Personal and Professional Goals for 2014-2015

“Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.”Kristin Armstrong

 
A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.Nikki Giovanni
 
 
 
As part of my growth as an educator, I am to develop some goals for the current school year. This is a process that I always take seriously. As I have now finished my third week as a teacher in Amman, here is where I need to improve:

Classroom Management:  I need to adapt to my new school’s culture. So many of my habits that work with East Asian students do not work here in the Middle East. Here the students talk all day, every day. There is never a truly quite moment. I need to adjust my practices immediately before I lose control of the class. I plan to carry out team meeting times where the students are able to come up with their own solutions to their problems. Too much of my time is fixing petty problems. It is imperative that I allow the student’s to find their own way.

Team Dynamics: This is my first go round as a team leader. We are most definitely past the honeymoon stage. My colleagues are mourning their former leader who left for his native New Zealand. I am making tons of mistakes as I learn the ropes. My colleagues are patiently tolerating me. This needs to change. My boss is helping me get through this stage. His work is greatly appreciated.

Learn Conversational Arabic: The Jordanian people are amazing. I must learn to speak with them in their own language. This will open so many doors for me. Hopefully, I will earn some respect among the people here. I remain stunned by the beauty of this nation.

Enhance the culture of literacy school wide: We are a bilingual school. Students spend a good part of each day studying religion, Arabic and Jordanian history. My contact time with my students has been halved. This, along with higher class size, greatly impairs my ability to adequately teach a love of reading and writing. Thankfully, my students are turning on to good books. It is exciting to push literacy in this school yet I need not push too hard, too fast. I have already met a few teachers that are sensitive to change.

Stay connected: Educational Technology at my school is severely lacking. This is a serious challenge to my craft. My goal is to override the school’s tech system wherever possible. I will be talking to the Head of School next month and I will spend this time pushing for more laptops in the classroom. In the meantime, I will continue to use google documents for collaborative planning. I will continue to use Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to connect with the teaching world around me. I hope to continue blogging. 

Yoga: I started doing yoga on the first day of summer vacation. Awaiting the arrival of my son, I was exercising daily. Yoga helped me with my strength, flexibility, balance and self-esteem. I need to get back to working out before school. This however would mean that I had to wake up at 5:00 AM. This is perhaps, one goal that is out of reach.

Make my wife and child comfortable: Watching my newborn son and wife bond via SKYPE has been wondrous. As they prepare to move to Jordan, I need to do what I can to make their transition as smooth as possible. My wife is slowly gaining confidence for her move as she sees how relaxed and happy I am here. I aim to help them wherever possible. Thankfully, Amman has been very easy for me. Hopefully, my wife will feel the same.

Inshallah!

The fruit and nut stands are too cool.

The fruit and nut stands are too cool.

I still miss my Hong Kong students though.

I still miss my Hong Kong students though.

My noodles have been replaced with hummus.

My noodles have been replaced with hummus.

My tea has been replaced with lemon mint juice.

My tea has been replaced with lemon mint juice.

My kid is gonna love learning to walk and talk here.

My kid is gonna love learning to walk and talk here.

After Hong Kong, the fresh air NEVER gets old.

After Hong Kong, the fresh air NEVER gets old.

International School Recruitment Season

 

This month, yet again, I am off to London and Hong Kong to attend two job fairs. I hope to sign a contract with a “just-right” school. I intend to find an international school that provides dynamic professional development, a challenging curriculum, a collaborative philosophy and a worthy mission statement. It is a wildly exciting time in my career.

I have been extremely fortunate to receive extensive professional development at my current school. Still, enhancing my skills as a teacher is an utmost priority. I imagine it is probably time to apply for leadership roles, as well.

I am truly humbled by the many recent opportunities that have already come my way. I have heard encouraging responses from international schools in the United States, Japan, Singapore, Chile, Hong Kong, Hungary, and Switzerland. I am grateful to have received formal offers of employment from schools in Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

One particularly captivating school is Branksome Hall of Jeju Island, South Korea. Branksome is an outstanding boarding school for girls. It is most definitely “cutting edge.” On their application, Branksome asks how I would help to “empower women?” This got me thinking to what exactly I do offer my students.

