Tag Archives: professional development

2018

Photo JM
Nyon, Vaud, Switzerland.

As the first days of 2018 arrive, any reflections on last year seem to contain an uncomfortable rawness because of the events continuously populating our devices – the immediacy, brutality and complexity of a world fueled by- FakeNews?”, each one of us trying to construct a context in the “Filter Bubble” choreographed by algorithms from which we build a sense of the world we live in.

As International School educators, we straddle between the walled garden of “school” and the outside “world”. The reality is that we are surrounded by constant change and ambiguity. But there is a gap between the accelerated rate of change and our capacity to adapt to it. For some, the gap is wide. For others, the gap stays the same, and for a few, the gap is narrowing. How we interpret and engage with the gap and our own capacity to keep up influences many of our feelings and emotions. These in turn fuel the perceptions, opinions and behaviors with which we express ourselves.

International Schools have to juggle the fine line between ensuring students and parents are pleased and ensuring that they feel safe, challenged and cared for. In the unique world of International Schools, a percentage of parents come from a comfortable socio- economic environment. Often times, their education is a contributing factor to their current positions. This education provided the opportunities for their successes and their economic prosperity. Living with this becomes a strong marker in what International School parents believe their children should get from an education and an International School. This pedagogic reference point in many cases 25+ years old. The world was a very very different place then. However we try as schools to innovate, change and adapt, we do this with a level of caution and reservation. At the end of the day, the invisible mandate between parents and international schools, is “provide my child with stability, continuity, what I remember from my school days and more certainty then I have in my life today“.

As educators, we fall into a similar narrative. We have a desire for of stability, continuity, and more certainty than in the outside world we interact with. We do innovate and change in our schools, but the presence of the invisible mandate between our parents and schools influences the level by which we break the status quo.

Photo JM
St. Cergue Switzerland

Today the level of stability, continuity, and certainty that we were once used to has eroded. Uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility are an unavoidable part of the day. The complexity of this change permeates into everyone’s lives, and often not by choice.

2018, is an opportunity to embrace the world’s uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility, not as something eroding our past and challenging our present, but as an opportunity to re-frame the possibilities in front of us as a unique and rich learning journey. We have a responsibility to take this on in our roles as mentors, facilitators and educators. We bring a wisdom, resilience and care that has served us well and can continue to serve us today. Many of our students will one day be International School parents or educators who look back at their education as a point of reference for their own success. The measures will be different. We live in a world where uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility are part of our lives. We should not depend on reference points from our past to give us stability, continuity and certainty. The gap for many will still get bigger and more uncomfortable. But hopefully, in 2018, we can work to bridge that gap as well.

John Mikton @beyonddigital.org

You’re So Lucky to Have Summers Off

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

No educator I know actually takes a full summer off. Many, justifiably, use part of the break to recover from a demanding school year, but most of us continue to hone our craft from June to August. My husband and I are both educators, and I cannot remember ever using the entire holiday just for fun. The summer we got married, I took six graduate credits and did an out-of-town International Baccalaureate workshop for counselors. The summer after our baby was born, my husband and I completed a cumulative eighteen graduate credits while living, with our infant, in a college dorm. Summers off – ha!

If you’re traveling this summer, catching up on reading is a flexible means of professional development and mental stimulation that fits in your carry-on. Lest we fall into our own summer slump. Here’s what I’ve got in my Amazon Smile[1] cart at the moment, divided into three categories: Professional, Parenting (in my role as a school counselor I often suggest literature to parents), and Pleasure.

{Professional}

Gender and Sexual Diversity in Schools
By Elizabeth J. Meyer
Meyer contributed a solid chapter to Queering Straight Teachers: Discourse and Identity in Education by Nelson Rodrigues and William Pinar (Eds.), so I anticipate that her book will be excellent as well.

LGBTQ Issues in Education: Advancing a Research Agenda
By George Wimberly
I keep waiting for this one to be required for my doctoral work so that I can justify the hefty price tag, but nobody has put it on a syllabus thus far, so I may just need to splurge.

Solution Focused Practice in Asia
By Debbie Hogan, Dave Hogan, Jane Tuomola, & Alan K. L. Yeo (Eds.)
Full disclosure: I contributed a chapter to this book. I am eager to read the other chapters, though, as my counseling practice is heavily influenced by a solution-focused approach.

{Parenting}

The Talk: Helping Your Kids Navigate Sex in the Real World
By Alice Dreger
Who doesn’t need more help with how to do this gracefully? I am a fan of Dreger’s work, and my work as a counsellor has put me in touch with more than a few parents who would like guidance on talking to their kids about sex. The audio version for this book is less than 3 hours long, so it promises be a quick read.

Gender Neutral Parenting: Raising Kids With the Freedom to be Themselves
By Paige Lucas-Stannard
The Kindle version of this mini-book is free!

Teaching Overseas: An Insider’s Perspective
By Kent M. Blakeney
I also contributed excerpts to this book, and ought to get around to reading my copy.

{Pleasure}

En Finir avec Eddy Bellegueulle (The End of Eddy)
By Edouard Louis (Translator: Michael Lucey)
This novel (by a 23-year old author!) earned rave reviews in France, and has already been translated into twenty languages, including English. The story promises to shine a light on gender stereotypes and the experience of growing up gay in a traditional, working-class community.

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)
By David Sedaris
I relish pretty much everything this satirist publishes, and look forward to a peek into the diaries he has been keeping, daily, for the past forty years.

The Handmaid’s Tale
By Margaret Atwood
I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read this classic, but the recent publicity makes it an irresistible addition to my list.

