Library: The best place for growth

Huiqing Yolanda Xu,
Librarian, Wuhan Globe School, China

 

Library: The best place for growth

 

Rousseau, the Enlightenment thinker, has an incisive view on education:Education is growing up. Rousseau thought that education is a natural growth process of human innate instinct, education should obey the eternal rules of nature, and adapt to the natural development of children. Dewey, a famous American pragmatist educator, believed that growth is the continuous development of innate instinct. That growth has its own rules, and the purpose of education lies in continuous and full growth. I think so, too. Human growth is internal and active growth. What education should do is not to force knowledge into people. It should instead provide a good environment and stimulate people’s innate growth ability to make for the best state. Children should be respected in the process of growing up, separate from passive or repressed states.

 

Let education conform to the needs of children’s psychological development level and interest. But respect is not an indulgence, and laissez-faire is negative, which is not “growth”. In short, education cannot ignore and suppress the internal forces of children’s growth. Mr. Zhou Guoping, a well-known contemporary Chinese scholar, writer and philosophical researcher,  mentioned that intellectual education is to develop the ability of curiosity and rational thinking, rather than instilling knowledge; moral education should encourage lofty spiritual pursuit, not instil norms; Aesthetic education is to cultivate rich souls, not to instil skills. But growth should not set an external purpose. Growth itself is the purpose, otherwise, it will lose the value of growth. On the contrary, it will suppress growth.

 

Rousseau also has a point that many people don’t understand: The most important principle of education is not to cherish time, to waste time. Education is growing up. If so, then education shoulders the responsibility of providing a good environment for growth. Free time is essential to a good environment because children need plenty of time to experience and meditate. Rousseau once said: “Time lost by misuse is greater than time lost by waste,children who are wrongly educated are farther away from wisdom than those who are uneducated.” Therefore I believe we should leave enough space for children to have free time. The essence of achievement education: “all education is self-education”,especially in mental ability.

 

In view of the above ideas, the role of school libraries is highlighted. School libraries can provide abundant nutrients and space for free growth and self-education. It can make children’s leisure full of spiritual enjoyment. Children can talk with sages at any time from any country, and they can swim freely in the long river of art while watching the metamorphosis of history.

 

Based on the above description, school libraries can play the role of buffer and balance in various educational systems, in order to counteract the internal forces of different education systems. The school library should be the cultural learning centre of the campus, to cultivate students’ reading and information literacy, to cultivate their love of reading, to cultivate the habit and will of lifelong self-education. Alongside this, the school library should support the teaching of various subjects on the basis of the characteristics and objectives of school education, serving the whole community including teachers, students and parents. If the school gives the library enough attention and freedom, then the unparalleled advantage of the library can become the balanced force to make up for any lack of school education.

 

Under the examination-oriented education system, students can use the library to care for their spirituality and freedom. Under the international education system, students can use the library to build a more complete knowledge system suitable for the depth and breadth of personal level. In all kinds of characteristic education mode, the use of a library can highlight the characteristics but also can supplement the knowledge structure beyond the characteristics. In a tense learning atmosphere, the library can become a habitat for students to relax. In a relaxed learning atmosphere, the library can provide challenges and moderate stress. Libraries can also break through the barriers between disciplines and become the fusogen of the big education system.

 

By paying attention to the school library, and giving enough support, space, free growth and self-education to students, schools will provide more protection, naturally open the students’ ideals, hope and will, make them unlimited in their imagination and innovation, free to explore the beauty of the world. Based on this positioning, library education will be in a new plane, bringing students more enjoyment and experience of beauty, so as to stimulate more innovation and value of beauty. Lu Xingwei, a famous educational thinker and reformer, has three sentences to explain this:

 

“Education is a cause, and its significance lies in dedication. Education is science, and its value lies in seeking truth. Education is art, and its life lies in innovation.”

 

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Huiqing Yolanda Xu is a librarian at Wuhan Globe School in China.

“I have been engaged in the education industry for 12 years. I use years of experience and comprehensive ability in the library to have a deep connection with students and teachers. I have been exploring the integration course of Library and subjects, bringing the awareness and ability of information literacy and lifelong learning to students. We are on the way to build the library into a learning centre on campus and hope to keep going.”

