Cyclothon

This post was first published on www.pedalgogy.net in May 2017. 
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The 3rd annual Tashkent International Cyclothon will take place on 14th April 2018. We will also we challenging ourselves to ride as many kms as possible on that day with our fully loaded bikes here in Indonesia. We will add our sponsorship to the total raised by TIS. All funds raised will go to PWSA.
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Riders ready, pedals ready….go!

$6000 raised for PWSA in 1 day

On Sunday April 2nd 2017, the Tashkent International School Campus became a bicycle track for the 2nd TIS Cyclothon.

Students, staff and parents pedaled around the circuit to raise money for Prader-Willi Syndrome Association UK.

The event was well attended with over 100 people from the TIS community taking part in some way.

Collectively 2200 kilometers were covered between 8am and 6pm. That’s about the same distance as Tashkent to Dubai!

Each rider was sponsored by their friends and families per kilometer that they covered. Some managed to raise enough support to receive $10 per kilometer, and went on to hit 50kms. In fact two students managed to reach 85kms each for the day!!

It was wonderful to see determined young people pushing themselves physically, whilst they were also aware that with every lap they were having a positive impact on other children who have Prader-Willi Syndrome.

At the same time, inside the school gym, the first school Service Expo took place with students promoting their service projects from the academic year. Students were also selling merchandise to raise funds for their causes, and organizing games for visitors to take part in.

The weather was pretty bad for a bike ride, but one cannot be miserable on a bike so it was still a great day.

Thank you  to the TIS community for taking part and making this event such a success. The Prader-Willi Syndrome Association will be using the money for  family support network events this summer as well as investing in research.

For videos of our bicycle ride around the world, subscribe to our You Tube channel.

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Who is the Conference For Anyway?

So here we are, with only a couple of days left until our student led conferences, and I couldn’t be more excited to watch our students celebrate their learning. One of our divisional imperatives this year in the lower school is to empower students to take more ownership of their learning, and to put mechanisms in place that truly inspire a greater sense of student agency for all of our kids. We’re trying hard to become less teacher directed, and more student directed with regards to all aspects of a child’s daily experience in school, and we’re getting their…but it’s obviously not something that will happen overnight.

We’ve done a lot of heavy lifting however over the last little while around the ideas of differentiation, personalization, and student autonomy, and we have implemented many initiatives that have supported these important concepts. Things like student led conferences, goal setting, electronic portfolios, inspiration projects, and so much more. That said, we still have some work to do in order to get completely there, and it’s exciting to be in the midst of this transformation. As a quick example, I think we can still go a bit further in our approach to student goal setting by widening the scope to include social emotional goals, personal goals, service learning goals, and other areas that stretch beyond academic achievement. I’d like to eventually see students sharing out a truly comprehensive look at their personal growth more than just once a year as well…so much to think about as we continue down this road.

Getting back to what’s coming up for us on Tuesday, I want to share a post that I wrote about student led conferences several years ago, and looking back at it I think it still rings true. Here’s a piece of it for you to consider…

Essentially, when they are done properly, this style of conferencing is a direct attempt to involve students in the discussion about their learning, and to give them the opportunity to share, celebrate, and take ownership of their education. To be clear, the conference should not be about the teacher or the parent, but rather completely and utterly about the child. Students should be given the opportunity to reflect on their goals, discuss their educational growth, consolidate their learning, and to find that sense of pride that comes with hard work and achievement. In my opinion, watching a truly effective Student Led Conference is one of the most inspiring things that can happen in a child’s education. To hear a student talk about reaching their goals, and to produce supporting evidence of this, or to watch the pride and smiles on their faces (and their parents faces) when they reflect on the learning that has occurred throughout the year is what education is all about! All students from early childhood through to our graduating seniors should be given the opportunity to go through this process, and if done well these conference days can be incredibly profound.

