day stamp in our passports.

We chose Life Seeing Tours for the islands. They were fine. I think there must be some tacit collusion on pricing between operators. Many service the wealthier tourists staying at the Victoria Cliff Resort and pick up from there and Kawthuang’s main pier.

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Your School’s GSA May Be Saving Lives

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Before school-shooting survivor, Emma Gonzáles, burst into the public spotlight for her role in pressing U.S. legislators to tighten up gun control, she was contributing to a life-saving cause of another sort. Emma Gonzales is the president of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s gay-straight alliance (GSA).

GSAs are clubs to provide support and safety for gender and sexual minority (GSM) students, and to improve the campus climate for this demographic. The acronym GSA historically stands for Gay-Straight Alliance, but has been updated by some to mean Genders & Sexualities Alliance, a more accurate reflection of the youth running them. Allies are usually invited to participate, providing an outlet for heterosexual, cisgender students and faculty to acknowledge their privilege and contribute to making schools more inclusive.

GSAs originated in American high schools in the 1980s[1], but have spread around the world since. These alliances change – and even save – lives. Here’s how:

Gender and sexual minority (sometimes called LGBTQ+) students are more likely than their heterosexual, cisgender peers to miss school because they feel unsafe, to achieve lower grades, and to report less support from teachers and other adults at school[2]. Indeed, large-scale studies show that the vast majority of students who do not identify as heterosexual and cisgender are subject to frequent verbal and physical harassment and discrimination at school, at the hands of both students and faculty, based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation[3][4]. Furthermore, this stigmatizing school climate leads to serious negative outcomes for GSM students, including increased risk of mental health issues and suicidality[5][6][7].

Fortunately, GSAs make a concrete positive impact on school climate, and can mitigate these serious risks. For example, students attending schools with a GSA reported significantly higher feelings of school belonging compared with those who attend a school without a GSA[8]. Schools with GSAs see lower truancy rates for their GSM students[9]. GSA presence is associated with significantly lower levels of homophobic victimization and fear of safety at school[10], and can improve overall GSM student well-being[11]. In fact, the mere presence of a gay-straight alliance at school has been reported as more impactful on GSM students’ well-being than whether they had actually been a member or participated in the club in any way, so it’s worth hosting even if only a few students attend[12]. GSAs have even been associated, in multiple studies, with lowering the suicide risk for sexual minority youth[13][14]. These organizations make a difference.

Most of the studies on GSAs have been carried out in the U.S., but it stands to reason that their impact may be felt at least as strongly where they are present in international settings. Seeing as plenty of international school students are limited by language skills or cultural barriers from joining organizations in the local community, school is often the hub of social support for our expat children. Your school’s GSA may be the only option for students to meaningfully connect with other GSM children.

GSAs may be unsafe for students in some countries, where gender and sexual non-conformity is harshly penalized, so exercise caution according to your context. If you are in a place where these groups are possible, I encourage you to attend a meeting or event with your school’s GSA to show encouragement for the students running it, and for the many other children who are quietly noticing your support. If your school does not yet host a GSA (you may be surprised to learn that they do exist in conservative regions and in religious schools), this resource from GLSEN offers a how-to guide for getting started.

Tell us about your school’s GSA: what impact does the group make in the city/country where you work? 


[1] Russell, S., Muraco, A., Subramaniam, A., & Laub, C. (2009). Youth Empowerment and High School Gay-Straight Alliances. J Youth Adolescence, 38, 891-903.

[2] IOM (Institute of Medicine). (2011). The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

[3] Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Giga, N. M., Villenas, C., & Danischewski, D. J. (2016). The 2015 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in our nation’s schools. New York, NY: GLSEN.

[4] HRC (Human Rights Campaign). (2012). Growing up LGBT in America.

[5] Hatzenbuehler, M. L. & Pachankis, J. E. (2016). Stigma and minority stress as social determinants of health among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth:                Research evidence and clinical implications. Pediatric Clinics of North America,        63(6), 985-997.

[6] Lick, D. J., Durso, L. E., & Johnson, K. L. (2013). Minority stress and physical health among sexual minorities. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(5), 521-548.

[7] Russell, S. T. & Joyner, K. (2001). Adolescent sexual orientation and suicide risk: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 1276-1281.

[8] Heck, N., Flentje, A., & Cochran, B. (2011). Offsetting Risks: High School Gay-Straight Alliances and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Youth. School PsychologyQuarterly, 26(2), 161-174.

[9] Poteat, V. P., DiGiovanni, C. D., Sinclair, K. O., Koenig, B. W., & Russell, S. T. (2012). Gay-straight alliances are associated with student health: A multischool comparison of LGBTQ and heterosexual youth. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 23(2), 319-330.

