Barry Déquanne is currently working in Switzerland as the Director of the International School of Zug and Luzern. His blog explores topics in K-12 education and school leadership within the framework of five focus areas: Academics, Activities, Arts, Leadership, and Service. The blog also explores professional articles and highlights recently read books.
In 1974, a young boy named Harold Whittles is about to experience his world in a new and astounding way. For the first five years of his life preceding this moment, Harold has not heard the sounds around him as he has been deaf since birth. This is about to change as technological advances have led to Harold’s meeting with a doctor to be fitted with a hearing aid.
The remarkable picture below captured the moment when Harold heard for the first time and was transported from a world of silence to one filled with seemingly countless different sounds emanating around him. Harold’s eyes are wide with astonishment and wonder.
It is this sense of wonder, conveyed in an emotional and extraordinary manner through Jack Bradley’s photo, that serves as a reminder of our role to nurture the natural curiosity in our students and their exploration to understand the world around them. Our students also remind us each day that we adults should never lose a child’s sense of awe and wonder.
As we prepare for our annual community Thanksgiving celebration, I was drawn back to Harold’s story and the importance of both gratitude and wonder. In the spirit of giving thanks, I would like to convey my deep levels of gratitude to be a member of a community dedicated to ensuring a learning environment that regularly leaves students and adults in a state of wonderment.
P.S. Thank you to our talented science teacher, Stephen Boyd, for introducing me to Harold’s story.
One of the many things I appreciate and admire about Switzerland is the collective commitment to civic responsibility. The pragmatic Swiss approach to the establishment of community norms in combination with both an individual and societal belief in supporting and adhering to these agreements have resulted in a country that runs incredibly well.
ISZL‘s commitment to these ideals was evident during last week’s road safety training. Our Kindergarten students had the opportunity to learn from a local police officer about traffic rules and, more precisely, how to navigate pedestrian crossings. The fact that young children in Switzerland take public transportation and make their way to school unaccompanied by an adult does not happen by accident. The effectiveness with which the local police partner with schools to educate young children about their civic responsibilities is clearly by design.
The police officer who met with our students demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism and impressive pedagogical skills. The traffic safety lesson, conducted in partnership with ISZL’s teachers, involved differentiated and personalised instruction, focused on building relationships, and provided students with an opportunity to develop their German language skill
The resulting demonstration of learning involved each student individually stopping traffic with a hand wave, looking both ways to ensure their safety, and then crossing the street at the designated crosswalk. Of course, the students were also encouraged to give a wave of thanks as they passed in front of the cars. For those students who were initially reluctant to cross the road, the police officer and teachers gently helped them to develop the understanding, skills, and confidence needed. It was exemplary teaching at every level!
ISZL’s vision is to help every student turn learning into action, creating opportunities for students to stretch themselves further and achieve more than they believe possible. The realisation of this vision will look different at every level of the school. At the Kindergarten level, our students were able to turn their learning into something they may not have thought possible – to cross a busy street alone.
Thank you to ISZL’s teachers and the Zuger Polizei for their important work to ensure our students continue to learn about their civic responsibilities and turn their learning into responsible action.
The Future of Education and Skills 2030, published by the OECD, identifies three “transformative competencies” that students need to contribute to and thrive in our world. The first competency is about creating new value and our commitment to innovate and “think outside the box” to shape better lives. This focus integrates a sense of purpose with critical thinking and creativity. The second competency considers our ability to be comfortable with complexity and ambiguity in an interdependent world, while also developing a high degree of empathy and respect. The third competency refers to the commitment to take responsibility for our actions as our students are guided by a strong moral compass that considers personal, ethical, and societal goals.
There is certainly alignment when considering ISZL’s vision in the context of the OECD’s aspirational goals. Our vision at ISZL is to help every student turn their learning into action – an approach that is designed to support every student in realising how much they’re capable of and to go on to make the most of who they are. In support of both ISZL and the OECD’s vision for learning are our school’s Personal Development Week (PDW) experiences that offer students exceptional learning environments and meaningful and relevant growth opportunities.