Building Community, Connections, & Learning

Johanna Schooley
ES Librarian
Seoul International School

Building Community, Connections, & Learning

Learning, connecting and the building of community took a different twist this year as world events forced educators to think, plan and instruct in ways never before considered. This included how the Elementary School Library at Seoul International School in South Korea remained an “open” and active hub of learning. As the pendulum has swung from virtual learning to in-person and back again, students were never without opportunities to have fresh library books.
Although students might not have been able to walk in and freely “shop” the shelves, the library doors were never “closed” to them. We created the Tiger Book Shuttle which allowed patrons to request books and have them available for pickup. Students, Parents and the community could request either a specific title or make a more general request and a member of the library team “shopped” the shelves. The books, after having been sanitized, could then be picked up outside the SIS ES Library or through Curbside Pick-up, depending upon whether students were learning in person or virtually.
Students also have access to over 1,000 eBooks that are available for check out 24 hours a day. Creating opportunities to bring the SIS Elementary school community together to celebrate, connect and learn as one has been an important focus for the ES Library. The year began by collaborating with the ES Art Department to Celebrate Dot Day as a school. It was kicked off with a Virtual Assembly to watch a reading of The Dot by Peter Reynolds. Students attended via Zoom from home, joining teachers who were gathered in the school auditorium. The entire school community, no matter their location, dressed creatively in Dots to celebrate the day. Students then created their own Dot Art during Art class and their creations were placed into a Virtual Dot Art Gallery, which was unveiled during our second all Elementary School Virtual Assembly two weeks later. In October, the Elementary school began a Virtual Authorator in Residence program, connecting and working with author/illustrator David Biedrzycki.
He Zoomed in every few months to work with the entire student body in a series of writing and illustrating workshops. Workshops have been held by grade level and have been tailor-made to directly impact each grade’s student learning. From Mr. Biedrzycki, students have learned the writing and editing process and have been able to apply some of those techniques to their own writing directly after working with him. Our youngest students were even able to provide Mr. Biedrzycki with specific story elements – characters, setting, and problems and help him to create an original story just for them. The learning, connection, and memories students have of working and talking with Mr. Biedrzycki, a published author, is something they will carry with them throughout their elementary school years and beyond. While how the Seoul International School Elementary Library has operated throughout this year may have been different, our mission has remained the same – to support SIS as a community of passionate readers, collaborators, critical thinkers, inquirers and life-long learners who connect and contribute to the world around them.

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ms. Schooley is currently the ES Librarian at Seoul International School. She has worked as a teacher-librarian across the world for many years developing information literacy programs and re-designing libraries into flexible centers of learning. These centers of learning have inspired students, faculty and the community to connect, collaborate, create, or reflect, allowing for them to acquire new knowledge and skills. She has presented at various educational conferences around the world on a variety of topics including Research Tools for Young Researchers and Rethinking Libraries into Learning Hubs.

When it comes to reading and writing, volume matters

Kelly Gallagher
Educator, Author

When it comes to reading and writing, volume matters

When I first started teaching, I ran a “4 x 4 classroom.” My students read four “big” books a year (one per quarter), and they wrote four “big” papers a year (one per quarter). Four big books and four big papers—a 4 x 4 classroom.

At the time this made sense to me. It took a week or two to teach students how to write a specific essay. They took another week or two to move their papers completely through the writing process. Then it took me an additional three weeks to read and comment on 180 papers. (While students were waiting for their papers, I shifted the focus in the classroom to the core work we were reading). By the time I eventually returned the essays, we were into the next quarter and it was time to start thinking about the next big paper.

The same pacing held true when I taught core novels and plays. I took a week to prepare my students for the reading of Book X. We then spent six weeks reading the work, stopping frequently to make sure students were analyzing it to death. Then we spent a couple of weeks revisiting the work via numerous “beyond” activities. By the time students finished these culminating activities, we were into the next quarter and it was time to start reading our next core work.

Years later, I have come to understand the severe limitations of the 4 x 4 approach. The central reason why 4 x 4 doesn’t work can be summed up in one word: “volume.” Volume matters a great deal and, simply put, students stuck in 4 x 4 paradigms do not read and write enough over the course of the school year to significantly improve. A 4 x 4 approach ensures adequate progress will not occur.

Considering the importance of volume leads me to think about my students’ reading and writing journeys this year and I noticed two important things. 1) when students are given choice in their selections—whether limited or wide-open—they read and write more, and 2) I recognized that grading everything slows my students’ reading and writing growth.

The volume of writing is the key ingredient. If I provide good modelling, but my kids do not write much, they will not grow. If I confer with them, but they do not write much, my students will not grow. If I provide a lot of choices, but they do not write much, my students will not grow. Modelling, conferring, and choice are critical to growth, but if my students are not writing a lot, these factors become irrelevant.

In my school system, I am required to score essays, and I imagine this may be true for you as well (Atwell runs her own school and gets to create her own rules). But let’s not lose sight of the lesson Atwell teaches us here: students should be writing way more than a teacher can grade (I have a goal of at least a 4:1 ratio). When teachers grade everything, the writing pace of the classroom slows down. Volume suffers. It is only when students begin writing (and reading) more than the teacher can grade that they approach the volume necessary to spur significant growth.

I cannot shake the feeling that despite the progress in my classroom, my students are still not reading and writing enough (especially considering the deficiencies some of them have). My thoughts are already turning to next year’s classes and I am already wrestling with some big questions: How can I build more choice into the curriculum? When and where can I provide more modelling?

How can I build in more time to confer? What else can I do to increase the volume of my students’ reading and writing?

 

This article was originally published by Savvas.  Request a sample of myPerspectives, their English Language Arts Curriculum for grades 6-12.

 

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Since 1985, Kelly Gallagher has devoted himself to the teaching of reading, writing, listening and speaking—first and foremost, as a high school ELA teacher in Anaheim, California, and also as an author/consultant who works with educators around the world.  Today, he is considered one of the leading voices in literacy education.  Inspired by his classroom, mentors and professional development experiences, Kelly has written six books for teachers, many of which have been used in education schools around the world. He is also a featured author for several ELA classroom textbooks and programs. In 2005, Kelly received the Award for Classroom Excellence from the California Association of Teachers of English, the state’s highest honour for English teachers.