[10] Marx, R. A. & Kettrey, H. H. (2016). Gay-straight alliances are associated with lower levels of school-based victimization of LGBTQ+ youth: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45, 1269-1282.

[11] Toomey, R. B., Ryan, C., & Diaz, R. M. (2011). High school gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and young adult well-being: An examination of GSA presence, participation, and perceived effectiveness. Applied Developmental Science, 15(4), 175-185.

[12] Toomey, R. B., McGuire, J. K., & Russell, S. T. (2012). Heteronormativity, school climates, and perceived safety for gender nonconforming peers. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 187-196.

[13] Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Birkett, M., Van Wagenen, A., & Meyer, I. H. (2014). Protective School Climates and Reduced Risk for Suicide Ideation in Sexual Minority Youths. American Journal of Public Health, 104(2), 279-286.

[14] Goodenow, C., Szalacha, L. & Westheimer, K. (2006). School support groups, other school factors, and the safety of sexual minority students. Psychology in the Schools, 43(5), 573-589.

Education Project: Back to School – Briefly

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One of our aims while cycling around the world is to visit schools along the way and to engage students in workshops in order to develop our educational project:


We had the pleasure of visiting Tara Pattana International School in Pattaya, Thailand, a couple of weeks ago to do just that. I have to admit, I was a little nervous. We have been out of the classroom for 9 months and running a workshop is very different to teaching your own class in familiar surroundings.

We needn’t have worried though. We cycled through the school gates and made our way to the office where there was a big welcome sign for us! The school had also arranged their own teddies on bicycles at the front of the stage so we felt right at home. It turned out that the school was holding a Bike Day the following weekend (similar to the Cylothon we organised at a previous school) so the timing of our visit was great.

We set up our tent and props, familiarised ourselves with the tech and prepared to share our journey with the whole elementary school in a presentation. Matthew teaches secondary while I work in elementary so it was a new challenge for us to present as a team. Matthew took on the role of on-stage presenter while I wandered amongst the children, encouraging interaction and questions.  We showed photos and videos, played guessing games, had the students try some of our gear and answered questions. In our excitement, we ended up rambling on for quite a long time (probably a bit too long) but the students were kind to us and listened attentively. We were surprised and delighted to receive very useful gifts of caps and water bottles.

After the presentation, two classes stayed behind for the workshop. They shared stories that ranged from historical accounts of battles to local folktales, favorite foods, family moments, unicorn adventures and more. We enjoyed chatting with the students so much that we slightly lost track of time and had to rush to photograph the students and their stories for uploading to our growing online library before they went off for lunch.

Just before home time, the students gathered once more to be awarded the badges they had earned during the workshop. We had group photos, said our goodbyes, packed up our bikes…. and then it started lashing rain. The children kept us entertained while we waited for a break in the weather with LOTS of questions and some good advice too. One girl told us about a particular doll that she thought we would really like and where to buy it. Another boy asked how old I was when I learned to cycle (7 but then had to learn again at 24 after more than a decade without a bike).

The rain eased off and we made a break for it – until we were stopped by the very friendly member of the school community for a coffee and chat at the school cafe. We hadn’t been to a school with a cafe before but it seemed like a great idea. Parents could socialise while waiting to pick up their children and teachers could come find them there if they needed a quick chat.

After one last photo to remember our visit we cycled back to our hotel and prepared to head south the next day.


I realised that evening that you can take a teacher out of the IB but you can’t take the IB out of a teacher. How do I know this? Because the first thing I did back at the hotel was to open up a memo on my phone and write down what went well and what could be improved for next time. Without realising it, I had written…. A REFLECTION!

Click here to read the stories we gathered at Tara Pattana International School along with many others.

Videos of our adventures can be found on our YouTube channel.

School Shooters Are Male (and this isn’t just an American problem)


Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

The hegemonic definition of manhood is a man in power, a man with power, and a man of power[1].

Masculinity has been studied by social scientists, and broken down into core dimensions that many of us recognize. Masculinity means[2]:

  • Femininity Avoidance & Homophobia
  • Status & Achievement
  • Dominance/Power/Control
  • Toughness & Aggression
  • Restricted Emotionality

Toxic masculinity is when these dimensions are expressed in harmful ways.

In addition to (not instead of) gun restrictions[3], consider how social gender norms contribute to the school shooting epidemic. Mass shooters are almost invariably cisgender males. (Those who commit homicide in the U.S. are also overwhelmingly male, comprising more than 90% of cases where the murder’s gender is known). If this was simply a biological issue, then all cisgender men would be murderers. But, of course, they are not. This is a sociological issue.

