Know Thy Impact!

So over the past few months I’ve read (and re-read) John Hattie’s remarkable book, Visible Learning For Teachers, and I’m sure that sometime during the next few weeks I’ll pick it up again for a third time. Not only is this book the best that I’ve ever come across with regards to what truly impacts student learning in our schools, I will go as far as to say that it should be required reading for every educator on the planet. Essentially, what Hattie has done over the past 15 years with is team is astounding, as well as incredibly important for the future of our profession in my opinion. He has taken the evidence from his inspiring 2009 book called, Visible Learning, (which is a collection and synthesis of over 800 meta analyses, 50,000 research articles, and data taken from over 240 million students all related to what really affects student learning and achievement), and he’s presented it all in layman’s terms…in a way that simplifies the findings for all of us to absorb.

His message is simple when he gets down to the heart of it…KNOW THY IMPACT as teachers and leaders. Without giving too much away, Hattie writes at length about how critical it is that teaching and learning are visible in our classrooms. He says that there is no “deep secret” called teaching and learning, only the imperative and important understanding that teaching must be visible to the students at all times, and that learning must always be visible to the teachers. He finishes that thought by saying, “the more the student becomes the teacher and the more the teacher becomes the learner, then the more successful are the outcomes”. Another important message that Hattie is keen to deliver relates to the significant role that “teacher passion” plays in having a positive impact on our kids, and that it’s a set of mind frames that underline the success of these passionate and inspired educators. I particularly loved this message because as I look around at the quality of educators that we currently have on our own faculty, and the level of passion that is being displayed on a daily basis, it easy to see that our students are being positively impacted simply by who you are……and that’s a great feeling.

I’m resisting the temptation to summarize Hattie’s findings in this post because I’m hoping that Visible Learning For Teachers becomes our next faculty book study, after we finish with Carol Dweck’s Mindset this fall. I will however, periodically write and talk about some of the important evidence that this book reveals in our upcoming faculty meetings, curriculum meetings, and grade level discussions, so look forward to some interesting and surprising evidence which will de-fog the glass so to speak when looking at our current approach to education. One final note that I’d like to share revolves around the notion of teachers being what Hattie calls activators, or change agents….and “directors of learning”. My challenge to you this week is to start seeing yourselves (if you don’t already) as change agents, and to start approaching each and every day with the acute awareness that you are difference makers in the daily lives and learning of our kids……Know thy impact, and embrace the power and responsibility that you have as an educator. I strongly suggest that you make this book your next purchase, and I guarantee that it will have a tremendously positive impact on your teaching, and on how you view your role as an educator….it truly is an inspiring read. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week……….
Know thy Impact! – John Hattie

Influences on Student Learning – John Hattie
What Works in Education – Grant Wiggins
Part 1 and 2 – *Please watch John Hattie’s Video Presentation (Visible Learning for Teachers)
Table of Effect Sizes – Teacher’s Toolbox
Book recommendation:

Preparing for Change

It is that time of year again. People are winding down their summers, packing up multiple bags (and worrying about weight!), and beginning to think about heading “home”.  It is exciting in the first-day-of-school-jitters sense, and sad because the long summer holiday in home-countries is coming to a close. Plus, if your like me, you are heading back to a place you’ve been, a school you know, but so much change forecasted…it feels a bit like a moving year.

Change is part of life. Successful people- I’m learning- handle change well. However, it must be managed and can’t simply be a series of broad and blindsides. In our schools, change is exhilarating, but also exhausting. So this year, I’ve decided to focus on these five ideas to try and alleviate some of the negative side-effects of change.

  1. Get into a routine- fast. Whether it is getting up and walking or packing a good, nutritious lunch everyday, I am going to try and find a personal constant to start out on right away.
  2. Get the lists going. I’ve just started using the multi-device app- Wunderlist– and I love it. Not only can I log my items, I can see them on my computer, phone and ipad. (Plus, I really enjoy the slurping noise when I check an item off. Ah… the sound of progress!)
  3. Be flexible. This is something which is easily said, but sometimes hard to do. However, with so many new people coming into school this year, there are bound to be ups and downs. I can help everyone (myself included) by leaning in and going with whatever comes along.
  4. Remember why I’m here. In the midst of change, it is easy to lose sight of the reason you are showing up everyday. Each morning before school, I’m going to remind myself… “It’s about the kids!” Keeping that in mind will surely make it all come together.
  5. Laugh. There have been many times in my life when things are changing and it is uncomfortable- scary and unsettled. However, if I can find the humor in it, it all quickly feels better. (This might just be my “one-word” for the year. There is a great spot in my office where I can post it and easily see it from my desk…)

I’ll keep you posting on how my personal change management system is working this year. Let me know how you are faring.

