Association of International Schools in Asia (AISA) Annual Meeting

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AISA Heads and ADs Welcome KIS-Jeju!

Athletic directors and heads of school of AISA met at the International School of Busan (ISB), Korea this weekend. We meet annually to review the school year and plan for the future. AISA is our high school international athletics and activities conference. The big AISA news is we welcomed a sixth member school, the Korea International School – Jeju! The 986-student boarding and day school is located on Jeju Island, a 1-hour flight off the south coast of Korea. Jeju is known at the “Hawaii of Korea” and they bring something different to our conference. We are looking forward to their world-class facilities and unique island experience for our student-athletes. We also discussed the safety of our students traveling to and from and during our events. A cornerstone of AISA’s commitment to intercultural understanding is the homestay program. We want to keep it safe for our students. Better child protection practices are always our focus.

A nice first impression for prospective parents to ISB
The school store helps school spirit and promotes the brand.

I always pick up ideas and the conversations I have with other heads of schools is invaluable to our school. I am posting the photos from the ISB school tour. My major takeaways were the school branding ISB has undertaken this year. I had a nice conversation with the manager of the school store and got some good contacts. Their board room, admissions office, school merchandise is exactly what SOIS and my future school, Tashkent International School could use. I also learned about the consultant, Control Risks (website). They have a lot of resources on their website and help international schools evaluate risk in their programs. They are working with schools in the region analyzing their homestay programs.

The soccer field and secondary school wing

The city government of Busan built the International School of Busan and allows the ISB to use it rent-free. They have to maintain it, but the idea is for the school to support international business in this port city. The school is located in the northern part of Busan, a growing area with a huge amusement park and resort under construction. There is also a world-class science museum nearby.

The major challenge for ISB is enrollment in a relatively small city. They are largely dependent on the international shipping economy to provide international families. In many ways, the enrollment of all international schools are impacted by economic trends, but in smaller cities, the swings can be more drastic.

I would like to thank ISB Head of School Kevin Baker and AD Craig Wilson for hosting us!

PD with Dr. Rob Evans

Dr. Evans and I in Hiroshima, April 17, 2019

Dr. Robert Evans is a therapist and psychologist that besides his private practice seeing patients in the Boston area, also serves as a consultant for schools. He is a former high school teacher and has worked with over 1700 schools in the USA and around the world. His expertise is organizational dynamics, relationships, both professional and personal and managing change in schools. He recently has been concerned about the huge change in the non-school lives of children. He also helps educators talk candidly about the work they do and when in disagreement, “stop talking about each other, and start talking to each other.”

Dr. Evans’s ideas have had a big impact on my leadership. His books shaped my early leadership of school and along with his professional partner, Dr. Michael Thompson, who specializes in the education of boys, also influenced me as a father. There are few education consultants that resonate with me like Dr. Evans. It was such a meaningful day to reconnect with his ideas and meet him personally!

The Japan Council of International Schools (JCIS) invited Dr. Evans to spend the day with the heads of school last month during our annual spring meeting. I uploaded my notes to Scribd and I will post them at a later date. My major takeaways immediately follow:

  • I am in strategic planning phases in two schools. Dr. Evans remarked after hearing how each of us got into education and international schools, that how much of our time as leaders is spent on things that cannot be planned. He called good school leaders, “gifted improvisers”
  • Overwhelmingly, school heads face dilemmas, not problems. Dilemmas are things that cannot be fixed, and there are no fixed solutions. Being a parent is one big dilemma.
  • Despite the plethora of schools looking to business management books for ideas on how to lead schools, Dr. Evans doesn’t feel they have much to teach school leaders. He also feels good school leaders do a lot of managing, not just leading and this is necessary for a well-run school.
  • Humans grow up with unresolved issues with their parents and routinely transfer these unresolved issues onto leaders, including heads of school. In times of crisis, heads of school become important symbols just by being there. He refers to school heads as “the priest in the secular parish”.
  • “Japan makes Switzerland look like Italy. “
  • “As you get older, you get more like yourself.”
  • The biggest part of conferences is not what you learn, but sharing and connecting with others in a similar position.
  • Dr. Evans has a strong definition of educators and sees educators like people who choose a vocation. We take the vows of poverty, duty, obedience, etc. and generally, educators avoid open conflict with other adults. People who choose to stay in the classroom are different from other adults, especially business people. The school head needs to have both mindsets.
  • Many teachers are not the ideal collaborators, they are individual artisans, sheltered from adult inspection more than most professions.
  • Teachers talk too much about curriculum and not enough about pedagogy. “No content can survive how it is taught.”
  • Shared commitment to appropriate candor in the service of growth and helping our students”
  • When faced with teacher or leader that is not cutting it, what do you do. Go through this protocol. 1) What would you like to say to this person? Imagine saying it straight. 2) Frame it like a parent with an intro statement, “I’m worried about… “I’m concerned about… “I’m puzzled that…”. 3) Say it and let it sit so they have to reply to it.” 4) then give options, move to another position, etc. 5) Educators feel obligated to answer the question, use “oh” – don’t try to persuade, Are you happy? Things are not going well, if you are wondering about replacing someone, do it and don’t wait.
  • Don’t try to sell someone to change, use pressure and support.
  • Interpersonal skill is more important than technical skill.
  • School faculties are not “families” because people are paid, but often, heads are in a parental role.
  • For teachers battling addiction, nothing better than a firm limit.
  • The strongest organizations are not hammering on weaknesses, but building on strengths.
  • Organizational culture eats strategy. You are the school’s enshriner of culture and remember what really matters to you will matter to others – culture cannot be separated from the head of school.
  • Schools actually play a minority influence on children, because for an 18 year old at graduation, 10% of her life from birth to this moment is away from school. Not an unimportant influence and schools do save some people and made their lives much better.
  • Applicant pools for school leaders are dropping and a good head has guaranteed lifetime employment.

