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

 


			

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?

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.

 

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.

 

Teaching in the Age of the Superstar Teacher

images-1

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.

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!