 Photo credit:

So simple, we made it complicated…

Can someone tell me again why adults were put in charge of education? Let’s admit it, we can beat the joy out of anything.

Both of my children didn’t sleep well last night. My daughter had monster dreams and my son was tossing and turning. Ah yes, back to school. Back to making sure that you follow the rules, turn in the assignments, remember what the adult told you to do. Try not to do anything wrong.

Sure, a healthy bit of anxiety or stress allows us to be alert, perform, etc. etc. If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger.

Ok, but why is something so simple, made so complicated by the adults? Why do we bury the promise of another school year with policies, rules, standards, logistics, and more meetings than you can shake a stick at?

I have read a LOT of mission statements. Many of them contain some form of the phrase “lifelong learners.” My impression of this is that children become filled with something so inspirational, so motivational, that they somehow innately pursue this learning for a lifetime. The problem is that we forget this quickly when we get caught up in what I call “the adult” approach to teaching and learning. It’s so serious, it stops being fun, so caught up in the tangible, that it becomes ‘lifeless’ learning.

Really? Is that what we are doing? One of the liveliest conversations during our faculty orientation was about the attendance policy and plagiarism. One teacher remarked, “grading is our currency.” I closed my eyes for a moment and imagined the joy leaving the room. Back to work.

Don’t feel any pressure, but students should be running TO your classroom, not away from it. You shouldn’t have to worry about attendance because they want to be there.

Yes, I’m idealistic. That’s why I work in education.

Please, on behalf of the kids, make the simple joy of learning for a lifetime your one and only priority.

Bon Chance


So this week I want to talk about the notion of vulnerability……..and how opening ourselves up as educators (and trusting each other) might just be the most courageous and powerful thing that we can do in our profession. There seems to be such a strange stigma attached to the idea of being vulnerable, but when I really think about it, courage and strength (and our most powerful opportunities to learn and grow) stem directly from letting our guards down and embracing vulnerability. It’s funny, but in my experience being “vulnerable” is often times associated with weakness………but in actuality nothing could be further from the truth.

I recently read a great book by Brene Brown called Daring Greatly, and it got me thinking about us as a faculty, and how important it is for us to have the strength and courage to be vulnerable with each other………the strength and courage to take risks and move out of our comfort zones……..or to admit our mistakes………. or to admit when we simply don’t know……..or to say that we’re sorry……..or to take ownership of our actions…….or to have the hard conversations with each other from a place of positive intent. It’s so hard to put ourselves out there and to expose our true selves, but it’s only here, in my onion, where we can finally begin to trust.

I used to think that admitting when I made a mistake, or admitting when I didn’t know the answer to something made me somehow less of a leader, and a failure as a Principal……it’s taken me a long while to finally understand that being a strong leader is actually the exact opposite of that…….the more that I show my human side, and the more that I open myself up to learning from all of you, the better leader I become. Brown discusses the power and paradox of vulnerability in her book, and says that “It’s the first thing I look for in you, and the last thing I’m going to show you”………and I’m sure that statement will resonate with many of us. We want for people to come to us without any hidden agendas or masks or ulterior motives but when it’s asked of you it can be a scary proposition. It takes courage and vulnerability to open up your classroom to a colleague……it takes courage and vulnerability to share your expertise…… takes courage and vulnerability to have a conversation with a colleague or a student or a parent whose actions have rubbed you the wrong way……..and it takes courage and vulnerability to share who you truly are as a person with your students. My favorite quote by Brown is, “vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage”, and I think it’s time that we started really being vulnerable with each other. Not only will this make us a stronger faculty, it will also make us better educators, better people, and better mentors to our students…….the more we trust the more we will grow together.

I believe that the stronger we get as a team, the more the learning opportunities will be enhanced for all of us…….especially the beautiful and eager faces that get off those buses every morning. This week I’d like for all of us to reflect on this notion of vulnerability, and to take a deep look into how much we’re opening ourselves up to each other. Take that courageous first step and see what happens……I bet you’ll be amazed by how well you’ll be received by your colleagues and students…….the more you show the more you’ll grow! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and vulnerable with each other.

