Sunday, December 11, 2016

Food for Thought: Reason why school needs to be redefined

Dear all,

As we move in to the last week before the winter break I'd like to thank you for all the hard work and effort that you have contributed towards making this another good semester for student learning, engagement and empowerment this semester. We have continued to investigate how we can redefine the school experience for our students. We started with a new 4/5 class room area which has certainly increased the possibility for collaboration and connectivity between students and teachers and provided a first insight into the new learning environments that will dominate the refurbished primary and new secondary campus in the not so distant future . Our year long inquiry into 'who we are' links perfectly with our second step on the road to becoming a Positive Education school, and is raising some interesting questions for us to solve. Gaining a deeper understanding of the 10 positive emotions has helped us look more deeply into ourselves as we search for self awareness of who we are as educators at ISHCMC. Of course there has been so much more that just these few examples but I selected these because of their focus on the individual and their contribution to the whole. I believe this is a key constituent that under pins a redefinition of education. We have to be looking at breaking the industrialized conveyor belt model of education and making it about individuals and what is best for their social, emotional and intellectual being. This includes all our stakeholders.

The readings in this week's Food for Thought are quite long and hence I am sharing them with you ahead of a vacation. I will not be writing another Food for Thought until the 8th of January.. The aim of this weeks Food for Thought is to provide further depth of understanding as to why it is time for school's to be redefined. These two article do not directly talk about education but are fundamentally linked to the need to redefine the purpose of school.
Arizona Parrot Flickr via Compfight cc

The first is an easy to understand economics article, 'The American Dream, Quantified at Last,'  which looks at the economy of the USA and how it has changed and the impact of this on the psychology of society. It touches on Trump's electoral victory, the potential ways forward and the challenges that lay ahead. Overall it is positive but again clearly makes the point that we are living in a changing world and cannot take for granted the same economic prosperity and growth that have for the most part prevailed since the 1880's.

"For babies born in 1980 — today’s 36-year-olds — the index of the American dream has fallen to 50 percent: Only half of them make as much money as their parents did. In the industrial Midwestern states that effectively elected Donald Trump, the share was once higher than the national average. Now, it is a few percentage points lower. There, going backward is the norm.
Psychology research has shown that people’s happiness is heavily influenced by their relative station in life. And it’s hard to imagine a more salient comparison than to a person’s own parents, particularly at this time of year, when families gather for rituals that have been repeated for decades. “You’re going home for the holidays and you compare your standard of living to your parents,” Grusky, a sociologist, says. “It’s one of the few ties you have over the course of your entire life. Friends come and go. Parents are a constant.”
How, then, can the country revive Adams’s dream of a “better and richer and fuller” life for everyone? The solution has to involve some combination of faster economic growth and more widely shared growth."

maryturck Flickr via Compfight cc

The second article, which you can listen to instead of reading by clicking on the curio button, again looks at economic change. It is an essay from AEON magazine by James Livingston, who is professor of history at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Although the title may be off putting, F..k Work, , it asks the very important question, 'what if jobs aren't the solution any more?' In the past the solution to economic woes has been a move towards full employment but is this possible today and will it solve the problems created by a changing world? What happens if life isn't about your value as a worker? So many of the parameters that western society, in particular those that are structured around the protestant work ethic, has as foundations would now need rethinking with a new rationalization to why we exist. The essay suggests that it is time to rewrite our moral and ethical thinking about work and its place in society. Of course this change links with some of the concepts that we have been developing at ISHCMC based around the need to produced employers not employees, students who are creative and can innovate, are confident in their skills, resilient to face failure and make changes, flexible as life long learner and are able to recreate themselves depending upon their environment.