The following is my latest thinking about my hopes for each boy and girl in my classroom.

As an elementary school teacher, I demand that my students:

  • Improve their STEM skills
  • Read, write and think with stamina and confidence
  • Recognize and develop habits of mind
  • Self-direct their learning
  • Understand by design
  • Value diverse thinking
  • Help develop a learning community
  • Act responsibly
  • Notice the ever-changing beauty of mathematics, especially problem solving
  • Overcome obstacles
  • Find and follow their passions
  • Visualize a better world.
  • Continue to find joy in learning.
  • Welcome an enhanced work ethic

As a professional educator, I aspire to:

  • Constantly improve student learning
  • Constantly push for a differentiated curriculum
  • Share my expertise with my fellow teachers
  • Learn from my fellow teachers
  • Model excellence
  • Support professional development options
  • Lead, when appropriate
  • Be willing to change
  • Inspire all around me

My career has taken me to Singapore, Washington DC, Japan and Hong Kong. I estimate that I have spent an entire month of my life in the air and goodness knows, how many miles I have travelled. I do this all in order to grow as an educator while trying to carve out a more interesting life.

Fellow teachers looking to make the move overseas; feel free to write me an email. I promise to answer any questions or concerns. Expatriate living has made me a better teacher. I highly recommend it.

Good Luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are Teachers Waiting for?

book_start_it_up_CreamSlanted

Luke Johnson’s book, Start It Up: Why running your own business is easier than you think, is recommended reading for all edupreneurs.  Johnson’s plainspoken views and insights help me find the courage to move on with our little, Hong Kong learning service company. This book will most definitely be passed on to my fellow directors, starting tomorrow.

Below are a few tidbits, connections and realizations that I found most meaningful. Direct quotes from Johnson are in bold and italics:

  1. Eduprenuers are in the business of supporting families. There is no getting around this fact. We must embrace it, listen to our clients’ individual needs, and then act.
  2. Our company will be successful only when we give impeccable service unmatched anywhere else.
  3. I need to listen to my partners. I need to move even slower.
  4. “Intellectuals rarely make great leaders” Thankfully, no one will accuse me of being an intellectual!
  5. Startup entrepreneurs are rarely motivated my money. My sole reason for working on our project is to put good money into outstanding teachers’ pockets.
  6. Hire nice people. Finding excellent tutors has been the easiest part of the labyrinth of starting a learning service company. I am a firm believer that there are no better people in the world than professional teachers.
  7. “Everything has to be learned from scratch.” This is so true. I would add that everything takes twice as long to get done, than previously planned. That said; starting a business is not that difficult, in the grand scheme of things.
  8. there is no single gene for success I would add that there is no single gene that makes an effective teacher, either. The parallels between business and teaching are more clear with each passing day.
  9. Entrepreneurs have a mission and a skill that they have an overwhelming urge to pursue. I can begin to tell you how many hours we have put into this project. Our faith that families will love our service keeps us moving forward. Overwhelming is the perfect adjective in this instance.
  10. Do not go ahead if your spouse or partner is against it. My wife has been the backbone of our company. My partners’ spouses have been amazingly supportive, as well.
  11. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely affair, and that is one reason that I work with partners my entire business career.  The smartest move that I made was to go into this venture with fellow directors. I will not make as much money, perhaps, but it is entirely more fun when we make moves together.

I highly urge all fellow teachers looking to start their own business to read this book.

 

References:

 

Johnson, L. (2011). Start it up: Why running your own business is easier than you think. London: Penguin.

The author is a founding director of www.Gobelearning.com Gobe Learning is a Limited Company based in Hong Kong.

 

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What is my Personal, Plausible Future in Education?