During last week’s PDW experiences, more than 1,000 of our students were engaged in experiential learning opportunities ranging from locations in Zug and Switzerland to Europe, and around the world, including destinations such as Iceland, Ghana, and the Himalayas, among others Throughout the week, our students were actively developing the OECD’s three transformative competencies in meaningful and active ways. The long-term impact of the PDW trips was highlighted at a recent ISZL alumni barbecue when several former students shared how the PDW experience was transformative to their learning experience and a highlight of their time at ISZL.
One of ISZL’s longstanding PDW trips is related to our school’s involvement with the NAG program in Nepal, which is a charity in Kathmandu that provides critical and essential support for young children. To advance this important work, ISZL will be holding its annual NAG Charity Run later this month to raise awareness and financial support. All community members are encouraged to join this special event.
A heartfelt thank you to all of the teachers and staff members who coordinate and lead these unique learning experiences, in addition to travelling and supporting our students during the trips. Without the dedication and commitment of teachers and staff, these trips would not be possible.
“Never odd or even.” Why not start a blog post celebrating the beauty and oddities of language with an intriguingly perplexing phrase that is also a palindrome – a word or a sentence that reads the same backwards? First, my apologies in advance to anyone who suffers from a fear of palindromes, or what the Germans refer to as “Eibohphobie”, which is, in a deeply ironic twist, a palindrome itself! Okay, now on to what is already looking to be a higgledy-piggledy blog post originally designed to commemorate the September 26th European Day of Languages.
A day to celebrate language represents a fabulous or, borrowing from Mary Poppins, a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious opportunity. There are currently between 6,000 and 7,000 languages spoken among approximately 7 billion people. There are about 225 indigenous languages in Europe, representing about only 3% of the world’s total. Most of the world’s languages are spoken in Asia and Africa and at least half of the world’s population are bilingual or plurilingual.
The evolution of so many languages over the centuries has resulted in words that are especially descriptive and specific. For example, the Slovak word, prezvoniť, means to call someone’s mobile from your own without the other person picking up with the intention of leaving your number in their phone’s memory. The Albanian word, vetullhen, refers to an eyebrow arched like the crescent moon. The Dutch word, broodje-aap, refers to an awful, often invented story that is told as being true, thus becoming a myth. The Irish use the verb plubairnigh to describe the distinctive thick, bubbling sound that porridge makes when boiling. The Germans use the word, Zechpreller to describe the person who leaves without paying the bill. And, perhaps my favourite, the Finnish use the word poronkusema to describe the distance equal to how far a reindeer can travel without a comfort break (about 5 kilometres if you were wondering).
With the risk you may think this is all poppycock or, worse still, tarradiddle, let’s take a look at some tongue twisters that challenge our language skills.
English speakers may recall reciting this children’s song: She sells seashells by the seashore. The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure. So, if she sells seashells on the seashore, then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
How about this French tongue twister? Combien de sous sont ces saucissons-ci? Ces saucissons-ci sont six sous (How much are these sausages here? These sausages here are six cents).
Or, try this German tongue twister: Zwei schwarze schleimige Schlangen sitzen zwischen zwei spitzen Steinen und zischen (Two black slimy snakes sit between two pointed stones and hiss).
A Polish variation: Król Karol kupił Królowej Karolinie korale koloru koralowego (King Karl bought Queen Caroline coral-coloured bead).
And, finally, a Swedish tongue twister: Far, Får får får? Nej, inte får får får, får får lamm (Father, do sheep have sheep? No, sheep don’t have sheep, sheep have lambs).
Idioms also represent a deeply interesting aspect of language, usually highlighting cultural, historical, and traditional themes. By way of an example of how an idiom can span languages, all of the following idiomatic expressions are similar to “The apple does not fall far from the tree”:
Æblet falder ikke langt fra stammen. (Danish)
Der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm. (German)
Nem esik messze az alma a fájától. (Hungarian)
Obuolys nuo obels netoli rieda. (Lithuanian)
Niedaleko pada jabłko od jabłoni. (Polish)
Jabolko ne pade daleč od drevesa. (Slovenian)
Äpplet faller inte långt från trädet. (Swedish)
Did you know that there is a word in the English language that describes the fear some people suffer from when they come across long words? The word for this phobia is hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. While it is in no way my intention to diminish the suffering anyone with this phobia experiences, it is hard to ignore the irony here given the length of this word! So, if you are a hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobic, please skip this next section as it will highlight some of the longest words found in languages.