Quote of the Week………..
To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.
— Criss Jami

Article #1 – Why Vulnerability Can be You Biggest Strength (Transformational Leadership)
Article #2 – Advice on Vulnerability (Huffington Post)
TEDTalk – Kathryn Schulz – On Being Wrong
TEDTalk-  Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability (A Musings repeat but well worth a second look)
Book Suggestion – Brene Brown – Daring Greatly

Noticing China

I love the experience of living in a different country and seeking out the similarities and noticing the differences. China is a vast land and we’re in a droplet of its ocean but even so, there is so much that is new and exciting. I have written about my teaching day but that is only half of my time here – other half is shopping, parks and hopefully travel. And noticing China!

Seeing Tesco for the first time was a shock – I never much cared for Tesco in the UK but now I suddenly felt like it could become my favourite shop (although ‘Jusco’ and Ren Ren Le are also firm favourites!).  The first thing I notice when we walk through the entrance or any supermarket is the overwhelming smell of the durian fruit. Some poeple swear by its delicious-ness and others detest it. Me? I like it freeze-dried but can never bring myself to eat it fully because the smell really does get in the way for me! Why is it so stinky? Does it only smell like rotten custard to some and like flowers of the earth to others? I know that in time I will try some durian flesh and they are in abundance here… so let’s move onto something else I didn’t expect (although, why not?!) – IKEA.

We went on a trip to IKEA, organised by the school. The ‘social committee’ like to make sure that people are bonding and are enabled to get to places to see new things and get various bits and pieces for their apartments – another perk of the job! Some of the ‘new hires’ and their families boarded the bus and made the 45-minute journey, chatting all the way, past trees, homes, broken roofs, shacks and pools of water, dragonflies and tall buildings… then suddenly, the familiar blue and yellow building that we once used to grace twice a year in Milton Keynes, England came into view. The lay out was exactly the same. The goods were the same. The prices were pretty much the same (although I am sure a few things were a bit cheaper). The one major difference was how people interacted with the IKEA furniture. For example, in the bed section, people were actually sleeping in the beds. In the UK, you see people glancing around cautiously to check no-one’s looking before they have a cheeky lie down and then get up as if nothing happened with a slightly reddened face! (just me?!) Here, EVERY bed was occupied!! In one large kingsize bed in the showroom a family of three had settled down and were looking very cozy indeed! I gestured towards the woman to try and communicate the idea that it was comfy in there, no? She eventually smiled and patted the bed and opened the duvet – do I want to get in too?!!! On another bed a man was asleep – properly asleep and out for the count!

We then reached the section where the show-room lounges are. The TVs were on and the families were chilling out, watching full-shows and films! EVERY single couch was occupied!  I wondered how many people would make a purchase at the end of the day. My friend told me that last time she visited, in the kitchen and tables showrooms, families were in there having a proper lunch! I think it’s so lovely – that same unreservedness that I saw in the stadium on our first night here where about a thousand people, all different ages were dancing together and walking around, playing and being happy together!

So more things I have noticed… The Chinese LOVE their fireworks! There are daily fireworks  here (even at half seven in the morn – the Chinese invented gunpowder and they make the most of every opportunity worth celebrating to let them off!) We have heard fireworks every single day since we arrived. We had our own window display this evening from our daughter’s bedroom – the perfect place to be for such an impressive show!

People nap everywhere and anywhere. In the mall on the soft seats…in IKEA… I love it! The world is our home, right?! And if we’re tired, we should nap, yes?! Well… I know that wouldn’t go down well in my home-town. If you were to start sleeping in the local shopping centre there, you’d soon be moved or someone would step on you on purpose – I am sure of it!

Cicadas are NOISY! There are ciacadas in the trees here and they make the most magnificent racket. It’s almost like they are electrical. And what I have noticed is that you can’t see them. I stood for AGES once peering upwards into some trees, adamant that I’d spot one, but no joy. The noise goes in waves too. They start making the noise then suddely the noise stops completely and then the next set starts in the neighbouring trees… do they die? Or are they taking a break? I have got used to them now – you hardly ever see them out of the tree and they are harmless beetle-like creatures, with a shiny body (I think!!) The cicada season is now over – one day, they just stopped making their noise and have been replaced by chirping crickets.

It gets dark very quickly here…

Since we got here, we have had many blue sky days! Yes, the pollution here is not great – but it’s better than it was ten years ago, our new friends say. And this area in particular (as well as the rest of China I think) are making great steps to improve air quality. I have had NO problems with my breathing since I got here – in fact, I have been better than ever with asthma – miracle!

