Best of Saudi… Six years later

Back in 2011, we had just completed our first year living and working in Saudi Arabia.
We published a blog post on the Top 10 Best Things about Living in Saudi Arabia to our personal blog which was later published to TIE Online Blog. Now, six years later, we are finishing our 7th year in Saudi Arabia and thought there was a need for a reflection and update to this top 10.

With that said, our priorities have changed mainly because we have two children. That, along with our longevity here, has altered the list. First, let’s revisit the original:

10) Labor Costs
9) Location for Traveling
8) Bahrain
7) Shawarma
6) Availability of Food
5) Coworkers and Our Jobs
4) Gas
3) Weather
2) Housing
1) Money

Six years later…

1) Money

This is a no brainer. This was the top of our list back in 2011 and is still here. Almost no one is here for anything other than the money or perhaps family. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. We doubled our salary moving here back in 2010, and it has gone up another 50% since then. That, along with the free health care, housing, utilities, and flight money home, it is overall an outstanding package that rivals all but a very few in the world for international teaching.

2) Nursery on Campus

Again, this rises to a high spot because of we had our children in the past five years. Above all, this is what is keeping us in the country for the time being. Our school provides a free nursery on campus. So, our boys ride with us to work and ride with us home from work. They are about 100 yards away from us at all times, and the nursery care, facilities, and curriculum are outstanding. The ratio of children to staff is around 3.5:1. You would be hard pressed to find another school that has this benefit.

3) Lifestyle

This remains high on the list and has been enhanced the more we have stayed. Needless to say, we have become quite spoiled. While our compound isn’t the greatest in the city, compound life in and of itself is relaxing, fun, and enjoyable.  It can be a fishbowl at times, but you really can have as much privacy or be as social as you wish. We have a housekeeper, gardener, and guy to wash our car. Our kids can run around the compound freely at a very early age. There is a great swimming pool area and decent little recreational center. Our neighbors are our co-workers which overall is a pleasant experience, because we all know we are in this together. We’ve had some pretty cool compound parties and get togethers over the years.

4) Professional Development Opportunities

This is a new one to the list too as we didn’t quite understand how fortunate we have been to be able to attend such amazing conferences for professional development opportunities. Many of these have been paid for by the school or district, which makes it even better. We’ve had training from experts in the field of education at some of these conferences and have learned so many new skills that have allowed us to immediately impact learning in our classroom but also make us very marketable to future employers.

5) Our Respective Schools and School District

With the hire of a new superintendent four years ago, our district and school has really seen some major changes and will continue to do so for years to come. Both mine and Jamie’s schools have had their challenges in the last few years, but new leadership at the top has really made a difference. Our campus is cleaner and nicer looking, there is an increased importance in safety, technology, infrastructure, human resources, and budgeting. A new superintendent is coming in the Fall of 2017, so let’s hope he can keep up the positive momentum as our campus builds a new school to move into in 2020.

6) Friends

This seems a bit low on the list, but the sad reality is that despite all of these amazing things on this list, friends will come and go in an international lifestyle. Leaving your home country for the first time, you’ll start losing ties to those friends the longer you stay overseas. It is only natural. However especially in a place like Saudi, you’ll find many other like minded people (who else would move here?), so developing friendships sometimes happens overnight. We’ve said goodbye to many good friends but others have also come in not as a replacement but a wonderful addition into our lives. It will hit our children the hardest when we leave here next year. They’ve grown up with some of the kids on the compound, and this is truly “home” for them. Kids are resilient, and we are confident they will make new friends at our next location. Social media will ensure we can maintain close ties with everyone.

7) Weather

Again, with the exception of mid May through mid September, the weather in Saudi is amazing. The weather also allows for a lot of lifestyle activities described above on the compound. You get used to the heat, and you are able to get in a few extra months of pool time.

