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.

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.









14 Steps to Make a Great School Even Better

Can we do better?

I have worked in some really amazing schools. This fact gives me optimism in my students’ future and the future of the planet.

Alas, the school year is over.  I have had the time to breath and reflect on how we as a learning community can do even better.  The following is a personal body of thought upon making elementary schools not only brain-friendly but “human-friendly.” 

  1. A focus on Project-Based Learning. Read about the benefits of project-based learning here
  2. Each student composes music. Read about the effects of music on the brain here.
  3. The Arts… every day. View an inspiring news report here
  4. Life skills are not expected, but taught. UNICEF defines life skills as “psychosocial abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. They are loosely grouped into three  broad categories of skills: cognitive skills for analyzing and using information, personal skills for developing personal agency and managing oneself, and inter-personal skills for communicating and interacting effectively with others.”
  5. Neurology Training: Teachers have a basic understanding of how the brain works. One of my favorite brain books is here.
  6. Maker Culture: Students create, disassemble and reassemble their own technology. Check out Maker magazine here.
  7. Teach kids financial literacy. Read 10 Steps to Teaching Your Kids to Become Entrepreneurs here.
  8. Chess tournaments. Check out the effects of Chess on the child brain. Chess is the “anti-Ritalin.”
  9. Poetry Matters: Poetry is all over the school. Read about my poetry heroine here.
  10. Classes are smaller: Class size is 16 kids per class. From my experience, this is the ideal class size for teaching 21st century students.
  11. More planning time:Student workweek is 4.5-days. Teachers workweek is 5.5 days.
  12. Balanced curriculum decisions: Curriculum is developed by children, parents and staff
  13. Stress is confronted: The CDC report on the dangers of toxic stress on children here.
  14. A shift in professional development. I believe that teachers are to choose more of their own avenues for professional development.


13 Questions for Parents of Homeschoolers

Mom Tested Family Approved Homeschool

Mom Tested Family Approved Homeschool (Photo credit: Simply Vicki)

“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”
Rabindranath Tagore

“I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.”
Ray Bradbury

 After attending TEDxHK, I have thought a lot about teaching practices, and curriculum, During the conference, Dr. Jadis Blurton challenged me to think about what learning that is done at school could not be learned online. Blurton writes” the great need for educational reform is coinciding with technological solutions and innovations.” She spoke about the fact that in fifteen years time, “educational leaders in schools will not be controlling the reformation, “so we educators better think about the value we add as institutions and professionals.”

Each day, I think deeply about what value I am adding to my students’ lives. I occasionally wonder if I am better suited to teach students through online teaching sessions using SKYPE or Google Hangout.

With this in mind, What about the parents that have already decided to offer an education to their children from outside of the classroom? These parents can give teachers a body of knowledge and experience. I feel teaching professionals would be wise to listen to parents of homeschooled students.

Below is a list of questions that I have for parents of homeschool students:

  • Are you presently satisfied with your child’s academic growth?
  • What lessons do you want your child to learn that they do not learn in a regular school environment?
  • What are three things that you look for when making curriculum decisions?
  • What would you want in an ideal online teaching service?
  • What are your first thoughts when you think of an online school?
  • Is homeschooling convenient?
  • What help do you need?
  • How is each learning day structured?
  • How do you give social and emotional learning?
  • How do you collaborate with others?
  • What teaching tools are most effective?
  • Who are your educational mentors?



  • Could I speak with you online to discuss this issue further?      My SKYPE address is barrymernin








Teaching Today: One Teacher’s Perspective from Hong Kong




OUR FUTURE IS YOUR OLD AGE (Photo credit: infomatique)

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.

Stephen Hawking




Today, knowledge is everywhere.

My international school students access educational videos, tutorials and simulated learning. They realize early on that I am not the end all, be all, and that they can just as easily, and more creatively, find knowledge on their own. Why watch me struggle with an answer when they can easily go to


Essentially, my traditional professional life has ended and is not coming back. Just last week, our school’s librarian (another profession on the ropes?) passed out Kindles for the teachers. My students already have mastered eBooks and are waiting for me. I have ridden the waves of educational technology and even I am having a difficult time keeping up. I foresee the day when my classroom is devoid of any books whatsoever. (Perhaps within the next twelve months!)


My students have little need for traditional learning. They beg to use Google docs and back channel websites such as TodaysMeet so that they can collaborate and learn together. They beg to play math games online. Who am I to stop them from learning this way? They demand that I let them learn in learning pairs or trios.


Everyday, supervisors judge me on how engaged my students seem. I know that the students are trying to focus but oftentimes they wait for me to stop talking so they can go back to learning their way. I do not blame them in the least.


It is scary how fast their world is moving. Due, in part to this, my confidence in my teaching ability is low. I remain optimistic about their future and I do see tangible positive results. However, my days as a teacher are dwindling; at least, the classroom teacher that I have always recognized.


When I was their age, Cape Cod was a journey. My students give each other tips on how to deal with jet lag.  I used to memorize world capitals, while they visit them. At their age, I was reading Encyclopedia Brown; they are comparing the internal and external traits of the many characters in Harry Potter. I helped my teacher thread film into a projector. They are creating brain-friendly presentations and asking me how to embed video. When I was ten, I didn’t even know the meaning of the word, “embed.”


Each teacher and parent is struggling with change. What gives me hope is curriculum development. Curriculum is best when it rewards innovation and collaboration to solve real problems. I see a near future where curriculum builds on the students’ energy and wish to make their world better. I see schools changing to fit the needs of students and not our misconceptions of what they need to learn. I have been able to give my students snippets of Challenge-Based Learning. During these times, I never once need worry about student engagement.


Essentially,teaching is redefined each year. I accept this as fact and give up thinking that traditional teaching practices work.


Am I the only teacher that feels this way?