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

 


			

Waiting on a Friend

But I need someone I can cry to, I need someone to protect. -Mick Jagger

The waiting is the hardest part -Tom Petty

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The past week I am holed up at my in law’s home in Itami, Japan. I continue to await the birth of my first child. My in-laws are ready. I am ready. My wife is more than ready. I feel as if I am sitting on the tarmac ready for a life to take off.

My former colleague’s are back in their home countries or seeing the world. I know of teachers that are visiting Tuscany, Java, Machu Picchu, and Istanbul. I kind of envy them.

To combat boredom, I do yoga daily. I play the ukulele. I walk. I take in the sunsets over the Kansai hills. I read, drink lots of coffee and scour social media. I vacuum, wear slippers, eat Japanese, watch World Cup highlights (the games are on too early over here) sleep on a tatami and lift weights. I research Itami’s  history. I play ball with the family’s or neighborhood kids and they all laugh at my horrible Japanese comprehension.

I rub my wife’s feet quite often.

I miss my work. I miss my home. I miss my Massachusetts family and friends. I miss being able to communicate without a care. I am out of my element and need to stay calm. I am helpless.

It is becoming more and more clear that my wife needs to have a cesarean section. We are both coming to terms on what surgery means. We talk each night about our hopes and fears for the kid. We commiserate over our present difficulties. We try to stay positive and upbeat. We cannot wait to raise a kid together. We have to trust that everything will be ok. Blog postings like this help.

I guess that these days are training for all that will be out of my control in the coming years. There is nothing much of importance that I can do at this time but wait and stay busy. I try to think deeply and plan a better world for my son and my wife. That is all that I really am doing the moment.

Any advice or words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parent Teacher Conferences in the Expat Classroom

“Parents are often so busy with the physical rearing of children that they miss the glory of parenthood, just as the grandeur of the trees is lost when raking leaves.”
Marcelene Cox

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/parenthood.html#x4eg8khIErga18FI.99

“Raising you kids was the best time of my life…I wouldn’t trade it for anything!”

Jean Mernin (my mom)

Photo on 2012-07-19 at 22.06

 

Parent Teacher Conferences are coming up again at my school. It is a make or break time in year of a teacher. Living overseas can add an altogether different cultural dynamic to the scene.

The following is my latest body of thoughts on parent-teacher conferences in the international school classroom. If you are overseas or thinking about becoming an expat teacher, I sincerely wish you luck. I hope this is helpful:

 

1.    Parents are evaluating you as much as their child’s academic work. Be organized, present and relaxed. Be yourself. Your professionalism is your selling point. Be ever-professional.

2.    Listen to parents’ fears. The older I get, the more I truly listen to parental fears. Parenthood is an overwhelmingly emotional experience. Allow time for your parent to share what scares them.

3.    Focus on emotional, academic and social growth. I try to balance my discussions equally among these three areas. This helps in keeping the talks positive.

4.    Take notes and quickly respond, through email or telephone, to questions to which you do not have immediate answers. It is more than all right to not have an immediate answer to a parent question. Write it down and get back in due time. This makes for excellent public relations.

5.    Offer tea and crackers. Helps keeps the moment moving forward. Every culture appreciates tea!

6.    Dress well and tidy up your desk. I habitually have a stack of papers on my desk. There is no problem in that. However, make sure that your desk is as organized as possible. Judgement is happening whether you like it or not. Might as well accept this fact.

7.    Be ready to speak about anything but do not overwhelm the parents with a checklist of items on which to talk.  If I can get each parent to recognize, accept and acknowledge one area of specific improvement, then I have made a true accomplishment. Be realistic and make sure that your student goals are attainable.

8.    Differentiate your conference with individualized goal setting. Truly, your yearlong goals are well-instilled by now. Use the conference time to discuss what success will look like.

9.    Offer more time at a later date. This is crucial. Regardless of how well I think the conference has gone; I always offer to spend more time to meet during specific office hours. This helps me develop a solid reputation as a professional educator.

10. Be honest, always. Obvious advice but not always heeded.

11. Over communicate before and after the conference: One of my teaching partners always writes an email to his parents explaining his philosophy and his plans for the conference. This is good practice. I always write personal thank you emails to each parent.

12.  Be ready for little ones: Toddlers always find their way into the conferences. Welcome them and have crayons and paper ready. It helps put the parents at ease and focused on the matter at hand.

13.  Enjoy the moment. I happen to love chatting up parents. Tell them all the good things that you see and reassure them that they are on the right track.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are Teachers Waiting for?

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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.

 

Related articles:

Thoughts of a Budding Edupreneur

 “Online education is not an enemy of residential education, but rather an inspiring and liberating ally.”  –MIT President Susan Hockfield

 “Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of a competence.”- Eleanor Roosevelt (Johnson, 2011)

“The internet won’t change the way we chew gum.” –Warren Buffett (Johnson, 2011)

 

Today I spent a good deal of my time reflecting on what I want our learning service, www.gobelearning.com to be all about. I thought on what we truly hope to gain. I thought about my beliefs and my need to grow as an educator. I searched for answers and came up with more questions.

 Below is a list of thoughts/ questions as to Gobe Learning:

  • We do not intend to go “big.” Rather we intend to do well by our students, tutors and parents. How can I get this message across to prospective stakeholders?
  • We are inspired teachers, first. We are not hamstrung by quarterly reports, pensions, nor profit margins. How do we stay solvent?
  • Will we build a learning service that truly differentiates to fit the needs of each individual student?
  • Brooks Brothers charges what they do primarily due to impeccable dedication to service. What can we learn from the early days of Brooks Brothers?
  • How can we plan for service rather than for profit?
  • What are ways I can cultivate a sense of shared purpose among our tutor-partners?
  • How can I simplify the entire Gobe Learning experience from first click on our website to completion of a client’s learning module?
  • How can I make myself into an entrepreneur when becoming one has never before been a priority?
  • Master teachers are not run of the mill human beings. How can I support their creativity, passion and craftsmanship?
  • We are in the family business: How can we attract nice, responsible, trailblazing parents, students and tutors?
  • Now matter the venture, clients will seek value for money. How can we ensure a seamless learning experience that values customized instruction?
  • Parents are overwhelmed and a little terrified with so many learning options? How can Gobe earn parents’ trust with such a novel experiment?

Back to work for me. If you are intrigued with Gobe Learning, feel free to sign up for a free consultation here: http://www.gobelearning.com/why-choose-gobe-.html

Questions/Comments/Suggestions?

You may email the author: bmernin@gobelearning.com

 References:

Chandler, D. (2012, May 12). MIT and Harvard launch a ‘revolution in education’. Retrieved from http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/edx-launched-0502.html

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

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Teaching in the Age of the Superstar Teacher

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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.