Reading Comics Won’t Cure Illiteracy

Joe Nutt
Author and Educational Consultant

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Reading Comics Won’t Cure Illiteracy

 

Post a question online as a parent, about how to encourage a child who is a reluctant reader, and you will receive numerous encouragements to offer them comics instead of books, not from publishers of graphic novels, but from English teachers. This is especially noticeable in the early years of secondary school when our entire education system assumes a child is able to read, or at least, decode English prose at a reasonable speed and with understanding. Secondary schools are predicated on the assumption that every child can read. How else can they start to study the range of subjects on offer? Letting a child who can’t read start secondary school, is like enrolling a child with no arms or legs in a swimming club and expecting them to compete.

 

In the UK in 2018, 75% of eleven-year-olds reached the expected standard in the national SATS reading tests, which presumably means 25% entered secondary school drowning in words. If you look at the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) which measures reading aptitude for 9 to 10 year-olds, the latest data from 2016, shows that 86% of UK students reached at least the intermediate benchmark for reading. So maybe the figure floundering in secondary school classrooms is a little lower, but whatever stats you plump for, adult literacy figures still have the power to shock. Whether you believe the Guardian newspaper’s claim in 2019 that 9 million adults in the UK were functionally illiterate, or revert to the more trustworthy Leitch report of 2006 which estimated the number was between 6 and 8 million, it doesn’t sound like all those comics make much of a difference.

 

Instinctively, I find the idea that comics will help a child become a lifelong reader, counterintuitive. But I’m open to evidence so I looked into the research and although there is quite a lot of it, frequently claiming that comics are indeed a wise option, what immediately struck me was how often studies relied on a tiny sample, often a few dozen children, or just one school. The metrics are also noticeably weak. Researchers almost unanimously thinking of reading in the most rudimentary way, as nothing more than basic decoding of letters and sounds. I didn’t find anything I could place any faith in and the one study that did seem promising because it began by talking about reading in more sophisticated terms I recognised, quickly degenerated into a series of vague and often grammatically ambiguous statements, that no English teacher would accept from a sixteen-year-old.

 

All of which provoked me to reflect on what’s happening when we read prose, on what it really means to teach someone to read.

At its core, reading is a surprisingly paradoxical experience; on the one hand necessarily solitary and solipsistic, while on the other, an act of sublime selflessness. When we turn our back on the real world and give our undivided attention to those rows and rows of print, we simultaneously open our mind to the individual human being who authored them. They may never know it, but in a uniquely intimate act of generosity, we let them in. For that small portion of our lifetime that we dedicate to their text, to the invisible words, they caught in the air then crafted into sentences, paragraphs and chapters; we allow them to interact with everything that is in our own head: with every memory, every insight, every learned hypersensitivity, every single thought we have ever had; before that moment when we pressed down the page and started to read what’s inside theirs.

 

Sometimes there is a mutual understanding, as when we read a formal essay or any sustained prose both author and reader know is designed to win us over. There is a scale for this where at one extreme lie the substantial, scholarly works of some length that claim a rightful place in academic libraries and at the other, the ephemeral, hastily grasped arguments of a newspaper column. As adult readers we appreciate dramatically differing levels of commitment are involved, we even seek out media prose that we anticipate will align with our pre-existing views, a situation social media has hyper-accelerated, so that some people now find it sufficiently rewarding to read nothing more than a headline, before responding with predictable support, approval or unadulterated ire. You may think describing that as reading might be stretching things a little, but there’s no doubt many perfectly literate, even professional adults do it.

 

At the crucial period, usually in early adolescence, when we are learning to become readers, people who are starting to recognise and value the experience described above; the kind of prose we are most likely to be offered is fiction. The booming market in young adult fiction that has burgeoned phenomenally in recent decades, has no non-fiction equivalent. Curious when you consider that almost the entire YA genre is an unrelenting mass exercise in proselytization. Schools, parents and teachers don’t tend to use reflective, argumentative or informative prose as the key tool in transforming children into adult readers and buyers of books. They use novels. This is why you find those concerned parents seeking help online. Yet novels make even more peculiar demands on us than discursive prose.

 

Novels are tickets to alternative lives. The best of them create and simultaneously transport us into credible worlds. Once there, the way they spark our emotions and senses is almost imperceptible from reality. In fact, one of the ways we commonly distinguish the best is how skilfully they pull off this illusion. But the illusion is never enforced. We aren’t bludgeoned or battered into belief. We surrender, even before battle commences. And that’s the precise point at which the idea that comics are a good choice for reluctant readers, crumbles and vanishes.

 

The comic can never escape its graphic nature. However lurid, fantastic or marvellous, it’s a visual, verisimilitudinous narrative; a sequence of depictions of character, action and dialogue. It asks that we surrender less than the novel because it demands less of us.

 

This is what those no doubt well-intentioned English teachers, misunderstand. Becoming a reader isn’t about steps, it’s about sacrifice. The decision “to read” matters more than the reading material. Every hour we spend with a novel, with the author’s characters, living in their world, is an hour taken from our own. You have to be sure the price is worth paying. For many adolescents, it simply isn’t. They see nothing of value in the transaction. It is literally, a waste of time.

 

Thinking they might react differently just by offering them units of less demanding prose, accompanied by graphic art, and with troubled characters that in some way are meant to reflect their own, internally unstable world, is avoiding the problem, because the problem is a proper understanding of what reading entails.