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedalianism (English word for the love of long words; 33 letters)
ακτινοχρυσοφαιδροβροντολαμπροφεγγοφωτοστόλιστος (Greek word meaning to be dressed in golden-shining, thundering and incandescent clothes; 47 letters)
Kindercarnavalsoptochtvoorbereidingswerkzaamheden (Dutch word related to the preparation activities for a children’s carnival procession; 48 letters)
Speciallægepraksisplanlægningsstabiliseringsperiode (Danish word for the period when a specialist doctor’s planning of the practice is stabilized; 52 letters)
Lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas (Finnish word for a technical warrant officer trainee specialized in aircraft jet engines; 61 letters)
Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung (German word for a regulation about competences; 67 letters)
Of a particularly impressive note, the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes coined the following 183 lettered word meaning a dish compounded of all kinds of dainties, fish, fowl and sauces:
While these are fascinating and interesting language facts to consider, I should move beyond what some would consider my lollygagging and return to the motivation for this post – the celebration of language. While I am currently living in Europe and the European Day of Languages is certainly of great importance to the region, I would also like to extend the celebration to all languages and areas of the world when highlighting how important language is to our cultural heritage, to our understanding of ourselves and others, and to our ability to see and understand the world in different and new ways.
The International School of Zug and Luzern (ISZL) is fortunate to have Lorna Caputo as a member of its team serving as a language specialist and overseeing, among her other duties, 16 after-school language programs. In her blog, Exploring Multilingualism, Lorna highlights the importance of all languages:
It is the harmonious coexistence of languages that enables people to develop intercultural understanding, appreciate cultural diversity and work together better. Multilingualism is what unites many different regions within countries and is at the core of many national identities. Even in multicultural cities, you can observe local dialects and languages coexisting with other international languages. It is helpful to understand how schools can often be located within this linguistic intersectionality, and how schools prepare their students to navigate their familial, local, national and global linguistic landscapes.
Lorna will also be quick to discuss the research supporting the advantages associated with children learning multiple languages at a young age, which features an important aspect of her work with ISZL’s learning program.
In a note to community members this week, Lorna asked us to build on our recent inclusion work (see Inclusion & Community) and translate the phrase, “We are all ISZL” into their native language. Here are some of the wonderful responses:
We are all ISZL (English)
Мы все ISZL (Russian)
Me ollaan kaikki ISZL (Finnish)
Vi är alla ISZL ( Swedish )
ISZL 我們是一家人 (Mandarin)
Siamo tutti ISZL (Italian)
Hepimiz ISZL’iz (Turkish)
Wir sind alle ISZL (German)
Nous sommes tous ISZL (French)
Todos somos ISZL (Spanish)
Tots som ISZL (Catalan)
Somos todos ISZL (Portuguese)
Wij zijn allemaal ISZL (Dutch)
Mi mind ISZL vagyunk (Hungarian)
Είμαστε όλοι ISZL (Greek)
Mi smo svi ISZL (Serbian)
Vi er alle ISZL (Danish)
In closing, I hope you didn’t find this post to be too higgledy-piggledy, but rather a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious experience! While my hope has been to highlight some of the interesting and unusual aspects of language, there is always the shadow of kakorrhaphiophobia, or the fear of failure, associated with this quixotic endeavour. There is a lurking feeling that perhaps I should have been more pauciloquent and that this text had been less argle-bargle in style, avoided goggledygook, and did not generate any bobsy-die. The last thing I want to do is to leave you bumfuzzled, frustrate you with the confusing “never odd or even” palindrome, or to diminish your status as a deipnosophist. Finally, I hope you don’t see me as a blatherskite, a hoddy-noddy, or a floccinaucinihilipilificator at heart!
Okay, this is probably enough tomfoolery, twaddle, and balderdash for today!
In the celebration and appreciation of all languages!
