One of the many things I appreciate and admire about Switzerland is the collective commitment to civic responsibility. The pragmatic Swiss approach to the establishment of community norms in combination with both an individual and societal belief in supporting and adhering to these agreements have resulted in a country that runs incredibly well.
ISZL‘s commitment to these ideals was evident during last week’s road safety training. Our Kindergarten students had the opportunity to learn from a local police officer about traffic rules and, more precisely, how to navigate pedestrian crossings. The fact that young children in Switzerland take public transportation and make their way to school unaccompanied by an adult does not happen by accident. The effectiveness with which the local police partner with schools to educate young children about their civic responsibilities is clearly by design.
The police officer who met with our students demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism and impressive pedagogical skills. The traffic safety lesson, conducted in partnership with ISZL’s teachers, involved differentiated and personalised instruction, focused on building relationships, and provided students with an opportunity to develop their German language skill
The resulting demonstration of learning involved each student individually stopping traffic with a hand wave, looking both ways to ensure their safety, and then crossing the street at the designated crosswalk. Of course, the students were also encouraged to give a wave of thanks as they passed in front of the cars. For those students who were initially reluctant to cross the road, the police officer and teachers gently helped them to develop the understanding, skills, and confidence needed. It was exemplary teaching at every level!
ISZL’s vision is to help every student turn learning into action, creating opportunities for students to stretch themselves further and achieve more than they believe possible. The realisation of this vision will look different at every level of the school. At the Kindergarten level, our students were able to turn their learning into something they may not have thought possible – to cross a busy street alone.
Thank you to ISZL’s teachers and the Zuger Polizei for their important work to ensure our students continue to learn about their civic responsibilities and turn their learning into responsible action.
So for the past several years I’ve been working as an adjunct professor for Endicott College, teaching Master’s Degree classes on change management and innovation in education. It’s something that I truly enjoy for a number of reasons, but mostly because it provides me the opportunity to learn with educators from all around the world. With every new class and cohort I get re-inspired, I re-connect with why I love teaching so much, and I continuously get challenged to think about the “why” behind what we do as educators. This past week, I asked my current group of passionate professionals to answer that very question in a discussion post, “What is your own personal WHY as an educator? How do you live that truth both inside and outside of the school?”, and the answers that were shared absolutely made my heart want to burst!
It was beautiful to hear them all talking about wanting to inspire young people to be positive change agents for our world. It didn’t matter what subject or grade level or position within the school community they were in, every student in the cohort, from countries spanning across 4 continents, feverishly talked about wanting to develop beautiful human beings…not engineers, or mathematicians, or scientists, or entrepreneurs, or doctors or artists, but beautiful human beings!
They talked about the responsibility and opportunity that they had to teach compassion, and empathy, and resilience, and diversity, and social justice, and environmental stewardship, and intercultural understanding and love…it was heartwarming to say the least because I share in that belief that regardless of what careers our young people end up choosing, it’s who they are as people that will make all the difference! It feels good to know that teacher leaders from around the world are living and breathing this same purpose, and connecting to the same WHY when they wake up every morning. I felt honored to be able to reply back to each discussion post and to share that my WHY connects so strongly with theirs.
Honestly, it was a fun question to ask, and an important one to think about from time to time I believe. We often get so busy in our day to day lives that we can go weeks and weeks without stopping and re-connecting with our meaning and purpose as educators. This week I’m going to ask that you all take a few minutes to answer that same question for yourselves, and maybe even talk about it with a friend or a colleague…maybe even start one of your weekly meetings sharing your WHY out with each other. It’s a powerful and empowering experience to share your WHY with others, and to see how beautifully we are all connected to one another in our pursuit of creating a better world for our kids. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
When you learn, teach. When you get, give. -Maya Angelou
I have just finished reading Professor Damian Hughes’ The Barcelona Way. I believe that many parallels can be drawn between sport and education. This certainly rang true as I read this entertaining and insightful analysis of the winning culture of one of the world’s most successful football teams.
FC Barcelona takes great pride in fostering a power-base among home-grown players and that means identifying and investing in talent from a very early age. In a culture where many, many young boys grow up dreaming of playing for FC Barcelona, how does the club know who will be the ones that will win games for the club 10 or 15 years down the track?
Logic would surely suggest that current performance is the most reliable indicator of future performance. But this logic is flawed and Hughes provides us with an excellent illustration of this:
Take the National Football League (NFL), for instance, which represents the zenith of talent-identification science. At the pre-draft NFL ‘combine,’ teams exhaustively test players in every physical and mental capacity known to science: strength, agility, explosiveness, intelligence. They look at miles of game film. They analyse every piece of evidence available data. And each year, they manage to get it absolutely wrong. In fact, out of the forty top-rated combine performers over the past four years, only half are still in the league, never mind the star performers.
A lot of smart people have been thinking about why this happens, and they’ve decided the problem is not that the measures are wrong – the problem is that measuring performance is the wrong way to approach talent identification.
According to much of this new work, what matters is not current performance, but rather growth potential – the complex, multi-faceted qualities that help someone learn and keep on learning, to work past inevitable plateaus, to adapt and be resourceful and keep improving.