Boys are fed the message, from a young age, that their masculinity is of paramount importance, and that they must actively maintain it lest they be figuratively castrated. Sissy, or other feminine insinuations, are perhaps the greatest insult for a male. Only more offensive might be fag[4], and other slurs that connote a lack of both masculinity and heterosexual prowess.

Social media has done a nice job of pointing out the lengths men may go to in order to clutch onto their male identity. The hashtag #fragilemasculinity pulls up a range of contortions designed to reassure men that they are, indeed, men. It might seem funny that anyone would require his bath products to be shaped like grenades, but the underlying message is serious: boys, your masculinity defines you, and it’s at risk – take steps, even irrational and bizarre steps – to protect it.

There are several ways to try to fit into the masculine mold. Referring back to the bullet (no pun intended) points above, one of the most effective methods to keep up your perceived masculine levels is to exude heterosexuality. Social norms would have us believe that masculinity and heterosexuality are mutually-dependent, that you can’t claim one without the other[5]. Therefore, to be considered masculine enough, boys must also show that they are firmly and indisputably straight.

Another way to assert masculinity is to display power. As masculinity is so inextricably tied to power, males are taught to claim and exert power in order to stay in the boys’ club. This power can take a variety of formats, but physical power and aggression is a high marker of manliness. So, the fierce guy with muscles who attracts the girls is on top of the pyramid of masculinity. But how about the (many, many, many) young boys in our schools who do not fit this description?

Some find productive, alternative ways to achieve status (i.e. Tim Cook or Morgan Freeman style). Some find healthier ways to understand their own masculinity (and sexuality), and live comfortably outside of the constricting social norms of their gender. And others struggle and bash around inside that rigid, narrow box, looking for a way to exist, to prove their worth, to Be. A. Man.

If this struggle brings up feelings, acknowledging them is to further emasculate oneself. From the bullet points above, restricted emotionality is a major element of traditional masculinity, so great displays of emotion are contrary to these boys’ search to become men. The one exception to this rule is anger: boys can get angry without being accused of being effeminate. So, anger may become a default emotion for boys, replacing other strong feelings like sadness, shame, fear, and loneliness.

In America, these males, pressed with the burden of traditional masculine norms, but unable to fulfil them to our social standards, can find incredible, breathtaking, earth-shattering power behind the sight of an assault rifle. And they do. In the hallways of schools. There have been 270 school shootings in America since Columbine in 1999. Ninety-six percent of them were committed by males.

Outside the U.S., we have the advantage of government regulations that significantly reduce the risk of a school shooting. Still, while young boys in international schools who battle with the heavy, unreasonable expectations of masculinity may not be armed to commit mass murder, this does not mean it isn’t hurting them. Toxic masculinity exists, and does harm, world-wide.

Educators can help. Question gender norms at your school. Point them out, analyze them, wonder aloud – with your students – about their ridiculousness and the damage they may be doing. Select literature that portrays male protagonists who defy traditional masculinity. Avoid perpetuating gender stereotypes when you talk to and about children. De-emphasize heteronormative sexual relationships, such as those endorsed by prom and over-the-top, public promposals (especially on campus). Check your curriculum for signs of institutionalized heteronormativity. Teach little boys about the range of human emotions; let boys cry. Allow a flexible space for students to define their own gender and sexuality. Reiterate these messages in official policy documents.

Also, provide students with alternative ways to exercise power. Teach all children, including those who identify as male, to make a positive difference in other people’s lives, to contribute to a cause greater than themselves, and to help those who need it most. This is where their power lies.

How do you challenge traditional gender norms in your school?

[1] Kimmel, M.S. (1994). Masculinities as homophobia: Fear, shame, and silence in the construction of gender identity. In Brod, H. & Kaufman, M. (Eds.) Theorizing masculinities. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

[2]Zurbriggen, E. (2010). Rape, war, and the socialization of masculinity: Why our refusal to give up war ensures that rape cannot be eradicated. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 538-549.

[3] The message in this post is in no way intended to conflict with the underlying problem of Americans having easy access to guns. Get 100% of guns out of the hands of civilians, and you’ll get a 100% reduction in school shootings, even with no adjustment to gender norms. As a vegetarian, I do not even advocate for the right of hunters to bear arms. As far as I’m concerned, no civilian needs, deserves, or is entitled to a gun. I am completely supportive of banning firearms from the public altogether.