Argle-bargle: copious but meaningless talk or writing
Balderdash: senseless talk or writing
Blatherskite: a person who talks at great length without making much sense
Bobsy-die: a great deal of fuss or trouble
Bumfuzzled: to be confused
Deipnosophist: a person skilled in table talk
Floccinaucinihilipilificator: the action or habit of estimating something as worthless
Goggledygook: language that is meaningless
Higgledy-piggledy: in confusion or disorder
Hoddy-noddy: a foolish person
Kakorrhaphiophobia: an irrational fear of failure
Lollygagging: to spend time aimlessly
Pauciloquent: using few words in speech or conversation
Quixotic: extremely idealistic; unrealistic and impractical
Tarradiddle: pretentious nonsense
Tomfoolery: foolish or silly behaviour
Reference: The majority of the sources for this article are from the following website: https://edl.ecml.at/(Take their language challenge: QUIZ)
Consider the future for our current kindergarten students and what the world will be like when they graduate in the year 2031. Given the technological advances we are witnessing today, any description of our near future that does not resemble something out of a science fiction story may likely represent an underestimation of the changes that will impact our lives. It is within this context of accelerating change that we are tasked with the challenge to reimagine school and learning. If one word could be used to describe the current educational landscape, it would indeed be change. Three factors associated with driving this change are arguably the areas of social and emotional development, personalised learning, and emerging technologies.
Social and Emotional Development
While the discussion surrounding social and emotional skills is not new, there is an ever-increasing importance placed on this area. The developmental abilities of empathy, initiative, curiosity, resilience, and adaptability will be vital in preparing our students for the rapid changes in society we are experiencing. How do schools ensure that students are ready to communicate effectively, engage with others in meaningful and authentic ways, and embrace the inherent beauty of human nature?
Thomas Friedman argues in his book, Thank You for Being Late, that our students are growing up in an age of acceleration in which technological change is outpacing human adaptability, as per Eric Teller’s graph.
If it is correct to assume that technology and globalisation will not slow down, then our focus must be on improving human adaptability by ensuring a population that is more agile, creative, and adaptable.
Schools also have a responsibility to reconsider what is now commonly viewed as our outdated and misaligned systems and metrics of success, which are associated with rising rates of mental illness. The narratives related to achievement and personal realisation are considered to be contributing to the adverse health outcomes found in society. How can schools and society support our students in redefining measures of success that include balance, health, and well-being? Several collaborative groups are seeking to answer this very question, which is exemplified by the Mastery Transcript Consortium and the work of universities and K-12 schools to redefine student transcripts.
In the recent KnowledgeWorks, The Future of Learning Report, the authors describe the future of learning as one where, “flexible configurations of human educators and mentors, along with digital learning coaches and companions, will be coordinated seamlessly to support learners’ short- and long- term needs and help all students reach their goals.” Personal growth of this nature is requiring the development of customised learning relationships and connections with an expanding range of learning partners. Our current school structures do not necessarily always lend themselves well to this system of learning, particularly when considering an expanded view of what constitutes mentors and learning coaches.
Schools are experimenting with systematic changes, such as flexible scheduling, blended learning opportunities involving both face-to-face and online opportunities, the redesign of campus learning spaces, and alternative credentialing, including a complete redefinition of report cards and transcripts. Technology is, of course, also challenging schools in many ways as learning continues to be more and more personalised due, in part, to a push towards 1:1 computing environments and an increase in adaptive software systems.
Many of us have already experienced adaptive learning in which a program analyses our performance in real time and then modifies the teaching methods and curriculum focus. The use of an adaptive program or app to learn a new language is now commonplace. The field of education will undoubtedly continue to be revolutionised as machine learning becomes more prevalent. As computer systems use data and statistical techniques to “learn” on their own and continue to improve performance without a human explicitly programming the computer, schools will need to continue to adapt to this new reality. Teachers can increasingly use learning and predictive analytics to connect millions of data points to arrive at conclusions and predict future performance based on past data. One of the key outcomes we see today is an increase in personalised opportunities and students guiding and pacing their learning.
What we are experiencing now is considered to be the third educational revolution, following the high school movement and education for life in the early 1900s and then the support for higher education at around the midpoint of the last century. As the Future of Learning report highlights, schools are now becoming more fluid in that we are moving from a fixed structure driven by administrative convenience to one that is a fluid network of relationship-based formats that reflect a learners’ needs, interests, and goals. Algorithms and artificial intelligence are providing personalised learning opportunities and educators who best match each learner’s needs. We are also increasingly seeing a demand for flexible and customised learning environments which many of our current administrative structures act as constraints.
While there is much work ahead of us, the International School of Zug and Luzern’s (ISZL) foundations of an adaptive and evolutionary mindset provide our community with an effective basis to embrace the changes in the educational landscape we are experiencing today and will continue to do so in the future. Learning at ISZL is guided by an inquiry-based and transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary program that values play, experiential and project-based learning, and hands-on experiences, which are supported by a relationship-based and connected community. It is these set of values, philosophical approaches, and sense of community that will both empower and enable ISZL to adapt and thrive in an environment that requires critical building blocks for a digital economy while not allowing technology to outpace our humanity.
As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other?
This is the question clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle asks in her book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, which is based on 30 years of her work studying the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. While she is not anti-technology, Turkle presents a compelling case that our current communication revolution is degrading the quality of human relationships.
Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and workplaces, Turkle argues that many of us, “would prefer to send an electronic message or mail than commit to a face-to-face meeting or a telephone call” (Turkle, 2015, p.3). Her concern is the cost associated with this new type of connection and how technology allows us to find ways around conversation. She argues that “face-to-face conversation is the most human – and humanizing – thing we do. Fully present to one another, we learn to listen. It’s where we develop the capacity for empathy” (Turkle, 2015, p.3).
Reclaiming Conversation argues that, while technology presents us with seemingly endless possibilities to improve our lives, it also allows us to hide from each other even as we’re constantly connected to each other. And, it is this loss of connection and conversation that should give us pause and cause for concern. In having fewer meaningful conversations on a regular basis, we are losing skills such as the ability to focus deeply, reflect, read emotions, and empathise with others, all of which are needed to actually engage in meaningful conversations.
Turkle further argues that the ability to have meaningful conversations also depends on our engagement with solitude and self-reflection. If we are always connected, then we may see loneliness as a problem that technology needs to solve and that being connected is going to make us less lonely. However, Turkle cautions that it is actually the reverse: “If we are unable to be alone, we will be more lonely. And if we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will only know how to be lonely” (Turkle, 2015, p.23). Research in this area indicates that being comfortable with solitude and, correspondingly, our vulnerabilities is central to happiness, creativity, and productivity.
Building on these considerations and thinking about Turkle’s writing in the context of ISZL, the book presents several compelling arguments for any school and community to consider, particularly given our collective work to support student learning and development. On a personal note, the book challenged me in several ways in terms of my own relationship with technology and my practices as a father, husband, educator, and community member. By way of an example, the following passage from the book has led me to further consider the implications of the presence of a cell phone during conversations:
“What phones do to in-person conversation is a problem. Studies show that the mere presence of a phone on the table (even a phone turned off) changes what people talk about. If we think we might be interrupted, we keep conversations light, on topics of little controversy or consequence. And conversations with phones on the landscape block empathic connection. If two people are speaking and there is a phone on a nearby desk, each feels less connected to the other than when there is no phone present. Even a silent phone disconnects us ” (Turkle, 2015, p.20).
A central question emerged during the reading of this book: Are we unintentionally inhibiting our students’ development in terms of the skills and tools that are crucial to friendship, love, happiness, work, creativity, and sense of worth? Like anything that is of deep significance, there is no simple response to this question as we continue to understand the benefits and impacts technology is having and will have on our lives.
Turkle believes that our regular connection to be online and “elsewhere” will likely lead to the erosion of the essential human qualities of empathy, generativity, and the mentoring of our young. If this is true, then there are obvious and compelling reasons for our school community to further our reflections, conversations, and actions associated with this challenge. These thoughts may perhaps be best summed up by Cameron, a student Turkle interviewed, when he shared what he sees around him: “Our texts are fine. It’s what texting does to our conversations when we are together, that’s the problem” (Turkle, 2015, p.21).
Turkle, S. (2015). Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Kindle Edition. Penguin Press.
An important focus area associated with this year’s review of ISZL’s mission, vision, values, and learning principles is that of our school and community’s culture and how it relates to global citizenship. With our staff and students representing 34 and 60 different nationalities respectively, in addition to the school’s offering of 25 language courses, ISZL is clearly an international community that embraces diversity, culture, and language. To what degree, then, does the concept of global citizenship define ISZL?
If we consider this question from a more macro perspective with respect to ISZL’s greater context, we quickly note that, although the Canton of Zug does not include a large metropolis centre, it has a remarkable degree of diversity in its population. According to 2016 census statistics, non-Swiss residents comprised approximately 26% of the population while the city of Zug records an even higher level at 31.7%. Switzerland currently hosts residents from about 140 different countries.