People will leave rubbish out – lots of it… then someone WILL come and clear it away!

Where we are living in China is developing so fast and buildings and malls are springing up everywhere – it’s clean here in many places and dirty and broken down in others. The dust is not something you see much of, except on windows and buildings – I really thought I’d be gasping for breath, but it feels good here. We walk in the greenbelt strech of park outside our new home here and it’s lovely.

I have noticed that we are generally the only non-Chinese people when out and about. In the malls, we get a lot of stares and loads of smiles. People don’t usually greet us first, but I am greeting almost every person I meet here! I do that in the UK too and I don’t care what people say, nearly everyone loves a happy greeting! Well the Chinese are no exception! So I say very enthusiastically, ‘Ni hao!’ to all I cross paths with, and they look SO happy that I have said hello, and will usually reply with another ‘Ni hao.’ I love this language and cannot wait to learn more! I can’t figure out how to add the little hats and accents to the words but here are some more things I can now say!

So far I know… Hello and

Ni hao ma? (How are you?)

Hen hao – xie xie ni! (I’m fine thanks!)

Bu – no

Nin jiao shen me ming zi? (What’s your name?)

Wo jiao… Victoria (My name is… Victoria!)

I can also ask how much something is but I am not sure how to write it in Pinyin.


Mission Statements

Mission Statements hardly ever inspire. They should. They can. But most don’t. Have you ever noticed the similarity from school to school, of the same jargon, vagaries, and stale language? If there was a proctor for school mission statements most would be accused of plagiarism. Mission statements too often speak in the soothing, humorless, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important –to –us- language of the market. Not of educators. Mission statements are often sterile. Not merely for the quality of words but the paucity of verve and originality and ideas. Orwell, when speaking of political language, describes a similar quality, “as an accumulation of stale phrases that chokes like tea leaves blocking a sink.” The sound of mission statements are more often than not, without a human voice but the artificial speak of the dog and pony show. They don’t speak in human voices but the homogenized language of the sales pitch. Mission statements take themselves too seriously by speaking in language that is distant, uninviting and abstract. To speak with a human voice schools have to share the concerns of their communities. But first, they must belong to a community. When is the last time you spoke to a teacher who knows their mission statement? Who can show evidence of how it infuses the life of a school? Better yet, a student who can cite the mission of her school? Not often. Hardly ever. If the purpose and the guiding principles of a school are couched in platitudes, is it unusual that schools run the risk of becoming irrelevant? Mission statements should be like haikus: lean, transparent without adjectives or excess. They should enliven, anchor, legitimize and affirm what a school believes in.

More importantly, it is the process that should be refined. They offer the opportunity for all the stakeholders to articulate what matters in a school. Otherwise, like statues, they get taken for granted and lose their significance. Once, when in an accreditation year we went from class to class, challenging students to examine the mission, word by word, and gave them butcher block paper and colored markers to illustrate what it meant to them. We did the same with all 240 teachers. The closer you come to owning a mission the more likely it will guide and unify a community. We already have enough cookie cutter verbiage. Its time we rediscover the artistry of the mission statement before it goes the way of the mimeograph machine and the VCR, stockpiled in closets that no one has access to.

How We Got to China



My daughter and husband on a humid, hot day in Tianjin.


I had been musing with my husband and daughter (currently aged 6) in the UK about venturing overseas to live and have some great adventures! I had taught as a volunteer teacher for a year when I was 19 in Swaziland in a primary school in Mbabane and this experience of teaching overseas changed me forever. I totally blame it for giving me itchy feet ever since!

We considered Japan a few years ago after experiencing a longing to live where Studio Ghibli films are created (think Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro…) and after a very successful three-week trip to Australia with our then 2 year old daughter, who proved to be quite the little traveler, found that we couldn’t stop thinking about ‘moving away’.

I had taught in schools since I graduated in 1998 in the UK, English, music and then body percussion, singing and song-writing and virtues through dance until we had our baby girl in 2007. I stayed at home to raise her full-time. Teaching lots of children transformed to focusing on bringing new life to the world, I loved it!

When she turned three, our daughter attended a Montessori school, which I volunteered at for two years to run twice weekly music sessions. I had never considered working with three-year olds before, older Primary was more my forte, but here I was, encountering a new experience and real love for working with such a fabulous age! So inquisitive – so clever and wondrous about the world and how it works! I worked one day a week for four months in the school and got more of a feel for it –

In the next years I did a mixture of teaching part time then ended up starting my own company, raw cake-making, but whilst I enjoyed whipping up exquisite new creations in my kitchen I always felt something was missing. And it took me quite a while to realise that that ‘something’  was working with children again.

