Tag Archives: global competency

Building a Culture of Resiliency

Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind. –Bruce Lee

Today is International Day at my school. It is a massive undertaking, involving over 1200 people. There are parents, students, and visitors enjoying a wide variety of food, entertainment, and information. The whole world is at our school today, and it is awesome.

Awesome and chaotic.

As happens when you run a day like this:

  • “Normal” is disrupted.
  • The schedule doesn’t run as planned.
  • Technology doesn’t work, or people aren’t where they are supposed to be.
  • Food runs out.
  • The weather isn’t cooperating.

That said, I feel sorry for the people among us today who are allowing the controlled chaos to overshadow the awesome.

Why? Because our International Day event is just like every other day, only on a larger scale: Things go well, and things go wrong. It’s life.

To be able to enjoy it, you have to be flexible. And resilient.

A few years ago, my husband heard Michael Thompson of Raising Cain speak about boy learners. He took away from that presentation a mantra, which has become our personal and professional goal as a family: Flexible resilience.

From other researchers and authors, we have also learned the importance of finding your “flow”, of having a “growth mindset”, getting “grit”, and to develop “perseverance”. There doesn’t seem to be much debate that what ultimately counts is how you handle (and how your mind views) the way the world works.

Leaping out from the individual and into the collective, though, you can quickly see why developing a culture of flexible resiliency is especially important for schools. Schools are often about order, routine, and predictability. We run tight ships, schedule almost everything and have clear starts and stops, beginnings and ends. When things don’t go as planned, it is in many of our teacher-natures to find it upsetting.

For our international schools, flexible resiliency is even more important. Besides the fact that many of us are living in unique (and sometimes challenging) places, we also have a diverse population which can cause confusion and miscommunication- even in the best of times.

It isn’t enough for us to ask our students or our parents to have growth mindsets or to go with the flow. Teachers and administrators have to adopt the same stance. It is flexible resiliency, which allows us to not just survive the changes that occur in our schools (building projects, enrollment/admission changes, teacher and administrative turnover) but to thrive, as a result.

As with most things, school leaders should not only expect flexible resiliency, but they must also build it. To help me do just that, here are some questions I’ve been considering and ideas I hope to implement.

  1. How can we recognize and celebrate flexibility in adults both within and outside of the building?
  2. I need to model a growth mindset when I am unsuccessful.
  3. How can I  provide opportunities for others to celebrate their “oops-es”.
  4. How might we imbed resiliency “training” into our social/emotional program for students.

Coding vs Social Media Education: A Global Competency Faceoff

One of my favorite quotes is by musician Charlie Mingus who said that true genius lay in making the complex simple. It is right up there, in my mind, with Peter Drucker’s “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast” and the Serenity Prayer, which by law should hang in every Principal’s office.

My son is taking a coding class at a local school. I have also been looking at a number of international school curriculae and noticed that a number of them offer coding classes as well. This is great. It enriches our understanding of technology and empowers users with a knack for engineering and software, all relevant stuff. Rasberry Pi is wonderful. My son was showing me how he can connect the doorbell to send me a tweet every time someone rings it. Not making that up.

My concern is that it when I review the criteria for global competency, I am not convinced that this curricular decision is getting us any closer to those ideals. Yes, we can decide to offer both. But with everything from Design Technology to Digital Literacy and so on, someone has to make choices around which courses get us closer to our school mission which, like it or not, is what we market on the home page of our web sites.

I argue that social media education is critical and cuts across every discipline that we teach, including coding. I argue that students are already using and misusing social media in ways we never imagined. Forget about Facebook, they are already onto a host of other platforms. Yes, I understand that coding wrote Facebook and that Mark Zuckerberg was a coding, not a social media specialist. But that does not mean that we need to try to create an army of Zuckerbergs.