This can’t be measured with a stopwatch or a tape measure. It’s more subtle and complex. Which means that instead of looking at performance, you look for signs, subtle indicators. In other words, you have to close your eyes, ignore the dazzle of current performance and instead try to detect the presence of a few key characteristics.
FC Barcelona is ‘more than a club’ in the way that it represents Catalonia and strives to play a certain style of football. But its success is still measured in games and trophies won and depends on developing players that can deliver those wins and trophies.
The International School of Yangon (ISY) is a community of compassionate global citizens. ISY’s Vision is to develop lifelong learners who will be a force for positive change in the world. Instead of developing players to win football games, ISY is striving to develop students who can change the world for the better and the success of the school will be measured in these terms.
Before identifying the key characteristics that must be present in a student for them to go on to make a positive difference to the world, we must be clear that these characteristics are not replacements for academic performance. While not all change agents are academics or even professionals in the traditional sense, academic performance is the most effective way to position oneself to make a positive difference. After all, those young football players in the NFL combine got their opportunity through their performances. Hughes’ point was that those performances could not be taken as indicators of future success in the absence of some key characteristics or attributes.
ISY’s compassionate Mission and Vision were confirmed just over a year ago and we are currently reviewing our Schoolwide Learner Outcomes (SLOs) to ensure that what we expect of our students (and faculty) align with the Mission and Vision. SLOs is the term used by The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), our accrediting authority.
Hughes himself identified ‘early ownership’ as a key to the success of FC Barcelona’s best players:
As psychologist Marjie Elferink-Gemser’s work shows, one trend among successful athletes begins when they’re thirteen or so, and develop a sense of ownership of their training. For the ones that succeed, this age is when they decide that it’s not enough to simply be an obedient cog in the development machine – they begin to go further, reaching beyond the programme, deciding for themselves what their workouts will be augmenting and customizing and addressing their weaknesses on their own.
Hughes is essentially describing student agency – the capacity and propensity of students to take purposeful initiative.
The development of student agency and the ability to apply knowledge and skills to unfamiliar or unknown contexts (crucial for FC Barcelona players) have been identified as pressing current and future needs of our students at ISY.
We believe that the explicit integration of the seven ISY Attributes into our curriculum, pedagogy, and extra-curricular program will develop the agency and application needs of our students. It is then our hope that our students will meet the needs of the world in which they will live and make a decent and happy life for themselves in doing so. Some of them might even get a trophy.
Hughes, Damian. The Barcelona Way: Unlocking the DNA of a Winning Culture. Macmillan, 2018.
The title of this blog is the same
as the that of a book chapter I wrote, published last month in the Annual
Review of Comparative & International Education 2018. In it, I coin the
paralysis, a reluctance to engage with issues when the cultural context may
make doing so difficult. I challenge educational researchers,
policy-makers, and practitioners to consider how they can leverage their understanding
of local context to safely and respectfully improve rights and protections for
LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) students where they live. I
invite you to read a lightly edited excerpt from my chapter:
The dominant perspective, worldwide, is that heterosexual, cisgender
people fulfil the natural, normal, and correct version of gender and sexuality.
In my studies on the topic, I have encountered no culture that treats GSM (gender
and sexual minority) people equally to their heterosexual, cisgender peers.
Those who claim equality usually point to the “elevation” of GSM people through
“positive” stereotypes, fetishization, or hypersexualization. Proclaiming gay
men to be inherently fashionable is a “positive” stereotype, for example. these
instances still highlight an atypical, non-normative status, which is not the
same as equal. To exist outside of the heterosexual, cisgender norm is to be
School policy, practice, and climate can dramatically impact the
educational experience of GSM students. GSM children who attend schools
that are inclusive, supportive, and protective of GSM people are more likely to
see positive results in terms of their attendance,
grade point average,
and emotional wellbeing.
While not all studies explicitly factor in the cultural context where the
school is located when analyzing results, some that do show that protective
school climates, regardless of locale, are significant influencers of GSM
That is to say that it appears to be the actual school policies and practices,
not the local social norms influencing them, that makes the impact on students.
I cringe at the cliché, but schools do make a difference.
Furthermore, schools are
in a unique position, with access to large numbers (usually majority
proportions) of children during their developmental years. Schools, therefore,
are exceptionally poised to shape the perspectives and futures of entire
generations of young people. This power
can be used to reinforce a dominant and discriminatory perspective but may also
be leveraged to support more egalitarian practices. To unequivocally state
to a class of students that gender and sexual minorities are valid and worthy people,
deserving of equality, is not only an extension of support to the GSM child
listening in the room, but may also change the social context that this child
grows up in by influencing the biases of their peers.
To address systemic discrimination and marginalization, it helps to
look at the actual systems involved. I would wager that no other government
system, world-wide, has quite the same impact factor on the biases and
perspectives of future generations as the educational system. For this reason,
schools are a fitting point of intervention to address this prominent
inequality of systemic discrimination against GSM people.
Meadows, E. S. (2019). “That would
never work here”: Overcoming ‘context paralysis’ on behalf of gender &
sexual minority students worldwide In Wiseman, A. W. (Ed.) Annual Review of
Comparative and International Education 2018 (International Perspectives on
Education and Society, Vol. 37), 287-305. Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald
How have you overcome context paralysis to
support LGBTQ+ students where you work?
