March 13-16th, Senior Associate John Ritter joined several hundred delegates in Warsaw, Poland for the annual conference for the Central and Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA). Participants represented schools from Prague to Tashkent, from Helsinki to Istanbul. This year’s theme, Making the World Our Classroom: One less brick in the wall, reflected CEESA’s continual desire to do things differently.
In recent years, some school associations have been experimenting with alternative forms for their annual conference—calling them an unconference or an annual conversation. In that spirit, this year CEESA replaced each morning’s traditional keynote address with Curated Sessions, wherein three of the conference’s major presenters each provided a 20-minute “starter” or overview for all of the conference delegates. One morning began with three different 20-minute presentations within the theme of Innovation and Design, and the next morning, three new 20-minute presentations on the theme of Agents of Change. Following these “starters,” each of these six presenters led several full sessions during the rest of the conference. John liked the new format:
It is sometimes astounding how an expert’s effectiveness as a presenter can increase when we decrease the time or space available—that’s the idea behind Ted Talks and the popular series of books, A Very Short Introduction . . .
As sole representative for Search Associates (SEARCH), John had much to do at CEESA 2019! He hosted a workshop, attended a couple of talks and sessions, and manned a table in a public area with many other representatives of organizations serving international schools. Stationed near a refreshments table, the well-fortified John kept busy: advising participants seeking their next international school position, helping organize schools anticipating administrator and head searches, making suggestions regarding governance and leadership issues, and generally networking and providing candidates and school representatives with any help or advice they needed.
John, our SEARCH delegate, led an International School Recruitment Workshop: Recommended Screening and Evaluation Practices. Together with John, nine administrators and school health professionals reviewed a six-page document simplifying the International Task Force on Child Protection’s (ITFCP) original recommendations, which key member of the ITFCP, Senior Associate Bridget McNamer, helped to draft.
For at least several years CEESA has emphasized collaboration as a key means to learning and school improvement. John saw this reflected throughout the conference in Warsaw. He was especially impressed by CEESA’s Literacy Coach Cohort training program, a multi-year program involving participants from different CEESA schools. Group members stay together, learn together, and support each other as they collaboratively coach their own colleagues in their home schools. Cohort trainers describe it:
The literacy coach is someone who can induct and mentor new teachers, organize professional book studies, create level bookrooms, and provide demonstration on teaching as well as engage in side by side coaching in ways that principals and curriculum leaders are not able to. The Literacy Coach Cohort training supports the CEESA mission of being a collaborative community of international schools which enhances school effectiveness and inspires student learning and development.
At an excellent session, John noticed a ripple of head-nodding in the audience when the presenter, Head of School Peter Welch said, “Most international schools really aren’t particularly international.” Peter clarified that, traditionally, these schools are run on Western cultural norms, are led by Westerners, and use teaching methods that reflect Western wisdom on what is “best practice. However, increasingly, the majority of students at these schools bring learning preferences and perspectives from other, non-Western cultures. Peter, who has served as the head of international schools in Thailand, Turkey, and Finland, will soon take up his new headship in Romania. His co-presenter was Dave Stanfield, Head of Research and Development at the Council of International Schools (CIS). Peter and Dave presented the following sessions:
Leveraging Students’ Cultural Diversity & Learning Preferences – A Practical Improvement Tool for International Schools
Applying Cultural Insights in International School
Peter and Dave presented key findings from a study looking at the relationship between student cultures and learning preferences. They explained how these findings “can be used to improve teaching strategies, support students’ transitions, and help leaders understand how students align (or not) with the values espoused by the school.” For more information, click here. Peter’s book, Who on Earth Are You? How to Thrive in a Mixed-Up World, will hopefully be published soon.
Search Associates looks forward to CEESA Conference 2020, to be held far north of the organization's region, in Helsinki, Finland!