"These days, everybody from Left to Right – from the economist Dean Baker to the social scientist Arthur C Brooks, from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump – addresses this breakdown of the labour market by advocating ‘full employment’, as if having a job is self-evidently a good thing, no matter how dangerous, demanding or demeaning it is. But ‘full employment’ is not the way to restore our faith in hard work, or in playing by the rules, or in whatever else sounds good. The official unemployment rate in the United States is already below 6 per cent, which is pretty close to what economists used to call ‘full employment’, but income inequality hasn’t changed a bit. Shitty jobs for everyone won’t solve any social problems we now face.
Don’t take my word for it, look at the numbers. Already a fourth of the adults actually employed in the US are paid wages lower than would lift them above the official poverty line – and so a fifth of American children live in poverty. Almost half of employed adults in this country are eligible for food stamps (most of those who are eligible don’t apply). The market in labour has broken down, along with most others."

There is lots to be thinking about as we move towards 2017. We know that technology has transformed our world very quickly, the question is can the world now adjust and counter these changes or are we entering an era of reactionary government pretending to empathize with the masses whilst protecting the wealth of the minority.

Wishing you a peaceful and relaxing winter break.

Have a good Sunday,

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Food for Thought: How much do we need to be happy?

Dear all,

The end of another very busy week at ISHCMC. I am sure that there will be a lot of secondary students as staff who worked on the excellent musical Honk catching up on a lot of sleep this weekend. I would just like to publicly congratulate all of you who have been involved in the recent productions, for the quality of acting and musical accompaniment  that you managed to encourage from our students and the obvious commitment and engagement that they all demonstrated through their performances.

This weeks Food for Thought is  bit a different, although it does tie very much with our mission and vision. The first part links to a website of a young (ish) man who has developed a sustainable lifestyle in California. When I trawled through his website and watched several of his videos it certainly made me reflect upon a number of things. Firstly, how happy he seemed and how this appeared contagious to those he met. Secondly, how little we really need in our lives to be happy. Thirdly, the importance of being positive and seeing good in the world rather than bad. Finally, the big question how much do we need to have a good and happy life?

This video captures many of my reflections. It is how Rob Greenfield tested out his simple theory that people are inherently good not bad.

In addition to browsing Rob Greenfield's site I would like you to take the time to read this interesting article  about how our diet impacts the environment. 

"Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” That’s what the French lawyer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who happened to have a deep love of gastronomy, wrote in 1825. A century later, a diet-hawking American nutritionist named Victor Lindlahr rendered it as: “You are what you eat.” I propose revising it further: Tell me what you eat and I will tell you how you impact the planet.
Most of us are aware that our food choices have environmental consequences. (Who hasn’t heard about the methane back draft from cows?) But when it comes to the specifics of why our decisions matter, we’re at a loss, bombarded with confusing choices in the grocery-store aisles about what to buy if we care about planetary health. Are organic fruits and vegetables really worth the higher prices, and are they better for the environment? If I’m a meat eater, should I opt for free-range, grass-fed beef? Is it OK to buy a pineapple flown in from Costa Rica, or should I eat only locally grown apples?
The science of food’s ecological footprint can be overwhelming, yet it’s important to understand it. For starters, in wealthy societies food consumption is estimated to account for 20 to 30 percent of the total footprint of a household. Feeding ourselves dominates our landscapes, using about half the ice-free land on earth. It sends us into the oceans, where we have fished nearly 90 percent of species to the brink or beyond. It affects all the planet’s natural systems, producing more than 30 percent of global greenhouse gases. Farming uses about 70 percent of our water and pollutes rivers with fertilizer and waste that in turn create vast coastal dead zones. The food on your plate touches everything."
Have a good Sunday,

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Food for Thought: Heads Conference reflections

Dear all,

Hope you have all had a good week, I'm sure it was busy as normal. The Cognita Head's Conference was very interesting and provided me with an excellent opportunity to meet Chris Jansen's new team and get to know them better and their ideas regarding education. I do believe that the team Chris has put together sincerely believe that the number one target for a serviced based education business is building good schools that provide a quality education for its clientele. During the conference there were keynote addresses from Sir Kevan Collins on the importance of character education; Sir Clive Woodward on how to create High Performing teams and lastly Andy Buck talked about how leadership matters in schools. All three were interesting but none were that far away from where we are, or are going at ISHCMC. 

