Presuming Positive Intent

So recently as a school we have been digging deep into two wonderful professional development opportunities…Adaptive Schools and Cognitive Coaching. Learning about ways that we can better interact and collaborate with each other, both individually and in teams, is a huge opportunity for us to strengthen our relationships, and to build trust and vulnerability, which will ultimately bring us closer together as a community. I have been through this training before at a previous school and it was transformative then, so going through it again here at ASP is super exciting to say the least. 

Anyway, as I have reflected on the sessions thus far, and as I re-familiarize myself with the 7 norms of collaboration, I can’t help but feel that for me, the norm of presuming positive intent is truly the foundation of any successful human interaction. It’s a skill that will absolutely change your life for the better when developed and used consistently in conversations, meetings, and all other interactions that you have with others throughout the run of a day…truly. Like all skills however, it takes practice and discipline to get good at it, and to be honest, it’s much harder than you might think. 

The thing about presuming or assuming positive intent, which is the belief that people are in their heart always meaning well and doing their best, is that it gets you to think of others first, and not yourself, and this a muscle that needs strengthening over and over and over. I have often found myself in difficult meetings or contentious situations over the years where I feel myself getting defensive very quickly, and starting to take a person’s words or actions personally. I’m sure that this happens to all of us, maybe more often than we’d like to admit but here’s the thing…if you enter into a meeting with an open heart and an open mind, searching for the root of the issue and taking yourself out of the equation for a minute, you’ll find that people almost all of the time want a good result, and in many instances, they want the same result as you. 

When you presume positive intent you open up yourself to the notion that conflict usually comes from a place of fear, or insecurity, or a lack of trust, and with this in your mind you are better able to hear people, see people, and take the personal off the table so to speak. The other thing about presuming positive intent is that it allows you to enter into situations with a sense of caring, compassion, and with a willingness to forgive. Listen, people make mistakes all of the time, I know that I certainly do, but believing that these mistakes come from a place of well meaning changes the conversation and outcome, and it ultimately strengthens relationships.

In my life and in my job, like I am sure is true for you as well, I have difficult conversations all of the time, but I’ve become better at approaching them over the years. In fact, by developing the skill of presuming positive intent, and practicing this before I enter into a conversation, I have actually started to feel very comfortable with these experiences. I don’t always get it right of course, and being human I still get defensive once in a while, but having developed the skill of presuming positive intent through years of practice, I have positively changed my life. I have also learned to listen more intently, see people more clearly, and get to the root of an issue much more quickly.

Like I said, as educators and as human beings, we almost all of the time come to a space meaning well and wanting to do our best. We want people to know this about us, and we should commit to knowing this about others too. Once this happens we will all be better for each other and for our world, and honestly, our school and community will become a stronger, safer, and happier place. With all that said, my challenge for all of us this week, and in the weeks to come, is to practice this skill intentionally. Remind yourself when you enter into conversations, meetings, and interactions with others that everyone is meaning well and doing their best. Practice this skill of presuming positive intent and watch your life, and the lives of others start to change for the better…it has been working for me and I know it will work for you. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Gratitude in advance is the most powerful creative force in the universe

-Neale Donald Walsh

Related Articles – 

The Collaborative Way

Assuming Positive Intent 

Edutopia 

Relationship Superpower

An HR Playbook

Making the Right Assumptions

Adaptive School Toolkit

Inspiring Videos – 

Invest in Kindness

School Bus Driver

Casting the Light of Kindness

Mel Robbins – Assuming Positive Intent

Improve Positive Thinking – Alison Ledgerwood

10 Things That Made Us Smile This Week

Life on the Wire

“Life is on the wire, the rest is just waiting.”  

~Papa Wallenda

The next several months of recruiting season are exciting for many teachers and administrators. Having resigned, lives are once again lived on the “wire.”  As a teacher of inquiry there seems to be a valuable ordering to the questions which might propel the decisions so many are about to make.  Our “why” paramount, hopefully a clear vision of why we remain in the hallowed field of education.  Followed by “what.”  Understanding the nature that there is not one market but many.  What exactly is most desirable?  The “who” you are, what you are able to offer, but also “who” or identity of your potential future employer also is to be considered.  And last, the “how.”  Trust is what ultimately is required here.  Confidence in yourself but moreover, a deep sense of trust in the process, and in life.  