Cool Biz Season Begins!

The “Cool Biz” campaign advertisement

The Japanese government today announced the start of the “Cool Biz” season. This is an initiative to save electricity by encouraging business and office workers to dress more casually so less air conditioning is used. The idea is for men to wear short-sleeved shirts, no ties and no jackets. This will allow organizations to set the AC thermostat to the recommended 28C. The rules apply to women as well, but in the public service announcement above, only men are featured.

It has been a cool spring and not really necessary yet, but I will try to adhere to the requests. It is uncomfortable to be sweating in a suit walking around school and it will save the school money and help cut carbon emissions to use less air conditioning.

IB Global Conference Keynote Reflections

On the big stage at the IB Global Conference in Hong Kong

It was an honor to participate in the keynote speeches at the recent International Baccalaureate Global Conference in Hong Kong. My job was to guide a question and answer session with Michael McQueen, the author, speaker and future trends expert. During his speech, the audience could send questions via the conference app. It was a bit of a challenge to have an intimate, informal conversation with him in front of over 1,800 educators, but we managed to do so.

His talk was well received and got me thinking about the direction that education needs to take. McQueen feels we are in the midst of a technological revolution as great as the printing press or the start of the Renaissance, and educators need to prepare students to be ready for an ever-changing landscape of work and society.

Michael, Ally and I after the keynote session was over!

It was also funny that Michael and I being two, bald white guys, looked so similar on stage! Several people commented on the fact after the talk.

Ally Wu, the head of the Shen Wei International School in Shenzen, China also gave a talk about how hard it was for her, growing up and working in a Chinese educational system, to start an international school. She showed the human side of China’s rise to the world stage.

It was good to get our school’s name out there at such a large gathering of IB educators. Public speaking can be nerve-inducing, but as with anything, the more times you do it, the more comfortable you feel. I look forward to trying it again!

Learning from IB Global Conference

I am attending the International Baccalaureate Global Conference in Hong Kong this week. It has been energizing to connect with old friends and new in the IB World. I hope to do a couple of blog posts from the conference to help me reflect and act upon my learning from the conference.

MYP Curriculum Circle

Yesterday I attended a presentation by teachers from Discovery College, an English Schools Foundation school located near Disney Land here on Lantau Island. The title was “Building International-mindedness thru Locally-grounded Interdisciplinary Studies”. Their “Big Week” initiative is an off-timetable, week-long MYP Interdisciplinary Unit (IDU) for all MYP students from Year 1 to 5. Big Week involves the students proposing Big Ideas to solve Big Problems. All units focused on understanding their local environment and culture better, the dynamic islands of Hong Kong. I was impressed with the amount of planning it took to make this a reality. Besides sending teachers to official IB IDU workshops and inviting an expert of problem-based learning Harvard’s Project Zero, they devoted a couple of days of in-service planning. The time invested paid off as they have a newly established tradition that just needs some tweaks now.

A big benefit was raising awareness of local customs, cultures, pride and community members seeing parts of Hong Kong they have not done so. In reflecting upon the projects they value learning over assessment, there are no inquiries less rigorous than others, avoid contrived links and not to have an exhibition overload. Finally, it is not about ticking boxes for accreditation, but authenticity in teaching and learning.