A recent conversation with local educational leaders highlighted this diversity. As part of our outreach to further connect with the Swiss community, we invited the leadership team from Kantonsschule school to visit ISZL with the hope of initiating a partnership. At one point, we were asked about the number of nationalities represented by our student population, and we proudly stated the number to be about sixty. We are somewhat surprised when the visiting school representative responded by stating that they have about the same number of international students. This commonality has, in part, established that we seem to have more in common with local schools than may have been understood initially.
While the Swiss government has implemented policies to attract international residents, there also seems to be an approach to global citizenship that may be instructive to ISZL’s culture and values, particularly given our focus on further integration with the local community. By way of example, the Swiss Federal Immigration department publishes a document called, “Welcome to Switzerland”, which provides information for new residents arriving from abroad. One of the most interesting aspects of the publication are the quotes from foreigners living in Switzerland and their focus on integration and diversity. For example, Sabir Aliu from Kosovo stresses the importance of communication:
“Our neighbourhood means more to me than just having a roof over our heads. This certainly has something to do with the fact that the people who live here gradually realised that living happily together requires effort from all of us. It doesn’t matter whether one is Swiss or a foreigner, old or young. One has to start talking to one another. This is the only way to change things together.”
Anna Gruber from Macedonia challenges us to think about integration at a deeper level:
“What bothers me slightly is that the word integration is often reduced to learning the language or to whether one wears a headscarf or not. But integration means a lot more: It needs people who have the will to become involved with a new country and a foreign culture. And on the other hand, it needs a society which allows this. Mutual understanding and tolerance just cannot be stipulated by laws.”
The publication also quotes Swiss citizen Bruno Moll who provides us with transition advice:
“Responding to prejudices and opening doors, not closing them – this is my aim. Not only as a Swiss person, but from one person to another, I would give the following advice to new residents arriving from abroad: They should approach our country inquisitively and not shut themselves away with people in the same situation. Of course, I would advise them to learn our language and explore our mentality. I would prefer them to see what we have in common, instead of the differences. They should ask questions and try to discuss with their fellow citizens. They should definitely climb our mountains and join the strollers on Sundays. They should go shopping at the weekly markets and read, watch and listen to our media. To put it simply: They should try to become a part of things. Of course, I also wish this for ourselves, the natives.”
Some of the common themes that emerge from these quotes are the concerted and purposeful efforts for understanding through listening and talking, engagement with our local community, and respect and openness to different ways to comprehend the world around us. As a community that focuses on the development of students, these values and dispositions translate well to a school environment. This thought can be taken a step further to argue that ISZL’s context and its location in the Canton of Zug will inevitably have a strong influence on ISZL’s culture.
When reflecting on the question of “Who are we?”, it seems prudent to consider the influence local culture has on our school, which can range from a traditional farmer’s lifestyle to the more than 30% of foreigners living in the canton, among other factors. The influence of external factors on ISZL’s culture also furthers our work associated with the International Baccalaureate’s mission, “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” This focus on culture and global citizenship may also be referred to as cross-cultural cognition, which can be defined as the ability to think, feel, and act across cultures. To that end, it would be natural to conclude that the concept of global citizenship plays a critically important role in contributing to defining ISZL and answering the question, “Who are we?”.
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.
“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” ― Jim Henson, It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider
To all of the teachers at the American School of Brasilia and around the world: Happy Teachers’ Week! Your work, dedication, and commitment to the development of others are important and deeply appreciated. To that end, the following is a link to a previous post entitled, Why I Hated Meredith’s First Grade Teacher, which shares a moving story about the difference a teacher can make in a family’s life.
Like other schools, we are commemorating this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week with a variety of activities that include a morning breakfast, a relaxation room with professional massage therapists, the distribution of school t-shirts, an afterschool social event, and a parent and embassy sponsored evening celebration.
Given the unique honour and responsibility teachers are given to guide and support learning, these words from T.H. White are for you:
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” ― T.H. White, The Once and Future King
Thank you, teachers, for supporting learning and making a real and positive difference in the lives of our students and greater communities.