Forward wind to April, 2013. I had literally just been speaking to mothers at my daughter’s school, saying how much I’d love to teach at an international school and how we’d love to travel. One of my friends had just secured a post at a school in Brunei and I went home and spoke to my husband yet again about our wistful daydreams – it just seemed that no opportunities would ever present themselves.

One week later, on the first day of a new job in a school which I had for one term, I received an email, out of the blue. It simply said, ‘Are you interested in this post?’ It was for a teaching job in an international school in Tianjin, China. I found myself emailing back, saying that yes, I was interested and could I have more information?  My hands were literally shaking with excitement! Was this really going to present itself as a real opportunity to move to a different land and have new adventures with my family?

It seemed I had to say ‘yes’ to teaching before the Universe decided to give me the thumbs up! And two days later, I was being interviewed via Skype for the position of Pre-K 3 teacher in an international school!

I had sent in my resume and they were keen for me to work there. I then got cold feet – how could we go overseas? Would the pollution in this city affect my asthma and my daughter’s health? All the doubts and worries of my friends clouded my judgement and I found myself reconsidering the offer.

Two days later, I sat in a house that we were about to move into, and nothing felt right! We were supposed to go to China – I could feel it in my bones. I wrote to my contact and accepted my first international teaching position!

After I announced to the head teacher of the Primary school I was in that I was moving to China at the end of the school year, things just started falling into place. At the end of term, I received the most fabulous farewell and goodbye booklet from my team and the children (my 6 and 7 year olds thought I was going to China for the day!) and my husband’s boss even said there was a chance for him to work remotely overseas. The house we were supposed to move into got new tenants easily… every single door opened for us to leave our town – with a few hurdles on the way – but all pushing us to get on a plane!

It wasn’t until we boarded that plane that it really sank in – we were moving to Tianjin. I was going to be working full-time in an international school. My daughter would attend the school including four lessons of Chinese a week! Life would be different forever and we would always have stories to talk about from this great experience. How could we say no to this?

So that is how only a few short weeks ago we got to move from the UK to China and I will be sharing my new life in Tianjin as it unfolds.


Think locally, act locally…

I belong to a network of international school heads who are currently sharing their excitement and anticipation of starting a new school year. One of the themes across many of the comments is around growth: Growth in facilities (new gymnasiums, performing arts centers, elementary schools), student enrollment, etc. The statistics are startling when you compare this growth trend in international schools over the past decade.

It got me to thinking about the local schools near us.

How are they doing? Have you ever visited one of them? Have you ever reached out to see how they are doing? Have your students ever seen them? Do any of you have partnerships with them? (I believe there are several in Africa that do). I think often we will find that the local schools are not doing as well as we are in the larger, mostly well-funded international school context. We fly around the world, doing service projects with local populations in remote areas of the world as part of our students’ experience. But how often do we take a look right outside our doors? To me, this presents a learning opportunity for our students and ourselves.

Our school (Leysin American School) is a well funded boarding school in the Swiss Alps. Our 330 students represent over 50 nationalities and well to do families throughout the world. The Swiss schools in our village (I know this seems difficult for you to believe) are not nearly as well supported as ours. My children both attend the local schools and started their education in a large wooden school house (with an actual bell at the top) that was built in 1890. Yes, 1890.

Now, I’m not suggesting that building a gym at the local school become part of our strategic plans. Don’t worry. But how about a simple connection? A teachable moment? A chance to make the world right outside our doors a little more familiar?

This past year, one of our amazing English teachers (actually all of our teachers are amazing) connected with the local high school and started a French/English social group one afternoon a week with our students. It has quickly evolved into a very popular group , connecting our students who had friends from places like Moscow, Shanghai, and Rio, but never knew anyone from Leysin. Now they do.

Have a great start to the year.

Cognitive Surplus

So I spent a week in Miami during my holiday break taking a course called Technology Leadership……and it was outstanding. Our inspiring and impressively current instructor, John Mikton (International School of Prague), spent the week scrambling our brains with the seemingly endless opportunities that we now have as educators to enhance student learning in today’s rapidly changing educational landscape. One of the biggest takeaways for me over the course of the week was the idea of “Cognitive Surplus”, and how the days of teaching and learning in isolation are over….or at least they should be. With the ridiculous amount of tools that we currently have access to (blogs, websites, Google docs, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and all the other social media platforms) I believe that it’s now educationally irresponsible for teachers and administrators to keep their expertise, their innovations, their creative ideas, and their opinions to themselves.