Further, we might do ourselves a favor to remember and hold fast to the fact that similar to graduating students, there are no “best” international schools.  Unlike United States universities and colleges, there are no rankings of international schools. Even if there were, the list would be flimsy and likely, saturated in bias.  For, even the thirty odd years of US News & World Report university and college rankings recently were debunked by Malcolm Gladwell in his Revisionist History podcast. Gladwell brazenly asserts the “rankings game” report to be audaciously inaccurate in measuring the quality of institutions.  

Yet, somehow there persists a myth in the international circuit of tiered schools.  Reputation is an aspect not to be dismissed, however what makes a “top tier” school is worth sussing out.  Besides reputation, “top tier” equates to a more generous package.  Such benefits as matching retirement funds, annual return trips home, shipping allowance, and health insurance.  Benefits are unarguably measurable. Yet, they do not necessarily equate to the effectiveness of a school, student learning, or most importantly fittingness. 

First Rodeo

Snow was being removed from the tarmac as my plane landed in February of 1998. My life was about to be positively changed as I attended my first international teaching job fair. These were the days before the ubiquity of the internet and a physical catalog of schools was provided after mailing in a check and registering. So much has changed in the world and yet, I sometimes grapple to put my finger on how much the international teaching “circuit” has.  In many respects it still seems like a small world, especially when a new colleague is quick to connect, “Oh, you taught at X, Y, or Z school.  You must know Dan Stiles (or take your pick of names!).”  

I entered the fair expecting nothing more than a chance to gain interviewing experience.  When I received my first offer, I hurried to the pay phone, mind you this also was before cell phones.  “Dad, I was offered a job,” I celebrated.  Even more surprising, later in the day another contract was extended.  Since this experience, I have utilized the services of two other recruitment agencies and had the pleasure to teach on five different continents.  However, only in the last few years have I fully come to appreciate the importance of the term, “fittingness.”

Fittingness

The concept of fittingness is a constant, so long as we are willing to put our lives on a limb. Throughout life there are choices to be made, forks less or more traveled in the road.  Stress, usually self-induced, besets a mental fixation on making the “correct” or “right” choice.  For grade eleven and twelve students it often centers on higher education.  Achieving high IB or SAT scores and being selected into an Ivy or other lofty “league” school. Assuming Harvard is the best for everyone, when in reality some big fish may have a better experience in a smaller “pond.”  The reality being one where there is no “best” school.  Thankfully there are many “bests,” and the notion that matters most. is the fit.

Abundance and a World of Choice

ISC Research,  a leading provider of English-medium K-12 international school data, trends and intelligence, reported in 2017 there are more than 9,000 international schools. To operate under the belief that there are but a few “best” schools would be a gross understatement. Seth Godin, best-selling author and entrepreneur, purports there is no scarcity.  As we close out on the Industrial Age, the opposite is true.  In effect we are living in great abundance and are experiencing a world of choice.  Instead of stressing ourselves about the “best” or “top tier” schools, what might make more sense is to create a sort of hierarchy around what matters most to you in your next place of work.  

Some Ideas of Criteria to Consider (not in any hierarchical order)

~location of the school and size of the city. An increasing consideration is quality of life, looking at a cities air quality may be one helpful criteria

~size of the school. Small, medium, and large schools all have their pros and cons

~history and tradition of the school.  Schools steeped in tradition may sometimes not be as quick to be progressive as tried and true systems of yesteryear may not demand revision. Unable or an unwillingness to be innovative or make quick shifts may lead to feeling like Krishnan Kanthavel, the captain of the Ever Given, as he diagonally blocked the Suez and prevented the  transit of nearly everything bought and sold on the planet!

~your personal mission as a professional 

~a school’s clarity in mission, vision, values and how these are tangibly being realized

Further, keeping it clear what one ideally wants in a school is vital. A component of this is fully coming to grips with what you have to offer.  Schools will want to know this.  Moreover, just as a school’s clear identity is important to you, they will want to feel confident in their ability to see an “authentic you.” Envisioning the interview this way may even help dissolve barriers which create anxiety and possibly create more of a conversational feel. Feigning questions at the end is easily discernible. Instead, determine what you really want to know about the role you are applying for, the school, or even the host nation.  

A Few Ideas of Questions You May Wonder

~What has your school learned through the pandemic?  Or, how has your school positively adapted as a result of COVID?

~How are you leveraging PD as a whole faculty?

~What measures are being taken to ensure students are learning in ways that fit with what the world is asking of graduates today?

~What are the top three strategic goals for your school?