This week's Food for Thought links directly to our classroom pedagogy and is linked to some of the ideas that the speakers above touched on in London. The first is a short video by Doug Lemov, the author of Teach Like a Champion, a book that I highly recommend that every teacher should have read and have in their pedagogical library. He believes that great teachers are not born but made, and that through careful attention to practice and pedagogical techniques it is possible for every teacher to grow. This short video, Practice makes Perfect links well to the final article for this week

This article is a summary of the findings of two researchers, John Hattie and Robert Marzano. Their work is famous and shows that there are certain characteristics that 'Great' teachers display that produce consistently high outcomes in the classroom. Although bringing the work of these two researchers together does involve nearly 100,000 school studies one still has to reflect upon the data before jumping to conclusions that it i sall correct. The article identifies the key characteristics identified by both researchers that we should all be thinking about in our classrooms. However, I do have one reservation and that is that most of the schools in the studies are not schools that are employing inquiry pedagogy to deepen student learning and understanding. Regardless an interesting read.

"John Hattie and Robert Marzano have each conducted significant reviews of what works best in the classroom.

There are some clear differences in their work.
  • They use different terminology to each other
  • Marzano uses more isolated strategies, while Hattie combines strategies into broader approaches
  • Marzano’s findings are based heavily on teacher-designed assessments, while Hattie’s findings make more use of standardized tests
However, as you can see, there is significant agreement between Robert Marzano and John Hattie when it comes to what works best in the classroom."

I will see you all late morning tomorrow.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Food for Thought: The Importance of Empathy in developing who we are as learners.

Dear all,

As we have been working on compassion for the past two weeks I thought that this article from Mindshift on empathy might help to build our understanding and to see the importance of empathy in our classrooms as we encourage the growth of learning skills that are applicable in the 21st century.

"Like other aspects of modern life, education can make the head hurt. So many outcomes, so much important work to do, so many solutions and strategies, so many variations on teaching, so many different kinds of students with so many different needs, so many unknowns in preparing for 21st Century life and the endless list of jobs that haven’t been invented.What if we discovered one unifying factor that brought all of this confusion under one roof and gave us a coherent sense of how to stimulate the intellect, teach children to engage in collaborative problem solving and creative challenge, and foster social-emotional balance and stability—one factor that, if we got right, would change the equation for learning in the same way that confirming the existence of a fundamental particle informs a grand theory of the universe?That factor exists: It’s called empathy."

Here is reminder of why we do Mindfulness each day. It is only a few minutes and centers around children in Australia explaining why they find mindfulness so important each day. The programme they are following is called Smiling Minds and you might find the information available on the website useful for your understanding and teaching each morning.

Have a good week,


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Food for Thought:

Dear all,

Hope you are having a good long weekend, you all deserve a break.

Thought that I would keep this Food for Thought short and related to the big news of the week, the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States. There have been many articles written questioning how this could have happened so thought that I would share this TED interview which took place ahead of the election. You may be asking how does this link to ISHCMC and why should I care. Well, during this interview with Jonathan Haidt a leading social psychologist,' Can a divided America heal?' it becomes apparent that the characteristics portrayed in this election relate closely to normal human behavior and that with the declining influence of the 2nd WW generation we are now moving into the era of the baby boomers. Near the end of the interview Haidt refers to ways that people can address the polarization that is taking place world wide, and I think this links to our work with positive emotions and in particular empathy and compassion. When reflecting upon his arguments I felt that if the world was full of schools practicing mindfulness, positive education, and looking towards breaking the old authoritarian model of education we could avoid some of the problems that appear to be emerging on the political horizon. I hope watching this might also equip you with a few answers for when our students want to talk about the election and how Donald Trump managed to win. It might be an interesting interview to share with some of our older students in I&S or ToK or MUN club, as it does raise lots of questions about our next decade and international relations and politics.