Push
By Tommy Caldwell
Tommy is a local hero in our summer home of Estes Park for being one of the best rock climbers in the world (you may remember his Dawn Wall accomplishment in 2015). Now he is also a New York Times best-selling author.

 

This summer, I will be hiking in the Swiss Alps, and visiting friends and family in Colorado and Michigan. I am also enrolled in two graduate courses, and will attend a residency on LGBT health policy and practice at George Washington University. I hope to get through as many of these books[2] as time allows (and do feel fortunate to have summers “off”).

How do you make the most of your summer as an educator?
What’s on your reading list?  

[1] Amazon Smile is exactly like regular Amazon (and Amazon Prime), except that they donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organization of your choice.

[2] Fellow TIE bloggers, David Penberg and Daniel Kerr, have also shared their reading lists.

Professional Development – Perk or Priority?

The leadership team is meeting to review professional development plans for the teaching staff. Glancing over the dozens of applications, ‘Who gets to go to the conference this year?’ quips the primary principal. Cringe….

Who ‘gets’ to go? Right there in that session, is where that leadership team sets up the ‘culture’ for PD across the school. In the international school how easily PD can become a ’fringe benefit’, a ‘reward’, an entitlement – essentially a potentially expensive PERK. And when we design a PD program with PERK as the central idea, it’s pretty clear where that will NOT lead – to the real goal of PD, -improved learning through improved teaching.

We cheapen significantly the whole teaching profession with the ‘perk’ approach rather than as the essential PRIORITY it is for improving student learning. It’s not about who ‘gets to go’ to that conference in a sunny warm place in the dead of winter, or who ‘deserves’ it because of all their service, or whose ‘turn’ it is. It’s not about onsite days where the kids stay away, school provides lunch and gives teachers the latest ‘buzz word’ PD.

Professional development activities are the vital link between student learning and our growing understanding of what makes learning possible. Serious educational professionals pay attention to the latest understanding about how learning happens and seek out those specific opportunities which will help them translate that new understanding into classroom practice. And, yes, it can be both job-embedded or externally provided. They can both work, each generating unique benefits, when the premise is right. But when it isn’t – when the underlying premise is’ perk’ rather than priority, what we design and how we design it will fall short.

At this point in the school year, many international school leaders will be looking for those ‘external’ opportunities to boost learning for teachers during the long break between school years. . Here are some suggestions to ensure those experiences are beyond ‘perk’ thinking:

BEFORE approving attendance at an eternal PD session:
For each potential attendee:

  • What specific learning goals for students are we working to improve by sending this teacher to this PD session?
  • What do supervision and evaluation data for the teacher indicate regarding skills to be addressed?
  • What is the teacher’s own analysis of skills he/she needs to improve?
    About the session being considered:
  • Is the PD session directly aligned to the desired learning results our school is attempting to achieve?
  • Are the learning objectives primarily skills that a teacher would use in the classroom?
  • Is there evidence that participants will actually practice skills during the session?
  • Is the intended content commensurate with current research?
  • Are there any built-in follow-up strategies (e.g. a ‘next steps’ planning processes embedded in the session strategies?)
    AFTER the session:
  • How will we ensure that the teacher is actually applying what has been learned?
  • What measures will we use to determine if this PD made any difference?
  • And a big DON’T: DO NOT ask the teacher to ‘share what they learned’ BEFORE they have had the opportunity put it into practice in their own classroom.
    And a reminder that we at TIE and the PTC do offer some PD options for international teachers and leaders…

…all in the quest to move from PD as PERK to PD as PRIORITY.

Hopes and Dreams- with Legs!

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein

This weekend was a busy one. I was invited to attend our regional organization’s professional planning annual session. The goal was to plan for next year’s (and beyond) professional development at NESA conferences- topics and speakers.

Sounds pretty cut and dry doesn’t it? And it would be too, except I was meeting with an exceptional group of people, working for an exceptional organization, trying to ensure exceptional offerings were in place for the teachers and schools out there depending on them. No small feat.

Previously a literacy coach, now as an administrator, before as a teacher and often as a parent, I am faced with the need to plan for action and outcomes. Like me, I’m sure many of you plan on a daily basis, for a variety of reasons. However, what I learned most over this weekend was the necessity of having a planning process that gives all of your hopes and dreams (which the best plans are reaching for) the “legs” to actually walk the path toward completion.

The more moving parts, or the bigger the plan or the goal, the more necessary it is to have a process in place which ensures things are covered, thought through, and allows for you to evaluate both the plan and the actual event you’ve planned for. In fact, without the plan and then the evaluation, there is really no way to know if plan was successful.

With the help of Joellen Killion from Learning Forward, (Professional Learning Organization) I learned, right alongside the planners at NESA, how to create and evaluate a plan for professional learning.  The evaluative piece is new for me. What I like about it, is that it allows a school or organization to learn from the work at the level of the idea and process, and not just from the product generated.

As I reflect on my learning at NESA this weekend, I’ve been thinking about how we often hear about the pendulum swinging back and forth in education. I’m beginning to wonder how much of that is due to a lack of precision in our planning, and/or the fact that we often do not return to the plan to evaluate if it worked. Add to that the fact that so many of us start plans and projects at one school and then move to another. What happens to that work when you leave? Might it be continued if there was a better plan and/or a way to evaluate that plan- left for the person filling your shoes?

We have so much to do, so many hopes and dreams for our learners, our schools, and ourselves. There are days when it is overwhelming and seems as if we are never going to get there. Putting your time and energy into the planning process is one way to ensure the end result you desire becomes a reality.

Here’s to better plans, which lead to intended outcomes. In other words, here’s to taking your hopes and dreams and giving them the legs they need to take off.

(Crossposted on www.literacybytes.com)