The term “Cognitive Surplus” was first introduced by Clay Shirky, and he describes it as “creativity and generosity in a connected age”. In his book of the same name, he discusses on a macro level how the world has evolved in this connected age, and how we now have an opportunity as a global society, through technology, to come together and affect real change…….particularly if we focus on “civic” endeavors. If we scale his idea back a bit and focus simply on education, and how this idea applies to student learning and to us as individual educators, the message to me is clear…..put yourself out there and share your expertise! We have a responsibility (because of everything that now we have access to) to create….and inspire……and share! It’s so easy these days to figuratively open up our classrooms and collaborate……and learn from each other……and share our expertise, as well as the work of our amazing students. This is not only for the betterment of our colleagues, but for the betterment of the world…….because it’s simply not enough anymore to keep it to yourself.

We are better when we collaborate, and we are better when we see our vocation as a team sport instead of a solitary act. When was the last time that you videotaped a great lesson and posted it on your blog for all to see? When was the last time that you spent a few minutes observing a colleague of yours, or invited someone into your classroom to observe you? Have you found the courage yet to share your expertise during one of our monthly SIPS workshops, and how often do you share your lessons and innovative ideas with your department team? “Cognitive Surplus” to me is the realization and belief that we are a better faculty if we trust each other…… and learn from each other…….and share with each other. It’s not about what YOU bring to YOUR students….it’s about what WE bring to OUR students!

If we can arrive at a place where we’re using technology, and our “Cognitive Surplus” to enhance student learning then we all win. I’m asking you this week to think about that, and as the year begins to unfold, please frequently reflect on how isolated your are. If your door is shut……if your expertise sits lonely……..and if your teaching looks just like it did a few years ago, then I would suggest that you shake things up. Summon up the courage to share, and learn, and try something new…….and put yourself out there to the world! Have a wonderful week everyone, and remember to be great for our students and to share with each other.

Quote of the Week………..
A teacher who loves learning earns the right and the ability to help others learn.
― Ruth Beechick

TED Talk – Clay Shirky on Cognitive Surplus
Book Suggestion – Clay Shirky Cognitive Surplus
Article #1 – The Detriment of Teacher isolation
Article #2 – Teachers Teaching Teachers
Article #3 – Alone in the Classroom
Interesting Article – Wired Magazine
Livebinders – Out of this World Ideas for Sharing Student Work

Stay Ever Hopeful

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)


“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –


And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –


I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

Emily Dickinson, “‘Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers” from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson.  Copyright 1945, 1951, 8 1955, 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.  Reprinted with the permission of The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.


Focus on what will stick.

Teaching overseas is a serious challenge. There are hazards of all kinds. With that said, it is truly a delightful endeavor filled with meaning. If you are new to the international teaching scene, I welcome you. If you are like me, a seasoned educator, welcome back. I sincerely hope that you create meaning with your students.

In this post, if I can give all one piece of advice it would be to focus on what will stick. In this I mean, focus your energies on being truly present each moment you are working with your students. That means you prepare. That means you are fully aware of the questions being asked. That means you are quiet in both mind and soul.

Kids are kids. All want to learn, explore, and challenge. All want to feel safe and secure. All want to free themselves to learn. Help them. No matter the age, each kid wants to please their teacher. Give them one hundred ways. Make them aware of their world. Teach empathy. Never use sarcasm.

Plan for success. My colleagues and I rave that we are essentially planned for the entire year already. I am confident that we will be able to effectively deliver the curriculum. I tell teachers that August is where we make our money. That means the effective teacher must spend the time making key preparations. That means coming into school on weekends. That means staying late. That means finding shortcuts for frivolous tasks. That means building systems in your workspace.

Guide your students by making them aware of the joys of learning. Praise student successes and appreciate failure as a step in the learning process. Be overly polite and be ready to change tactics.

Trust your teammates to the nth degree. I cannot over emphasize building trust with your team. Most of my energies so far this year has been to create a trusting relationship with my newest teammates. This will pay off in spades, in the future.

Be honest with your students’ parents. Find out how you can help and deliver. Your student is their world. Make sure that your parents know that you understand this fact.

Read poetry. Collect your favorites. The poets have experienced every aspect of the human condition and they convey each aspect so much better.

Stay ever hopeful. I hope YOU have an amazing year.



Bon chance. Stay ever hopeful.