8) Food

We’ve come to enjoy middle eastern food quite a bit. Not only shawarma, but other foods like mixed grills and the amazing breads and cold appetizers you can get here. Our kids love the India food here as well as the Filipino bread downtown.  There has been an influx of big name western restaurants that have moved in the area such as 5 Guys, Red Lobster, and The Butcher Shop. Chik-fil-A will obviously never be here and there still isn’t a Zaxby’s, but Raisin Cane’s is coming next month.

9) Traveling

Again, this seems very low on the list, but traveling is just simply now a part of our lives. Our three and five year old boys have been to eight and 14 countries respectively. I had to retire my 10 year old passport with over 35 countries stamped, James is already on his secon passport, and Jamie will renew next year. Saudi is a fine place for traveling to not only the middle east but zipping back to southeast Asia, Africa, or to Europe. Flight costs have risen steadily, but you can still find some good deals. Our only issue is now we pay for 4 tickets instead of 2 which hurts the overall budget and limits our traveling.

10) Leaving Saudi Arabia

This used to be my #1 reason because I always though that the best thing about living here was any time you were able to leave. Saudi can be tough to live in with inefficiency, terrible and dangerous driving, extreme temperatures, sexism, racism, the inability to immerse yourself with the culture, and a wide variety of other things that can make you frustrated.

However, Saudi has been very good to us since we moved here in 2010. Summarizing this list, we’ve paid off debt, both of our children were born and raised here, we’ve had wonderful childcare every day (for free) at our school, and we’ve met some wonderful people along the way that we hope to stay in touch with for years to come. So when we finally do leave for the final time in June 2018, it’ll be very bittersweet.

Posted in Eric & Jamie | Leave a comment

You Can’t Call Your Child That: International Naming Laws

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

I am beginning preparations for our multi-legged journey of summer. Traveling with a toddler is certainly different than traveling as a couple. Forget about watching full-length films, and my liquids and gels zip-lock baggie is crammed with regulation-sized baby food pouches, instead of toiletries for myself. Plus, we plan on spending longer at immigration now, thanks to our baby’s name.

My husband and I decided to give our baby my last name (we both kept our names when we married). After our child was born, we were surprised to learn that we did not get to choose the last name; it is required by law that the father’s name be printed on birth certificates in Hong Kong. (Fortunately, as Americans, we were able to correctly register the birth with U.S. social security, so the passport does bear my family name, Meadows).

With different surnames on these two official documents, whenever we cross the Hong Kong border, there are lots of please-wait-one-moment’s and serious glances between officials. If my husband is present to reassure the concerned men in uniform, it tends to go more smoothly. Once, when traveling without him, I was asked if my husband and I were divorced. When I answered no, they inquired whether we had marital problems. I know better than to make a fuss at immigration, but I was fuming inside.

International naming laws
Naming laws are interesting. When I lived in France in the 90’s, new parents had to choose from a list of traditional, government-approved first names (mostly those of Catholic saints). This law has since been dropped, but French authorities can still reject a name if it is determined to be against the child’s best interest (Nutella, Babar, and Manhattan are apparently unacceptable). When I returned in the early 2000’s, there was a spate of French children named Dawson, from the popular American TV show, unheard of in Napoleon’s day[1].

Understandable regulatory practice?
It turns out that neither Hong Kong nor France have the most authoritarian laws when it comes to naming babies; Sweden is notoriously strict. Though, as an educator who has worked many years in early childhood classrooms, I cannot blame Swedish officials for rejecting Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (pronounced like Albin, of course). New Zealand parents can’t legally call their child King, 4Real, or Mafia No Fear. Twins in New York, however, were legally named Winner and Loser. Again, as someone whose career revolves around children’s well-being, this dichotomous choice is difficult to understand.

Or perpetuation of hierarchical social structure?
In international education, I have taught children with names that may not be familiar to Anglophones. But, to the family, these names are cherished. At what point, are a family’s wishes less important than the (culturally-biased) judgment of the government?

Around the world, sexism is passed down through our naming structures. One study[2] explains that, in Botswana, girls are commonly given names that refer to appearance, while boys are given names associated with power or intellect. “The proper naming system is an example of the way this society uses language to legitimize gender imbalances”.