Finally, this week also marked the passing of one of my favorite musicians/ philosophers/ social commentators, Leonard Cohen at the age of 82. I only grew to understand his work recently as I became more mature in my life and thinking. Discovering I liked Cohen's work, writings and thinking so much shows me that although we may think we know who we are at different phases of our lives we won't really know till we are nearer to its end. If you don't know much about Leonard Cohen here are two articles about him, this one from Rolling Stone is about his career, and the other from Brain Pickings is more about the predictive nature of his writing.

Have a good Sunday,

See you all on Tuesday, we will have a briefing at 7:15 in the MPR.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Food for Thought: Time to get dirt under the nails of more of our students.

Dear all,

Hope you are having a good weekend.

Having recently re-watched Jamie Oliver's TED Talk about teaching children about food and working on the new campus design with its large science garden that we hope will be a mini farm producing organic vegetables and herbs for the food technology class and the cafeteria I thought it appropriate to be sharing a couple of articles and videos on this topic.

The first video is a TED that I feel asks some good questions that could be used to develop our garden community. Although about low income urban schools in the USA I think that a great deal of the talk is transferable to ISHCMC as an international community. This type of thinking links beautifully with our work on 'who we are' and the community strand of the Cognita Way. Again, like mindfulness, building a community garden could provide a calmness that many of our students require as well as time for students to work along side their parents and teachers at weekends. My goal would be to start work on a community garden on the roof of the language building as soon as possible so that we could use this as a pro-type for the garden at the new secondary campus.

Secondly, this article on children eating their produce has lots of excellent links that will make us think deeply about what we are doing and why we should make this an important initiative for ISHCMC.

Do kids who grow kale eat kale?

It’s back-to-school time in the United States, and for countless children across the nation, it’s also time to get back into the school garden.
For centuries, educators and philosophers have argued that garden-based learning improves children’s intelligence and boosts their personal health. In recent years, concerns related to childhood obesity and young people’s disconnection from nature have led to a revitalized interest in the topic.
Tens of thousands of American schools have some form of school garden. Many are located on school grounds and others are run by external community partners. Most are connected to the school’s curriculum. For instance, seeds are used in science class to explain plant biology, fruits are used in social studies to teach world geography and the harvest is used in math to explore weights and measures. Some even incorporate food from the garden into the school lunch.
As a researcher and an activist, I’ve spent the better part of the last decade working to promote a healthy, equitable and sustainable food system. Through this process, I have heard bold claims made about the power of garden-based learning to meet these challenges.

School gardens claim a variety of benefits.

Given the enthusiasm that surrounds garden-based learning today, it’s worth taking stock of their overall impacts: Do school gardens actually improve the education and health of young people?

Promoting school gardens

School gardens have become a favorite strategy of prominent advocates in the “Good Food Movement.” Both celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and First Lady Michelle Obama have been vocal supporters.

An elementary school garden with six raised beds is meant to help kids learn. U.S. Department of Agriculture

Nonprofit and grassroots groups, who see these gardens as a way to provide fresh produce for the food insecure, have forged partnerships with local schools. Then there are service-based groups, such as FoodCorps, whose members spend one year in a low-income community to help establish gardens and develop other school food initiatives.
Philanthropic organizations like the American Heart Association have also sponsored the construction of hundreds of new school garden plots.
Taken together, upwards of 25 percent of public elementary schools in the United States include some form of garden-based learning. School garden projects are located in every region of the country and serve students of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic classes.

Transforming kids lives through gardens?

Advocates argue that gardening helps kids make healthier eating choices. As the self-proclaimed “Gangsta Gardener” Ron Finley put it in his popular TED Talk,
“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale.”