 

Reading is first and foremost a commitment. There is absolutely no point attempting it without fully grasping what that implies. There are only two conditions reading demands; our unqualified attention and time. In the graphic world, one characterised by the fleeting image, by the fast-moving and the ephemeral, is it any surprise reading is such a hurdle for so many contemporary children and adolescents? Those two conditions run counter to every other contemporary impulse and trend. Where the graphic world screams, “Come on in, the water’s lovely,” the world of words wags a finger, shakes its head and calmly says, “Sit down…alone.”

 

That at least, is how I imagine those struggling readers perceive it. For them, a book is a shackle, a restraint. It holds them back and isolates them. And they believe this because no one has taught them the true nature of the bargain. They haven’t learned that those rows and rows of print put them in touch, not just with someone else’s mind, often some of the most extraordinary people they will never meet, but with someone else’s entire world or radical new viewpoint. The value of the exchange eludes them. Their senses don’t fire up at the sight of an original simile or artful metaphor, characters in novels never fully materialise. They hang suspended somewhere midway between the page and the mind, like a blurry, half-recovered memory. So if they do read fiction at all, they feel nothing. Fiction bemuses and bewilders them, while fact constantly seeks its lowest common denominator, the diagram. They end up living in literary limbo, like innocent lost souls.

 

Parents and teachers can expend hours, searching for and recommending books or comics, without affecting the slightest shift in behaviour unless they start to address the problem head-on. As in so many other circumstances where learning is involved; think of teaching a child to swim, dive or ride a bicycle, the individual has to commit of their own volition. Think again of how parents and teachers routinely succeed in encouraging children to attempt those milestone physical trials and it is always a matter of trust.

 

My youngest daughter spent much of her childhood and teenage years in a gymnasium, being trained to do ridiculous things with her body by two Russian gymnastic coaches. Each had spent six years studying at university to reach the elite level they were at. I observed both of them at work for years, in awe at the trust they inspired in all those fragile young creatures. They knew exactly how to transform caution into courage; timidity into grace and power. My daughter once told me, at any one training session, they knew precisely how she was feeling without ever asking. There was always a lot of conversation in that gym.

 

Parents concerned about reluctant readers, and teachers trying to help them should be looking, not for substitutes or simpler options, they should focus on who is running the conversation, on the relationship between the child and the adult nurturing them along the path to adult literacy. It’s there where the magic happens, where row upon row of printed words can populate the imagination and fire up the senses; stir real emotions and kindle ideas. Take that step successfully just once, and like swimming or riding a bike, you will always be able to do it again. You will also learn that a picture… never says more than a thousand words.

 

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to have your thoughts below.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe Nutt is the author of several books about the poetry of Donne, Milton and Shakespeare and a collection of essays, The Point of Poetry. His most recent book, Teaching English for the Real World was published in May by John Catt.

He is an international educational consultant who spent almost 20 years teaching, unusually in schools ranging from the highly selective, private sector to challenging, inner-city state schools. The second half of his career has been in business and he has implemented a number of major educational projects including the national intranet for Scotland, Glow, which won the Global Learning Impact Award in 2009.

Writing in the world language classroom does not have to be simplistic

Isabelle Wolfe
Language Teacher, International School Aberdeen

Writing in the world language classroom does not have to be simplistic

More often than not, writing in a typical world language classroom setting implies the students putting sentences together related to the topic they are learning at that time and more often than not students throughout their years of language instruction at school would write a paragraph describing themselves with a few variants over the years in the number or the length of sentences. However, does writing have to be limited to the topic being learnt/ taught in the curriculum?

Very often when the suggestion of creating a student multilingual newspaper is put forward, such an idea is met with reactions ranging from incredulity to disbelief and to a certain blasé attitude. “There’s no point” “Nobody reads it” “This is not in the curriculum” “The kids don’t have the vocabulary” “We don’t have time” …

In order to be successful, writing needs to have two main elements: a purpose and an audience. My students range in age from elementary to high school. For sure, students should not be restricted by their vocabulary and should be entitled to have the same writer’s voice they have when they write in their mother tongue. I firmly believe that there cannot be language acquisition if there isn’t a meaningful message being conveyed.

When I started thinking about a digital multilingual paper, we had been in virtual school for 6 weeks already and were going to be for another 4 weeks. Therefore, the topic that I found the most relevant was what they were experiencing. Lockdown was therefore an obvious choice. This topic is relevant and meaningful to our students. What does it mean to them? How did they go through this experience? Would the lack of vocabulary prevent the students from expressing themselves and what about their restricted grammar? Does it have to be perfect? However, should we not worry instead about their lack of voice rather than their lack of vocabulary?

As Stephen Krashen says “Learning-inspired approaches, normally tied to a syllabus, will emphasize the production of knowledge about the target language, especially its grammatical structures, at the expense of communicative skills. They will hardly meet the learner’s immediate goals. If not offset by a lively and charismatic teacher, the learning-inspired approach will drain the motivation, especially considering that proficiency in a foreign language can take a long time to be attained.

The efficient teaching of languages isn’t that tied to a packaged course of structured lessons based on grammatical sequencing, translation or oral drilling, nor is the one that relies on technological resources. Efficient teaching is personalized”.