Although you could argue that changes in social media such as the migration to Vine and Snapchat make it just as challenging to commit to something to teach, I think it is a dynamic platform that cuts across curriculum and global competency in a way that teaching coding does not. I am not advocating that we dump coding education. I am simply saying that schools cannot DO IT ALL. And if we want to create a relevant big picture experience that does not simply add to overloaded plates, I am putting my money on social media education.

Even though it is a bit of a marketing plug, @coryedwards makes an interesting point in his blog on the lack of social media education in universities. social media education and talks about the critical nature of this global competency.

Please note, I am not talking about digital literacy or citizenship. Those are important but not as nuanced as social media skills. I am talking about the ability to communicate and collaborate across cultures with an eye towards audience, message, language, and international aptitude. That is the essence of good social media on a global scale. It is, in my mind, becoming the humanities major of our time.

No, it doesn’t have to be either or. But with the demands of the I.B. and the principles that we are supposed to be living in guidance with our mission statements and global competence, I think it is our duty to keep the complex simple and to offer our students the best chance to negotiate a very complex world.

Sorry about the lack of an apropro 80s video, but this one about social media lifecastingwas the best I could do. (And apologies in advance for borderline ads that preview it).

Sim City: My Failure at Global Competence


I’m taking a gap year. At first, it was really hard to step off the career treadmill, but it has turned into one of the best decisions of my life. It has allowed me to bond with my children (my daughter turned eight today and I picked her up at school), finish a manuscript I’ve been working on for a decade, network with some amazing people, get back in shape, teach a course on leadership across cultures at a local university, and support my wife as she provides outstanding leadership at work in her own right.

It also exposed me to that scourge of social media; the mobile app. What else am I supposed to do when I’m waiting for the music lesson or soccer practice to end? Can you blame me?

It got really bad the other night when I was updating my Sim City called “Paradisio” at my daughter’s flute recital. (I still shudder when I think of my wife’s stare when she caught me). I actually used Sim City when I taught in the 1990s (it was only in CD format) as a tool for my AP Political Science class. It made for some amazing conversations around civic mindfulness, progress and society. That in way justified my actions at the recital.

So, on her 8th birthday today, Zoe caught me updating a few fire stations, schools and parks while she ate lunch. She put down her sandwich, walked over to me huddled over my I-Phone, and said, “Dad, what are you doing?” I told her that I was putting stuff into my city so that it could get bigger. “Why do you want it to get bigger?” she asked. “Don’t you like a village, like the one we live in? Why can’t you just leave it like that?” Without thinking, of course, because I was too busy upgrading my sewer system, I responded, “Because the point of it is to make it a city.” To which she responded. “I like our village.” Yes, that’s when I put the game down. She completely schooled me.

As I turned a village into a metropolis, making sure there was a fine balance between factories, skyscrapers, schools and the such, she calmly munched on her sandwich and asked, “Why?”

Why indeed. I stared at my densely packed “Paridisio” on the screen and turned it off. She was so right. When I used Sim City for my political science students, I wanted them to think about the decisions that a civic manager has to make, balancing all the important elements of organizing a society and its needs. And there I was, twenty years later, falling completely into the trap of a game whose objectives were to get bigger, denser, more populated, and industrialized than anyone else.

It takes a village?

We all know that the population of the world has exponentially increased more over the last hundred years than it has in the previous thousand. We also know that global competency implies a lot around understanding differences and cultures but says little about the realities of competition over resources, degradation of the environment, immigration and national security. They say that the next major war will be over fresh water.

When my daughter commented that she liked the village just the way it was, I remember reacting to her, as many parents do, with a ‘you’re so naive comment’ to the effect that “it’s not the way the world works. Everything gets bigger and more crowded, you just have to manage it.”

Which got me to thinking…Her level of global competence had surpassed mine. While I was busy building factories and supporting a growing population, she pointed out in her own way that I was heading for armageddon. No, I don’t think the world can sustain itself as a bunch of villages living in harmony. But what she made me realize was that I was completely missing the point; that while we move faster and bigger, that the true value in competency on a global scale is being able to ask, “Why?”

There’s only one 80s video that could play this one out…