“[Crianças] não se lembram do que você tenta ensiná-las. Elas se lembram do que você é.” – Jim Henson, It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider
Desejamos a todos os professores da EAB e ao redor do mundo: Feliz Semana dos Professores! Seu trabalho, dedicação e comprometimento com o desenvolvimento das pessoas são muito importantes e profundamente apreciados. Para isso, o link a seguir é sobre uma postagem chamada Por que eu detestei a professora da Meredith do primeiro ano, que fala sobre uma história emocionante sobre a diferença que um professor pode fazer na vida de uma família.
Este ano estamos comemorando a Semana de Agradecimento aos Professores com uma série de atividades que incluem um café da manhã, uma sala de relaxamento com massoterapeutas profissionais, um evento social após a escola e uma noite de comemoração patrocinada pelos pais (Obrigado à Organização de Pais e Mestres da EAB!).
Dada a grande honra e a responsabilidade que os professores têm ao guiar e apoiar o aprendizado, essas palavras de T.H. White são para você:
“A melhor coisa em estar triste,” respondeu Merlin, é aprender alguma coisa. Essa é a única coisa que nunca falha. Você pode envelhecer e abalar a sua anatomia, também pode ficar acordado à noite ouvindo o distúrbio das suas veias, você pode sentir falta do seu único amor, pode ver o mundo ao seu redor devastado por lunáticos cruéis ou ter sua honra pisoteada nos esgotos de mentes baixas. Então só há uma coisa para isso – aprender. Aprender porque o mundo gira e o que o faz girar. Essa é a única coisa que a mente nunca pode perder, nunca alienar, nunca se torturar, nunca ter medo e não acreditar e nunca pensar em se arrepender. Aprender é a única coisa para você. “Olhe quantas coisas existem para aprender.” – T.H.White, The Once and Future King
Agradecemos aos professores por apoiar o aprendizado e fazer uma diferença real e positiva na vida dos nossos alunos e comunidade.
Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY 2.0) Flickr photo by Tony
Hammond: When It Comes to Aboriginal Art, It Can Branch Out Into
“All grown-ups were once children… but only a few of them remember it” ~The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I was recently listening to a series of interviews with Joseph Campbell and his reflections on the essential themes that have emerged from sixty years of his life’s work. He emphasized the interconnectedness of our lives and the human experience, the fundamental role of storytelling in our culture, and the importance of courageously embarking on our individual journeys to fully realize our lives, as highlighted in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell also shared a curious thought when he suggested that adults should read more children’s books to further our own learning and understanding. In fact, this seems to be sound advice, particularly as I recall a memorable and meaningful graduation speech that used a children’s book as its framework to convey a meaningful message.
A friend and colleague, Corey Watlington, was selected by the senior class to deliver the faculty commencement speech. While I am sorry that I do not recall all of the details of the speech, the messages conveyed through the use of a children’s book resonated with all of us. The book’s title is, The Three Questions, by Jon J. Muth, and, following Joseph Campbell’s advice and using Corey Watlington’s idea, the following is a brief summary and reflection associated with the book.
The book’s main character is a boy named Nikolai who is seeking answers to three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is most important? What is the right thing to do? A cast of colourful characters, which include a monkey, heron, turtle, dog, and panda, all play important roles as Nikolai is forced to overcome several challenges due to a terrible storm. Through adversity, his own kindness, and the support and guidance of his friends, Nikolai finds answers to his three questions: “…there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important person is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.”
This is indeed good advice and a reminder, not only for adults but also for our students and those responsible for our educational programs, of the importance of being present and kind. With so many distractions, technologies, and the seemingly ever-accelerating pace of life, this can be a challenge. Still, we owe it to ourselves and those around us to make this a priority. For this reason and many others, I am grateful for the opportunity to work and live in Brazil as the Brazilians have much to teach us about living in the present, enjoying the moment, and appreciating the people in our lives. As a Canadian with a disposition that can, at times, bend slightly towards a future orientated focus, the answers to Nikolai’s questions are always a welcome reminder.
International schools generally embrace a strong emphasis on a holistic educational approach, which includes the well-being and health of our students and communities. To that end, Nikolai’s learning extends to our educational programs and school cultures such that there are high value and support placed on being present, actively valuing our relationships, and ensuring a focus on kindness. Perhaps these approaches are some of the factors associated with Joseph Campbell’s reference to the interconnectedness of our lives and the human experience.