Does garden-based learning help school kids? UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences - OCCSCC BY-NC

Many proponents go even further, suggesting that garden-based learning can inspire a variety of healthy changes for the whole family, helping to reverse the so-called obesity epidemic.
Others, like Edible Schoolyard founder Alice Waters, argue that experience in the garden can have a transformative impact on a child’s worldview, making sustainability “the lens through which they see the world.”

Sure, gardens can help

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that garden-based learning does yield educational, nutritional, ecological and social benefits.
For example, several published studies have shown that garden-based learning can increase students’ science knowledge and healthy food behaviors. Other research has shown that garden-based learning can help students better identify different types of vegetables as well as lead to more favorable opinions on eating vegetables.
In general, qualitative case studies of garden-based learning have been encouraging, providing narratives of life-changing experiences for children and teachers alike.

Do gardens improve the intake of fresh foods and fruit? RubyDWCC BY

However, when it comes to actually increasing the amount of fresh foods eaten by young people, improving their health outcomes or shaping their overall environmental attitudes, quantitative results have tended to show modest gains at best. Some of the most highly developed school garden programs have been able to increase student vegetable consumption by about a serving per day. But the research has not been able to show whether these gains are maintained over time.
A lack of definitive evidence has led some critics to argue that school gardens are simply not worth the time and investment, especially for lower-income students who could be concentrating on more traditional college prep studies.
The social critic Caitlin Flanagan has gone so far as to say that garden programs are a distraction that could create a “permanent, uneducated underclass.”

There are no magic carrots

There is no doubt that the power of garden-based learning is sometimes overstated.
Particularly when describing garden projects in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, popular narratives imply that a child’s time in the garden will rescue her from a life of poverty and chronic disease.
I call this the “magic carrot” approach to garden-based learning. But as we all know, there are no magic carrots growing in the school garden.

When is a garden successful?

For gardens to effectively promote learning and health, they must be supported and reinforced by the community as a whole. Surveys of school garden practitioners show that garden programs have serious potential to enhance school and neighborhood life – but only if certain conditions are met.
Notably, school gardens are most successful when they are not held afloat by a single dedicated teacher. Instead, multiple involved stakeholders can ensure that a garden doesn’t dry up after only a season or two.

If kids grow kale, do they eat it? U.S. Department of AgricultureCC BY

For example, participation from administrators, families and neighborhood partners can turn a school garden into a dynamic and sustainable community hub.
Many experienced practitioners have also shown that garden-based learning is more powerful when its curriculum reflects the cultural backgrounds of the young people it serves. When children of Mexican descent grow indigenous varieties of corn, or when African-American youth cultivate collard greens, the process of growing food can become a process of self-discovery and cultural celebration.
In other words, if kids grow kale, they might eat kale, but only if kale is available in their neighborhood, if their family can afford to buy kale and if they think eating kale is relevant to their culture and lifestyle.

Creating valuable green space

As my own research has highlighted, there are organizations and schools across the country that incorporate garden-based learning into broader movements for social, environmental and food justice.
These groups recognize that school gardens alone will not magically fix the problems our nation faces. But as part of a long-term movement to improve community health, school gardens can provide a platform for experiential education, create valuable green space and foster a sense of empowerment in the minds and bodies of young Americans.

If you are treally interested in school gardens, having chilsdren know more about food etc here is an excellent site:

Finally, I want to share the link to Deepak and Oprah's 21 day meditation series for those of you who like to do a daily meditation but need something different occasionally. 

A Message from Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey

It’s not too late to enjoy Creating Peace from the Inside Out: The Power of Connection from the beginning! We encourage you to join us and take advantage of this incredible journey. 

All meditations remain available online for a total of five days. Simply log in here and select the appropriate day to catch up easily. 