[4] Pascoe, C. J. (2007). Dude, you’re a fag: Masculinity and sexuality in high school. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

[5] Bem, S. (1993). The lenses of gender: Transforming the debate on sexual inequality. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Teach the Child – Part 2 (Inclusion)

​So a couple of weeks ago we hosted a regional conference as part of our journey towards inclusion initiative. We were treated to an incredibly inspiring weekend by our friends at Next Frontier Inclusion, who helped us to imagine a future where as international schools, we open our doors to ALL children. NFI didn’t just help us imagine this future, they gave us concrete processes, protocols and policies to help us build capacity within our individual schools, which ultimately will clear a path toward successful implementation. The conference was so powerful in so many ways, and we all left there with a shared commitment and vision of how to bring this to life for our communities.

I have to admit that I’m a little biased in my thinking because this is a true passion of mine, and something that I believe in very strongly. I mentioned in last week’s post, that children with learning differences will go on to rule the world, and that one child can change a school culture in positive and profound ways…those statements are absolutely true. One of the most inspiring parts of the weekend for me was listening to the parent and student panels, where kids and adults alike shared their stories and their recommendations and their hearts around how by including and celebrating students with learning differences, lives have been changed immeasurably for the better. It brought to light the realization for everyone in that room that ALL students can learn, and when given the right structure and support and attention, students with learning differences can be change agents not just for our schools, but for our world.

With this in mind, I want to say that it’s time for all international schools to go take a look at their mission and vision statements, as well as their core values and admissions policies, to see if there is a specific mention of inclusion and diversity. If not, then I’m suggesting that it’s time to make some edits…not just because it’s the right thing to do, especially in the time in which we currently live, but because there is research around how diversity and inclusion in schools actually has tremendous benefits for ALL students…academically and social-emotionally. If an international school hasn’t yet begun a journey toward inclusion, then I’m suggesting that it’s time. As an international community, we have such power and opportunity to affect change for our global world…international schools educate literally thousands of young people who will quickly go on to be leaders in every corner of our globe…our world needs these young leaders to value diversity, and to embrace inclusion, and to have empathetic and socially conscious hearts and minds…and it start with us as schools and as educators.

We are sending our young people out into the world everyday, and that world is a diverse place as we all know. Different races and religions and genders and sexual orientations and cultures and everything else. It’s these differences that make us stronger, and it’s these differences that if we learn to positively leverage them with our kids, can ultimately go on to change our world for the better. It just makes sense to set up a school structure that mirrors what our kids see outside our school walls…doesn’t it? Anyway, I want to leave you with a quote from the NFI website, which discusses the power of going down this road as a school…”Rising to the greater challenge of meeting more diverse needs has raised our overall game, making us smarter thinkers, smarter problem solvers, and critically, smarter teachers. In the end, inclusion has made us a better school, in all senses of the word”

I’m so proud to have worked in schools like Academia Cotopaxi, and now the American School of Paris, where the idea of a truly inclusive school is a foundational part of who they are…and thank you Next Frontier Inclusion for leading the way, and for inspiring us all to join you on this journey…just think of what the destination will look like! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.


Quote of the Week – 

If Diversity is like being invited to the party, then inclusion is being asked to dance

– Homa Tavangar


Next Frontier Inclusion Articles


Interesting Articles –

How Diversity Makes us Smarter

Inclusive Education and Its Benefits

Benefits of an Inclusive Classroom

5 Advantages of an Inclusive Classroom

Diversity Actually Makes Us Smarter

Why Diverse Teams are Smarter


Inspiring Videos –

Make An Impact

The Power of Inclusive Education

Start Your impossible #1

Start Your Impossible #2

Start Your Impossible #3

If the World Were a Village
Ruby’s Story


TED Talks –

Top 5 Talks on Diversity and Inclusion

Carpool Karaoke

You ever watch Carpool Karaoke with James Corden? If you haven’t you’re missing a real treat. If you’ve ever driven a car, you have certainly sung along with your favorite tunes on the radio. It’s fun, it’s liberating, and you don’t care what you sound like.

Imagine if class was like that?

Now, I’m not saying that most of you teachers are not fun and liberating, but I’ve been in a lot of classes in my lifetime and a lot of them not liberating. I think that’s why I went into the business, to resist that feeling that I had when I was in school.

When I watch Carpool, I see really famous people not afraid to be themselves, actually showing how nervous they are, and just being real people. It’s therapy in an amazing way. On one episode, Ed Sheeran told James that he was extremely nervous to be on the show Ed Sheeran!. It was shocking to hear that such a famous person could be nervous. He said it was because he needed his guitar as “armor” as James put it. What does that say about how he grew up and was able to face the things he did to become who he is today? Did school help or hurt that process? Did it liberate him? Hmmm.