Male dominance has been maintained through naming laws. I dated a French man who did not know his father, but carried his last name from birth. My then-beau and his mother petitioned the courts several times to change his family name to that of the woman who raised him; the process took over a decade before it was successfully complete.

Gender norms, too, are perpetuated through names. Poor Blaer’s parents in Iceland were surprised to learn that they had broken the law by giving their daughter a name that was “too masculine”. “Naming customs reflect aspects of the organisation of society.”[3] Naming laws are laden with the values (i.e. religious background, sexist tradition) of those who created them and, as in our case, may not be compatible with the values of new parents.

Even if our upcoming border crossing goes without incident, pulling out my son’s documents is a reminder that he was born into a world where, more often than not, women bear children, but men have the privilege of naming them.

How have local laws impacted the process of naming your baby?

[1] Apparently, Napoleon came up with the French naming law.

[2] Rapoo, C. K. (2002). Naming practices and gender bias in the Setswana language. Women and Language, 25(1), 41.

[3] Bahr, G. & Wetherall, A. (1999). Women and their personal names: Making sense of cultural naming practices. Women’s Studies Journal, 15(1), 43.

Posted in Emily Meadows | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Thanks for the Compliment

​So a couple of days ago I was welcoming the kids off of the school buses, like I always do to start the day, when a little girl walked up to me and gave me a beautiful and heartfelt compliment. She wasn’t fishing for one herself, and she wanted absolutely nothing in return, it was just an authentic gesture that was inspired by an experience that we had both shared together just a few days earlier…and you know what, it absolutely made my day! It made me instantly think of that great Mark Twain quote, “I can live for two months on a good compliment”, and to be honest, I haven’t stopped smiling since. It got me thinking about the power of compliments, and how if given with true sincerity and at the right moment in time, they can totally be day changing…maybe even life changing. 

I came across some interesting research out there which suggests that to our brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being given money. This journal article also suggests that using compliments is an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during any form of rehabilitation, and finally how compliments can actually be an integral component of cementing a person’s skill development. This is not surprising to me at all, as I’ve seen it first hand with my students and with my own two children. I also know the positive and immediate boost that I receive when someone compliments me on something.The thing is, it’s easy to go days or even weeks without either giving or receiving one, so I think it’s time that we all start making compliment giving a priority throughout our daily routines.

We can all do a better job at not only finding opportunities to sincerely compliment the people that we come across each and every day, but also at how we receive a compliment when it’s given. It’s hard for some of us to take a compliment without becoming uncomfortable, uneasy, or even cynical about someone’s intent…it’s hard to just stand there and smile, accept it, and say a simple thank you, even if it is the best and most appropriate response.

I found another interesting article by Eric M. Roberts, which lays out six important reasons why we should all begin to compliment more. Here they are…

  • Compliments encourage others who are struggling
  • A compliments can truly be all that stands between someone being successful or giving up
  • Compliments help people learn new tasks
  • Compliments strengthen and soften relationships
  • Compliments increase our circle of influence
  • Compliments help you become less cynical

Like me, Roberts recognizes that most people are pretty stingy with the giving of unsolicited compliments, even when we know that they are a powerful and positive experience for both parties. Anyway, I’m not sure that the compliment that I received from that little girl will last me for two months, but it’s going on four days now and I’m still thinking about it…that’s pretty darn powerful. I want to challenge us all over the next few weeks, as we speed toward the end of the year, to purposely look for opportunities to make someone’s day with a compliment. Be sincere, genuine, and authentic in your delivery, and be gracious and thankful if you happen to receive one for yourself, which I know you all deserve. I’ll be spreading them around as well, and I’m excited to see the smiles. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it! – Ruthie Lindsey

 

Great Articles –

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-gottsman/conscious-relationships_b_5062756.html

https://familyshare.com/3357/the-power-of-a-compliment

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200403/the-art-the-compliment

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2012/11/09/study-receiving-a-compliment-has-same-positive-effect-as-receiving-cash/#60bb01546007

