OIS Excels on IB Exams

A happy Class of 2018 after receiving their diplomas – June 8, 2018

The 28 students of the Class of 2018 attained an average of 36 points on the May exam session of the International Baccalaureate (IB). This is 6 points above the historical world average of 30 points. Seven OIS students scored 40 points or above, which on average, only 10% of test takers reach. All of the students passed the 24 point threshold to earn the full IB Diploma and almost half of them were awarded Bilingual Diplomas, signifying passing two “A” level languages.

I would like to congratulate the students, teachers, staff and parents for this excellent achievement. The IB Diploma Programme is rigorous and it takes our whole community to support student learning. Best wishes for continued success at the next level of your education!

Daniel Pink’s “When” (Part 2)


With a huge earthquake interrupting the end of the school year, we did not get to discuss the second half of the book together. Pink’s ideas have been creeping into our conversations.

Reading the book as a group was powerful and it is something that we will try to do every year as a leadership team and among faculty. It is good to have a book to start conversations and get us thinking about innovation and forces us to take a fresh look at how we do things.

I just finished Part Two: Beginnings, Endings and In Between and wanted to put my thoughts down in writing before they are lost over the summer. The book has slowed down a bit, but there are still lots of interesting points.

  • Beginnings – Centers of Disease Control and Academy of Pediatrics recommend that middle school and high school not to start before 8:30 AM because adolescents need to sleep in the morning. The physical and mental effects of an early start are dramatic on the well-being and performance of teenagers.
  • U Curve of Happiness – Humans have a u-shaped curve of happiness, with a low point being between 50-53 (my current age) and then rising back up to where you were when you were a child.
  • Studies show the more spent on the wedding and engagement ring, the higher the rate of divorce. This could be that richer people can divorce and poorer people sometimes stay together for economic reasons. (my thought)
  • Find fresh starts, like start of month or week, anniversaries, etc. to spur productivity.
  • “uh-oh effect” – When teams reach the half-way point of a project, they feel a sense of urgency to get things done and the most creative portion of the process occurs then. Teams will go for a long time without anything creative and then at the midpoint, bam!, the magic happens.
  • Life is in three sections: 0-30 growing up / 30-60 – people are forging relationships that will help in the future /  from 60-90, people prune the peripheral friends and seek out only emotionally meaningful relationships and experiences; time is limited so they live in the here and now.
  • people like elevated endings, so if you have bad news and good news to deliver, give them the bad news first and good news second;
  • poignancy is a great word and emotion; it means an event or experience with a mix of sadness and happiness; this is especially true at the end of the year or graduation;



Daniel Pink’s “When”


Sleep pods are becoming popular in Singapore offices – Can schools adopt them? (photo from LadyBoss Asia)

The OIS leadership team is reading When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink. Pink has a law degree and worked in politics before becoming an author. Like his friend Malcolm Gladwell, one of his main methods of writing is to take academic research and find patterns and interesting themes to popularize them in books. He wrote NY Times bestsellers DriveTo Sell is Human and A Whole New Mind. 

For this latest book, Pink and two researchers did a meta-analysis of 700 studies of timing to form the basis of this book.

Part I The Day

This section concentrates on daily productivity patterns. A person’s mental sharpness, physical energy and emotional state fluctuate during the day, being controlled by a small part of the brain’s hypothalamus called the SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus). The main message is that a typical day would consist of a morning spike of performance, followed by a deep drop in the afternoon and a slight rally in the early evening. Pink gives techniques to avoid and overcome the afternoon trough.

  • Try to avoid important decisions, meetings, events in the afternoon. He cites numerous studies showing more errors occur during this time and the negative mood/energy influences greatly decisions.

I am a lark, someone who goes to bed early (9:00 PM – 10:00 PM) and wakes up early (5:00 – 6:00 AM). My peak performance is always in the morning and I struggle in the afternoons and late evenings.

He gives many pointers for arranging your day around this rhythms. Exercise first thing in the morning to lose weight and boost your mood, drink a glass of water upon waking and wait an hour to 90 minutes before drinking coffee.

The section I was most interested in was the science behind taking breaks. We as school leaders always feel we should be pushing to always get more done and seem to always try to squeeze an email or two while having our lunch. Pink tells us to make time for breaks and to put thought into how we do it and we will be more productive. He cites one study that showed high performers work for 52 minutes and then break for 17 minutes. A break meaning standing, moving, no electronics, socialize with others about non-work topics, getting outside in nature, etc.

I particularly liked his “permission” to take naps. I’ve said for years that in schools, we should allow students and teachers to have short power naps to refresh our brains, boost our immunity and improve memory. I envision “nap pods” that would be secure, time-controlled compartments that students, parents or teachers could use to get the optimal 10-20 minutes of sleep. Pink suggests having a cup of coffee then sleep for 20 minutes and as you wake, the caffeine kicks in. He calls is a “nappuccino”. Sleeping under 20 minutes is key to avoid “sleep inertia”, the fogginess that follows a long nap. So have a cup of coffee, set the timer for 25 minutes (average time to go to sleep is 7 minutes)and doze away!

I see teenagers struggle with sleep in every school I’ve worked in. Their SCN has them up late at night and waking late in the mornings. Many of them would greatly benefit from a 20-minute nap. It would help their learning, improve their mood and concentration upon waking. I would love to try to install sleep pods. A challenge would be supervision: make sure they didn’t sleep too long or bring classmates in the pod with them.

