OIS 2018-2019 “We Are Family”

we are family

Last week the entire school K-12 gathered in the theatre to open the school year. The main idea of the assembly was to reinforce the idea that we are one school, from our youngest students in kindergarten A to our Class of 2019 seniors, ready to leave OIS for universities.

I gave a short talk to frame the 2018-2019 school year with our major themes:

I. Health

  1. A healthy body (exercise, sleep, nutritious food)
  2. Healthy emotions (connect w/ friends, handle ups/downs)
  3. Healthy mind (seek advice and support)

II. Be the Best Person You Can Be – Living our mission

  1. Informed – Be curious and enjoy learning; complete homework, go for high grades, do not procrastinate
  2. Caring – Be an upstander, not a bystander, be a good friend
  3. Creative – Be yourself – find what makes you different and unique and develop it
  4. Contribute – How are you going to make OIS a better school?

We introduced the faculty to the song, Final Countdown by Europe and sang karaoke to the Disco classic, “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. The music brought everyone’s emotions up a level! A special thanks to OIS music teacher Daniel Ligon for his ideas and support during the assembly. I guess you can tell my age by the music we selected!

We most importantly reinforced the idea of community and helping each other learn. We are all looking forward to a rewarding school year.

Helping Our Students with Mental Health

PD screen grab jpeg

I listened to a podcast from the Aspen Institute entitled, “College Students, Mental Health and the University’s Role.  Two college presidents, Dan Porterfield, formerly from Franklin and Marshall College and Paula Johnson from Wellesley College were discussing how universities should be supporting students’ mental health. Much of what they talked about applies to our students at OIS and high schools need to begin this process before our students move on to university.

Increasing numbers of adolescents are experiencing anxiety and depression. I believe that international schools are here to educate the next generation of young people and before they can start learning, we need to ensure they are healthy, both physically and mentally. I 100% agree with Dr. Porterfield, and feel that we the educators at OIS must see the whole child – the talents, emotions, family, culture, etc. that they bring to our community. Often, emotional or psychological issues block great learning and students are not able to progress. We need to address these issues. Of course, we are not a hospital and we do not take the place of a family, but a school should be very aware of mental health, raise awareness with our families and deal with it the best we can and direct the student where they can receive further support.

One issue mentioned was stress. The International Baccalaureate is a challenging curriculum and with our Diploma Programme students, comes much stress. Many of our students are under pressure (from a variety of sources) to achieve and get into selective universities. Stress is unavoidable in our lives and can be good for us. We need to give students the tools on how to manage it. And as I always say, what is good for the students, is also good for teachers and parents. We need to focus on the well-being of all community members.

The speakers go on to talk about helping students learn how to socialize with alcohol, seek help for anxiety/depression and learn dating norms, especially when it comes to sexual harassment. Some of these topics are for the university level, but the groundwork should be laid in high school, and even in an age-appropriate manner down to the elementary school.

This academic year OIS is working on improving our pastoral care program. One major initiative will be in January when we will host a weekend workshop with Dr. Christopher Liang from the International Counseling Program at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. We will be learning how to identify and support the mental, emotional and psychological health of OIS students.

Osaka is the Third Most Livable City in the World!

IMG_2405
View of the port of Osaka

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a branch of the famous weekly magazine, Economist, publishes an annual Global Liveability Index. It was nice to see Osaka moving to #3 in the world! EIU tries to be comprehensive and objective when comparing the quality of life in cities around the globe. The overall rankings are the total of 5 categories which I put forth my point of view. Why does Osaka rank so high? 

43165530124_425bc509df_c
The view of the neighboring municipality of Ikeda from the Minoh Quasi National Park taken on my bicycle ride last week. 