Photo of Big Wave Bay, Hong Kong Island

Photo of Big Wave Bay, Hong Kong Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell
Buddha 

I offer you greetings, from Big Wave Bay, Hong Kong, on this Sunday afternoon. From today’s twitterverse, I read about how to plot my future in an uncertain world.  Living overseas, contract-to-contract, I write. I highly recommend that you follow the work being done on fastcompany. They force one to think deeply. Read on:

 What unique value do you bring to the world?  

Belief in myself is secondary only to my belief in others.

First of all, how does one answer this in complete seriousness? I do not think that I bring any”unique” value to the world. People tell me that I am “beyond outgoing.” I trust parents.  I believe that attention disorder is wildly overrated. I believe that standardized testing, in moderation, is an excellent teacher’s  friend. I believe that parents and students should evaluate teachers, each year.

I am optimistic in the future of education and have experienced drastic changes for good since I started earning a paycheck. I believe that teachers matter. I believe that empathy cannot be taught by lecture but through experience. I believe that kids want a structured learning environment but demand to laugh and have a lot of fun, as well. I believe that it is harmful to tell a nine or ten-year old that she has anything wrong with her ability to learn.

I believe that you cannot teach effectively when you are sick or pushed to exhaustion. I believe that we all need help to live a meaningful life. I believe in “kid language” and that sometimes peer tutors are the most effective tools in getting students to learn.

I believe that confidence is what I offer my students more than anything else and that classroom teachers cannot overemphasize  impacting real confidence among students. I believe in honoring and not fearing  “tiger moms ” for each successful person has a mom that has fought hard. I believe that “koala mom’s” deserve equal consideration and perhaps listened to even more actively.

I believe that there is little chance for a classroom teacher to  compliment a kid too much. There are just so many good things going on.

What is my life’s purpose?

My life’s purpose is to help others. For me, I try to do this through teaching. I try to do this by inspiring others to teach. I try to do this by working hard.

What is your personal, plausible future?

Hopefully, my future will be largely what it has always been: optimistic, focused, and in the moment. I am too old to think any other way.

What is your vision and plan of action?

To be determined!

Why I Teach.

Man at Work

Man at Work

“Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.Andy Rooney 

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” John Steinbeck 

I taught in Maryland, Singapore, and Japan. I now teach 4th grade students in Hong Kong. In 1985, I enrolled as an elementary education major at Bridgewater State College of Bridgewater, Massachusetts. I have continued to earn a paycheck as a teacher from August 1990, to the present. Until now, I have never seriously considered doing anything else, but teach.

Initially, I merely wanted to help struggling kids find success in the classroom. As a senior in high school, I was an intern for a classroom of learning-disabled, elementary-aged children. I knew I had found my calling within the first week of my internship. I have lived a life of learning and teaching ever since.

So many inspired educators, inside and outside the classroom have affected the way I practice my craft. As a public school student, I learned to value all teachers, regardless of their ability. As a teacher, I teach my students to value themselves and acquire habits of life long learners.

To be an effective teacher, one must model kindness, compassion, organization, intelligence, flexibility, collaboration, an understanding of educational technology, a belief in one’s ability, trust in your teammates, and perseverance. I expect school leaders to offer and house a brain-researched, structured, engaging, differentiated curriculum.

My first day as a teacher was nothing short of a disaster; my Mid-Atlantic based students had little idea what their New England teacher was saying. Still, I talked way too much. My lesson plans were highly organized. Alas, I was painfully unsuccessful as a manager of time. My Boston accent was very thick. My students giggled a nervous laugh every time I tried to communicate. I had little idea how mentally exhausting the job would be.

Today, I am much more relaxed and confident. I seek the advice of administrators and specialists less. Rather, I independently investigate how the human brain actually acquires knowledge. For professional development, I greatly rely on Twitter and my professional learning network. I make the time to read professional trade books more than ever.

My best advice for new teachers is to live conservatively, so that you liberally develop your craft. Demand more from you than anyone else could ever demand. Work hard. Inspire others to believe in themselves through learning.