Have a good Sunday,


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Food for Thought: The Difference Between Empathy and Compassion Is Everything

Dear all,

I know that everyone is working hard and sometimes this takes away the time neded to reflect and appreciate each other and all the good things that are going on around us. Walking around school it never ceases to amaze me the excellent teaching that is taking place everyday and how engaged and excited our students are about learning from you all. Thursday and Friday's blue skies certainly added an extra level of energy to many students alighting from their transport on the front gate.

This weeks Food for Thought builds on last weeks on Purpose. If for some reason you didn't manage to watch the video last week I think it would be good if you went back and took a look, because getting the balance between self and others is central to happiness. This week I have chosen to share a couple of articles and a TED on the topic of compassion. Thinking about this took me back to a Bridges event, a Dialogue Towards a Culture of Peace, involving Grade 11 and 12 students and Jose Ramos Horta, President of East Timor. During the question time he was asked what is the most important characteristic that all Presidents should have. His answer was immediate: Compassion. He went on to explain how important compassion was for our world if we are going to enjoy sustainable peace. Drawing on his wise words and other readings I believe if we are to maximize the potential that we have as a  staff we too need to recognize the importance of compassion, which means having empathy for each other, whilst being prepared to notice and take action to help others who may need our assistance. This refers to those both in and outside of our community.

Compassion is an action not an emotion.

This first short article is taken from "Empathy is a gateway to compassion. It’s understanding how someone feels, and trying to imagine how that might feel for you — it’s a mode of relating. Compassion takes it further. It’s feeling what that person is feeling, holding it, accepting it, and taking some kind of action. In metta orloving-kindness meditation practice, one can silently repeat phrases to others as a way of acknowledging them and our own interconnectedness. It’s easy and highly portable. When I’m on the train, I silently repeat phrases like, “May you be happy; may you be safe; may you be at ease; may you be free from suffering,” to the passengers, particularly those who look like they need it most. This plants the seeds of compassion, and we can find ourselves acting in compassionate ways that never would have occurred to us before. As it turns out, this ancient practice has some amazing scientific discoveries to give it cred."

The second provocation is an old TED talk in which Daniel Goleman talks about compassion. He ends his talk with the quote" I am optimistic, all it takes is the simple act of noticing."

To end, here is a link to an outstanding post from Commonsense media about all of us teaching social and emotional learning. The article looks at compassion and ends with a list of apps that are already in common use and can be used to further develope SEL across a long list of subject areas.

"Building SEL (social-emotional learning) skills such as compassion requires face-to-face interactions, meaningful discussion, and reflection. Edtech is no complete substitute for that, but there are tools that can supplement the development of character in the classroom and at home. According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, compassion is:
the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another's suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.
While some tools focus specifically on compassion, the websites and apps you use daily (in all subjects) can be used to promote concern for others. You don't have to stop using the tools you love or toss out your lesson or curricular plans to start developing SEL. Below we have included some tips, tools, and actionable ideas for seamlessly integrating compassion and life skills-building into your content classroom"

 Have a good Sunday,

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Food for Thought: Purpose and Passion

Dear all,

Much of last week was a bit of a blurr for me and I apologize for not being myself, but the lack of holiday and long airflights disturbed my equlibrium. None the less, on Friday watching our Grade 10 students fully engage with our guest poet, Ly Doi, bought me back to ISHCMC and why it is so good to be back in school. Raising awareness of banned books and censorship is such a powerful tool for empowering our students. To have our students directly engage with a poet who is fighting to create a freedom to express oneself in the country where we live, is an incredible opportunity for our students. Our Grade 10's will definitely remember this experience, and hopefully recognize the importance and sacrifice that a person like Ly Doi has undertaken to protect the rights of others.