T., & Hillier, L. (2013). Comparing trans-spectrum and same-sex-attracted
youth in Australia: Increased risks, increased activisms. Journal of LGBT
Youth, 10(4), 287–307.
M. E. (2010). Gender identity and extreme poverty. In Dubel, I. & Hielkema,
A. (Eds.), Urgency required: Gay and lesbian rights are human rights (pp.
207–212). The Hague, The Netherlands: Hivos.
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,
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,
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.
 Heck, N.,
Flentje, A., & Cochran, B. (2011). Offsetting risks: High school
gay-straight alliances and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)
youth. School Psychology Quarterly, 26(2), 161–174.
The Future of Education and Skills 2030, published by the OECD, identifies three “transformative competencies” that students need to contribute to and thrive in our world. The first competency is about creating new value and our commitment to innovate and “think outside the box” to shape better lives. This focus integrates a sense of purpose with critical thinking and creativity. The second competency considers our ability to be comfortable with complexity and ambiguity in an interdependent world, while also developing a high degree of empathy and respect. The third competency refers to the commitment to take responsibility for our actions as our students are guided by a strong moral compass that considers personal, ethical, and societal goals.
There is certainly alignment when considering ISZL’s vision in the context of the OECD’s aspirational goals. Our vision at ISZL is to help every student turn their learning into action – an approach that is designed to support every student in realising how much they’re capable of and to go on to make the most of who they are. In support of both ISZL and the OECD’s vision for learning are our school’s Personal Development Week (PDW) experiences that offer students exceptional learning environments and meaningful and relevant growth opportunities.
During last week’s PDW experiences, more than 1,000 of our students were engaged in experiential learning opportunities ranging from locations in Zug and Switzerland to Europe, and around the world, including destinations such as Iceland, Ghana, and the Himalayas, among others Throughout the week, our students were actively developing the OECD’s three transformative competencies in meaningful and active ways. The long-term impact of the PDW trips was highlighted at a recent ISZL alumni barbecue when several former students shared how the PDW experience was transformative to their learning experience and a highlight of their time at ISZL.
One of ISZL’s longstanding PDW trips is related to our school’s involvement with the NAG program in Nepal, which is a charity in Kathmandu that provides critical and essential support for young children. To advance this important work, ISZL will be holding its annual NAG Charity Run later this month to raise awareness and financial support. All community members are encouraged to join this special event.
A heartfelt thank you to all of the teachers and staff members who coordinate and lead these unique learning experiences, in addition to travelling and supporting our students during the trips. Without the dedication and commitment of teachers and staff, these trips would not be possible.
“Never odd or even.” Why not start a blog post celebrating the beauty and oddities of language with an intriguingly perplexing phrase that is also a palindrome – a word or a sentence that reads the same backwards? First, my apologies in advance to anyone who suffers from a fear of palindromes, or what the Germans refer to as “Eibohphobie”, which is, in a deeply ironic twist, a palindrome itself! Okay, now on to what is already looking to be a higgledy-piggledy blog post originally designed to commemorate the September 26th European Day of Languages.
A day to celebrate language represents a fabulous or, borrowing from Mary Poppins, a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious opportunity. There are currently between 6,000 and 7,000 languages spoken among approximately 7 billion people. There are about 225 indigenous languages in Europe, representing about only 3% of the world’s total. Most of the world’s languages are spoken in Asia and Africa and at least half of the world’s population are bilingual or plurilingual.
The evolution of so many languages over the centuries has resulted in words that are especially descriptive and specific. For example, the Slovak word, prezvoniť, means to call someone’s mobile from your own without the other person picking up with the intention of leaving your number in their phone’s memory. The Albanian word, vetullhen, refers to an eyebrow arched like the crescent moon. The Dutch word, broodje-aap, refers to an awful, often invented story that is told as being true, thus becoming a myth. The Irish use the verb plubairnigh to describe the distinctive thick, bubbling sound that porridge makes when boiling. The Germans use the word, Zechpreller to describe the person who leaves without paying the bill. And, perhaps my favourite, the Finnish use the word poronkusema to describe the distance equal to how far a reindeer can travel without a comfort break (about 5 kilometres if you were wondering).
With the risk you may think this is all poppycock or, worse still, tarradiddle, let’s take a look at some tongue twisters that challenge our language skills.
English speakers may recall reciting this children’s song: She sells seashells by the seashore. The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure. So, if she sells seashells on the seashore, then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
How about this French tongue twister? Combien de sous sont ces saucissons-ci? Ces saucissons-ci sont six sous (How much are these sausages here? These sausages here are six cents).
Or, try this German tongue twister: Zwei schwarze schleimige Schlangen sitzen zwischen zwei spitzen Steinen und zischen (Two black slimy snakes sit between two pointed stones and hiss).
A Polish variation: Król Karol kupił Królowej Karolinie korale koloru koralowego (King Karl bought Queen Caroline coral-coloured bead).
And, finally, a Swedish tongue twister: Far, Får får får? Nej, inte får får får, får får lamm (Father, do sheep have sheep? No, sheep don’t have sheep, sheep have lambs).
Idioms also represent a deeply interesting aspect of language, usually highlighting cultural, historical, and traditional themes. By way of an example of how an idiom can span languages, all of the following idiomatic expressions are similar to “The apple does not fall far from the tree”:
Æblet falder ikke langt fra stammen. (Danish)
Der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm. (German)
Nem esik messze az alma a fájától. (Hungarian)
Obuolys nuo obels netoli rieda. (Lithuanian)
Niedaleko pada jabłko od jabłoni. (Polish)
Jabolko ne pade daleč od drevesa. (Slovenian)
Äpplet faller inte långt från trädet. (Swedish)
Did you know that there is a word in the English language that describes the fear some people suffer from when they come across long words? The word for this phobia is hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. While it is in no way my intention to diminish the suffering anyone with this phobia experiences, it is hard to ignore the irony here given the length of this word! So, if you are a hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobic, please skip this next section as it will highlight some of the longest words found in languages.
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedalianism (English word for the love of long words; 33 letters)
ακτινοχρυσοφαιδροβροντολαμπροφεγγοφωτοστόλιστος (Greek word meaning to be dressed in golden-shining, thundering and incandescent clothes; 47 letters)
Kindercarnavalsoptochtvoorbereidingswerkzaamheden (Dutch word related to the preparation activities for a children’s carnival procession; 48 letters)
Speciallægepraksisplanlægningsstabiliseringsperiode (Danish word for the period when a specialist doctor’s planning of the practice is stabilized; 52 letters)
Lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas (Finnish word for a technical warrant officer trainee specialized in aircraft jet engines; 61 letters)
Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung (German word for a regulation about competences; 67 letters)
Of a particularly impressive note, the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes coined the following 183 lettered word meaning a dish compounded of all kinds of dainties, fish, fowl and sauces:
While these are fascinating and interesting language facts to consider, I should move beyond what some would consider my lollygagging and return to the motivation for this post – the celebration of language. While I am currently living in Europe and the European Day of Languages is certainly of great importance to the region, I would also like to extend the celebration to all languages and areas of the world when highlighting how important language is to our cultural heritage, to our understanding of ourselves and others, and to our ability to see and understand the world in different and new ways.
The International School of Zug and Luzern (ISZL) is fortunate to have Lorna Caputo as a member of its team serving as a language specialist and overseeing, among her other duties, 16 after-school language programs. In her blog, Exploring Multilingualism, Lorna highlights the importance of all languages:
It is the harmonious coexistence of languages that enables people to develop intercultural understanding, appreciate cultural diversity and work together better. Multilingualism is what unites many different regions within countries and is at the core of many national identities. Even in multicultural cities, you can observe local dialects and languages coexisting with other international languages. It is helpful to understand how schools can often be located within this linguistic intersectionality, and how schools prepare their students to navigate their familial, local, national and global linguistic landscapes.
Lorna will also be quick to discuss the research supporting the advantages associated with children learning multiple languages at a young age, which features an important aspect of her work with ISZL’s learning program.
In a note to community members this week, Lorna asked us to build on our recent inclusion work (see Inclusion & Community) and translate the phrase, “We are all ISZL” into their native language. Here are some of the wonderful responses:
We are all ISZL (English)
Мы все ISZL (Russian)
Me ollaan kaikki ISZL (Finnish)
Vi är alla ISZL ( Swedish )
ISZL 我們是一家人 (Mandarin)
Siamo tutti ISZL (Italian)
Hepimiz ISZL’iz (Turkish)
Wir sind alle ISZL (German)
Nous sommes tous ISZL (French)
Todos somos ISZL (Spanish)
Tots som ISZL (Catalan)
Somos todos ISZL (Portuguese)
Wij zijn allemaal ISZL (Dutch)
Mi mind ISZL vagyunk (Hungarian)
Είμαστε όλοι ISZL (Greek)
Mi smo svi ISZL (Serbian)
Vi er alle ISZL (Danish)
In closing, I hope you didn’t find this post to be too higgledy-piggledy, but rather a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious experience! While my hope has been to highlight some of the interesting and unusual aspects of language, there is always the shadow of kakorrhaphiophobia, or the fear of failure, associated with this quixotic endeavour. There is a lurking feeling that perhaps I should have been more pauciloquent and that this text had been less argle-bargle in style, avoided goggledygook, and did not generate any bobsy-die. The last thing I want to do is to leave you bumfuzzled, frustrate you with the confusing “never odd or even” palindrome, or to diminish your status as a deipnosophist. Finally, I hope you don’t see me as a blatherskite, a hoddy-noddy, or a floccinaucinihilipilificator at heart!
Okay, this is probably enough tomfoolery, twaddle, and balderdash for today!
In the celebration and appreciation of all languages!
Argle-bargle: copious but meaningless talk or writing
Balderdash: senseless talk or writing
Blatherskite: a person who talks at great length without making much sense
Bobsy-die: a great deal of fuss or trouble
Bumfuzzled: to be confused
Deipnosophist: a person skilled in table talk
Floccinaucinihilipilificator: the action or habit of estimating something as worthless
Goggledygook: language that is meaningless
Higgledy-piggledy: in confusion or disorder
Hoddy-noddy: a foolish person
Kakorrhaphiophobia: an irrational fear of failure
Lollygagging: to spend time aimlessly
Pauciloquent: using few words in speech or conversation
Quixotic: extremely idealistic; unrealistic and impractical
Tarradiddle: pretentious nonsense
Tomfoolery: foolish or silly behaviour
Reference: The majority of the sources for this article are from the following website: https://edl.ecml.at/(Take their language challenge: QUIZ)
So I was walking down the hallway this past Thursday on the way back to my office when I passed by a group of students working together outside of the library. I stopped, turned around, and went over to hear what they were discussing, and as I was sitting down, one of the students said, “you know what Mr. Kerr, when we work by ourselves we’re pretty smart, but when we work together we are way, way smarter”. After about 10 minutes of listening to them share ideas, defend their thinking, ask thoughtful and clarifying questions, and eventually come up with several different solutions to a problem, I walked away thinking about what that student had said, and about the whole notion and power of collaboration.
The following day I decided to look for and track all the ways that we work together in schools as students and as professionals, and honestly, I lost count before noon. It started first thing in the morning as I watched kids on the playground working together in teams all over the place, solving problems and playing games. Then I saw it in classrooms during our morning meetings as kids shared ideas, and built trust and made collective plans for the day. As the morning went on I saw group math stations and book club conversations, and strategy groups and peer sharing and editing in writer’s workshop, and team building and strategizing in PE, and group presentations in French…it was everywhere! Kids learning with and from each other…together…sharing and teaching, and gathering and considering perspectives other than their own. It was beautiful to watch.
It didn’t stop there though, as I saw teachers co-teaching and co-planning, meeting in teams to create assessments and lessons and units, looking at student work and analyzing student data, presenting to each other and coaching each other, and using each other as thought partners…again, it was everywhere that I looked! Collaboration builds those critical life skills, which are so necessary for all of us to be successful in today’s world…kids and adults..both in our professional lives and in our lives outside of work. Skills like active listening, analyzing, brainstorming solutions to problems, critical thinking, building consensus and compromising, embracing mistake making, trust building, respect, being open to new and opposing ideas, conflict resolution, self advocacy, leadership, and so much more.
Working together in groups and in teams really does make us better, and giving these opportunities to our students, and to each other as colleagues is key. All that said, I do recognize and understand the importance of being able to do work on your own as well, and to have that time to write, read, think and create all by yourself…I really do value that time. There is however a power in collaboration, that does enhance the learning experience for all of us I think. I believe in that old idiom, strength in numbers, and like that student so confidently stated, working together really does make us way, way smarter. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team – John Wooden
We just had Juramento a la bandera, our annual ceremony where students of our Senior class pledge allegiance or pay respect to the Ecuadorian flag. This is a major event for Ecuador, for our school, for our Seniors and their families. It has the formality and flavour of graduation. To prepare for my speech for this ceremony, I watched again writer Taiye Selasi’s TED talk. Her words resonate so much with our lives of international educators and they got me thinking.
In my 17 years as an international educator, I have learned a lot about citizenship. In the United Kingdom, the first country where I lived and worked, I quickly found out that people are very proud of their flag. They often wear the jersey of the national sport teams, flags are hanging from different buildings and houses in town and so forth. The concept of citizenship was fascinating. A country that was not mine gave me a free education, my first job, a social security number and I could have applied for a UK passport while I was there. What an open way to look at citizenship! Mind you, this might all evolve with Brexit, but it is a different story. But it goes beyond a passport as I felt more at home in London, Brighton or Lancaster than in Paris or Bordeaux. In Turkey, the second country where we lived and worked, we got to a different level. In public schools, there is a flag raising ceremony every Monday and İstiklal Marşı, the national anthem, is often played during school events. Typically there is also a framed version of the national anthem framed and displayed in classroom walls.. Our son, Dorian, was born in Istanbul but he was not granted the Turkish nationality as my wife and I are not Turks. Fine, Dorian was not going to be Turk, but he was born there, Turkish was his first language (with French), his friends in preschool were Turks and in our neighbourhood everyone knew Dorian as the blond kid with blue eyes and fluent Turkish speaker. We felt at home in many parts of Istanbul and Turkey and we feel like foreigners in Toulouse or Montpellier. In France, my native country, the flag tends to be associated with certain political parties and the blue, white and red colours are not easily found except on official buildings. With a second star on the jersey of our national football team, maybe more people will wear the French colours. The French national anthem is quite often criticised for being a violent war song-some people even say it is racist and some politicians have event refused to sing it. And foreigners can apply for the French citizenship after passing a test on questions that I might not be able to answer.
As international educators, we all carry and can share our concepts on citizenship. On Thursday, we were proud to celebrate an important ceremony for Ecuadorians and non-Ecuadorians students in their Senior year. Ecuador is a very welcoming country and we all know of non-Ecuadorian families who had children, here in Quito, who received an Ecuadorian ID and as a consequence parents could also receive it. My family has spent more time and feels more comfortable in the Cotopaxi National park or in the Quilotoa area than in the French Alps. On Thursday, our beautiful and diverse class of 2020, with Ecuadorians and non-Ecuadorians, with a Canadian Director, a Principal from Euskadi, (Basque country) an Associate Principal from Minnesota and a faculty that comes from several parts of the world, this class of 2020 swore allegiance or paid respect to the Ecuadorian flag.
The writer Taiye Selasi raised this important question and shared it with us: « have you ever been asked the question “where are you from?” and you were not sure what to say?» In our globalised world, with vibrant and mobile communities, Academia Cotopaxi being a microcosm of this world, the concept of citizenship may be very complex. But we need roots and this is why I am particularly honoured to have taken part in this ceremony that formally roots students’ entire lives, or part of them, in this beautiful country that is Ecuador.
The honking of the horn: a tale of cultural differences
I had an interesting experience this past summer while home in Minnesota. I was parked at a Caribou Coffee – the northern Midwest’s attempt to ward off the cultural dominance of Starbucks. I happened to look in my rearview mirror and noticed another car quickly backing up on a track that would lead to a collision with my rear end in a matter of seconds. It seemed clear the other driver had no idea I was there. I quickly honked my car horn to give warning, and watched his break lights come on, avoiding a collision by mere centimeters. At that moment, the driver of the car turned in his seat, glared at me, and flipped me the bird, shaking his fist aggressively. I looked at him in shock. What was that all about? Hadn’t I just saved him from damaging my car and his, not to mention the probable increase in auto insurance rates he would have acquired had he hit me? He pulled his car forward, and reversed again on a track that avoided my car. Then, to add insult to injury, as he now moved forward to exit the parking lot, the woman in the passenger seat turned toward me and also flipped me the bird. What the heck was going on?
Driving home, I thought about what I had just experienced, and compared it to our home overseas in Myanmar. It seemed that in the experience I just had, the driver of the other car interpreted my use of the car horn as some sort of a hostile act. While I presumed I was providing a service by helping him avoid a collision, he seemed to see the horn as some sort of affront, as though I was using it to point out how wrong he was or some discrepancy in his character. In Myanmar, the use of a car horn is interpreted entirely different, if interpreted at all. By this I mean, people make use of the horn so much, it often goes unnoticed. It wasn’t too many years ago there was hardly a car on the streets on Myanmar. People could drive from one end of the city to the other without hindrance. Overnight, it seems everyone has acquired a car. The infrastructure has not been able to keep up. There are constant traffic jams and little fender benders. The sound of a car horn honking has become so common it blends into the background. I think I even fall asleep at night on occasion to the sound of car horns in the distance. The honking of car horns has become so common that I find if I am driving down the road, see a friend walking or driving, and honk to greet them, they don’t even look up. My horn isn’t even acknowledged with a simple nod of the head, let alone a greeting in response.
I began to think how different the car horn is perceived in different locations or cultures. Another place we lived – was it the Cayman Islands or the oil camp on Sumatra – you hardly ever heard a car horn. Really, the only time it was ever used for was in greeting. If you heard one, you knew it was likely someone you knew saying hello and your hand immediately went up in a wave before you even identified the driver. In contrast was the highways of Romania where people would lay on the horn as they sped into one side of the village and didn’t let up until they exited the other side, letting people on foot know to beware. This eventually led to signs at the entrance to some of these villages with an X over a horn. Clearly, the expectation was the cars needed to slow down, rather than use the horn, to maintain safety. I’m not sure how successful this endeavor was.
So, I guess we could formulate a question around these experiences asking what does the honking of the car horn tell us about behavior within different culture? Can any statement be made, or assumptions about the way different cultures are perceived? I once read an ethnographic study about Myanmar called, The Traffic in Hierarchy by Ward Keeler. In this study, Keeler observes the perceived relational hierarchy in Myanmar and how it plays out in everything from societal norms to traffic patterns and in how people drive cars and cross the street. As I reflect on this study, I think one can easily assume that in Myanmar hierarchy may also play a cultural role in when people do, or do not use the car horn. This led me to wonder what it is that plays a role in the honking of a horn in other countries, and how this simple act reflects our own perceptions of who we are and how we see ourselves within our own culture?
Recently, my friend and colleague, Cameron Janzen, led a workshop on cultural understanding. In this workshop, he discussed core cultural values, or those values that are a part of our cultural perspective we are unwilling, or unable to change. An example of this would be someone who’s religion forbids them from drinking alcohol. For that person, this might be a core value. On the other hand are flex values. These are values we are willing to change to help us be more understanding and accepting of another culture. As I applied this to the honking of the horn in different countries, I realized that in some places, the horn itself may be symbolic of deeper core values. For example, in Myanmar, it may reflect some deeper core values around hierarchy. At the same time, for me, the honking of the horn is a flex value, something I’m willing to change and adapt to from culture to culture, or country to country. I guess, the honking of the horn could be a truly symbolic reflection of our cultural differences and our willingness to understand others. At the same time, I guess it is also possible I’m just reading too much into it. Perhaps, the honking of the horn is really nothing more than an obnoxious loud noise eliciting an abrasive response no matter where we happen to be…..
So last Thursday evening we had our Lower School back to school Open House event for parents. It was inspiring for me to watch this partnership so beautifully on display, and honestly it was a little emotional for me too. There is something truly magical about watching teachers and parents partnering together in the educational experience of their child, and to see our community come together around the learning of OUR kids.
Teachers gave parents an authentic look into the day to day experience of a student at ASP, and engaged them in many of the daily routines and community and culture building activities that we embrace as a Lower School. The energy in the building was positive and palpable, and we all left at the end of the night committed to doing our part in support of our children…what better way to begin our school year?