As the students wrote and shared their experiences of lockdown, they then made the exercise highly personal. As a teacher, I learnt a lot about them such as for example, the huge disappointment one of them felt when he missed out on a basketball camp he was looking forward to for months and another missing out on a field trip to London .. By letting the audience know about their experiences and their ideas, a close relationship is then built between the teacher and the students which enables us to establish a more personalised relationship.

Teachers who have created positive teacher-student relationships are more likely to have above-average effects on student achievement. Stephen Krashen also states that “efficient teaching is based on the personal skills of the facilitator in building relationships and creating situations of real communication with comprehensible input focusing on the learner’s interests.” When students write, grammar is used in context and the teacher, as the facilitator, can then lead the students into using specific syntax or grammatical structures.

The next question that we should also consider is the following: what is the best medium to convey the students’ messages? One thing that the pandemics have taught us is that we need to “make things better” as John Hattie says. We cannot ignore virtual school and one of the teachings that have come out of virtual school is that educators should use social media in a safe classroom environment.

Indeed, after all, how many school-age students do we routinely see reading a “traditional” printed newspaper versus how many do you see reading their phones going through different news websites? Not only the written form is conveyed digitally but in some cases exclusively via social media. This is why our first edition is digital and features a blog. To this day, the blog has reached a total of 171 views for a student population of 300 students in middle and high school. Visible displays within the school along with a social platform are the two avenues that need to be explored so that the students’ articles are the most accessible and be ultimately read, which is after all what writing is about.

At the International School of Aberdeen, where I currently teach, we are in the process of writing our second edition. In the light of the current news, the topic chosen is “No to racism”. I have no doubt that this topic should generate opinions and views in our

international school. After all, even though the students might not know the French word for “respect”, I am sure they can still express their opinions on this topic.

For a link to the first edition of our French newspaper, click on this link.

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.

REFERENCES

Leaders Lounge

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

My name is Isabelle Wolfe. I am the language subject leader at the International School of Aberdeen. I teach French in Middle and High school as well as the French Mother Tongue programme to our French native students. Prior to teaching at ISA, I have been teaching in England, Australia, and Egypt.

 

Integrating core values to improve team culture and character

Luther Rauk
Middle School PE Teacher and coach, The American International School of Muscat

 

Integrating core values to improve team culture and character

 

After attending the Way of Champions Coaching Conference in Denver, CO in the summer of 2019, The swim coach, Cori Lee, at The American International School of Muscat, Oman decided to implement a strategy she learned about Core Values with her swim team.

 

While at the conference, Jerry Lynch spoke for several sessions about the importance of identifying team core values to help intentionally develop character on sports teams.  He gave the coaches an opportunity to reflect on 20 core values he thinks are important.  Each coach whittled that list down to 10 after the first day.  Then in the next session, coaches spent time choosing the four most important values to them as it relates to the role of a coach and leader of a group of student athletes.  Lynch then gave a framework of how to implement this with their teams and get their athletes’ input on what was important to them.  Here is our swim team’s story.

 

 

At the first team meeting of the season, Coach Cori Lee introduced the 10 core values she thinks were important for her team’s success this year.  Then in age group divisions, they spent 20 minutes deciding which one of the values most resonated with them.  The dialogue was intriguing because each group had to come to a consensus on just one core value to share with the rest of the team.  It was also interesting to see what different age groups valued most.  Though most groups had overlapping core values on their top three lists,  none of the age groups had the same core value as their top choice. When this was all said and done, Coach Lee combined the team’s values with her own to land on six core values the team would focus on this season.

 

At daily swim practices, Coach Lee wove each of these values into her talks and conversations with the team.  Each week one core value was chosen as a focus for the team. At the beginning of the week, Coach Lee would lead a brief dialogue around how the value applies individually, as a team and specifically to swimming. Later in the week, the HS swimmers shared a quote they selected that connects with that week’s value and how they live the core value as a swimmer. Team captains led the way and also shared personal stories from their own training to illustrate the value and importance of living the team’s values.

 

Coach Lee also created posters to hang on the pool deck and locker rooms throughout the season.  Core values were also embedded into each of her email communications highlighting specific examples of ways the team was living out their core values.

 

One striking example came from a long time member of the team (and captain) who thought the idea of a Love Box would help the team to create strong bonds between them.  She made a simple box where swimmers could drop a note into about a fellow teammate.  Each week the kids would open the box and team captains would share aloud or deliver the messages.  Imagine the feelings of the students when a positive and caring message was read about them.  Think about the impact on those swimmers who wrote the notes, knowing they made someone else on their team feel special.

 

Coach Lee was able to use these core values when having a conversation with a group of swimmers who were having some social distractions on the team. They were able to revisit the values each of them agreed to and compare that with the behaviours they were exhibiting in the middle of the season. This was a very powerful tool to help them talk through and make changes to their behaviours and improve the relationships between them.

 

During the end of season SAISA swim meet held at The Lincoln School, Kathmandu, Nepal, Coach Lee displayed the Core Values in all of the team areas as well as on spirit bag tags for each swimmer.  This helped the athletes to focus on things they could control throughout the swim meet and work to do their best at each event.  Through the hard work of the swimmers and coaches, the team was honoured to take the first place team trophy and many members swam personal bests at the meet.

