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

 


			

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

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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.

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.

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.

 

Teaching Today: One Teacher’s Perspective from Hong Kong

 

 

OUR FUTURE IS YOUR OLD AGE

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 http://www.Brainpop.com?

 

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?