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:

OIS History Students Featured in the EARCOS Journal

In the Winter 2018 issue of the EARCOS Triannual Journal: A link to educational excellence in East Asia, OIS Humanities teacher Tara Cheney published an article about her classes here at OIS. The grade 10 and 11 students investigated the renovated Osaka International Peace Museum. The students developed critical thinking and analytical skills to reflect on what the museum offers the public regarding World War II history and Japan’s role.

OIS Grade 10 is featured in the latest issue of EARCOS Journal

The East Asia Regional Council of Schools consists of 170 international schools serving over 140,000 students in the region. The journal has a wide circulation. Teachers share ideas and best practices. The OIS project will inspire EARCOS faculty to do similar projects in their region.

The published article fits in well with our 2 Schools Statements of Belief. “We believe that one of our goals is to demonstrate new ideas, practices, techniques, and systems to other schools around Japan and the world.”

Congratulations to Ms. Cheney and her history students!

OIS Seniors Talk IB DP

Grade 12 Dian “Andy” Guan produced this video as a Creativity, Action and Service project. His goal was to reflect upon his classmates’ experiences and opinions about the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). You can find more information about our DP programme and offerings at our website

In listening to our students, I am always so impressed with their poise, presentation, vocabulary and creativity. I think hearing directly from them gives our community and others, a good idea of the type of school we are and are striving to be.

Andy asked his friends, the following questions:

  •  Would you agree the IB is a very rigorously challenging program?
  • What is your biggest source of stress? How do you reduce it’s impact on you?
  • Are you active in extracurricular activities?
  • What skills have you developed from the program?
  • What advice would you give to someone just entering the programme? 

I would like to thank Andy for sharing the video with us and the students who answered questions and help with the technical aspects of the video. 

Japan’s Declining Population

A declining and aging population for the future of Japan (chart courtesy of CNN)

The passing of a bill increasing blue-collar immigration by the Japanese government has been in the news recently. There is a labor shortage due to the aging population and a decrease in young people entering the workforce. CNN’s article, “Japan needs immigrants, but do immigrants need Japan” really captures the challenges of a declining population. 

In one way, I think it is great. The islands of Japan are roughly the same size as the state of California, but with 126 million people compared to the 40 million Californians, I would say it is crowded here. With great public transport, smaller housing/denser housing and a high rate of urban living, it is a pleasant place to live and you don’t feel the population density. However, growing up in rural northern Michigan, fewer people here would be a good thing in my opinion. More room for wilderness! 

If you look at the chart above, without immigration and a continued low birth rate, Japan’s population will drop to around 50 million by the end of the century. More importantly, the percentage of elderly will rise to almost half of the total population. Japanese people have some of the longest life spans of anyone on earth and with laws requiring mandatory retirement around 60-65, most people have 20 to 30 years of living on a pension. With many less workers paying into the pension system, the government will be running up a huge debt. 

Japan has one of the lowest rates of immigration in the world. Only about 2% of the population are foreign residents. Other aging countries like Germany and Singapore are actively recruiting young people to move to their countries. The lack of English and long work hours discourage people from settling here long term. 

For international schools, increased immigration, especially temporary residency, would be a good thing as perhaps there would be a need for families seeking an education in English. 

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Japan. It is a preview of what is coming for other countries including the USA.