As we go through the book, I will try to post more of our learning on the blog.

elementary school implications

  • 1. recess – play first then eat; grades 3-5; K-2 this does not happen, look at how to change this;
  • we have not cut back on recess, perhaps add one in the afternoon; teachers take their own breaks and with specials in the afternoon, they do get the pauses;

afternoon meetings – pause; include everyone to share;

TELL (Tokyo Emergency LifeLine) Connects with OIS


Sandra Strnadt the Kansai Coordinator of TELL, the Tokyo Emergency Life Line, visited our campus earlier this week. The main service of TELL is a free, anonymous, confidential English-language telephone (03-5774-0992) and chat service (telljp.com)offered throughout Japan, every day of the year. Highly-trained volunteers and experts receive over 7,000 calls per year. Almost half are from foreign nationals and the other half are from Japanese speakers of English. The staff provides emotional support for people in crisis, whether it be depression, anxiety, substance abuse, neglect mental illness, etc. They may have saved hundreds of lives since the service began in 1973.

TELL also offers confidential, face-to-face counseling to adults, couples, families, children and adolescents. They also provide psychological testing and assessments. The TELL Outreach wing offers workshops, resources, awareness raising campaigns, etc. on a variety of topics ranging from LGBTQIA, cyber-bullying, stress, suicide prevention, eating disorders, mental health first aid, etc.

TELL is always looking for donations as they receive no government support. They are also seeking volunteers. Contact volunteer@telljp.com to register for interest.

We are scheduling several events with TELL in the 2018-2019 school year. We are pleased they are expanding their reach to the Kansai region.



Personalized Learning: The Future of Education

My non-educator friends sometimes ask me what is the future of education. I’ve been thinking about this question the past couple of months. Living at the start of the information age has really changed everything that we do. I think back to 1983 when I was in grade 10 in high school. I was part of the first computer class in our school’s history. We were working with Apple IIE computers. I remember the floppy disks and the lack of any software. I spent much of the semester writing code to have my name flash on the screen. I also made some nice cassette case covers for music mixes I made with an early word processing program.


Apple IIe (courtesy of Wikipedia)

I am now mid-career in my 50s and carry an iPhone, that has 3 GB of RAM compared to the Apple IIe with almost reaching 64 KB. The notion of touching the screen to access files, video conferencing, uploading and viewing videos to someone who was a teenager in the early 80s, is like science fiction. How could my high school prepare me for a future that is so different 30 years later?


Access to almost infinite amounts of information in the forms of video, texts and images changes the role of school. Teaching and learning has moves from instructor-driven to instructor-guided and the learner becomes a creator of their curriculum along with the teacher. Students today can set their own goals and monitor their own learning with the support of an adult.

This trend towards personalized learning will only become more pronounced in the years to come. I listened to an ASCD podcast interview with James Rickabaugh talking about his book, Tapping Into Personalized Learning: A Roadmap for Leaders. He outlined what personalized learning should look like in schools.

  1. The role of the teacher the majority of the time should be Mentor In The Middle with Sage on the Stage and Guide on the Side taking less time as before.
  2. Students focus on skill sets, not just learning how to behave. “commitment more than compliance”
  3. Teachers focus on the progress of their students, not on exposure to instruction.
  4. Learners should be convinced they can learn anything.

#4 is a key point. I see more lifelong learning and “micro-credentials” will be needed for professionals and so when our students leave school, there will be no lesson plans in the work place and they will have to design their own learning. Customized learning paths with students co-planning and goal setting with the teacher is where education is heading. The idea of disciplines will also begin to fade away with a focus more on skills, ideas and solutions-based/project-based education.



Association of International Schools in Asia Annual Meeting


Heads of School and Athletic Directors discuss issues during the joint meeting

The Korea International School hosted the heads of schools of our high school activities conference, the Association of International Schools in Asia. SOIS is a founding member along with the Yokohama International School, Seoul International School and Busan Foreign International School. There are ten events held yearly, mostly sports, including basketball, swimming, soccer, volleyball, cross country running, and mathematics/leadership.

One of the major topics was child protection. This is a growing concern of all international schools, as there have been several high profile child abuse cases in schools in East Asia. One of the best features of AISA are the homestays, where students from visiting schools stay with host families. Homestays are the center of the intercultural understanding and friendships that are developed during these events. Graduates of our schools often maintain contact with friends they made during these homestays. In order to maintain this program, we are taking steps to minimize the risk for students staying in private homes. We made the rule that students must stay with at least one other student from their school. With at least a pair of students together, both the student and host family is protected.


Departing Teachers Display



Air quality was another topic as sometimes air pollution is a concern for the schools in Seoul. It is not a big problem in Osaka, but something we will add to our student wellness program. The Korea International School shared their policy with us and we plan to adopt some of their procedures.


Herb garden in the cafeteria


Another feature of these meetings is the opportunity to tour the host school and pick up ideas. I got a good one for honoring departing teachers, with this beautiful display. The departing teacher photo with where they are going is featured and below is some information about their replacement. They also had a very impressive engineering and design hub with 3-D printers, a robotics laboratory, etc.

The heads of school agreed that we should try to collaborate on a science/robotics AISA event to add to our current activities. It was a successful year of collaboration and competition amongst our schools. The connection with schools in Korea and Japan greatly enhances all of our schools.