Greetings from HISNiseko!

Cheers to all of you for another wonderful week of learning at HISNiseko.

I hope all had a restful and relaxing Spring Break.

Recruitment of Prospective Families at HISNiseko

Thank you all that were able to participate in our discussion on student enrollment. I am encouraged with the team spirit that our teachers and parents share. I remain convinced that the first visit is the single most influential factor affecting enrollment.

I am proud of our work together.

Below are some notes of steps that we will take in the coming months to ensure our school’s growth:

  • Look into getting our teaching team to interview with Powderlife magazine/ Radio Niseko etc.
  • Spread the word regarding the free publicity via #hashtags that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter offer.
  • Stay on point when discussing our school’s unique characteristics. (Safe,comfortable, inclusive, highly-professional staff, rural school yet highly multicultural, access to “Global Education”, curriculum that respects the individual, friendly, multi-age learning, welcoming, accepting of transient clients, special learners who help each other immensely. )
  • Look our best at all times to “separate ourselves” from competition.
  • Strengthen our relationship with Hokkaido Core.
  • Strengthen our relationship with Niseko Town Council.

MAP Testing

As of this writing, the MP3 students are taking their Measure of Academic Progress standardized tests. It is a joy to see them so engaged in their assessments of learning. As Neil Cooke, Principal of HIS Sapporo noted; this June, each MP3 student will receive a report detailing specific areas of academic growth and areas of need. I look forward to using each report as a guide for further instruction. Please send any questions or comments my way. You may read more about MAP Testing here

Dates of Note for Next Week

April 4th MAP testing MP3-Math

April 6th Mummy and Me

April 7th EY Ski morning

April 8th MP1/3 Ski/Snowboard afternoon

Book Recommendation

Mistakes Were Made but Not by Me by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson is an excellent look into the concept of self deception, what it is, and how it affects us all. I have my copy in the classroom if anyone would like to borrow it.  

And Finally…

This is Why Finland has Great Schools Have a wonderful weekend. Hope you have a terrific April Fool’s Day.   Sincerely, Barry Mernin



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.


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.

What are Teachers Waiting for?


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.




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 Gobe Learning is a Limited Company based in Hong Kong.


Related articles:

A School Teacher talks to his Mom and Dad about Reading

“Read, read, read, read, read. Read everything. You can’t work unless you know the world, and outside of living in the world the best way to learn about the world is to read about it.”    

           -John Goodman


I wrote this piece on the plane back to Hong Kong. I left home with a heavy heart as saying goodbye to my mom and dad is becoming increasingly difficult as we age.

Alas, both are mentally as sharp as ever. My dad’s caregivers all rave about his reading habits and kind soul. My mom still consistently has magazines, newspapers and books by her sofa.

On my last night, while packing, I told my wife that both continue to teach me how to live. Both model how I want to grow old. It is especially good to see my dad held in such high regard by so many new acquaintances.

My parents have influenced my reading life more than anyone else. More importantly, they have made me see the value of teaching kids how to read. Indirectly, both remind me that teaching kids to read is the best part of my job.

Each workday, I gather, promote, share, encourage, analyze, and celebrate the reading of great texts. I then watch the kids grow as readers, pruning here and there, along the way. I know that my life has meaning as long as I can help kids become readers for life. This is what I want to do in some aspect for the rest of my days.

With that in mind I have recorded podcast interviews with both Jean Mernin and Bill Mernin. Both are around six minutes long and I think each is time well spent.

Enjoy and happy reading to you.


Stay Ever Hopeful


New Year Sunrise

New Year Sunrise (Photo credit: joka2000( on and off))

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)


“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –


And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –


I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

Emily Dickinson, “‘Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers” from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson.  Copyright 1945, 1951, 8 1955, 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.  Reprinted with the permission of The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.


Focus on what will stick.

Teaching overseas is a serious challenge. There are hazards of all kinds. With that said, it is truly a delightful endeavor filled with meaning. If you are new to the international teaching scene, I welcome you. If you are like me, a seasoned educator, welcome back. I sincerely hope that you create meaning with your students.

In this post, if I can give all one piece of advice it would be to focus on what will stick. In this I mean, focus your energies on being truly present each moment you are working with your students. That means you prepare. That means you are fully aware of the questions being asked. That means you are quiet in both mind and soul.

Kids are kids. All want to learn, explore, and challenge. All want to feel safe and secure. All want to free themselves to learn. Help them. No matter the age, each kid wants to please their teacher. Give them one hundred ways. Make them aware of their world. Teach empathy. Never use sarcasm.

Plan for success. My colleagues and I rave that we are essentially planned for the entire year already. I am confident that we will be able to effectively deliver the curriculum. I tell teachers that August is where we make our money. That means the effective teacher must spend the time making key preparations. That means coming into school on weekends. That means staying late. That means finding shortcuts for frivolous tasks. That means building systems in your workspace.

Guide your students by making them aware of the joys of learning. Praise student successes and appreciate failure as a step in the learning process. Be overly polite and be ready to change tactics.

Trust your teammates to the nth degree. I cannot over emphasize building trust with your team. Most of my energies so far this year has been to create a trusting relationship with my newest teammates. This will pay off in spades, in the future.