Teachers, all over the world, why do you STILL teach? How has your teaching practice evolved? What factors are competing with you from doing your best work? Best of luck as you continue your journey.

Do well.

 Reference:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_teacher.html#uq72kxGKtOewvemU.99

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Spring Breakdown

First day of Student Led Conferences are over and I am happy to report that the parents and children were generally very happy with the results. Alas, I have to admit that Spring is upon us and I am have to adjust my teaching practice to accommodate to my current situation. The students are all lovely children, however I need from time to time pause for off task behavior. I still will value their personalities. I just need to keep my sanity and offer a more brain friendly environment that does not interfere with my teaching philosophy.

The following is a body of thought on how I hope to make the necessary classroom management improvements. I hope they prove helpful:

  • Discussion- It is time for me to have a talk with the students about “March Madness” and how this time of the year brings out the hyperactivity in children. I will talk with them about it each morning for two weeks.
  • Smile (even more) I find that this helps.
  • “Let go of the reins.” The kids are more developed and independent than they were in August. I will give them their deserved space and choice.
  • Meditate at home. I tried to schedule this at school but I am simply too busy. Teachers will understand what I am talking about.
  •  Brain Rules: I will check my copy of Brain Rules by John Medina for tips on coping with stress.
  • Library visits:I will encourage more library visits and errands. ( This tip is from Dr. Michael Thompson) Watch this documentary video!
  • Ukulele/Chess Lessons– I may offer lunchtime uke and chess lessons in return for more engagement and class time focus.
  • Banana dance: Whenever the students are sitting too long, we do the “Banana Dance” Basically, we get up and dance as silly and stupidly as humanly possible. If the kids only knew I stole this idea from Chris Elliot.
  • Brain Breaks: These look encouraging.
  • Be happy. Keep your problems at home.
  • Inspirational Quotes: Last year, we had a kid bring in an  inspirational quote to share then post on the door. Amazing how this renews a sense of community.
  • Future Focused: I plan to constantly talk about their future.
  • Make note of our remaining days together. This will help them stay on task to get the most of their time left together.
  • Plan shorter intervals of teaching, longer intervals of student thinking.
  • Dojo: I usually abhor behavior reward systems but Dojo looks like it might work.
  • Watch Ken Robinson’s video at home: This animation is good as it gets in reminding me of the overwhelming amount of distractions in this generation of kids. I gain new insight each time.
  • Review the class agreements from the beginning of the year and let the kids make new ones.

 

Teachers; What do you do to combat boredom in the classroom?

Please share your thoughts. I am always looking for new ideas.

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Student Led Conference Week- A Letter to Parents

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”Lao Tzu

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Dear Parents,

This is my favorite week of each school year and a somewhat notable week in the life of your child. This is the week of student led conferences (SLC).

I have just finished up my plans and we are a go for a marvelous week of learning. We will together celebrate social, academic and emotional growth in your child. I am proud of each student and I look forward to our continued learning.

We highly value differentiated instruction. That said, each child in our class is intelligent, thoughtful, witty, kind, caring, soulful, hardworking and optimistic.  Each is learning to lead and make a positive impact in society. All are reading and writing daily. This keeps me ever hopeful for their future.

My role during the conferences will be to facilitate the discussions between you and your child. I will also spend a little time with each of you conversing about the remaining school year and summer goals.

Each year at this time, I remind students to share their love of learning and not any particular test score. I remind them to share their personal growth and not their “rank” in the classroom. I remind them to celebrate all that they are. Please help your child in this endeavour.

Teaching, for me, is a sensitive and complex profession. It always has been. I work best when I remind myself that the students in my keep will remember little of my day-to-day instruction. Instead, they will remember the habits, both good and bad that I have taught them.  I am positive that I have instilled more good habits than bad and I am positive that your child has benefitted from our partnership. Your child is receiving a world-class, international school education

Enjoy your conversation with your child. Have a great week and see you at SLC.

Questions or comments are greatly appreciated.

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/antoinedes121261.html#gqxFdF4pTJIGKLth.99