Senior Associate Bill Turner was proud to attend the three-day teachers conference of the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) held from March 30 to April 1 in beautiful Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. With over 800 delegates, 100 workshops, and a job-alike session, the event was very practical, ensuring a big impact at classroom level. Three exceptional keynote presentations highlighted the event.
Keynote Speaker Kim Phuc Phan Thi is remembered by most of us for being the Vietnamese girl in the napalm attack photograph taken by Nick Ut in 1972 when Kim was just eight years of age. She shared her unique story and talked of the importance of positive thinking, the power of love, and the value of education. Her overall message that "forgiveness is more powerful than any bombs" was profoundly moving and had an immediate and massive impact on all delegates. Afterwards, Bill, a world traveller, exclaimed,
"… the most amazing woman I have ever met … Have you ever seen 500 people crying all at one time?… It was hard to focus on much else for the rest of the day -- people found themselves continually returning to reflect on the presentation!"
The keynote speaker for Day 2 was sponsored by Search Associates. Dr. Christophe Galfard studied Advanced Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University, England, where he received his Ph.D. on black holes and the origin of our universe under the supervision of renowned Professor Stephen Hawking. Not many people can say that! His most recent book, The Universe in your Hand, is translated into 20 languages. Dr. Galfard's aim is to talk and write about the universe in a way which entertains and explains, without seeming complex, and he has written a number of books for children on this subject. Bill says,
"Now I didn't love science at school. I loved literature and art. However, I didn't realise that science could be so literate and so artistic! A thing of aesthetic beauty. Science told through a story, with me as the main character."
Day 3 was kicked off by Aaron and Kaitlin Tait, Founders of Education Changemakers. Their remarkable stories of education and entrepreneurship took the audience through warzones, the Australian outback, and into African slums. Their aim is to develop and support entrepreneurs who, in turn, change the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living in poverty across Africa and the Asia Pacific region. Aaron explained their own learning journey up to the point where the Taits understood that "the only thing more important than ownership is authorship." Consequently, their focus moved toward finding and developing leadership in others in order to effect improvements at a community level.
Workshops, 60% run by EARCOS teachers, covering all school levels and subject areas, were the bread and butter of the event. Executive Director Dick Krajczar spoke time and time again to the theme of collaboration, and this was modeled in the way delegates participated in the workshops.
Meanwhile, at the Search Associates table, Bill spoke with potential candidates, who, after speaking with colleagues who have benefited from Search Associates, asked about how we work and could support their own careers. Existing candidates also popped by to express appreciation for the support of their individual Senior Associate.
In addition to great keynotes and workshops, EARCOS organized enriching social events. This year, the EARCOS Teacher Advisory Group chose the Kim Phuc Phan Thi Foundation as its charity to support. Along with a raffle, an early morning walk/run raised proceeds for the organization, whose aims are to "help heal the wounds suffered by innocent children." On two of the three evenings, delegates gathered under tropical sunsets, to eat, drink, and be entertained by local dancers.
The 2017 annual EARCOS Teachers Conference delivered the best in professional development: education, inspiration, rejuvenation, and connection--not only to friends and colleagues, but also to the hope of a better world.