 

Here are a few responses from the swimmers when asked about their team’s core values.

 

How did the core values shape you as a teammate?

  • It showed me things I should focus on to help contribute to the team. When we came up with it I knew it would be really impactful.
  • As a teammate it made me more excited and motivated to train as hard as I could because everyone else lived by these core values.
  • They helped me to remember what was important and why I was doing it.  It also taught me to show love and commitment towards my teammates and coaches.
  • It brought out the “togetherness” and joy for the sport. It made me both a better swimmer and a better teammate altogether.

 

How did the core values play a role in your swim training and your performance levels at the SAISA meet?

  • It made me feel so much joy. 100 percent joy. Because not only did the perseverance and competitive part help but it felt like I was part of a family and that was what made me swim my hardest and try to win the title for my family.
  • Personally, some of the team core values that we focused on were already strongly implemented within my swimming and day to day life like Competitive, Integrity, Commitment, and Perseverance. However, with the values of Love and Joyfulness, it was a reminder for me to also be able in swimming (especially at conferences) to take a step back and remember why I am swimming and who I get to swim with. I thought that each of our core values was significant in helping each swimmer do their best in the pool and be the best teammate.
  • I was able to realize that it wasn’t about winning, it was about persevering, being committed, having integrity, being competitive, showing love and being joyful. This helped me to be less nervous because I knew that people would be proud of me whether I won or lost.
  • Exclusively performance-wise, I don’t think they made me drop time, but they helped me experience SAISA in a much more positive way. I wasn’t only focused on winning a dropping time anymore, but on being there for my teammates, supporting them. This positive mindset helped me be less anxious about competing and satisfying my own expectations, which, now that I think about it, could have made me more relaxed and perform better.

 

What will you remember most about the work you did with your swim team core values that year?

  • I’d say the aspect in which we all fully dedicated and put the core values to heart. We all persevered “when the going got tough”, we all were very committed to the sport and team, we all maintained integrity when or when not we were supervised, we were very competitive and loved that aspect to swimming, we loved the sport, each other, and became a family through it all, and finally, we enjoyed it. We enjoyed the time we had together and enjoyed working and getting through things together. Swimming brought us close and I will never forget the family that originated from such a simple sport — swimming.
  • That year really solidified some of the realisations I’d been having about swimming for a long time. Over the years I realised that competing and performing well was not the most important part of swimming. Although it crushed my childhood hopes of taking the sport to a higher level, I realised that the most valuable experience was not winning or dropping time, but rather the connection that we had as a team. Nearly all of my closest friends I’ve met directly or indirectly through swimming, and I will always be grateful to Coach Lee for offering this new perspective on the sport, which places more emphasis on things like joy, compassion, and love, instead of competitiveness.

 

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to have your thoughts below.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Luther Rauk is currently a Middle School PE Teacher and coach at The American International School of Muscat, Oman.  Originally from Minnesota, USA, Luther has also lived and taught in Thailand and Bahrain.  Luther spent four years as the Athletic Director at TAISM where he developed a passion for learning how best to help coaches do their important work with kids.  A desire to make real connections with students again led him to return to the PE classroom in 2018.  To connect with Luther please follow him on Facebook, twitter@lutherrauk or email him at raukl@taism.com.

Differences That Make A Difference: Stories & Strategies To Inspire Women Leaders

Differences That Make A Difference: Stories and Strategies To Inspire Women Leaders

Debra Lane, Ed.D., Jolene Lockwood, Ann Marie Luce, Ed.D., Bridget McNamer, Francesca Mulazzi, Ed.D., Lindsay Prendergast

If you aren’t aware of the gender imbalance in education leadership, especially in international schools, it’s possible you’ve been living under a rock. And it may be a rock worth a long visit and careful study if it’s one where gender imbalance isn’t a thing.  The rest of us will have so much to learn from that!  Because what the women leaders contributing to this article can tell you from experience is that leading as a female in an international school is an adventure, sometimes of the very best kind, but too often of the unnecessarily challenging and depleting kind.

We are all well aware that leading in an international school is demanding, gender notwithstanding.  Then there’s the reality that the leadership post and pathway was created with a white male prototype in mind – a white male with no real personal life and no family responsibilities at home.  Women traversing the landscape either find themselves trying to follow the prototype pathway or figuring out workarounds… or trying to forge a new pathway based on their lived experiences and inherent attributes.

This article’s contributors are experienced women leaders who are frustrated with the traditional leadership pathway and have come up with visions, strategies and tips for moving more women into the leadership ranks of international schools.  We came together as one of the Sidecar Rally cohorts of women leaders brought together by Sidecar Counsel, a coaching and consulting practice dedicated to elevating women leaders in international schools.  We learned so much from each other about how to navigate the obstacle course that is the leadership path for women that we decided to promote our learnings more broadly.  We think this will make things better for everyone, males included.     — Bridget McNamer

 

Overcoming Fear of Failure
Dr. Debra Lane

 