I’ve watched episodes with Elton John, Beyoncé, Sam Smith, Adele, Miley Cyrus and every time I smile because I see how much joy they are having in the simple act of singing along with the radio in a car. The simple act of un-judged expression. The freedom to express without judgement. Isn’t that where creativity begins?

We have elevators in my school. Only the Seniors can ride in them as a privilege. They are in the middle of “mock exams” right now for the IB which is another expression for preparing for war. The kids are stressed out, overtired, and on the edge of collapse. I’ve tried to resist that stress put on them but it’s a machine that goes well beyond me.

So, I do my own Carpool Karaoke. When I’m riding in the elevator with a group of them, I start “Elevator Karaoke.” Sometimes I bring printed lyrics so that they can get the words. It’s liberating, a little awkward, and really, really fun.

Then the door opens and we all go back to work.

Keeping Your Campus Safe: Access Levels and Groups

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

I spend much of my time thinking like a cyber attacker. I read about how various threat vectors are introduced into systems. I imagine the scenario with regard to my school and network. I simulate those threat vectors, and test the boundaries inside and outside of the school.

I empathize with all those people in the world trying to make schools safe, without destroying the open and harmonious structure many educators are trying to maintain. The task seems overwhelming.

I listen to and read ridiculous arguments that are only viable arguments after the fact. I have been a bystander, simply empathizing. However, I do I have some ideas on how to make campuses safer.

This will be a two part post. I am going to explain how to use common strategies employed in network security (hopefully most campuses are already following these strategies) to enhance physical safety and security.

The NESA Conference

A few years ago I attended a conference in Dubai hosted by The Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools (NESA). I attended a full workshop on school security lead by a US Military specialist who helped embassies, and schools with embassy children, harden their security.

From my participation and review of my notes, I realized that the strategies taught in the workshop were very similar to strategies used in network security. Since then, I have used these strategies to enhance network security in very “aggressive” security environments.

One of the main areas that resonated with me was access levels and access groups.

Understanding Access Levels and Groups

Within the school community there are three main Access Levels. They govern foundational access to the school. Each one has groups within it, and in some cases, sub-groups.

Main Access Levels

  1. Active and Enrolled
  2. Deactivated and Unenrolled
  3. Potential and Unknown


  1. Students
  2. Teachers
  3. Administration and Support Staff
  4. Parents
  5. Third Party Support (Government Inspections, Sub-Contractors, etc. )

Schools tend to obsess over Level 3 (L3), Potential and Unknown. They are following the “stranger danger” philosophy even though statistics tell us that most violent crimes occur within Level 1 and 2 (L1 and L2). Because of this fear of strangers, the main areas of risk are often not fully vetted for loopholes.

Each level and group must have a protocol to follow when coming to the campus. These protocols can take the form of nice waiting lobbies, parking lots far from the main building, finger print scanning for employees, etc. Protocols do not have to be impolite or obtrusive.

If a single group in a single level is left without a protocol, then a loophole is created. A threat from that loophole is then possible.

In fact, new families wanting to enroll in the school fall into L3, yet their only motivation is to apply for education, or enroll in a new public school. They would be more harshly scrutinized than a parent of a currently enrolled student.

Why doesn’t that logic make sense? Because good security follows a simple common sense concept: never trust, always verify. In network security many people refer to the most stringent of these practices as Zero Trust Architecture. Or simply, just because we let you attend the school, does not mean you are shielded from on-going verification.

This is the same reason wifi networks need usernames and passwords; and passwords need to be changed and not recycled on a regular basis.

School Uniform Protocols Are A Good Example of a Security Loophole

School uniforms bind students together. As a large group, they all basically look the same. If a young child is wandering aimlessly around the campus without a uniform, every adult can quickly conclude that the child is not enrolled in the school; and they are missing their guardian. Simply not having the uniform allows quick action and decision.

In the early 2000s, I was walking through the hallway of my high school building. I noticed a student, in uniform, but I had never seen the student before. There was no notice of a new student sent around to the staff. I immediately engaged the student in conversation, and very quickly realized that they were not enrolled in the school. As a prank, they had stolen an old uniform from an actual student, and came to our school for a day.

Schools ask families to buy uniforms, but how many manage uniforms when students leave the school? How often do they change the design, the logo, the patch, etc. ?

To eliminate the uniform loophole, schools could issue a removable patch to students that changes annually, and then collect the patch when the term ends. Schools could offer a used uniform buy-back program and then recycle the clothing to a charity outside the immediate area. Without some type of plan, used uniforms create the potential for a security issue.