The first of this weeks Food for Thoughts supports the feelings that I have had for over a decade being an administrator in international schools. At the weekend I was sent this TED talk featuring Adam Leipzig, he talks about our purpose. He asks five questions of the audience that help them get a sense of their purpose. I suggest that when you watch this video you answer, as the audience did. Experience, and reflection upon growing behaviours in international schools have taught me that Leipzig's conclusions about thinking about our purpose in terms of others rather than ourselves are quite true. Stopping to identify our purpose will help us better understand who we are and what we are doing within our ISHCMC community. Knowing that we are happier when our purpose is not about ourselves but others should make us more reflective about our work place relationships. See what you think.

This talk by Terri Trespicio touches on a topic that I have been discussing with members of SLTA for a while; passion. No, not passion about something you love. Rather the idea that we keep asking students to discover their passion by giving them time to explore things that they might like to do. The big question for me is whether passion is the right word to be using for this important time.This talk answers this question for me. I now believe even more that we need to be reducing our use of the word passion. We should be looking for other words that can go with time; like problem solving, challenge, exploration, discovery, uncovering. These provide freedom for students to find out more about what they like or dislike without creating an expectation that this will become your passion for life. After all, how many of us can honestly say what our passion is even as adults.

Have a good Sunday,


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Food for Thought: Living life "eyes wide open."

Dear all,

I hope that you all enjoyed our annual Celebration of Cultures. It seemed to go exceptionally well. Thanks to the music department for the exciting start to proceedings and to all of you who kept students on time and organized.

This weeks Food For Thought starts with this video of Isaac Lindsky presenting at the Global Leadership Conference in 2016. Lindsky coins the phrase 'eyes wide open' to encourage us all to remove excuses from our thinking, shut out the negative thoughts and fears, and live a positive life. As you will see he has overcome challenges and through these discovered a way of living his life that would never have happened without the adversity he faced.


As you will probably have a little bit of time for reading during the vacation I thought that sharing this AEON essay might be of interest to many of you, Can school today teach anything more today than how to pass exams? The essay focuses on the Socratic view of education and learning and provides an interesting alternative to just focusing on exams that is very aligned with our thinking at ISHCMC. In fact the dream classroom scenario that initiatives this essay is not far away from many that I see when walking around our school. I think that most of you will connect with this UK authors view of how students should learn and what the end focus should be.

"To understand how this can be achieved, we need to remember something that Socrates drew our attention to long ago, but which in our eagerness to turn schools into engines of economic productivity we have forgotten, namely that education is a philosophical process. It begins with questioning, proceeds by enquiry, and moves in the direction of deeper understanding. The journey of enquiry is powered by critical reflection, discussion and debate. It leads not to final answers but to a greater appreciation of the limits of our knowledge, both of the world around us and of our own mysterious selves."

Wishing you all a well deserved break,


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Dear all, 
Thank you for all you work this week through the rain and our flooding. For those of you who haven't seen the water pouring into to building on Monday evening here is the short video which will give you some idea of the speed that the water entered the building and the difficulty that this caused us trying to protect classrooms.

Many might see what happened as a disaster and be depressed about it. Not in our case, even though in the middle of a regional Health and Safety visit we were able to demonstrate how close we are as a community with everyone in primary working alongside each other to tidy up; secondary maintaining learning through MyISHCMC and our parents being overwhelmingly supportive of the day's closure. As the work continued during the week, we have removed carpets, unveiled lovely tile work, know how to protect the school in the future, successfully re-settled EE4 and KG classes in new learning spaces and generally shown our ability to communicate effectively, work as teams, to be resilient in face of challenges, problem solve and be flexible. Great skills to be modeling in the 21st Century.

This weeks Food for Thought is a mixture of videos and articles for you to be thinking about and applying in your classrooms and at the 3 Way conferences this week.

When Kids Have Structure for Thinking, Better Learning Emerges

"Amidst the discussions about content standards, curriculum and teaching strategies, it’s easy to lose sight of the big goals behind education, like giving students tools to deepen their quantitative and qualitative understanding of the world. Teaching for understanding has always been a challenge, which is why Harvard’s Project Zero has been trying to figure out how great teachers do it.