Be honest with your students’ parents. Find out how you can help and deliver. Your student is their world. Make sure that your parents know that you understand this fact.

Read poetry. Collect your favorites. The poets have experienced every aspect of the human condition and they convey each aspect so much better.

Stay ever hopeful. I hope YOU have an amazing year.



Bon chance. Stay ever hopeful.









Teaching in the Age of the Superstar Teacher


While the United States was learning about Major League Baseball player suspensions , I was in Hong Kong reading of other high paid superstars.

But before I continue, please let me explain from whence I came.

In February, 1990, freshly graduated from teacher’s college, I drove my diesel-powered Volkswagen Rabbit to a job fair in Copley Plaza. I distinctively recall the smell of my new leather resume holder, the texture of my Rick Springfield tie and the overall feeling of awkwardness over the entire affair. I more than likely was wearing Polo cologne. I was young, dumb and full of hope that I would get a job as close as possible to my hometown. I entered the job fair with zero intentions of leaving Massachusetts.

This was during the dark ages before the Internet.  Due to the glut of Boston area universities, Massachusetts was able to pay extremely low wages to aspiring teachers. The highest yearly salary I could find at the time was US$18,000.  One friend signed a contract to teach at a private school for $US 12,000.  Within twenty minutes, I realized that if I were to move out of my childhood bedroom, I would need to find work outside of the Commonwealth.

Fortunately, I was able to secure job offers in California, Georgia, Hawaii and Montgomery County, Maryland. I decided on Maryland for the pay was $27,000 and still, relatively close to home.

Leaving the Boston area was a tremendous sacrifice. I missed out seeing my nephews and nieces grow up. Missed watching my parents enter their golden years . Leaving home was out of necessity and I struggled mightily to get by on a teacher’s salary. This habit of constantly searching for higher paying teacher salaries has led me to Bethesda, Maryland, Singapore, Japan and now Hong Kong. I have had many supplemental side jobs. At various times throughout my career, I was a security guard, a bouncer, a docent and a chess tutor. I tell anyone that will listen that I moved overseas so that I can live the American Dream.

Which brings me back to the Major League ball players, specifically Alex Rodriquez. No one forced the Texas Rangers owner to offer Rodriguez a contract of over $US 100 million dollars. He was worthy of his contract solely because the owner could justify paying him that much money.  I do not begrudge any man for making as much money as possible as long as he is not hurting anybody. ARod had found a market for his remarkable talents that was highly entertaining for the American masses. His contract was and is out beyond my imagination, however.

That said, perhaps, the days when teachers receive astronomical sums are upon us. I read from the WSJ that there is a man in Korea that earns 4 million dollars a year as a tutor. Who am I to begrudge this salary? Does he deserve it? Does anyone deserve that much money for anything? That is not my concern. He earns the money because he has found a market that will offer to pay him. That is the free market at work.

Due to digital technology,  we are at a time when outlier teachers command million dollar salaries.  Perhaps we are at a time where great teachers can command much, much more money and afford to live closer to home. I imagine I will spend the rest of my days on doing what I can to help make that so.

Until then, do not be surprised if I am writing from South Korea next.

Why I Write

The immortal John Kruk

The immortal John Kruk

“I ain’t an athlete, lady. I’m a ballplayer.”- John Kruk

“I ain’t a writer, folks. I’m a blogger.” -Barry Mernin

Upon receiving notice on my 50th WordPress follower ( THANKS…Language Arts Blog!); I have decided to think about why I continue my blog. Like most everything else, it is complex and varied. I must say that I do enjoy the thought process. Below is a list of some of the reasons that I blog.

  1. I live to serve others. I hope I am helping fellow teachers.
  2. Teaching is a joy. I try to share that in my writing.
  3. Living overseas is a challenge, I like to share my stories.
  4. Writing this blog gives me a sense of purpose.
  5. My blog helps me mentor new teachers.
  6. For me, it is time well spent.
  7. This blog lets me connect with like-minded professionals
  8. This blog helps me show how fortunate I am to teach.
  9. It’s easy. WordPress makes it nearly impossible to write a passive verb!
  10. My students think it is cool. (It’s not…)
  11. My blog helps makes the world seem smaller.
  12. I am proud of my work.
  13. Writing lets me lead from afar.
  14. My blog is a personal challenge.
  15. Writing helps me express who I am.
  16. I learn through my research.
  17. The blog helps me show respect to my mentors.
  18. Helps me give evidence of professionalism.
  19. Helps me stay positive.
  20. Forum to promote my teaching heroes.
  21. Organizes my thinking
  22. Instills confidence.
  23. I have a need to share the many cool things going on in classrooms.
  24. Keeps me connected.
  25. Keeps me busy.
  26. Helps me to celebrate learning
  27. I see it as at a form of professional development.
  28. Opens so many doors
  29. Blogging keeps me grounded and true to my mission statement.
  30. I believe in constant self-reflection.
  31. My blog helps me instill trust and credibility.
  32. Writing allows me to have a sense of fellowship.
  33. I have a specific audience that continue to inspire me.
  34. Writing helps me “cut through the noise.”
  35. My blog helps me see trends and helps me adapt to change.
  36. My blog helps me empathize with my writing students.
  37. Kids learn differently. Teachers teach differently.  Blogging helps others understand me.