The students in L1 and L2 have the uniforms, no one in L3 would be able to easily buy one without proof of enrollment. Worrying about the L3 people getting a new uniform from a shop without proof of enrollment is statistically flawed. The real issue are those who know about the uniforms, have access to the uniforms, and know the loopholes in the planning. The real problem are those trusted once, and never re-verified.

In part 2, I will discuss how segmenting levels and groups can work without upsetting the physical environment. This will be based off of common techniques used in Wifi network management from schools to Starbucks.


Killed by a Stranger: A Rare Event, but a Rising Fear


Biking Stuff: Three Most Memorable Experiences in Cambodia

Follow our bicycle journey around the world at or on Facebook.

Cambodia is a relatively small country with surprising variety – from the unpopulated, rural northeast to the more touristy beaches of the south coast. Our bicycle touring journey took us from Stung Treng at the northern border with Laos, south-east to Ho-Chi Minh in Vietnam and then west to Cambodia again (Ha Tien border) before cycling the coast all the way to Thailand through the border at Koh Kong. Click here for interactive maps of our Cambodia and Vietnam routes.

Here is a summary of our three most memorable experiences in Cambodia:

1.  Rural Adventure

If you enjoy getting off the beaten track, then I highly recommend trying the Mekong Discovery Trail. We took this route on a whim as an alternative to the busy highway and can honestly say that in the 7000km we have cycled so far, this trail has been our biggest adventure. It’s also a great chance to visit some rural villages which don’t see as many tourists and to interact with friendly Cambodian people. The trail starts in Stung Treng on a wide, unsealed but easy to ride path through small villages with cute children shouting hello. Next, you’ll need to use your negotiation skills to arrange boat crossings to first, a smaller and more populated island (Koh Preah) and then to a much bigger and wilder island in the Mekong (Koh Rougniv). On this island, you will push through deep sand, do battle with overgrown forests and have the occasional encounter with water buffalo, Click herefor a detailed description of this trail along with helpful tips and photos. We did this trail by bike but it could possibly be done by an intrepid hiker who is prepared to be self-sufficient and carry all camping gear and food. Now that I think about it, with the amount of walking we ended up doing when we couldn’t ride the bikes through the sand, it’s probably just as fast done on foot. Well, not really… but that’s how it felt.

2. Paradise Beaches

When people heard that we were heading towards the coast of Cambodia, they kept telling us we to “get yourselves to Otres. It’s a great place to chill out.” Well, we did get ourselves to Otres. When we made the turn off from the main road and cycled down towards the beach, we were feeling a bit dubious about it – lots of new construction sites, heavy trucks on the road and a lot of rubbish. To be honest, we were really unimpressed. We were even less impressed when we got to the village and saw the Costa-Del-Sol-style premier league bars and pizza places. But once we crossed the road and pushed our bikes onto the beach, we got what everyone was raving about. A long, quiet stretch of white sandy beach with crystal clear shallow water. We didn’t waste a minute, quickly finding a nearby tree to rest our bikes against. I clumsily got into my bikini while Matthew just ran straight in with his bike shorts. Brilliant reward after 6 months of cycling towards the sea. We stayed in Vacation Bungalows at the end of a cul-de-sac in the village, a short walk to the beach where there are loads of cool bars and restaurants to chill out in. Our favourite was Mom’s Kitchen on the Beach for pure relaxation of Papa Pippo for a great pizza (even though I just complained about all the pizza places a few sentences before).

Now, this beach was stunning, but it pales in comparison to what we were about to see when we went for a mini holiday on Koh Rong.  We decided not to take our bikes to the island because it is hilly with only one bad road and most of the beaches and resorts are accessed by boat. We left a pile of laundry to be done at our hotel, ready to pick up on our return and the owners kindly allowed us to lock our bikes and extra baggage there too. Our ferry and pick-up to get to the ferry was arranged from the bungalow too. It always feels strange to have somebody else organising your transport when you are so used to just getting on the bike and going when you are ready. Ferry was fine but  it turned out that they’ve stopped using the pier at Sok San so we had to get a pick up truck to drive us all the way across the island to our resort. It was a bit bumpy and dusty but fine in the end. When we walked down through the resort and onto the beach, I knew I had made it to paradise. Almost nobody else in sight on the long beach and the bluest, warmest, clearest water I have ever seen. I alternated between giddy excitement and blissful relaxation for 48 hours, rarely leaving the beach. We stayed in Coconut Blvd which has rooms for about 40 dollars including breakfast. It was clean, with a fan and a decent bathroom. Good food in the restaurant and nice smoothies and drinks at the beach bar. Free use of kayaks and snorkels. It was hard to leave here but after 4 rest days we were actually starting to miss the bikes and were looking forward to a new adventure on the road to Thailand.