 

  1. Stability (25%) – Personal and violent crime is almost non-existent in Osaka. A lack of gun ownership and limited immigration has also contributed to the lack of terrorism or mass shootings. Another index in this category is the threat of military conflict and despite our proximity to North Korea, it did not hurt Osaka or Tokyo, another Japanese city in the top 10. 
  2. Health Care (20%) – Japanese live an extremely long time, in part due to excellent health care. I trust doctors and nurses here when my family needs care. 
  3. Culture & Environment (25%) – This is the category that is most noticed in our daily lives. I see Osaka ranking high in some areas, such as lack of corruption, censorship and social/religious restrictions. The city is a “foodie’s paradise” with great restaurants and cuisine. Shopping and the availability of products are also outstanding. One can get just about anything in Osaka and note that the city is not in the top 10 of most expensive cities in the world, although it is not cheap to live here and compares with cities in the USA. Sports and cultural opportunities to participate and view abound. Japan is the most distinctive culture of any developed nation. I ride my bicycle everywhere and could not do this anywhere else except perhaps Amsterdam. The humidity and temperature can be uncomfortable at times during the year, but Osaka does have the world’s average yearly temperature and we experience the change of seasons. I wish the insulation in the homes would be better in the three months of winter weather. 
  4. Education (10%) – EIU judges the quality and availability of private education and I hope the Senri & Osaka International Schools helped Osaka score high in this category. It also looks at public school indicators and Japan always ranks high in student achievement. 
  5. Infrastructure (20%) It is so easy and safe to drive in Osaka and the rest of Japan. it is rare to see a pothole and in this mountainous country, the number of tunnels that make one’s drive straight and flat is amazing. Public transport is also comprehensive and used a lot by everyone. There is quality housing, although people live a little bit too close together for my American sensibility. The internet connections are super fast, clean water, energy available, although utilities and gasoline are very expensive here. There are many international flights out of Kansai International Airport and Itami Osaka Airport. 

In summary, Osaka is a really nice place to live and the OIS community, teachers, parents and students are fortunate to have a high quality of life that according to the Economist at least, it one of the best liveable cities in the world. I like to think that SOIS played a small part of contributing the ranking!

Lebron James Launches The “I Promise” School

lebron

I am a big sports fan and was so happy to see LeBron James invest some of his great wealth into public schools in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. I hope educational researchers do some long-term research on the students there to see if this model can be replicated in other public schools serving disadvantaged populations.

The Akron Public School District is spending 8.1 million dollars and LeBron’s Foundation is chipping in another over 2 million dollars to support the school. The model provides much support outside the regular classroom teaching. Parents will get job placement, GED and counseling to allow them to live better lives and be able to support their children in school better. All students receive a bike to promote health and give them transportation. Many poor families do not own cars and public transport is not comprehensive in Akron. There will also be extra summer sessions focusing on STEM education, extended school days, etc. to keep the students out of their troubled neighborhoods and not supervised. The best thing about the school, in my opinion, is graduates get free tuition at Akron University.

I see growing inequalities in the USA and the best way to attack this and lift families out of poverty is to give them the advantages of middle and upper-class families. The government and private citizens and organizations need to build our education system. I applaud LeBron James and the Akron School District on this project and wish them the best for the students.

Advanced Placement Research Findings

Valerie Strauss is the editor of the Answer Sheet, the section/blog about education from the Washington Post. I subscribe to the weekly summary of articles and often find something interesting. This week she summarized the research on College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) program (Seven things research reveals – and doesn’t reveal – about Advanced Placement) This is an honors level high school curriculum similar to the International Baccalaureate’s Diploma Programme. In fact, in the comments, the IB is referred to several times.

Strauss concludes that AP is challenged by expanding to urban schools serving lower socio-economic students in the USA. This makes sense because as with the IB, it takes a lot of resources like training, support services, and an environment (class size, family support) to run a successful rigorous curriculum. Poor schools lack many of these vital services.

Some of her later conclusions about AP from the research did not sit well with me. She only found “moderate association” with passing an AP exam and university success. This may be to the difficulty of educational research to separate causes in a complex system. I would also like to know why some elite boarding schools are dropping their AP courses.

Interestingly, as more schools across the United States stretch their course schedules to incorporate more AP offerings, a small group of elite boarding schools have recently dropped their AP courses. This development presents a new wrinkle in the push for equitable access to rigorous learning opportunities. If elite schools change the definition of elite courses, old marks of distinction may give way to new ones.

I did a research review of IB studies last summer. There is a lack of studies targeting IB and student achievement.

 

OIS Excels on IB Exams

TR7_7554
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)

when-3d-e1511881329973

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;