Leveraging the parent community to the fullest extent is something that schools talk about all the time but rarely do all that well. Schools have their usual parent-teacher conference days, and parent coffees, and communication mechanisms and all the rest, but how well do schools really partner with parents as teachers and as professionals and as change agents? Think of the expertise that parents have that we rarely tap into, and think of the missed opportunity that is right there for the taking.
It’s true that kids can’t be what they can’t see so to speak, meaning that the parent community can and should be a portal into unlocking a child’s passion and curiosity and view of a possible future. Doctors and Engineers and Artists and Authors and FilmMakers and Interior Designers and Entrepreneurs and Athletes and Activists and so, so much more…just waiting there to inspire our young people around the endless exciting possibilities, many of which are unknown by our kids at this young age.
We often talk about giving our students “real life, real world” experiences, and if we really mean that, then let’s look at creative ways to get kids out into the real world. Internships and classroom career days and school future fairs and day trips to check out real life in action…what are we waiting for? As part of our strategic plan initiative, embedded in the idea of “Going Beyond”, we are focused as a school on leveraging these partnerships this year and in the future. My challenge to you is to look for ways in your own departments and grade levels and classrooms to go beyond the usual and traditional way that we partner with parents…and get creative. I’ve shared the poem below a few times before but it is worth sharing again in my opinion. These truly are OUR kids, and the more we partner with each other the better and brighter their future will be.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the climate change protests and marches that happened over the past two days around the world, and I’ve included some important messages from Greta Thunberg for you to act on and absorb. Talk about real life, real world passions for kids…positive change-making across the globe. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Whose Child is This?
Whose child is this? ‘ I asked one day Seeing a little one out at play ‘Mine’, said the parent with a tender smile ‘Mine to keep a little while To bathe her hands and comb her hair To tell her what she is to wear To prepare her that she may always be good And each day do the things she should’
‘Whose child is this? ‘ I asked again As the door opened and someone came in ‘Mine’, said the teacher with the same tender smile ‘Mine, to keep just for a little while To teach her how to be gentle and kind To train and direct her dear little mind To help her live by every rule And get the best she can from school’
‘Whose child is this? ‘ I ask once more Just as the little one entered the door ‘Ours’ said the parent and the teacher as they smiled And each took the hand of the little child ‘Ours to love and train together Ours this blessed task forever.’
– Jessie Rivera
Quote of the Week…
Everything counts…what you do counts! – Greta Thunberg Inspiring Videos –
STEPHEN DEXTER, a native of New England, has been a teacher and administrator since 1994. He finally discovered that the Swiss stay thin on a diet of chocolate, cheese and wine by walking a lot and not eating or drinking to excess. He is currently taking a gap year in the Swiss Alps to rediscover his passion for education and to understand what chief innovation officers really do.
DANIEL KERR is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby.
KASSI COWLES is an IB English and TOK teacher currently based in Shanghai. She has worked in international education for the last 8 years in Canada, Togo and China. Her writing explores issues of educational reform and how to create authentic and creative learning communities.
MATTHEW GOOD & NIAMH CONWAY are international school teachers who met while working at the British School of Lome, in Togo, West Africa. They later moved to Uzbekistan, where they spent four years at Tashkent International School, each summer exploring another slice of the world by bike. Their Pedalgogy website allows users to follow the touring teachers on their two-year bike trip around the world.
BARRY DEQUANNE is currently working as the Director at the International School of Zug and Luzern (ISZL). His blog explores topics in K-12 education and school leadership within the framework of five focus areas: Academics, Activities, Arts, Leadership, and Service. The blog also explores professional articles and highlights recently read books.
EMILY MEADOWS is an alumni of international schools and has worked as a professional educator and counselor across the world, serving children and families in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. She holds master’s degrees in the fields of Counseling and Sexual Health, and is a PhD candidate researching inclusive policy and practice for LGBTQ+ students. Emily is a consultant on gender and sexual diversity and inclusion in international schools: www.emilymeadows.org
DAVID PENBERG is an urban and international educational leader/consultant with a deep commitment to progressive education, understanding global mindedness, and new school creation. He abides by the dictum of E.E. Cummings who said: “ I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing, than teach ten thousand stars not to dance.” He is presently the Head of School of Innovate Manhattan Charter School in New York City.
SHANNON FEHSE Shannon Fehse has spent her entire teaching career overseas, having lived and worked in China, Mexico, Colombia, Taiwan, and presently, the UAE. As a textbook definition extrovert, she talks to anyone, and enjoys listening to stories and different perspectives on life. Shannon has a somewhat faulty filter and often says what other people are thinking, but this typically works out favorably. She offers opinions and insight into the benefits and challenges of job hunting, dating overseas, and general issues that affect international educators.
MIKE SIMPSON is the Director of Curriculum and Learning at The International School Yangon. Originally a lawyer from New Zealand, Mike has also worked in schools in Qatar, Venezuela, and Lesotho. Mike has a particular interest in the development of collaborative and innovative learning communities. He hopes that his blog might be of interest to other teachers and school leaders as they nurture these communities in their own schools.