3. Eco-tourism Community

The Chi Phat eco-tourism village is a 17km detour from the main Sihanoukville (or Phnom Penh) to Koh Kong road. This is one of the few eco-communities we’ve seen that honestly seem to be making an effort to protect the ecosystems and environment around them. We only spent one night there but in that short time we swam in a waterfall, lounged in its lower pools, watched chipmunks in the trees while having a shower (we were showering, not the chipmunks) and ate delicious food. We cycled the 17km from the main road on a sandy but fun road suitable for bikes and cars. You can also access the village by hiring a motorbike taxi or boat from Andoung Teuk village. There are homestays everywhere in this village and the names are fantastic: Laced Woodpecker Homestay, Marbled Cat Guesthouse, Crab-eating Macaque Guesthouse, Purple Sunbird Homestay to name but a few. We stayed in Sunbear Bungalows with mosquito net, fan and a bathroom for about 15 dollars. We had to check in at the tourist centre to be registered first. Electricity is limited in this village. It comes on in the morning for a few hours and again in the evening for a few hours. But by chance, we arrived on Saturday and found out that they had electricity all day. There is wifi at the tourist centre and at Cardamom Cottages. The restaurant at Cardamom Cottages does an excellent breakfast of fried eggs, pancakes with chocolate sauce (Hersheys!), fruit and coffee for $2,50 per person.

In Summary

The beaches definitely stood out the most for me after having lived in a double landlocked country for 3 years and then cycling another 6 months without seeing the sea. I had built up huge expectations in my head over the years and these beaches absolutely lived up to every one. Also, if you are slightly antisocial like me and you like a beach with hardly anyone else on it – Koh Rong’s Long Beach is perfect.

I’d also recommend the route we took in Cambodia for bike touring beginners or anyone who doesn’t enjoy going up mountains (like myself). It was almost completely flat in the east coming down from Laos and just a hilly 100km or so before Koh Kong. It was very manageable and perfect for getting our bike fitness back after a month off for Christmas.

I don’t think we appreciated it enough while we were there but, looking back now, I really enjoyed my short time in Cambodia (2 weeks) and would definitely go back again.

Hope this gives you some ideas for planning your own Cambodian adventure. Click here for interactive maps of our Cambodia and Vietnam routes.

Comment below and tell us which experience intrigues you the most. Rural Adventure, Paradise Beaches or Eco-tourism Community?

Videos of our adventures can be found on our YouTube channel.

Teach the Child – Part 1

So today I’m going to share the first part of a three part post that will revolve around the ideas of inclusion, student agency, and what I’m going to call empathy based learning. I have been fortunate enough over the past several weeks to have gone through some incredible professional learning sessions, which included both consultants and conferences, and it all has me thinking critically about what I believe to be the essential elements of education as we move “school” forward in today’s complicated and rapidly changing world.

I want to say that in many cases, in my opinion anyway, we have our approach to school and education absolutely backwards…flipped the wrong way around. We continue to focus on the wrong things as we try and prepare our kids for their future and for their NOW. Many schools (maybe the majority of schools, including international schools) are still heavily reliant on content, and subjects, and classroom silos that are very much teacher directed, and they are very, very slow to change. As a global community, we are missing so many opportunities to educate and empower our kids to be great people…not great students…but great people, great human beings who bring joy and acceptance and kindness and service and love and individual passions to life for our world.

Rolling our kids through the tired industrial model and approach to school, which most of us continue to employ in one way or another, just isn’t good enough anymore, and it certainly isn’t what our kids need from us as educators…they need more, and they need different, and they need change. They need and deserve opportunities to lead their own learning journey, to find their passions and sparks, and to move at their own pace. They need to be celebrated for their individuality, their uniqueness, their differences, and they need to know that student success isn’t some cookie-cutter formula that is represented by grades and tests and how much they know about a certain topic that has no personal and relevant meaning to them whatsoever…students need to have a voice, and we need to listen.

Kids need to be able to create, and to innovate, and to question, and they need to understand that “school” doesn’t have to be the same for everyone…it can be a place where they can to work together, and alone, to solve problems, real-world problems that will affect change for their local and global community…a place where their education is personalized and tailored to their interests and strengths and passions and how they best learn…a place where success is measured by effort and failing forward and by the questions that they ask…a  place where kids of all abilities (physical and intellectual), and genders, and races, and religions, and all else are taught to see people as inherently good, and able to contribute in profound ways just by being who they are.