Some teachers discuss metacognition with students, but they often simplify the concept by describing only one of its parts — thinking about thinking. Teachers are trying to get students to slow down and take note of how and why they are thinking and to see thinking as an action they are taking. But two other core components of metacognition often get left out of these discussions — monitoring thinking and directing thinking. When a student is reading and stops to realize he’s not really understanding the meaning behind the words, that’s monitoring. And most powerfully, directing thinking happens when students can call upon specific thinking strategies to redirect or challenge their own thinking."

People v the School System

When I watched this short video it made me wonder, could a parent sue us for failing to educate their daughter/ son adequately. Wouldn't it be an interesting world if schools that are failing to take into account or even recognize the changing world we sued by parents. Watch and make up your own mind how we would fair on his criteria.

Achieving our Dreams

With 3 Way Conferencing and " goal setting" this Tuesday, I thought that this video I was sent a while ago would be appropriate to have in our minds when we are advising students about their targets and passions. I am sure that there are many of our students who have dreams that are crushed by adults around them. This video is the story of a  "16 years old girl, Laura Dekker who became the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the globe single-handedly. During her 518-day voyage Laura took on six-meter-high waves, extreme weather, dangerous reefs, disturbed sleep, cramped living conditions, food rationing and absolute solitude. She also kept up with her schoolwork.

She ends her 10 minute talk by saying, " If you have a dream go for it, it might be hard, but the harder it is the more rewarding it is when you fulfill that dream." If we ware going to break the mold, redefine the system, then we must not hold our students back; we must let them have dreams and be their through positive words, encouragement and support to help them towards their goals. 

Have a good Sunday,


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Food for Thought: Technology and Learning.

Dear all,

Thank you for another good week at school. This was the best spirit week that I can remember and it created a fantastic buzz around school. Although many students did dress up and were obviously having fun impersonating us on Friday, they did not forget why they are in school and were engaged and focused in their classes. The Cognita team were very impressed by the ambiance of the school and left with a very good impression of what we are trying to achieve at ISHCMC.

Image result for students and technology

This week's Food for Thought is a reflective essay from AEON magazine about students use of technology in their lives and its impact upon their learning. This essay is a longer read and is the reason there is only one article this week. It is worth reading as it will certainly provoke thought, discussion and reflection about how and when we use technology in our classrooms. For me it raised questions about the amount of technology we provide in the school; the effectiveness and depth of student learning with technology;  whether we should be giving students time away from devices and technology; how technology contributes to the illusion of multi-tasking; how technology distorts and puts pressure on the concept of time and its management; and finally, are we contributing to the issues by failing to use the SAMR model and instead of transforming learning through new and varied activities we are still giving too much time to using technology merely to replicate note books. Embedded in the essay are lots of interesting links to research that will encourage further your deeper thoughts on this topic. Definitely lots to think about and how we can find an optimal balance.

Have a relaxing Sunday,


"My college students are never entirely present in class, addicted to texts and tech. Is there any hope left for learning?

"While my students – undergraduates at Boston University who are taking classes on writing and research – agree that there’s a problem if they can’t go 50 minutes without checking their phones, few of them can resist, despite knowing that this is my biggest pet peeve. A University of Nebraska-Lincoln study indicates that 80 per cent of college students send text messages during class. Nearly 100 per cent of them text before and after class. In the minutes before class – the ones I used to spend shooting the breeze with students about TV shows, sports or what they did over the weekend – we now sit in technologically-induced silence. Students rarely even talk to each other anymore. Gone are the days when they gabbed about the impossible chemistry midterm they just took or the quality of the food at the dining halls. Around the 30-minute mark in class, their hands inch toward their backpacks or into their pockets, fingers feeling around for the buttons as though their mere shape offers comfort. When I end class, they whip out their phones with a collective sigh of relief, as though they’ve all just been allowed to go to the bathroom after having to hold it all day."