Tag Archives: education innovation

Jive Talkin’

On August 16, 1975, Jive Talkin’ was the top hit on Billboard’s 100 (USA). You know when something is so good, it stands the test of time. Almost forty years later, it’s just as fresh as it was then. I cannot say the same for the managing structures of many of our schools.

So, we’re off and running on another year. In spite of the world’s horrific problems at the moment, international schools are expanding at a rate that is making them one of the fastest growing business sectors in the world. Venture capitalists, investment groups, philanthropists, and multinationals are buying up schools like hotcakes. Many of these have clear business models for governance which generate profits. Some are more innovative than others.

What are the implications of this? We talk a lot about innovation and design within teaching practice but little about how schools are being managed and who is doing it. This will have a huge impact on the direction and vision for international education. Does this phenomenon enhance the type of innovations we are talking about in our industry? Does it promote the type of creativity, risk-taking, and new thinking that drive the passions of 21st century learning or is this becoming a multi-national business venture that is conservative and controlled somewhere far away?

I have to hope that private investment in schools is innovative and good. I have to hope that this will nourish the type of changes our schools need to meet the complex demands of a world that so desperately needs innovation and leadership. I have to hope that the business model for schools supports the risk-taking and possible profit losing propositions that come with new designs and new thinking.

Otherwise, what we’re doing is just…You guessed it.

Relationships and Learning

One of my highlights each week is the eighty-minute Leadership Class I teach to high school students every second day. A pedagogical foundation that I always hope to include in the class is the application of theoretical constructs to practical situations through experiential learning opportunities. It was during a meeting with students this week, to follow up on their collaborative project work, when they concluded that the key to the success of their project was their focus on relationships. The students were referring to their decision to structure and lead learning activities for the lower school students who arrive at school at 08:00 during the Professional Wednesday late starts. During their first classes, the Leadership Class students struggled to run effective activities. However, after some coaching and reflections, the classes gradually became more effective and engaging. I asked the Leadership Class students about the reason for their success. The students’ eyes lit up when reflecting on the question and quickly recognized that their newfound success was based primarily on the fact that they had established deeper relationships with the lower school students.

Fundamentally, effective teaching is dependent on the ability to build strong relationships that are based on trust, mutual support, and understanding. In fact, it can be argued that relationships are the single most important factor associated with effective teaching and learning. Extending this concept, it can also be claimed that a school community is only able to collectively support student learning at the highest level through the relationships that evolve in terms of a partnership among parents, students, and the school. It was, therefore, encouraging to see so many parents participating in this week’s parent-teacher coffees and the lower school assembly (an estimated 100 parents were in attendance!), in addition to the gracious and generous efforts of the PTO and the U.S. Embassy to host a teacher appreciation event.

The week of May 5-9 is designated as Teacher Appreciation Week at EAB, representing an important moment in the school year when we recognize the outstanding work of our teachers. EAB is fortunate to work with a talented and committed group of teachers who make a difference every day in the lives of our students. Recognizing that my opinion is obviously biased, I do see the work of teachers as a “calling” for those who have a passion for working with students. In Parker Palmer’s book, The Courage to Teach, he corroborates the concept of teaching as a “calling” through his statement, “good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” The focus of this week has been to celebrate the identity and integrity of each teacher at EAB and the passion, talents, and professionalism they correspondingly commit to EAB’s students. Please join me in celebrating and thanking our wonderful teachers.

Among EAB’s greatest strengths are the relationships that are developed throughout the school community, which is representative of one of the most important factors contributing to student learning.


Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at www.barrydequanne.com.

Good morning class, today we cure cancer

What are you waiting for?

There are millions of words that have been written about how the floodgates have opened on the information age, the conceptual age, and now what is being termed the ‘golden age of education.’

But we keep doing the same thing.

Environmental catastrophes, wars, political upheaval, cancer. I have a feeling that I am not the only one who has said to one of our students that they are going to save the world someday. So, what are you waiting for?

If a bathing kitten can get millions of hits, why can’t a student looking for tissue samples for cancer research?

This truly is the golden age of education. We have by now all seen the results of crowdsourcing, kickstarting and so on and it really is exciting. It is inspirational. It is the world we now live in.

We all have such lofty missions at our schools. But they seem more of a hopeful promise than a practical reality. Now of course it is our job to teach students how to interact with the world. They cannot “just do it,” and the world can be a confusing, complex, even dangerous place. That’s where we come in as educators. Of course, we are not just getting out of the way. In fact, to quote the old adage of the bad teacher being “one page ahead of the kids,” we have to be at least three pages ahead because they move so fast. It is also in some respects our job to protect the children from the world and prepare them for it. You only have to see the difference between what’s inside the gates of some international schools and what lies outside of them to get a visual of this. We can’t just throw them out there! It’s irresponsible! It’s scary! They won’t understand!

Worst of all, we may fail. I don’t believe that schools embrace failure, or even accept it. And that’s a large part of risk and learning. It’s a large part of what we need to be doing. But how do you grade that?

Today class, we cure cancer. Or we may not. It’s okay, at least we tried.