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/compliments-activate-same-part-your-brain-does-receiving-singh

 

Inspiring Videos –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opMQxa1JkuM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vik-Dy3jrE

http://edition.cnn.com/videos/health/2016/01/22/your-brain-on-compliments-sanjay-gupta-orig.cnn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5yCOSHeYn4

http://www.upworthy.com/11-times-teachers-totally-blew-us-away-with-love-for-their-students

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

Posted in Daniel Kerr | 3 Comments

Breastfeeding at School


Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

Shortly after I told my principal that I was pregnant, she let me know that she supports breastfeeding parents, and would make accommodations if I decided to go that route[1]. This was meaningful in two ways: 1) A supportive principal makes life easier and, 2) She didn’t leave it up to me to go digging around for this information. Her gesture mattered[2].

Breastfeeding can be hard; it is a round-the-clock commitment that doesn’t stop when you go to work. I’ve known more than a few mothers who have dealt with the stress of a dwindling ‘stash’ (stored frozen milk) as they transition out of maternity leave. There are several factors, however, that can make breastfeeding more do-able for working educators.

Space
As a school counselor, I had a private office buffered by a team of efficient and discreet administrative assistants. I knew I’d be able to close the door for a moment of privacy to feed my baby or express milk (known by my mama friends as ‘pumping’). Some international educators live on campus, and can pop home for a feed. But most people working in a school are surrounded by children in a room of windows for the majority of their day. What then? I’ve spoken to educators who pumped while hiding in storage closets, tucked between shelving units, and, yes, in the toilet.

“A dedicated nursing room is what’s needed. Period.”
– Breastfeeding educator in Brazil

“If the school met with the teacher before their return and asked what they needed in terms of space and time, and provided them with options, that would help a lot.”
– Breastfeeding educator in Jordan

“Parents with children under age two should be exempt from school-related travel.”
– Breastfeeding educator in Turkey

Time
Let’s say there is a satisfactory nursing room at your school. Now nursing parents must find some time in their schedule. If you are like the educators I know, you might eat lunch at 3:00 pm because that’s when your students leave. You might avoid your water bottle because you aren’t sure when you’ll next get to visit the restroom. This is the reality of working in a school. But pumping and storing breast milk for an infant can easily eat up half an hour or more several times per day. Teachers’ schedules are rigid, and their time without students is typically dedicated to important duties such as lesson planning or meeting with parents.

“If someone had offered to take my recess duty for me so I could pump, I would have broken down in tears of gratitude.
– Breastfeeding educator in Africa

“Give moms paid maternity leave and encourage them to take the full amount of leave.”
– Amanda Olson Vanderstelt, Breastfeeding international educator in Texas

Politics
Beyond finding the time and space for breastfeeding or pumping, educators may see the task is daunting for political reasons. There is a lot of judgment around how we feed our babies. Even well-meaning remarks like, “Good for you!” when I tell people I breastfeed imply that my decision is being assessed. Conversely, some people may see nursing as too personal or private for a work environment. Indeed, many women are nervous about breastfeeding outside the home. Depending on one’s relationship with school leadership and colleagues, it may be uncomfortable to ask for the time and space to pump. Providing the school’s policy upfront can reduce anxiety and create a more welcoming space for breastfeeding parents.

“Meet people where they are. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another.”
– Erin Robinson, Principal & breastfeeding mother, UWC South East Asia

“How about giving men a real paternity leave? Nursing in the first several weeks is like a full-time job. I wish my husband could have been around to help out with the tasks that started to build up at home.”
– Breastfeeding spouse of a teacher in the Middle East

“Contacts in human resources should have a working knowledge of policies related to parenting, and be available to craft a plan for employees returning from maternity and paternity leave.”
–  Breastfeeding administrator in Europe

The Law
Depending on which country you work in, there may be protections for breastfeeding parents, or not. U.S. law guarantees nursing mothers time and space (not a bathroom) for pumping on the job. The World Health Organization, however, has reported that breastfeeding laws in most countries are inadequate. International schools must uphold the laws of the country where they are located, but truly family-friendly schools will ensure that, even when not legally required, nursing parents are provided the necessary resources and support to breastfeed or pump at work.