But here’s the thing…………. with all the first hand experience I have with SLC’s, and all the articles I have read and videos that I have watched, the single most important ingredient to a successful conference is probably PREPARATION. It’s one thing to say that your school does Student Led Conferences, it’s another thing altogether to actually do them well. Teachers need to understand and believe in their value, parents need to be front loaded and given clear expectations, and students need to be given time to practice, practice, practice. This takes professional development, professional commitment and lots of time. It should be something that begins with goal setting and portfolio discussions at the beginning of the year, and there should be consistent build up and conversation opportunities leading up to the actual day. If students, teachers, and parents are not prepared for what should occur, the power is lost and the opportunity might be missed.

Okay, back to what’s coming up for us this week. I want to wish you all fantastic experiences as our kids take center stage, and please view these conversations as celebrations of all the hard work and learning and growth that you’ve helped orchestrate for our kids throughout the year. It’s a celebration of student learning or sure, but also a celebration of all your hard work and passion as educators. Have a fantastic week everyone, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other…one week left until Spring holiday!

Quote of the Week – 

Student Led Conferences put students in charge of their own learning, give students a better handle on their own progress, and show parents that student achievement is in the student’s hands, not theirs (or the teacher’s) – Dr. Dennis Harper

Related Articles –

Supporting Student Agency

A Key Structure

Resources for Educators

Student Led Meetings

Apps for Student Goal Setting

What is Personalization, Really?

When Students Lead Their Own Learning

 

Interesting Videos –

Reimagining Classrooms

Inquiry Based Learning

UDL – Principles of Practice

Enabling Voice and Choice Through Projects

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We’re Moving: What About the Kids? {Part II}

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

This is the second of a two-part post on easing the transition of an international move with children, and is adapted from an excerpt I wrote for the book Teaching Overseas, by Kent Blakeney.

It can be tempting to put off telling children about a move, as it will undoubtedly induce some level of stress. Still, there are healthier ways to support our little ones than by keeping them in the dark. As a professional international school counselor, I’ve worked with countless families to facilitate their successful transition to a new home. It can absolutely be done well! These tips will enhance your experience of a big move:

  • Maintain routine – While some of the thrill of moving is in the newness, remember that children thrive on routine. Keep certain limits the same, such as bedtimes and mealtime expectations, in order to provide your child with a sense of security. There will need to be flexibility at times, of course, but keep the basic structure of their day as consistent as possible.
  • Set an example – Your child will notice your lead when it comes to embracing something different from what you’re used to. Involve your family in the process of showing curiosity and exploring this new place (even from afar, through photos and discussions about how it will be there). Openly model resilience and a positive attitude when faced with challenge or disappointment about the transition.
  • Build connections – Support your child in getting to know the new community. Consider taking a trip to visit the campus and town during a vacation break before the move date. Reach out to the school counselor before you arrive – most international schools will have a system for integrating new students. Find out if anybody in your housing compound or neighborhood-to-be has children around the same age, and strike up an email or Facebook dialogue with them. Even one personal relationship can go a long way in helping your child to feel more at ease about the new place.
  • Listen – Children will have their own feelings about your plan to move. Listen empathically and, though you may not agree, honor your child’s experience and encourage them to share it with you. Create a safe space for them to express and work through their feelings. Validate that big changes can induce big emotions.
  • Play – Children (yes, even high school students) need to play! Uprooting can be difficult, and wrapping-up is invariably busy. Make it a priority to carve out play time together as a family. Documenting ‘lasts’ at the old locale, and creating fun memories to cherish when you look back, is an essential component to making the international move experience one that you and your child can weather – even embrace -together.

What tips do you recommend for international families transitioning to a new home?

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Tech Support Problems, Apathy, & Solutions

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Recently I was reading a Technology Directors’ forum, and noticed that a few very well established schools were explicitly looking for people to assist them in improving their technology support system (Help Desk, Help Tickets, etc.)

Reflecting on how I design and implement such systems, I began to wonder if these schools have looked at the core foundation issues that cause problems in systems that support a variety of tech-ecosystems and networks.