~What does ___________ look like in the classroom?

~What would have been most helpful to know before you joined the school?

“I’m Excited”

Transition can be scary business.  Anxiety is normal when we courageously unroot ourselves and pick up our lives after any number of years.  However, it is possible to reframe the experience and actually enjoy the process. Alison Wood Brooks, a renowned psychologist found evidence across several studies of reappraising anxiety as excitement. Simple self-talk as saying “I am excited” out loud can actually work, giving credence to the aphorism, “fake it till you make it.” The doors of the world are unhinged. Your vulnerability ultimately has the power to lead to unforeseen opportunities.  Trust and enjoy life on the wire.  

#################

GLOBAL BOOKS

The global Covid-19 pandemic has already led to new books to help children get a grasp of the unusual situation. These books may help educate but also help to realize they we are not alone in trying to cope in a difficult situation.

We Wear Masks

We Wear Masks by Marla Lesage is a picture book for very young readers, about masks of all shapes and sizes. Masks are worn by painters and pilots, in winter and underwater. You can wear a mask on stage or in a laboratory. Welders and superheroes wear masks. Wearing a mask is cool and means you care. Reading this picture book can be the start of making fun paper masks in class. ISBN 978-1459-828810, Orca Book Publishers

The Cow Said BOO!

Not specifically about Covid, but about communicable diseases in general and especially helpful in Kindergarten classes, The Cow Said Boo by Lana Button, illustrated by Alice Carter is a fun farm romp when poor cow catches a cold and can’t say ‘Moo!’ but says ‘Boo!’ instead. The other animals nurse cow back to health but once cow is better, rooster says “cock-a-doodle-CHOO!” A nonfiction back page talks about washing hands to prevent colds. ISBN 978-1-77278-216-5, Pajama Press

Talk to Me, What Do You See? Beauty and Joy from A - Z

Talk To Me, What Do You See? Beauty from A-Z by Sandip Sodhi, illustrated by Anika Sandhu uses the alphabet to focus on beauty in a time of unrest. Dedicated to frontline workers, this picturebook touches on washing hands, helping elders and staying connected. A lovely way to discuss Covid related anxieties with young students. ISBN 978-1-7770218-2-5

Germy Science: The Sick Truth about Getting Sick (and Staying Healthy)

Germy Science, The Sick Truth about Getting Sick and Staying Healthy, by Edward Kay with art by Mike Shiell is a new, nonfiction title about all things germy. What exactly are germs? Where are they found? Are there good germs as well as bad? The book includes a history of the discovery of germs and shows how we pass on germs every day. With hilarious, sometimes nice and gross, art this book is a good resource on how contamination happens and how to prevent it. ISBN 978-1-5253-0412-5, Kids Can Press

Don't Stand So Close to Me

Don’t Stand So Close To Me by Eric Walters is a good middle grade novel about the current pandemic. Based on recent events, the strength of this book is that young teens can recognize themselves and their families in this story. Suddenly faced with school closures, Zoom meetings and face masks, 13 year old Quinn and her friends learn to deal with a new reality. The story also shows how kids can take positive initiatives to help others. ISBN 978-1459827875 Orca Book Publishers

This link will show you even more children’s books about Covid-19 related issues:

https://torontopubliclibrary.typepad.com/kids-books/

Margriet Ruurs is the author of 40 books for children. She conducts author visits to international schools and shares her love of travel and books here: https://www.globetrottingbooklovers.com/

Talent is a pursued interest

Like everyone in this pandemic, my social life is mostly driven by Netflix. For some reason, the Bob Ross documentary was recommended to me. Maybe the internet algorhythm discovered I am nostalgic, maybe it aligned my approximate birthdate with his life. Who knows.

What I do know is that his shows made me not only incredibly relaxed, but filled me with the belief that I could do things even if I didn’t believe in myself.

People loved him because he made them believe they could paint. And if people believed they could paint a beautiful mountain or a forest, then maybe they could do things that they didn’t have the confidence to achieve. He made the inaccessible accesssible, and maybe that’s one of the genius attributes of a good teacher.

In one of his interviews, he said that anyone could paint. He didn’t say that anyone could be a Picasso. He just said that anyone could paint. I remember one of my favorite lines from the movie Ratatouille was, “anyone can cook, that doesn’t mean that anyone should!”