The second workshop I attended was put on by the International Diagnostic and Admissions Test (IDAT). This is a new company that produces admissions tests K-12 that international schools can use to determine classroom readiness. Leading the workshop was Heidi Reid, principal of Times Academy in Sydney.

For some of the nuts & bolts of the test are as follows:

  1. 4 sections, math, English, character (attitudes) and global knowledge (science/history/geography) – students can study for the fourth section, and this evaluates their test preparation
  2. test is renewed every 3 months; outside validation;
  3. cost is between $330 – $270 USD; parents can take it, lower price for bulk testing in schools

This test might help our school decide on borderline students. We spend much time discussing students and perhaps this test could

What is your why? Dr. Greg Dale

The opening keynote speaker at the EARCOS teachers conference this year was Dr. Greg Dale of Duke University. He recently published, Catch and Release: Becoming a teacher who changes lives. The book title is a play on the metaphor of fly fishing. It is a difficult challenge to catch a trout via fly-fishing. Some students are difficult to reach as well. We catch them as teachers and then we release them on their journey to the next school year. This is a good metaphor to inspire us when working with challenging to “tough-to-catch” students. He is a sports psychologist and with one of the themes of this year’s conference being physical education, he is an appropriate choice of speaker.  

His big message was to focus on the why you are teaching and not the what or how. When you focus on your purpose, you bring passion and energy to whatever you do. Do we make class drudgery fun and challenging? 

He asked all of us to write our “whys”. Why do I lead international schools? To make a positive difference in the lives of students, teachers and parents. To guide them to be their best self and find meaning in their lives. 

My takeaways are as follows:

  1. He had the crowd laughing with 5 Seasons of a Teacher. 
    1. Swamped – first year (s) in a new position or school
    2. Smooth Sailing – “I got this” 
    3. Full Speed Ahead – ready to mentor other teachers
    4. Adrift – burned out
    5. Dead in the Water – counting the days to retirement; family/personal issues
  2. Finding a balance between accountability and empathy. I think I and most educators lean too much towards empathy and we need to reminded to hold others accountable, both students and colleagues. 
  3. The difference between Respect and Dignity. A human life has dignity, but respect needs to be earned. 
  4. Like the Creating Cultures of Thinking book I am reading by Ron Ritchart, leaders needs to focus on language. Use more “We” and “Our” instead of “I” and “my”. Instead of “have to”, use “get to”. 

Intro to the Events of World Scholar’s Cup

SOIS will be hosting the Kansai Round of the World Scholar’s Cup (WSC) on May 4-5, 2019. Daniel Berdichevsky, the founder of World Scholar’s Cup recently released introductory videos to the events that take place at a WSC event.

All middle school and high school students from schools in the Kansai region of Japan are invited to participate. For more information check out the Facebook page for the event or attend the information meeting on Friday, March 8, at 5:00 PM at the Osaka International School theater.

Below are introductory videos on the four events featured at World Scholar’s Cup events.

Collaborative Writing
Scholar’s Challenge
Team Debate

Scholar’s Bowl

Teacher Role in Pastoral Care: An EARCOS Weekend Workshop

This weekend we hosted Dr. Christopher Liang, a professor of psychology and counseling from the Lehigh University College of Education. Dr. Liang led a group of more than 50 educators from around the EARCOS region for two days and then followed up with one day with our faculty. There was much to take in and I am posting my full notes from the conference below. I will try to summarize my big “take-aways” from the workshop in this blog post.

A focus this year at OIS is student well-being which includes mental, emotional, and physical health. Pastoral care or social-emotional teaching and learning are more effective within a Multiple Tier School-wide Support (MTSS) program. “Tier 1 for Everyone” is the part of the MTSS that is preventative instruction for all students and for about 80% of the students, meets their needs.

The key to a strong school culture of well-being starts with close, healthy relationships. This can be teacher-student relationships, teacher-teacher, and any combination of stakeholder groups in a community. Dr. Liang covered a lot over the three days, raising awareness of mental health and the mitigating factors schools can implement to minimize risk. Some topics included the effects of stress, Third Culture Kids, depression, mindfulness, “hikikomori”, brain education, vocational education, demonstrating care, the impact of culture & identity, and dealing with emotions, among others.

One of my main learning points is the relationship between vocational education and well-being. The stress of having a lucrative career drives families to strive for selective universities, high IB scores, etc. When students and parents have more information about career paths, this can lessen these pressures.

Some online resources noted over the weekend are as follows: