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,