Yes, a lot of his paintings look like motel/hotel art. You may have even seen what you think to be a Bob Ross painting at a flea market. But the point is not that he expected himself or others to become world renowned artists. The point was that people could pursue a talent that they didn’t know they had, even if they didn’t have it. And who knows what could become of that.

If my math teacher asked me the right questions about how I think and what I would do in certain mathematical situations, even though I stopped learning math at Algebra II in grade 11, who knows what I could have done? Maybe if he told me that anyone can do math that I might have been good!I

learned recently at an assessment training with Tom Schimmer that every learner had an emotional reaction to the opportunity to be assessed. What Bob Ross did with his audience was to focus their emotions in a way that enabled them to access a creative side of themselves that they didn’t think was possible. In other words, magic.

I work in a school. I don’t want to stand in the way of talent. I want to be a catalyst for the pursuit of interest, not an obstacle. And most importantly, like Bob, I want to get people to believe in their ability to do something even though they think it’s impossible.

It’s a sad docmentary. It speaks to the consequences of what happens to artists and people that simply love and pursue something without understanding the business side of things. I don’t have an answer for that.

But what I do know is that Bob Ross gave people something to believe in that cut across cultures, religions, educational background, religion, and vaccination preference.

He made them believe that they could do something they didn’t think was possible.

technology vs teachers-an International teacher’s day debate

Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on canva.com

Technology is a game-changer, it has helped teachers to create active learning environments, increase assess to content, differentiate for varied student needs and very recently even teach remotely. Throughout the history of technical innovations, technology has aided the art of teaching but not yet replaced the artist, in this case, the teacher.

On the occasion of International Teacher’s Day on 5th October, a question was discussed: Can technology replace teachers? in a professional learning community (PLC) forum. The overwhelming response was in favour of teachers and almost everyone believed that technology cannot replace teachers. Ironically, in this very forum, we all are learning sans a teacher! This made me realise that teachers have been replaced from their traditional role of lecturing, teaching and being the knowledgeable other by technology. As professional development has increasingly become technology-driven, a lot of learning is happening without the teacher.

Let us examine the current teaching interface in many schools and universities across the world. Students use a computer to log into a website, download content, check the assigned tasks and complete the tasks with the help of technology or through online research. So where is the teacher? There might be a facilitator, not a teacher depending on the nature of the topic/subject. There are many teachers at this moment completing professional development delivered without a teacher, there might be an instructor or facilitator to manage the logistics of the online modules, but mostly all learning takes place without a teacher. Therefore, is it accurate to say that technology is replacing teachers? Moreover, with artificial intelligence barging its way through every threshold, it is a matter of time that teachers will be completely replaced by technology.

There is another way of looking at this developing scenario. The teacher as a human being. We cannot overlook the social-emotional benefits of having a human leading the job of teaching. Teachers do more than one way or one task at a time. The job of a teacher is not just to deliver instructions, it is also to gauge the students’ context, ability and interest in the topic to modify it constantly. As a teacher, I always keep changing plans in the classroom to be engaging and responsive to my students’ needs. In a real-world scenario, things evolve and change every minute, therefore being dynamic and constantly improvising is a teacher’s job. One cannot rely on pre-programmed instructions to think independently and find instant on the spot solutions. One thing is sure, technology may not replace teachers but it will replace teachers who cannot harness or use technology.

An automated teacher robot or artificial intelligence would be great to deliver content, but it will not be able to make decisions or judgements related to human emotions, for example, sometimes students are too tired to solve problems hence reinforcing concepts is a better strategy to teach tired brains instead of introducing new concepts. These decisions that require humans to consider emotions and feelings cannot be mastered by the robot. Even though in recent years artificial intelligence has taken over a lot of iterative mechanised jobs, it is yet to start teaching full time in a classroom. One can use technology to aid the process of teaching but not completely replace a teacher’s cognitive, intuitive approaches to teaching.

Teachers take on the caring role of a parent’s stead, they advocate for students who might be otherwise forgotten, and they shape a nation’s future (Fedena, 2018). Therefore it might be even dangerous to hand over these crucial responsibilities to a machine or an interface. With a geometrical progression in technology, machines might soon be able to develop the ability to be just like humans but not humans. It is therefore a responsibility as humans to make an ethical decision of how much to give to the robots or how much to replace humans with robots. “Many education reformers outside of Silicon Valley say no. The people in the Valley think technology will solve everything. It won’t. There’s a human side to education that won’t go away” (Norris & Soloway, 2016, p. 63).

In summary, the decision to replace a teacher in the classroom with a robot needs ethical considerations, as we are interfering in the process of character building early on in the formative years of young children. If we want our children to develop kindness, emotional intelligence and empathy we need to model it the human way, not the robot way. 

References

Fedena. (2018).Technology vs Teachers: Can technology replace teachers?  https://fedena.com/blog/2018/05/teachers-vs-technology-can-technology-replace-teachers.html

Norris, C., & Soloway, E. (2016). Uberizing K-12: Use Software… But Keep the Teachers, Too! Educational Technology, 56(1), 61–63. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44430450

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

What is home? Home means something different to each person – real readers but also to fictional characters in books. Through books about home, students can recognize themselves or come to appreciate what ‘home’ means for others. Happy Banned Book week!

Roger and Matthew by Michel Thériault  This is a lovely, quiet story of two gentle men. They were friends in elementary school and are still best friends. They are part of their community and enjoy nature. They were not always treated kindly because they are different. But they have now been accepted and love the life they lead in their home surrounded by a garden full of birds. ISBN 9781554554843, Fitzhenry & Whiteside

In a similar vein, Patricia Polacco tells the beautiful story In Our Mother’s House in which Marmee, Meema, and the kids are just like any other family on the block. In their beautiful house, they cook dinner together, they laugh together, and they dance together. But some of the other families don’t accept them because they are different. How can a family have two moms and no dad? But Marmee and Meema’s house is full of love. They teach their children that different doesn’t mean wrong. That living in a house full of love is always right. An older title but every bit as relevant. ISBN 978-0399250767, Philomel

My Words Flew Away Like Birds

And what if your new home is in a different country? What if you don’t speak the language? My Words Flew Away Like Birds by Debora Pearson, illustrated by Shrija Jain is a lovely story about a girl who moves to a new country. All the words she used to have she can no longer use. And the few words she learned in English proof not to be very helpful. People speak too fast and she can’t understand their tumbling words. Not only a story for kids who recognize this situation, but also a good story to see how easy it can be to help a newcomer.  Reminiscent of Aidan Cassie’s book The Word for Friend, this is a fun story to read as well as to start a classroom discussion. ISBN 978-1-5253-0318-0, Kids Can Press

The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner. This is one of my favourite middle school novels because it combines a good story with the skills of geocaching. Since his dad left him and his mom, ”Zig” Zigonski lives for simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than people -especially his father, who he hasn’t seen in over a year. When his dad’s latest visit is canceled without explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a GPS unit he finds at a garage sale. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town, Zig sets out to find him. But he soon discovers that people aren’t always what they seem . . . and sometimes, there’s more than one set of coordinates for home. An engaging story about hope and family. ISBN 978-1681198989, Bloomsbury 

Unravel by Sharon Jennings is a wonderful page turner for middle graders. Rebecca was raised by her single father. She’s turning into an avid reader but realizes that her life is unusual. They had no friends, she doesn’t go to school and they move suddenly many times. As Rebecca gets older the story of her life begins to unravel… Soon nothing is as it seemed. With the help of a new found friend, Rebecca discovers the truth behind her dad and their life together and ‘home’ will never be the same. ISBN 9780889956193, Red Deer Press 

Story Boat

But what if you are homeless? Story Boat by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Rashin Kheiiriyeh says that home is ‘here’ – wherever you are. Home can be a cup, or a blanket. Home can be ever changing as you move in search of a place to stay. The art in this new picture book depicts refugee families as they move along in search of a new home, treasuring shelter, a light, a book along the way.

ISBN 978-0-7352-6359-8, Tundra Books

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen is one of my favourite middle grade novels about homelessness because it shows, in a gentle way, how easy easily and how randomly, one can become homeless. Felix is twelve. His mom struggles to hold on to jobs. When she can’t pay the ever increasing rent, the two live in their van – just for one summer month. But when school starts in September, they still live in their van and Felix needs to keep their homelessness a secret. A realistic, endearing and almost humorous story about a very real problem that gets solved in unexpected ways.  ISBN 978-0735262775, Random House

Margriet Ruurs’ home is on Canada’s west coast where she writes books for children as well as a blog about her travels, paired with favourite books: www.globetrottingbooklovers.com

Knowing Your Community

So an interesting thing happened to me at the end of last year, which really opened up my eyes to how critical it is to spend the time getting to know your community…deeply. Not just the students and parents and faculty, but everyone who works so hard to ensure that our kids have their best possible experience each and every day. 