GREGORY HEDGER Dr. Gregory Hedger has recently been appointed to be the head of the International School Yangon, in Myanmar, beginning in fall 2016. A native of Minnesota, Greg has served in education for over 25 years, including 13 years in the role of School Director at Cayman International School, Qatar Academy, and most recently as Superintendent at Escuela Campo Alegre in Venezuela. Greg promotes international education through his service on the boards of AAIE, AASSA, and his work with the International Task Force for Child Protection, his contributions to various periodicals, and his work to promote the next generation of leaders through workshops and teaching.
LINDSAY LYON is a seasoned English and Theory of Knowledge teacher currently working at JIS. She and her husband have taught abroad as a teaching team for fifteen years in Venezuela, Thailand, China, Saudi Arabia, and now Indonesia. They write about expat life with a focus on money and savings in their blog The Haggard Lyon. Here you will find some of the same, and other musings from Lindsay on life overseas with kids, teaching, technology, and staying balanced in a busy world.
NICHOLAS ALCHIN is High School Principal at the United World College of SE Asia, East Campus. A sino-celtic Brit who has lived and taught in the UK, Switzerland, Kenya, and Singapore, he has also held a number of roles with the IB and writes and speaks widely on educational matters. He enjoys traveling with wife Ellie, and kids Tom (10), Millie (13) and Ruth (16).
TONY DEPRATO Tony DePrato has a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University and has been working as a Director of Educational Technology since 2009. He has worked in the United Arab Emirates and China where he has consulted with schools in both regions on various technology topics. In 2013, Tony DePrato released The BYOD Playbook a free guide for schools looking to discuss or plan a Bring Your Own Device program. Tony is originally from the US, and worked in multimedia, website development, and freelance video production. Tony is married to Kendra Perkins, who is a librarian.
ETTIE ZILBER is a consultant to International School Communities and Families in Transition and a veteran international school educator and school leader. She has served in independent international schools in Israel, Singapore, Spain, Guatemala, China, and most recently in the USA. Her expertise extends to such topics as international school models, second/foreign language acquisition, communicating between diverse groups, the impact of international mobility and relocation on children, parents and staff, the special family experience of the educators’ children, the orientation of newcomers, multi-cultural communities, catalysts for teaching internationally, and marketing of international schools. She is the author of Third Culture Kids: The Children of International School Educators. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
HELEN KELLY has taught in and led schools in Africa, Europe and Asia over the last twenty years. She has led educational technology teams in three schools. Helen is currently the Lower School Principal at Canadian International School of Hong Kong, where she leads Project Innovate, a Pre-K-12 initiative to bring future-ready learning to the school. Helen completed her Ed.D in 2017 on the emotional challenges that school leaders face in the course of their role. She leads workshops on improving the wellbeing of leaders and educators in international schools.
TRAE HOLLAND is the Director of Academia Cotopaxi’s The ONE Institute, has been a leader in both the non-profit and business sectors, and has 19 years experience teaching both in the US and in international schools, with a specialization in learning differentiation. You can reach his website at www.traeholland.com.
FREDERIC BORDAGUIBEL-LABAYLE is the High School Associate Principal and IB Diploma Coordinator at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador. Fred was born and raised in the South West of France; he finished his studies and started teaching in the UK, then went on to Istanbul and he is currently in Quito. Fred likes to pause, reflect and share his experience as an international educator and administrator.
SUE EASTON is the Director of the Teacher Training Center. She has worked with international schools for the past eleven years, on four continents, in roles focused on enhancing teaching and learning practices. This experience has made her passionate about the topic of change and how to best make change to support students and student learning. Her blog will explore this topic through the lens of PTC, TTC and CTC trainers’ words of wisdom.
ALLISON POIROT is currently teaching IB History, Modern World History, and Psychology at Asociación Escuelas Lincoln in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She taught previously at King’s Academy in Madaba, Jordan, and at public and charter schools in and around Boston, Massachusetts. She has a deep interest in progressive pedagogy and believes in fostering student autonomy and empowerment.
MEADOW DIBBLE is editor of The International Educator newspaper. Originally from Cape Cod, she lived for six years on Senegal’s Cape Verde Peninsula, where she published a cultural magazine from 1996–2000. Specializing in the literary expression of 20th-century liberation movements, she received her PhD from Brown University’s Department of French Studies and taught at Colby College from 2005–08. In 2018, Meadow launched Atlantic Black Box, a public history initiative devoted to researching and reckoning with New England’s role in the slave trade.
MATT BRADY has been creating digital ecosystems that organize, inform and inspire for two decades. He writes as a curatorial journalist- connecting related stories across disciplines often beyond “Education”- to examine and understand educational leadership in a more adaptive and predictive way. Currently, he leads and supports schools through techno-social transformations and is constructing an autodidactic launchpad for his four year old daughter.
Several years ago, PAUL MAGNUSON founded a research center at the high school level in collaboration with colleagues at Leysin American School. The center supports professional learning through a variety of programs, including year-long action research projects by faculty who receive competitive resident scholarships. In addition, the center works with schools and universities around the world, hosting 10 to 15 visiting scholars annually, and consulting and presenting at schools and other organizations.
The International Educator (TIE) is a non-profit organization committed to matching the best educators with the best international schools around the world.