The reason women are afraid to fail is that no one walks around celebrating their failures. Failure is invisible. All you see on resumes and social media are people’s success. Publicly admitting defeat is such a novel concept that when Princeton University Professor Johannes Haushofer created a resume of his failures (https://www.businessinsider.com/failure-resume-2019-2), it went viral. Big failures mean you had courage. Make a list of your failures and see how impressive they are compared to your successes. Courage comes from a place deep inside, where fear loses a battle against faith: faith in oneself and faith in the possibilities.  Without this adherence to the knowledge that the outcome is more rewarding than the fear, there would never be any reason to take risks.  And women, who so often strive for perfection, who limit themselves for fear of not meeting up to the standard, for appearing weak, for not getting it right, will all too often convince themselves that the risk is not worth taking.  Leadership appears in women who model courage.  Gloria Steinem has said “being brave is not being unafraid, but feeling the fear and doing it anyway…  When you feel fear, try using it as a signal that something really important is about to happen.”  [AR1]

The women in international schools have taken huge risks:  moving to new countries, establishing boundaries, stepping outside of their comfort zone, defying limits that have been externally imposed. They have challenged the norm, the status quo, traditional gender roles.   They have continued to challenge themselves professionally while raising children. Courage involves a willingness to fail, and an inherent understanding that failure is really gain disguised as loss.

 

Balanced and Wholehearted Leadership
Jolene Lockwood

 

Leaders are explorers, pioneers, and adventurers, bravely putting one foot in front of the other to lead courageously even when we may not have all the answers and especially given uncertain and challenging times. Leading requires us to empower teams to think flexibly, with benevolence and curiosity to break free of anxiety and static thinking. There are a number of ways that we can make this happen using three leadership superpowers.

 

Cultivate Curiosity

To be courageous requires us to be vulnerable, open, and curious. The research of Dr. Brené Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. This does not mean we need to disclose details about what the struggles are; it just means that we need to be honest about it. It might sound like, “We have a lot on our plates right now…” or “Wow, I’m struggling today, and I’ll do the best I can. So we need to focus on…” It is acknowledging that something exists, but not rambling on about it.

 

Be Self-Aware

This is the notion of, “What are we paying attention to and why”? What do I observe, measure, and learn? How will this inform my decisions?” Self-awareness is about identifying what the stories we make up are and fact-checking them. The brain will make up a story about what is happening when we don’t have all the facts. This is why it is important to check ourselves and our stories before we wreck ourselves with assumptions. Combat this by engaging in a data search. Who might I need to check in with to validate or dispel my assumptions?

 

Be Benevolent and Empathetic

When we listen in with curiosity, without interruption or judgement, we strengthen our connections with others. Empathy is the antidote to anxiety. Listening in with empathy and understanding requires non-judgment, perspective-taking, and honoring the other’s story as their truth. And when we respond, we do so without providing sympathy or solutions.

Practicing and integrating these skills is not easy. It requires persistence, being imperfect, messing it up, and circling back to try to get it right the next time. The result can be tremendously empowering for oneself, and deeply impactful on the communities we lead.

 

 

Mindful Leadership: A Learning Journey
Dr. Francesca Mulazzi

 

When I was a teacher and an aspiring principal, I worked for two different middle school principals who each consistently demonstrated cool in a fast-paced school environment.

However, once I got my first job as an international school principal, I felt exhaustion and disorientation. I was overwhelmed from dawn to dusk. There were decisions to make, teachers who deserved my time and attention, families in crisis, and the long hours of working at a job that I loved.

 

I asked myself, “How did my mentors maintain calm in the storms of the principalship?” If I want to be effective and ultimately meet the needs of students, I need to do better. My learning became purposeful: observe, ask questions, research, learn, practice, repeat.

 

So began my research and learning. I dove into mindfulness, meditation, and mindful leadership. I completed a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction course, sat a Vipassana retreat, and developed a regular meditation practice. I attended a Mindful Leadership Summit and learned from internationally renowned experts about emotions and mindfulness in the workplace.

 

I entered a doctoral program with a burning wondering: how do I maintain equanimity while leading through a storm? I developed a study that measured stress and burnout in international school principals, tying it to the coping strategies they employed. I learned that Mindfulness constructs are behaviors that I can develop and sharpen. I am applying what I have learned in my role as a school leader in Washington. When I feel overwhelmed, I name it. If a frustrated teacher comes to me, I listen. I practice being present. I pause when my heart is beating too fast. I take breaths. Years of reading, research, learning, and practicing has brought me to the point where I am now, a mindful school leader (on most days!).

 

 

Leadership May Be Lonely, But You Are Not Alone: Building Networks, Opening Doors
Lindsay Prendergast 

 

There is an (incorrect) assumption that developing professional connections is a self-serving endeavor solely to close business deals or gain access to “inner circles”. Rather, building a diverse network of colleagues has far greater benefits. For women, who may be the minority on a team, networks provide support and also professional guidance for the otherwise isolating work at hand. Sharing experiences can mitigate the perception you are the source of issues being faced, when it may in fact be the imbalanced work environment. Together, we learn we are not alone. Connecting our talents may catalyze everyone’s success towards unimagined destinations, and our collective voices carry further and reach more ears.

 

Where do we build such networks? Anywhere women leaders gather! Twitter and LinkedIn are not only for hearing others personal accomplishments. See a woman leader’s work you admire? Tell her in a direct message! Participate in Twitter chats and you may find common interests or roles and open a conversation. Read an interesting article? Contact her. Ask about her work, perhaps suggest a future collaboration. If initiating a conversation with strangers sounds daunting, attend webinars or conferences. Discussions in breakout rooms or at a session table can carry into a contact exchange, building a PLN (Professional Learning Network).