Why Does Anyone Need Tech Support in 2018?

The question may seem obvious, but this question should be asked every year: Who actually needs support and why?

Why do teachers need someone to come to the classroom to help them? Is the equipment old and/or inconsistent? Is the classroom design too complicated? Does the classroom equipment not work well with the teacher’s issued device(s)? Are students unable to use or manage their devices? Are the deployed software and services too difficult to master?

For example, if a school is running Google Apps for Education or Office 365 for Education, is the school running these newer solutions using and old model? That would cause many problems for end users. End users would be trying to follow an internal plan, that conflicts with the external supplier’s solution. Google and Microsoft are external suppliers, and they do have  recommended implementation plans. In this case, the school has created a problem that will now need support.

The truth is, tech support and training are not the same thing. Asking support staff to execute tasks that an employee is required to do is a massive use of support time. The support staff is not the end user. Meaning, the support staff person is not a teacher. This means they will be very mechanical about explaining how things work, but possibly not very practical. Many issues are strictly job related, and require training from peers, not IT support staff.

The goal of anyone who is planning technology support, or facilities support, should be to eliminate the need for support. Expanding support around problems, will simply make those problems worse. Problems need to be eliminated to reduce the need for regular support.

Why Do Tech Support People Seem Apathetic and Annoyed?

Tech Support is actually a proper career. There are people who choose to be, and are employed as, tech support engineers or specialists.

In most schools tech support is usually an additional duty. Schools often have employees who are systems engineers, data base specialists, etc. assigned to do tech support. Why? Because, after all, if you have an IT job you can help people with IT. If that logic were true, every biology teacher could teach physics, and possibly serve on an ambulance as an EMT.

When people are spending most of their time away from their primary role, or outside of their primary comfort zone, they can develop a sense of resentment. In addition, people working outside their primary role will tend to make more mistakes doing other tasks. These mistakes often lead to public and unprofessional language exchanges. The cycle leads to further demoralization, and creates an environment of apathy.

The Way Forward

Over the years I have developed a few simple rules to handle support issues:

  1. De-personalize the process
  2. Divide-and-Conquer
  3. Follow-up Often
  4. Predict the future

De-personalize the process

The worse thing you can do is use personal email for tech support, or facilities support. There are some systems that work with a group email address ( eg. helpdesk@myschool.com).

However, even those systems trick the end-user in believing the email is going to a person. Email request systems, at least professional ones, route based-on criteria; or get posted in a list until a person delegates the work to someone.

The basic rule to follow is to use online forms or support groups (like Google Groups). Make certain individuals are not connected by name when they give support. Never allow teachers, or other stakeholders, to use personal email addresses for routine support.

Divide-and-Conquer

Support needs to be assigned to the person best suited for the job. Although some support can be generic and auto assigned, it is best to have routing system to send certain requests to certain people. For example, I have a form that has PowerSchool as an option. If someone selects PowerSchool, the request goes to the best two PowerSchool support people on staff.

Follow-up Often

From the moment a ticket is submitted, the end-user should automatically get a confirmation their problem is in process. When the problem is solved, they should get a notice. If their problem is pending for some reason, they should get another notice. If the issue is not solvable, the end-user needs a personal email, phone call, or face-to-face visit to explain in detail what is happening.  Complaints from end-users are often regarding a lack of communication.

Currently, my support form tells each user what their number is in the queue. This small feature has been very well received.

Predict the Future

This is not as mystical as it sounds. Support issues should be collected as data. This is another reason email is a bad option, unless the emails go into a categorized database. Patterns emerge in the data. Patterns can be used to find the next problem.

Sometimes technology fails in a single instance, but usually technology failure happens in batches or waves.

If you would like to know more about building custom and free Support Systems with Google Apps and Office 365, please contact me at: tony.deprato@gmail.com  . 

