January 28, 2014

St Nicholas School Sao Paulo

                                                  St Nicholas School Sao Paulo Brazil

It was -15 when I left Peacham Vermont to travel to Sao Paulo and + 88 when I arrived. Peacham was sparkly white and Sao Paulo was lush and green, they eiptomised winter and summer I was struck by the contrasts but also by the similarities. In Vermont they often say “You can’t get there from here” this is usually because there is a mountain in the way and the road goes the long way round to connect 2 places. Sao Paulo gave new meaning to the term. From my hotel room I could easily see St Nicholas School my destination, it was 5 min walk away, but walking was not recommended, particularly with a laptop, camera, i-pad and phone. Each morning a driver would meet me and each night, a driver would bring me home. The journey averaged between 10 and 45 minutes depending on traffic and was far from a direct or straight line. From rural Vermont to urban Sao Paulo the term “You can’t get there from here” holds meaning.

St Nicholas School is intimate and comfortable. Though housed in an imposing central building, the trees and the closeness of neighboring homes turned into school buildings makes it a welcoming place. Both inside and outside spaces are well utilized. Most of all the staff is welcoming from the drivers to the support staff everyone made this visitor feel at home.

It is always fun returning to a school. The first visit is often tentative, so many unknowns but returning you know the lay of the land and the people, though the names may escape you the faces do not and information floods back. This enables you to build on past experiences and take off from where you left off even though it is 10 months hence since the last visit.

I am proud of the work St Nicholas is doing. They have plunged in! The 15 facilitators trained last year have now each facilitated 4 CFG/PLC sessions. They  came back together to debrief, problem solve and plan for the next 4 sessions they will embark on this term. I believe our work together prepared them for this and will enable them to build on the successes from this fall. Additionally a new group stepped up to learn more and I believe these folks will be important allies moving ahead. Finally the leadership team reflected and considered the work  and discussed the goal of the initiative, to create a culture shift at St Nicholas where a culture of thinking and learning is evident not only for students but for teachers and leaders as well.

I very much look forward to  keeping in touch with their progress and to returning to this school next school year.


October 31, 2013

American International School LUSAKA ZAMBIA

For the last three days I have been traveling to work at the American International School of Lusaka in Zambia.  This drive to work involves a very short ride by school bus to the school campus. The school is a green and leafy place full of beautiful trees, covered walkways, and inviting places to sit and talk.  Many of the classrooms have covered outdoor spaces, in which to work, which extend the classroom space. Due to the low one-storey buildings and amount of outdoor space, the school is an inviting and pleasant place to be.

 I did 3 specific sessions at the school around discrete topics – Peer Observation and Effective Meetings with different groups of staff, in their newly created conference /Professional Development room. The administration has goals to promote both initiatives this school year and the timing was right as there is still plenty of the year left to implement both activities well.
I was also able to have follow up conversations with several individuals and small groups to address specific issues and offer resources.

It is my hope that these conversations will continue over the course of the school year and that the relationship I have with the school will develop over time. 

                        A big thanks to Director Tom Pado and his staff for making this visit possible.

October 22, 2013

AISA 2013 Accra Ghana


                                               What a fun week in Accra Ghana!
So good to  have the chance to work again with a wonderful group of teachers and to have new folks join the group. A big thank you to AISA  Director Peter Bateman and to Benjamin Betts for making this possible. You have been so supportive!

In 2012 we began a project of training Community of Practice Facilitators. The idea is that these volunteers will receive 2 1/2 days of training and an opportunity for ongoing training annually if they step up to facilitate  content specific  Job a Like Sessions at the Annual AISA conference and follow this up with ongoing online facilitation throughout the school year, for those participants who wish to continue conversations online.

The group who participated in 2012 had the opportunity to return in 2013 and many of them did so to improve their skills and continue the task. So I had the distinct pleasure of getting to work with them again. The plan is that we will continue this work this year and return in 2014 to train additional volunteers until every group meeting for PD at AISA has the leadership of a trained facilitator/teacher leader  to support their work.

              AISA is to be commended for supporting the development of teacher leadership in this way.

Communities of Practice are an opportunity for a group of AISA educators with  common goals to
                                               constructively collaborate, reflect and learn.

Thanks also to Tima Nisbet for attending in 2013 and also blogging about the event
 Life in Lusaka: The Happiness Project - Week 33

Off I go onwards to Lusaka Zambia to work next week at the American International School of Lusaka www.aislusaka.org/

October 1, 2013

A week in Senegal


In International Schools local school staff are often those with the longest institutional memory. At the International School of Dakar in Senegal, Abudacar holds that role! As my driver on my first visit to the school he picked me up and shared a warm welcome to the school and his country. He shared the names of all the directors he had worked for over the past 12 years, including Mr Wayne, Ms Barb and now Mr Paul, his pride in his role and place in the school was evident. ISD is lucky to have Abudakcar!

I am lucky to have had this opportunity to visit ISD and work with the staff. The timing of the session was good, school has been in session 5 weeks, the initial anxiety at the start of the school year has dissipated but a long time remains to get tasks accomplished and to change and make the very best of the year ahead. The staff approached the work with open minds, energy and enthusiasm despite the fact that challenges where apparent. Currently it is very very hot in Dakar 95 -100 daily with humidity which makes it " feel" like 105 -110 and Dakar is in the midst of a water problem so many teachers have no water at home and the school is reduced to using the swimming pool as a water supply. Currently the only usable bathrooms are in the pool block. . Plus they are in the midst of a director search with 4 candidates arriving for interviews this week and next.