You see, we had a fantastic science unit planned for our kids around the importance of honey bees in our natural world, and one of the ideas was to bring in a beekeeper to talk to the students about honeymaking and pollination and all of the other incredible facts about our little black and yellow friends. So we went out and found a couple of local bee advocates who spent a few days enthralling our students and leaving them wanting more…especially more of the yummy honey samples.

Anyway, It just so happened that later that evening one of our experienced maintenance workers, who I thought I knew pretty well, stopped me and let me know that next time, he would be more than happy to speak to the students, as he is actually a certified beekeeper and this is his absolute life’s passion! Well, at that moment I felt terrible, and rightly so, because I had missed the perfect opportunity to connect our students with one of our community members, who, like all of us, has so much more to offer than simply the jobs that we are employed to do.  

I started to reflect on the opportunities that pass us by each and every day that might leverage the expertise and knowledge and inspiration that is right at our fingertips…literally. I missed this chance because I didn’t know this man as well as I could have, or should have, and this experience absolutely woke me up to some necessary work that I have to do…that we all have to do perhaps. This incidentally, connects very nicely to our school-wide initiative around belonging, where we are making a huge effort to ensure that all community members are seen, heard, valued, and purposely engaged.

Since that experience at the end of last year, I have done a much better job of getting to know the people in our building, who I thought I knew already but really didn’t, and I have found out so much! We now have members of our maintenance and facilities team going out on field trips with our kids and sharing their local expertise, we have members of our cafeteria team speaking to our kids about healthy eating and composting and food waste, and we have many of our cleaning and security staff helping out with our daily lunch and recess duties so they can get to know our students even better…and vice versa! 

By developing these relationships across our community, and by taking the time to get to know everyone inside and outside of our building, we will only become a stronger school. A school where everyone truly feels a sense of belonging, and where we uncover as many opportunities and possibilities as we can to not only enhance student learning, but to strengthen our relationships with each other as well.  So my question for you to ponder this week is…how well do you know the people in the building? If the answer is, not well enough, then go out of your way to change that around. We are stronger together as you know, and we are all here to support our kids…so reach out and take the first step, you might just be surprised by what you find out…I sure was, but never again. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much

-Helen Keller

Related Articles – 

The Power of Being Seen

Strength Based Community 

School Culture 

Community in Your Classroom

Leveraging Support

Inspiring Videos-

Field of Dreams

Every Opportunity

Relationships in Schools

Peace Train 

My Community – Bus Driver

Surprise Assembly

100 Jokes in 100 Days

TEACH FOR PEACE: international day of peace

Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on canva.com

21st September is celebrated as the International Day of Peace. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.

Peace is the key to surviving the next decade. With pandemics, wars, natural disasters, conflicts, political power play and most importantly lack of education, observing peace even for 24 hours seems unimaginable. This is the state of the planet!

The UN celebrate international days and weeks to give us time to stop and think about issues that matter the most. This is also an opportunity to educate on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems. It is also a way of celebrating and reinforcing humanity.

As a teacher, I know that academic organizations go out of their way to celebrate UN International Days as at the core of the philosophy of education lies the betterment of the world and its people. Surprisingly it is not a pressing agenda for most organizations, corporates or governments.

Interestingly it does bother the young minds as they see and experience violence, discrimination and hatred every day, thanks to the media. Some questions that my senior students asked when discussing ways to celebrate International Day of Peace, come to my mind.

  1. Is it only the responsibility of academic organizations or organizations like the UN to care about world peace? Why do other organizations, who dominate the world markets, not take an initiative?
  2. Why does peace have to come at a cost, but violence is free?
  3. Why are women and children subjected to the most violent acts?
  4. What persuades humans to act likes animals? Or are we just animals persuaded to be humans?
  5. Can we teach peace? If yes, then where are we failing?

To promote global solidarity for a peaceful and sustainable world we need to change our ways every day, not just one day. How do we do this?

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi,

“If we want to reach real peace in this world, we should start educating children.”

A goal to educate all people in the world is truly global peace. The ability to coexist needs to be taught, hence investing in schools should be a priority for every country, every organization, every human. That would be a concrete step towards world peace. Teach for Peace should become the mantra.

In international schools, there are many innovative projects happening to instil the value of a shared planet and to take care of the shared space. For example, privileged schools supporting the underprivileged, Model United Nation (MUN) conferences, mandated community service programmes, celebrating diversity, raising voice against discrimination, building resilience against change and most importantly valuing global peace or delivering education to make the world a better place.

