State Department Orientation

I recently completed the Orientation for new directors to American assisted overseas schools in Washington DC.

The Department of State of the United States government is the equivalent agency as the foreign affairs ministry of other countries. The State Department in its role of international relations, supports K-12 schools all over the world that US government dependent children attend. The Office of Overseas Schools (OS) manages this program and recently hosted an orientation for directors new to American assisted international schools. The international schools are private and independent, but cooperate closely with the Office of Overseas Schools. There are 193 schools in 133 countries with a total enrollment of over 125,000 students and over 7,000 American teachers.

OS helps Department-assisted schools in several main areas.

  1. Regional and Global Education Associations Due to isolation of international schools in their local markets, regional associations overcome this by facilitating sharing best practices, resources, etc. Tashkent International School belongs to the Central & Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA) and are members of the Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE). These are a valuable network for its members schools.
  2. Security The Department has granted over $116 million dollars since the Soft Target Security Initiative began 20 years ago.
  3. Child Protection The International Task Force on Child Protection started in 2015, sets standards and trains faculty in international schools. The OS worked with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) to create resources schools can use in their Education Portal.
  4. Training Programs This includes board members, college counselors and teachers.
  5. School Initiatives They have a lot of projects like AERO standards, Presidential awards, etc.

My big takeaways from the workshops were as follows:

  1. The Regional Education Officer (REO), Regional Security Officer (RSO) and Regional Medical Officer (RMO) are strong problem-solvers and a lifeline in times of crisis or need.
  2. Consider an executive or life coach to help me develop as a leader. AAIE has a good mentor program.
  3. I will prioritize child protection and emergency plans upon my arrival to make sure the policies and practices are in order.

I would like to thank everyone at the State Department and the Office of Overseas Schools for the orientation!

Sayonara SOIS

“Two Schools Together”

This is my fifth Sayonara party and last. I am one of the departing educators. Instead of a speech, I decided to go out with a song. The schools are unique with two schools learning together. I wanted to celebrate that with my colleague and friend, the cocho sensei of Senri International School, Ito sensei. Thanks to Mayumi for her beautiful voice and willingness to take a chance with something different and to David Algie for the guitar playing.

It is a traditional at the Senri & Osaka International Schools of Kwansei Gakuin to honor the departing teachers on the Friday of the penultimate week of the school year. We hold a catered party in the courtyard and there are farewell speeches, thank yous, etc. It is a really nice way to end the academic year.

Graduation 2019

It is such a privilege to be part of high school graduation ceremonies. The pride, joy and sometimes sadness are some of the gamut of emotions from both parents and students that participate in this milestone. It is an emotional rush for all of the faculty and staff to see off the graduates in style.

The OIS graduation ceremony is distinct in many ways. Every graduate gets to make a short speech to thank the people in their lives that helped them through school. It is traditional at OIS that the grade 11 students and parents plan and cater the pre-ceremony reception and photographs and cater the post-graduation party in the courtyard. They get “paid back” the following year when it is their turn to graduate. I also love seeing the SIS students and underclassmen attending the reception. There are always plenty of tears, hugs and laughter!

It pains me a bit however as the head of school, often my relationships with the students are not as close as the faculty. Being a former teacher, that is the aspect of education I miss the most is my close interaction with students in the classroom. As the head of school, I try my best to connect with all the students, teachers and parents and I do get a strong sense of satisfaction helping out in different ways.

I would like to congratulate the OIS Class of 2019!

Association of International Schools in Asia (AISA) Annual Meeting

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.