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Tales from the Road: Sumatra – An Intense Introduction to Indonesia

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A Spring in Our Step

So yesterday might just have been the most inspiring day of the year so far…for me at least. Not only did I go out for a long run in the sun, wearing shorts for the first time in months, I was also incredibly moved to see the March for Our Lives event unfold all over the world, as young people across the globe used their courageous and powerful voices for change…talk about a soul quenching afternoon! It was a magical day in many ways, and one that I will surely remember as the perfect start to Spring…cherry blossoms blooming, birds singing, the ground thawing, and young activists screaming at the top of their lungs.

I love this time of the year by the way. There is something about Spring that gives everyone an extra jump in their step, and makes all of our smiles a little bit wider and brighter. It’s an exciting time of the year to be an educator that’s for sure, as we reflect on all that’s been accomplished with our students thus far, and begin setting 4th quarter goals to finish the school year strong. Springtime musicals and concerts are coming up, student led conferences are on the horizon, and there is a renewed sense of possibility and opportunity everywhere you look. There is a beauty in this time of the year that feels different, and special in my opinion. There’s an energy that is positive and palpable, and it’s right there for us to take advantage of. The long climb to Spring is over and in many ways it’s a down hill run to June, so be sure to make the most of it with our kids.

Use the beauty of Springtime to find your best self, and to use that extra energy to inspire everyone you meet. Anyway, I’m off for another long run through the park and then to play basketball outside with my kids…enjoy this poignant poem below (one of my favorites), and use it as a reminder that life speeds us all by and seasons roll along…make sure to open your eyes to the wonder of Spring…smell the flowers, listen to the noises of nature, and let the change in the air feed your soul. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other…Spring has Sprung!

Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now

– A.E Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

 

Quote of the Week –

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!

-Mark Twain

 

Inspiring Videos –

Powerful Signs

Treat Everyone Like You Know Them

Outstanding Sportsmanship

How to Make Peace

Spring is Here

 

Related Articles –

March for Our Lives

Reasons to Love Spring

Lessons on Spring

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A Framework for Education

In a recent conversation with an International School of Zug and Luzern (ISZL) parent, he commented on how much he values ISZL’s approach to education and the school’s learning process. When pressed for specifics, he highlighted an appreciation of the achievements associated with academic success, such as impressive IB test scores, but, even more importantly, he values the focus on holistic development. He further elaborated by sharing how much he holds in high regard ISZL’s emphasis on social development, emotional intelligence, confidence levels, independent thinking, and communication skills, among others. I share these sentiments, both from my personal and professional perspectives but also based on the feedback I have received from staff, parents, and students during last semester’s transition interviews. One of ISZL’s greatest strengths is our teachers’ abilities to personalise learning in a manner that enables our students to realise their potentials in individual and unique ways.

This approach to teaching and learning also corresponds with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) recent report on The Future of Education and Skills 2030. The document is guided by a shared vision stating, “We are committed to helping every learner develop as a whole person, fulfil his or her potential and help shape a shared future built on the well-being of individuals, communities and the planet.” With a broad focus on global challenges that are economic, social, and environmental in nature (excuse the pun), the 2030 vision maps out an educational view that is framed by five distinct but related approaches.

The first frame is a belief in the need for broader education goals that encompass individual and collective well-being. The concept of well-being goes beyond material resources to include quality of life as defined by, for example, health, civic engagement, social connections, education, security, and life satisfaction.

The second frame is related to learner agency and the ability of our students to navigate through a complex and uncertain world. This focus involves both the building of a solid academic foundation and an approach to personalised learning.

The third frame is the ability to apply a broad set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values. This focus is about students’ abilities to mobilise their learning to meet complex demands.

The fourth frame is about taking responsibility for our society and future, in addition to the corresponding and necessary student competencies. These competencies will require that students be innovative, committed, and aware with respect to creating new value, reconciling tensions and dilemmas, and taking responsibility.

The fifth frame is about the design principles needed to move toward an eco-system in which a students’ different competencies are inter-related in nature and application.

While the challenges for schools to adapt to this philosophical shift are not insignificant, it is encouraging to see a movement among schools to embrace these design principles. ISZL has made important progress in these areas, though the fifth frame is, perhaps, the most challenging as the inherent structures of schools, including our physical spaces, do not necessarily lend themselves well to the concept of inter-related, cross-curricular learning and the application of competencies in a holistic manner. As with any change, this is a process that takes time and commitment, which will also continue to build on past developments while furthering current initiatives and implementing future strategies.

Fortunately, the OECD provides a framework to guide learning programme development through concept, content, and topic design that includes a focus on student agency, rigour, coherence, alignment, transferability, and choice. This framework also relies on process design and the related importance of teacher agency in which teachers are empowered to use their professional knowledge, skills, and expertise to develop an authentic, inter-related, flexible, and engaging learning programme. It is these design principles that ISZL embraces as we continue our work to ensure our students are benefiting from the most relevant and meaningful learning programme possible.

Blog: www.barrydequanne.com

Twitter: @dequanne


Reference: Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). (2018). The Future of Education and Skills 2030. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/education/2030/oecd-education-2030-position-paper.pdf

Photo Credit: OECD

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Biking Stuff: Cycling Thailand – A Beginner’s Perspective

I only started cycling about 3 years ago and still consider myself a beginner, despite having cycled over 10,000 km so far. Thailand is a great place for bicycle touring for many reasons but it I found myself commenting often during our month there on how perfect it would be as a person’s first bike tour.

Convenience

The first thing to strike me when we crossed the border from Cambodia at Koh Kong was how much more developed Thailand is compared to the other countries we have toured so far. The second thing I noticed – a 7 Eleven shop. I was beside myself with excitement. The snacks, the drinks, the air conditioning, the overwhelming choice of cheap products. Obviously this shouldn’t be the main draw of a trip through Thailand but after months of dusty, mini-market shacks with fish-flavoured cardboard snacks, this felt like such a luxury. It was instantly relaxing knowing that there would be a reliable shop every few kilometres so we never needed to plan our days around where we would be able to stop for a rest and get a drink. We just stopped whenever we felt like it. It also meant that we didn’t have the extra weight of carrying enough water for a whole day. We could get some more whenever we needed. A pit-stop for a Cafe Amazon frappe and 7 Eleven sandwich became part of our daily cycling routine. Supermarkets like Tesco and Big C meant we could get fresh food like fruit, dairy and bakery items cheaply instead of the packaged cookies and cakes we had been living on before. Other conveniences are nice public toilets at petrol stations and Wi-Fi almost everywhere.

Great Roads

The road surfaces in Thailand are fantastic. No skidding through gravel and avoiding potholes here. The main roads are busy but there is usually a decent hard shoulder (or occasionally a dedicated bike lane!). There is often an option to take rural roads instead of the highway as long as you don’t mind a few extra kms and a bit of navigating. These roads are just as well surfaced and are surprisingly quiet…some were almost traffic-free. On the rural roads we could relax and look around more, often seeing colourful (and loud) birds and monkeys. One drawback of the back roads is that there is a much higher chance of being chased by dogs.

Quiet Beaches 

I had been dreaming of Thai beaches since setting off on our around the world trip 9 months ago. At the same time, I was a bit worried that everywhere would be packed with other tourists and that it would be a bit spoiled. It’s true that some beaches are complete tourist traps but we purposely avoided these places and were surprised at how many perfect stretches of empty beach we came across. The road from Hua Hin south to Chumphon along the coast is dotted with small resorts catering to locals and quiet beaches. It feels a world away from the Thailand of full moon parties and tourist scams. Often, the road runs right next to the beach so you can cool off in the sea when you need a break from pedalling.

No Mountains 

If you are just starting out with bike touring and don’t want to tackle high mountain passes just yet, then Thailand is perfect. The route we took: Trat – Chumphon – Ranong – Satun was almost completely flat. We found it very relaxing and it meant that we could complete long distances quickly without spending too long in the blazing sun. It would be great for building up bike fitness at the beginning of a longer tour.

Easy Accommodation

Accommodation in Thailand is plentiful and cheap so the extra weight of bringing a tent is not essential. Dorm beds in hostels are a few dollars while ensuite rooms in guesthouses and hotels can be found for 10-20 dollars. Tip: Agoda has more options than Booking.com in Thailand and prices are usually a couple of dollars lower.

Tips:

  • There are plenty of ATMs in Thailand so you don’t need to worry about changing lots of cash at the border. However, beware the huge charges at some ATMs. Most that we came across charged between 200 and 300 baht per withdrawal. The purple AEON ATMs found near Tesco stores had a lower charge of 150 baht.

  • Packs of stray dogs roam Thailand and often chase cyclists. We have found that talking loudly when approaching dogs helps with not startling them. I have convinced myself that complimenting dogs dissuades them from chasing me. I’ll say “Hello puppy! You are so cute! Good doggy! Good doggy doggy!” even if it is the most ancient and mangy thing I’ve ever seen. If the flattery doesn’t work and they charge, we dismount with the bikes between us and the dogs and try to look confident. They usually stop when they see we are just humans and let us be on our way.

  • Don’t underestimate sandflies

  • If your visa is running out, a few days in Myanmar (pics above) is a good option as a visa run. The crossing from Ranong to Kawthaung is an experience and relatively hassle-free. Click here for more info.

  • If you don’t want the stress of cycling through Bangkok, take the ferry from Pattaya to Hua Hin, avoiding the capital. We had heard that you can’t take bikes in the ferry but had no problems when we tried. We went to the office at Pattaya port the day before the sailing and bought tickets that specified we were taking bikes. Ferry staff loaded and unloaded the bikes for us without needing to take off the bags. It was all really smooth.

Click here for an interactive map of our route in Thailand.

More videos of our bicycle tour around the world can be found on our You Tube channel.

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We’re Moving: What About the Kids? {Part I}

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

With the flurry of recruiting season beginning to diminish, many international teachers are now standing, new contract in hand, preparing to pack up and start a new chapter someplace else in a few short months Aside from the logistics of moving, there is also the emotional management of bidding farewell. These good-byes are particularly complicated when we are not only professional educators, but also parents. This is the first of a two-part post about easing the transition of a big move for your child.

Be careful of how you break the news

Parents know that big changes can create anxiety, and we all have the best intentions to shield our children from discomfort. A family I once supported as a school counsellor decided to move their child to a different school nearby. They knew this might be upsetting so, to try to make the transition fun and quick, the idea was to surprise the child with cupcakes on their last day at our school and, at the impromptu good-bye party, break the news that they would be attending someplace else the following day. I managed to talk the parents out of that plan, but have seen various (less extreme) versions of attempting to conceal from children that they’re in for a major shift in scenery. Put your child’s needs at the forefront, and think carefully and sensitively about how to tell them that you’re moving.

Tell them now

Maybe not right this very second, but tell them soon. Here’s why:

  • They already know. Maybe they don’t know the details, but kids are so dialled in to their parents, it’s hard to keep major family secrets for long. My guess is that they already know something’s up, and could be worrying about it anyway.
  • They will find out soon. If you haven’t told them yet, they are going to learn about it in short time. International communities (sometimes called bubbles or fish bowls, for good reason) are close-knit, and exciting news gets around quickly. You want to be the one to share this information at the time and place of your choice, not have your child accidentally find out at a play date or in the hallways of school.
  • They need to prepare. Children will benefit from having time to process the idea of a move, as well as to wrap up at the current locale, and get excited for your new place. Basically, they want to know for the same reasons you’d want to know: they need to get ready.
  • It will cause less anxiety in the long run. Moving is hard. It can be positive and exciting too, but it’s always hard. There’s no getting around this, and cutting your child out of the conversation won’t make the shift any less difficult. Accept that there will be some aches associated with the process; don’t put it off like a trip to the dentist.

Full disclosure and special circumstances

We are actually moving ourselves. After seven incredible years in Hong Kong, we’ll be starting a new adventure in The Hague this summer. I’m feeling a bit hypocritical as I write this because we haven’t told our babe yet. He’s two, though, and June is a very abstract concept for him. We’ll make sure to give him plenty of notice as we near the departure date.

Every family is different, and you know your child best. There may be a good reason to temporarily hold off on telling them about an upcoming move, such as one parent is on an extended trip, and you want to share the news together. Or, perhaps your child is facing a different, significant challenge at the moment, and you need to focus on that. However, consider what your reason is for delaying the conversation, and whether waiting will actually address the issue. Kids are resilient, and bringing them into the family discussion about your transition now (even if it’s difficult) could be better for them in the long run.

If you’re not quite sure how to prepare your child for an upcoming move, stay tuned… My next post will offer tips on how to ease this perennial transition so associated with international teaching life.

What tips do you have about sharing the news of a move with your child? 

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Biking Stuff: Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a paradise for bike tourers. Although most people haven’t heard of this Central Asian country, we met more fellow cyclists here than anywhere else we have been. Challenging climbs and rough terrain are rewarded with pristine views along with warm hospitality.

There are a thousand reasons to cycle in this country but here are my top 5:

1. Camping

Kyrgyzstan is a camper’s dream. So much of this country is uncultivated, rolling, green hills perfect for pitching a tent as dusk falls on another day of riding. Kyrgyz people in the countryside live in yurts and are therefore not at all surprised by the sight of tourists camping compared to the reaction of locals in some other countries. It is a really special feeling knowing that you are completely self-sufficient with your vehicle, kitchen and house underneath you. Since leaving Kyrgyzstan, we have camped less and less because of the availability of cheap accommodation and the lack of open space. We miss our routine of setting up camp, cooking and watching the stars at night.

2. Waterfalls, Streams and Lakes

Waterfalls, streams and lakes in Kyrgyzstan are not just beautiful, they are useful too. When you spend 4 days cycling between villages, the waterfalls become showers and sources of drinking water (when purified and filtered- although it’s probably some of the cleanest water in the world). The streams are a kitchen sink for washing pots and pans. As a person who absolutely despises housework, I can say that chores are much less of a chore when done in a cascading waterfall!

3. Horses

If you are into horses, then go to Kyrgyzstan immediately. Families of wild horses idle on the sides of mountain switchbacks while herds gallop past your tent in the evening. One morning, we even saw a group splashing and bathing in a stream next to the most remote border crossing I have ever been to. Kyrgyz people love their horses and treat them well. A highlight is the national horse games festival held in the summer at Song Kul lake. You haven’t lived until you have been a spectator to teams on horseback scoring points by throwing a headless goat carcass into a tyre.

4. Unrivalled Alpine Beauty

The place is just stunning. People say it’s “the Switzerland of Asia”. I’ve never been to Switzerland, but if it has even a fraction of the beauty of Kyrgyzstan, then it must be pretty nice. Also, Kyrgyzstan is approximately a million times cheaper (my economist boyfriend might argue with my math there but you get my point). Don’t need to say much more about this… the pics can do the talking.

5. Local Treats

Food should probably be in the top 5 and lots of people love Kyrgyz cuisine. But personally, having lived in neighbouring Uzbekistan for 3 years, it was just more of the same for me. And I’m not really a fan of kumis (fermented mare’s milk). So instead, let me tell you that like most of the former Soviet union, Kyrgyzstan offers bottles of great/questionable vodka for less than the change in your pocket. There are also some decent cognacs to be sampled as a reward at the end of a gruelling climb.  Ден соолугубуз үчүн (cheers in Kyrgyz – shortened and taught to us as buzuchun).

Click here for an interactive map of our route in Kyrgyzstan.

Videos of our bicycle tour in Kyrgyzstan can be found on our You Tube channel.

Follow our journey around the world at www.pedalgogy.net or on Facebook.

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