If we don’t act urgently and immediately, we will continue creating humans with no humanity, orphans with no countries, and a planet with no peace. This will be our apocalypse, so let’s celebrate International Peace Day every day. Let’s be soldiers but soldiers of peace to protect our planet. Teach for Peace.

A Quest to Serve All Learners, Everywhere, Anytime

A hybrid is something made by combining two different elements.  My earliest understanding was that of the mule, the result of crossing a horse and a donkey. In the field of education, hybrid learning is best defined as some students participate in person, whereas others are online. Educators teaching virtual and in-person learners at the same time.  

Though often used interchangeably, hybrid models are not the same as blended learning.  Blended learning is resultant when educators combine in-person instruction with online learning activities, completing some components online and others in person.  A hardly foreign approach in technology-rich schools.  

In an article authored by Celisa Steele titled, “Hybrid vs Blended Learning: The Difference and Why It Matters,” further distinction is made.  “Both types of learning involve a mix of in-person and online learning, but the who differs in the two scenarios. With hybrid learning, the in-person learners and the online learners are different individuals. With blended learning, the same individuals learn both in person and online.”

360° Accommodation

The pandemic ushered in a necessity for renewed flexibility and inversely spurred creativity to strategically design schedules to accommodate all learners wherever they may be, at whatever time.  The terms synchronous and asynchronous more than mere buzzwords, were essential to take into account.  

Amidst a background of more questions than answers, scheduling becomes anything but dichotomous. Dr. John Spencer illustrates five different models for structuring hybrid learning.  

Differentiation Model:  students at home and in-person engage synchronously on the same lesson.  The two groups frequently interact with one another.
Multi-track Model: students work on the same lessons but they are divided into cohorts that exist in separate tracks. The cohorts rarely interact.
Split A/B Model: students alternate days between being at-home and being in-person.  Most at-home learning is asynchronous with a few opportunities for video conferencing.
Virtual Accommodation Model: When the group at home is small (3-4 students) they can function as a virtual small group but use video chat to join the in-person classroom.
Independent Project Model: When a face-to-face lesson doesn’t work off-line and only 1-4 students need to work virtually, an independent model works best.

Spencer recognizes how every model has strengths and weaknesses.  Further he comments, “As educators, we need to be strategic about which model we select based on the needs of our students.” Furthermore, Spencer attests to the importance of being intentional if hybrid learning is to work. A one-size fits all approach could not be justifiable, equally choices must be made instead of kidding ourselves that every model might be implemented with success.

Various Hybrid and Blended Models Mixed to Make a Jambalaya 

Currently, we find ourselves ushering in a sort of Wild West.  If nothing else, a spirit of innovation prevails and we must remain optimistic; to at least give things a try.  Yet, upon first or even second glance, some ingenious scheduling options, might leave an educator wondering about their skill set and abilities to nimbly bounce between different modalities; designing lessons and supporting learners in-person, while at the same time virtually, both synchronously and asynchronously.  A reality where some schedules may be a combination of hybrid and blended models.  Possibly three of Spencer’s models, and an overlooked delineation of the difference between hybrid and blended learning.  In effect, models proposing eighty minute lessons with a combination of physically distanced learners in-person and virtual synchronous but also asynchronous learners; cohorts on A/B days; and sixty minute entirely virtual synchronous and asynchronous lessons.  One may tire reading about such a schedule, so the exhaustion in implementation is unimaginable. Further, some families may be weary of sending their child to school, resulting in some learners always virtual in real-time, whereas others remain in different time zones and always asynchronous.  And to spare a bit more confusion in schedule design, we will not examine what it might mean when educators similarly do not feel safe to return to in-person instruction and remain entirely virtual.  

Amidst the jambalaya, some educators as well as families may question the very nature of a school and its identity, especially if a variety of hybrid and blended models overlap.  The motivation is apparent, complex scheduling for the sake of providing access to all learners. Though a noble hill to die upon, an analogy of diversification may not be so far-fetched.  Would Nike ever expand to brand potato chips?

There is legitimacy in questioning, “Who are we?”  Especially so, as educators tethered to the values of excellency constantly dedicate themselves to honing their craft.  Some may be filled with intimidation, wondering if in our attempt to be everywhere, at all times, for everyone; might we be spread thin?  The result is one of mediocrity, where some learners are served, in some places, some of the time?”

Time will only tell.

As we embark on what appears unchartered waters, a spirit of voyage hopefully seeps into our being.  A focus on the potential and not the peril.  One of the greatest explorers of all time, Sir Ernest Shackleton attested to the “need to put footprint of courage into stirrup of patience.”

Poised and positive we set sail.

Global Books

In this column I share my favourite books to read aloud, curl up with and put into the hands of young readers. This week, a look at books about libraries and books.

The Boy Who Was Raised By Librarians

The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians is perhaps my all-time favorite book about libraries. I can’t decide what I like more – the words by Carla Morris or the pictures by Brad Sneed; but the result of this combination is a heartwarming love song to librarians. Melvin grows up surrounded by books. The librarians encourage him to be curious and to look for answers in books and online. Their investment pays off in a perfect ending that I won’t give away. You will have to read this book for yourself.. or better yet, to your students. ISBN 978-1-56145-391-7, Peachtree

Library Lion

The Library Lion by Michelle Knudson, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, looks and feels like a classic. It’s the wonderful story of rules made to be broken, of a librarian who is not easily ruffled and of a lion who loves listening to story. A must-share with young readers in a school library! ISBN 978-0-7636-3784-2, Candlewick

Lady with the Books, The: A Story Inspired by the Remarkable Work of Jella Lepman

The Lady With The Books, Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Marie Lafrance is based on the true story of Jella Lepman, a German Jewish journalist who believed in building global friendship and understanding through children’s books. She traveled around war-torn Germany with a display of international books, and initiated the International Youth Library as well as IBBY, the International Board of Books for Young People, a global organization that still promotes children’s books around the world today. A wonderful fictional read complemented by nonfiction details in the back matter. SBN 978-1-5253-0154-4, Kids Can Press

It's a Book

It’s A Book, Lane Smith. A book doesn’t need a mouse, it doesn’t need to be charged. A book may not need wifi or be able to tweet, but a book can draw you right in. For hours… You may like a book so much that you don’t want to give it back. And even then you won’t need to charge it. Because it’s a book. A hilarious story to share out loud. ISBN 978-1-59643-606-0, Roaring Brook Press

A Child of Books

A Child of Books byJeff Oliver and Sam Winston is a fabulous ode to stories. The art is made of papers and typeset words. “I come from a world of stories, and upon my imagination I float…” shows a child on a raft floating on a sea of words that a reader will recognize from many classics. The book shows a world made from stories and lends itself to be read to children of all ages as well as used with high school art students. A great gift for booklovers of any age. ISBN 978-1-4063-5831-5, WALKER

The Undercover Book List

The Undercover Book List, Colleen Nelson is a fabulous middle grade novel. It’s a story grounded in a school library and books, focused on friendship. Jane loves to read but misses her best friend who moved away. Tyson is into video games and does not like to read. But through the secret messages left in books in their school library, both main characters change and make new friends. A great story for book worms and kids who have to move and make new friend. Also perfect for the teacher to read aloud.  ISBN 978-1-77278-187-8, Pajama Press

Rebel in the Library of Ever

The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander is a fictional novel about Lenora who is curious. In magical, fantastical adventures she travels through the ages and around the globe, all entering a library. Hired as the Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian, Lenora climbs her way up the library ladder, through solving problems and risking her life for knowledge. ‘Knowledge is a Light’ is the library’s slogan, chiseled in stone, and Lenore knows it’s true, especially when she encounters dark forces who want to get rid of books and ban others from gathering knowledge through reading. In the sequel – Rebel of the Library of Ever – Lenore has to free knowledge from the shadows. Your upper elementary students will love these smart, sci-fi page turners. ISBN 978-1250169174, Imprint.

Ban This Book: A Novel

Ban This Book, Alan Gratz. No column about school libraries would be complete without this title which deals skillfully with the difficult topic of censorship of books in an elementary school library. While showing both  sides of the issue, Gratz leaves the power to solve the problem to the kids, especially to Amy Anne who loves her school library. The book also manages to show parental concern, the responsibilities of school boards and – most of all – the importance of having a real librarian in the school library and the influence books can have on a child’s life.   A great read, even for teachers. ISBN 978-0-7653-8558-1

Margriet Ruurs is the author of My Librarian is a Camel, a nonfiction book about unique mobile libraries around the world. She conducts author presentations at international schools.

My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World