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.