How does your school support breastfeeding parents?  

[1] There are benefits to breastfeeding, and benefits to formula feeding. The decision of how to nourish a child is extremely personal, and this post is in no way meant to be an endorsement of breastfeeding over formula.

[2] This was Maya Nelson at Hong Kong International School, who has also seen to it that a breastfeeding/pumping/feeding room with changing table, couch, and private bathroom has been built into the school’s new campus.

Posted in Emily Meadows | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Appreciating Teachers

“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”  ― Jim Henson, It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider

To all of the teachers at the American School of Brasilia and around the world: Happy Teachers’ Week! Your work, dedication, and commitment to the development of others are important and deeply appreciated. To that end, the following is a link to a previous post entitled, Why I Hated Meredith’s First Grade Teacher, which shares a moving story about the difference a teacher can make in a family’s life.

Like other schools, we are commemorating this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week with a variety of activities that include a morning breakfast, a relaxation room with professional massage therapists, the distribution of school t-shirts, an afterschool social event, and a parent and embassy sponsored evening celebration.

Given the unique honour and responsibility teachers are given to guide and support learning, these words from T.H. White are for you:

 “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”  ― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Thank you, teachers, for supporting learning and making a real and positive difference in the lives of our students and greater communities.

Blog: www.barrydequanne.com

Twitter: @dequanne


EM PORTUGUÊS:

Agradecendo aos Professores

“[Crianças] não se lembram do que você tenta ensiná-las. Elas se lembram do que você é.” – Jim Henson, It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider

Desejamos a todos os professores da EAB e ao redor do mundo: Feliz Semana dos Professores! Seu trabalho, dedicação e comprometimento com o desenvolvimento das pessoas são muito importantes e profundamente apreciados. Para isso, o link a seguir é sobre uma postagem chamada Por que eu detestei a professora da Meredith do primeiro ano, que fala sobre uma história emocionante sobre a diferença que um professor pode fazer na vida de uma família.

Este ano estamos comemorando a Semana de Agradecimento aos Professores com uma série de atividades que incluem um café da manhã, uma sala de relaxamento com massoterapeutas profissionais, um evento social após a escola e uma noite de comemoração patrocinada pelos pais (Obrigado à Organização de Pais e Mestres da EAB!).

Dada a grande honra e a responsabilidade que os professores têm ao guiar e apoiar o aprendizado, essas palavras de T.H. White são para você:

“A melhor coisa em estar triste,” respondeu Merlin, é aprender alguma coisa. Essa é a única coisa que nunca falha. Você pode envelhecer e abalar a sua anatomia, também pode ficar acordado à noite ouvindo o distúrbio das suas veias, você pode sentir falta do seu único amor, pode ver o mundo ao seu redor devastado por lunáticos cruéis ou ter sua honra pisoteada nos esgotos de mentes baixas. Então só há uma coisa para isso – aprender. Aprender porque o mundo gira e o que o faz girar. Essa é a única coisa que a mente nunca pode perder, nunca alienar, nunca se torturar, nunca ter medo e não acreditar e nunca pensar em se arrepender. Aprender é a única coisa para você. “Olhe quantas coisas existem para aprender.” – T.H.White, The Once and Future King

Agradecemos aos professores por apoiar o aprendizado e fazer uma diferença real e positiva na vida dos nossos alunos e comunidade.

Blog: www.barrydequanne.com

Twitter: @dequanne


Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) Flickr photo by Tony 
Hammond: When It Comes to Aboriginal Art, It Can Branch Out Into 
the Imagination! 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/8525214@N06/32420843740/
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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.

Posted in Ettie Zilber | Leave a comment

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/

 

Posted in Barry Déquanne | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Daniel Kerr | Leave a comment

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

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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

 

 

 

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