 

You may hear of the merit of mentors in building your career, yet a sponsor may influence your growth in far more direct ways. Sponsors directly make referrals and open doors to meet their own contacts, a practice men have been applying for centuries. Are there women leaders in your network who could qualify as a sponsor? Perhaps they only need you to let them know your aspirations and they can offer strategic support. Whether the result is a new professional opportunity or a learning experience, your network has just expanded that much more.

 

 

A Gender-Inclusive Evaluation Framework for School Leaders
Dr. Ann Marie Luce

 

When examining how leadership is evaluated, research reveals that traditional leadership is defined in masculine terms. Women often receive less favorable evaluations because of this bias towards male-dominated performance expectations. Male leaders are charismatic, assertive, competitive, agentic, and visionary. When women take on these same characteristics as their male counterparts, they are often perceived as harsh, abrasive, and overconfident, often leading to the dreaded ‘B@&#$’ label. Gender stereotypes also apply to men. When men take on more typically feminine leadership styles, which involve collaboration, community, and relational skills, they are valued less than other male colleagues. Leadership stereotypes based on gender do not serve men or women.

 

What if we reimagined a new evaluation framework for school leaders based on capacities and resources? The Ontario Leadership Framework identifies five core capacities and three personal leadership resources that can serve as a self, peer, or system evaluation tool for school leaders. The five core capacities are goal-setting, aligning resources with priorities, promoting collaborative learning cultures, engaging in courageous conversations, and using data. Leaders use their personal leadership resources: cognitive, social, and psychological to build and develop these capacities to move the learning and teaching forward at both the school and system level. This framework can coach, assess, evaluate, and support the growth of all leaders and help us to reimagine a world of leadership without gender bias.

 

 

Strength in Numbers
Bridget McNamer

 

The path ahead isn’t easy.  In addition to addressing the systemic barriers at play that hold women back, we’ve got work to do to nurture the courage and ‘tool kits’ of women leaders so they can create more space for themselves in this landscape.  The stories, strategies and tips described by the authors of this article can be key elements of this tool kit.  And the company and support of others along this path will help us be even more effective.

 

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to have your thoughts below.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

 

 

Debra Lane, Ed.D.

Dr. Debra Lane has been an educator for more than 25 years as a teacher and administrator in the U.S. and abroad. She has led several schools as principal, including most recently at Shanghai American School. She taught grades from pre-K through middle school, as well as ESOL, Literacy, and Gifted and Talented classes. Currently she is working on federal grants focusing on transformative leadership and increasing teacher’s leadership and instructional roles across the U.S., Central and South America. She is also the founder of the educational consultant firm, Lane Leadership Group, LLC.

 

Francesca Mulazzi, Ed.D.

Dr. Francesca Mulazzi has been an educator for two decades as a teacher and administrator in the US and overseas. From her first international position in elementary education in Rabat, Morocco, through teaching French and EAL in Singapore and Shanghai, to K12 Principal in Aruba, and IB DP Coordinator in Lusaka, Francesca’s international school experience is rich and layered. She is currently serving as the Head of Upper School at Saint George’s School in Spokane, WA, where she is applying the research from her doctoral dissertation on managing stress and avoiding burnout with proactive coping skills and self-care.

 

 

Ann Marie Luce, Ed.D.  Kehoe France Southshore

Dr. Ann Marie Luce is a proud scholar practitioner who believes that our moral imperative as leaders is to build the capacity of others through service, strengths-based support and coaching.  As an educator and school principal, Ann Marie has served a variety of communities in Canada, China and the United States. Ann Marie’s doctoral research at Gonzaga University was focused on how leaders develop their cultural intelligence to lead in a global context. She believes that trust, transparency and collaboration are the keys to success for school leadership.

 

 

Jolene Lockwood

Jolene Lockwood has been an educator for 30 years in the US and abroad, and has over 15 years of coaching and consulting experience. She is a certified Dare to Lead™️ and Daring Classroom™️ facilitator for best-selling author Brené Brown and also does work around the world as a Cognitive Coaching Agency trainer, most recently for the Heritage Xperiential Schools in New Delhi, India. Jolene specializes in building and sustaining leaders that cultivate courageous cultures to transform the ways we learn, lead, and live.

 

 

Lindsay Prendergast

Lindsay Prendergast is an education leader and coach with sixteen years of experience serving schools both in the US and as a Principal in the Dominican Republic. Currently, Lindsay is a School Improvement Coach for NWEA and a Framework Specialist for The Danielson Group. She regularly designs and leads diverse professional learning experiences in both English and Spanish for ASCD, Learning Forward, Faria Education, ECIS, and Cognia.

 

 

Bridget McNamer

Bridget McNamer currently serves as Chief Navigation Officer for Sidecar Counsel, which aims to bring more women into leadership roles in international schools, enhance their leadership capacities once there, and cultivate an environment where women in these schools – and thereby all members of the school community – can thrive. Prior to creating Sidecar Counsel, she served as a senior associate with Search Associates and, in her earlier career, was an international philanthropy professional with more than 20 years’ experience in advancing social change in the foundation, corporate responsibility and education sectors.