Nevertheless the friendliness and enthusiasm of the faculty was infectious and made me feel very much at home here

These issues which could easily have frayed tempers did not however phase the staff who welcomed me and clearly focused on the work we did together. Time was tight but we managed to prepare a small group of teacher volunteer leaders over a few days to then work with me and co facilitate a day with the whole faculty of 50 teachers and teaching assistants. This was really a trial by fire for the teacher leaders as it required they put into practice facilitation tools and processes with their peers which they had only just begun to get comfortable with themselves. They all more than rose to the occasion and the success of the full faculty day should make them breathe a sigh of relief and feel pleased with their efforts. This day successfully jump started the work and moved it from theory to practice.

The school will I hope now have a bunch of new strategies,
 tools and thinking to boost their ability to collaborate. I believe
 the interest and success generated will pave the way to new
 understandings and opportunities for them this school year.
       The key now will be practice, practice, practice.

I will leave with many great memories from this trip among them meeting Shelley Stein a fellow Vermonter and past Mt Abe teacher, a school I had been in literally the week before I flew to Senegal! Proof of the fact it is really a small small world.

Many people helped make this trip possible. The AISA group from 2012 - Murray, Tamara and Tracy who on their return shared what they found useful in last years session. Tracy has now moved on from ISD  but she helped a bunch in making this trip happen. This would also have not been possible without the support of Ian Clark, elementary principal who I first met in Delhi in 2010 at a NESA event. Ian ably picked up the reigns when the curriculum coordinator had a family issue and made sure I had a visa and accommodation, skyped to make sure I was well prepared and made me feel at home on arrival. Thanks Ian!

So long ISD I wish you well this school year, success in your search process and most of all water, water, water, buckets and buckets of it!   I look forward to seeing many of you in a few weeks at the AISA conference at the Lincoln School in Accra Ghana!

August 18, 2013


It is always interesting to get a peek into the lives of others, this week I have had the opportunity to imagine life in Copenhagen.

The little mermaid - this way
I must say the 15 minute walk to/from school has to be one of the best ever....through the Churchill park, across the drawbridge and through the old castle, left near the little mermaid, Den Lilie Havfrue and you are there!

Having the chance to walk home with teachers each day made it even better, as they wheeled their bicycles or carried my bags  and filled me in on the in's and out's of living in this special city.

The view from the school

Plus once you are at school you have the great view from the windows at the waterfront and the ships including the daily ferry to Norway.

School starts next week for these teachers so they are more than busy getting ready to begin. Osterbro is quite a new school, just 5 years old and their building is at capacity with 220 students K - 8. The school is implementing the IB curriculum both PYP and MYP and applying to be an IB world school by 2015. Teacher collaboration is a goal as teachers want to be able to model the collaboration in the curriculum they are requiring of students.

The teachers come from many places, the US, UK, Turkey and Denmark amongst them. With their varied expertise and backgrounds they have a lot to learn from each other  so collaboration is key.

 For many of them English is a second language including Gary the new young 4th grade teacher who grew up speaking Welsh. For the last 6 years Gray has spent summers at Camp Abenaki on North Hero so he is quite attached to Vermont. Yet again it seems to me to truly be a small world.

After several busy days during which the teachers worked hard to remain focused and fully present our task was complete. Hopefully the staff now has tools to work together effectively and to make the best use of the time they have together.

These young teachers were a pleasure to wok with and I wish them well for the year ahead. I particularly want to thank Liz Toran for walking me home and Alex Rankin for bringing me to Copenhagen in the 1st place and getting up at some really early hour in Sweden to come by boat and train and meet me daily. You are both fabulous and the school is lucky to have you.

I was fortunate to be able to spend a great weekend in the city before wending my way home via Amsterdam . The teachers at Osterbro will however be hard at work..............


July 6, 2013

Brazil! Brazil!

In March I made a return journey to Sao Paulo, Brazil to work with staff at St Nicholas School, a new school for me. At St Nicholas I was fortunate to work with Nick Thody and his staff for 2 busy days. I believe it made a difference to their thinking about collaborative groups at their school and I very much hope to return in the future.

I was also fortunate while in Brazil to work with colleagues  Anne  Taffin d'Heursel Baldisseri and Siobhain Anita Allum. 

We worked for 3 intense days with a fabulous group of teachers from several schools in Sao Paulo and from the BritIsh School of Rio. These pictures will give you a sense of the experience.

Thank you Anne and Siobhain for making this special event possible and for hosting it at St Paul's!

July 5, 2013

January 2013

Finally caught up to a new year and information about a solo trip to Kuwait in January 2013. I was able to work there with Jeanette Al Sabah and a group of educators on a 40 hour 3 credit course though the University of Buffalo. A big thank you to Lynda Abdulraheem who made this event possible.

All the participants from a variety of International Schools in Kuwait City  brought experience and enthusiasm to the class.  This made it a very special event!

While in Kuwait I had the opportunity to visit schools and meet and work with local teachers.