Essentially, we need to teach the individual child, not the content. We need to teach the individual child, not the subject. We need to teach not just with a focus on growing their minds, but with a razor-sharp focus on growing their hearts. Let’s all start there and see where it goes…it’s no secret that our world needs this as much as our kids these days. So, there you have it…next week I’m going to talk specifically about school inclusion, on the heels of an amazing NFI conference that we hosted just last week. Inclusion by the way, is a perfect place to start the journey toward the change that I’m talking about. Oh and just so you know, students with learning differences will go on to rule the world…you heard it here first. It’s time to leverage what they can bring to our school…it only takes one child to completely change a culture and community for the better. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…

If a child is off task, perhaps the problem is not the child, but the task

-Alfie Kohn


Inspiring Videos –

Dear Teacher

Teach Inspiration

More Alike Than Different

The Present

Student Voice


Related Articles on Inclusion and Learning Differences –

Together We Learn Better

5 Benefits of an Inclusive Classroom

The Value of Inclusive Education

The Principles of Inclusion

Moving Toward Inclusion

What are Classroom Like?

7 Must Have App and Tools

Just wondering about attending a recruitment fair…as a recruiter.

As a candidate, I attended several recruitment fairs, organised by several agencies in London and Bangkok. I know that it is not usual, but I love them. Going from interviews to interviews, talking to great school leaders, starting imagining a new life in a new country-this buzz is hard to describe but I really enjoy it.

Community and surreal feeling

So, this year, for the first time as a recruiter, I attended the Search Associates fair in Cambridge with my school Director. One of the first thing I was reminded was that most school leaders know each other and it was not unusual to see some fall in each other’s arms. To me, the fair had could be seen as a very large family reunion where you might not recognise some distant cousins or great aunts, but you end up having a great time re-connecting with closer people. In my case it was amazing to bump into a previous colleague from Istanbul who now works in China, and meet up with several of my PTC workshop facilitators, with school leaders that my Director kindly introduced me to, with the TIE CEO and Editor and more. It felt awesome to be surrounded by good people. At the same time, there is something surreal during recruitment fairs. First, it was very cold in Boston (the river was frozen) and we were super comfortable in the hotel, nearly too hot. Furthermore, the concentration of people, in a short amount of time (3 days) adds to this special feeling: the hotel seemed to be taken over by us, more than 500 people looking for the best jobs or looking for the best educators for their schools. In the workrooms, in the mailroom, in the presentation rooms, at breakfasts, dinners and cocktails, even in the elevator: running into people who did not have a Search name tag was an exception. So, you have to be on, as soon as you leave your bedroom, and this is an incomparable yet surreal experience. 


I also noticed the importance of collaboration. As an educator looking for a job, the search is a lonely experience: you have to be good, be ready to think fast and connect with your family back home when offers are on the table, but this is pretty much it. As a recruiter, each conversation needs to be debriefed with your colleagues both at the fair and back at school.

Despite the short amount of time, I managed to keep my interview routine: 1) informal chat to see if there might be a fit before offering a formal interview: that happened at the sign-up sessions and it was faster than in a more traditional hiring process.

2) formal interview: the location of the interview adds to the unreal feeling during a job fair as the interviews take place in the recruiters’ bedrooms. It was not news to me, but still…

3) second conversation with a colleague: at the fair, this was with the Director since she was with me, but usually that would be with another member of the High School. At the fair, we virtually invited colleagues from Quito so that they could join the interviews.

4) last conversation with the Director: at this point, I hope to bring the candidates that represent a good fit.


I did not count how many interviews I had with candidates, but I had a lot. Days were packed. And I had fantastic conversations with awesome people. While some candidates were maybe not the right fit for our school, I was always happy about what we talked about. So happy that I actually consciously paused several times and said to myself: not only is this chat very interesting but I am learning a lot here!


I also noticed how important it is to be clear. Ambiguity in those conversations tend to waste everybody’s time. It is sometimes hard, but in this short amount of time, it is crucial. Crucial for recruitment fairs, crucial in a more traditional hiring process. Being transparent right from the early stages is beneficial for everyone since recruiter’s interview candidates, but candidates also interview schools.

Personal experience

Everyone must experience recruitment fairs differently.  Some people do not enjoy those and some, like me, feel very comfortable in this atmosphere. Whether you like it or not, however, it is a very efficient way to have candidates and recruiters together in the same time and space for them to talk face to face. I also vividly remember a young couple attending the fair with their little one in a pushchair and that must have been quite a special and personal experience too!

It was sometimes clear on people’s faces whether they got a job or not or that they filled all their positions or not but a sense of reality seemed to hit recruiters towards the end of the fair. Are you planning for the next fair and are you ready to dive into this again? Or do you go back to school and to your reality? In any way, it was a great learning experience and I really look forward to next year.

For what it’s worth…