Senior Associates Julie Ryan and Gary MacPhie along with Director of Consulting Services Brent Mutsch and Senior Consultant Gunther Brandt attended the Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE) Leadership Conversation, February 3rd–6th. Founder John Magagna also arrived, surprising the team! More than 500 heads of school as well as other school leaders and educational consultants, recruiters, and suppliers convened at the San Francisco Hyatt Regency, and Search Associates was proud to be a Silver Sponsor of the event. Our diligent Associates were able to attend important talks, two of which are highlighted below.
The keynote speech by author of 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning Will Richardson tackled the lack of true student engagement in schools. He suggests that leaders in general—particularly school leaders— need to spend time in areas where they do not know what is going on. Will argues that the job of leadership is to seek and confront difficult truths. For example with technologies continuing to advance at lightning speed, we need to know more about artificial intelligence, media, recording, and journalism. Education is changing daily as well. Using technology, students are learning on their own, focusing on what they care about—without the assistance of teachers, school curricula, and assessments.
After visiting many schools, Will concludes that there is no coherence around the concept of “learning.” Schools need shared language, and the meaning of learning should be articulated and explained. Without it, Will asserts, “it’s a crap shoot.”
The optimum conditions for learning: safety, choice, feedback, good teachers, questions, emotional attachment, passion, personal investment, and flow beyond 45 or 80 minute class sessions. School leaders in the audience posited a list of anti-learning conditions: sitting in rows, discrete curriculum, no choice, limited access, teacher control, one-subject area focus. In other words, what many of us are doing in education does not really make sense. Will says, “Schools were not built for learning – they were built for educating.”
Students thrive in environments where they can create and problem-solve in multiple ways. Let’s give them what they want: authentic experiences in places of joy, self-directed learning, license to pursue their passions, and collaboration among respectful and valued teachers and peers.
Will concluded his talk by saying that he has witnessed these good things happening at different schools in the world. Never before has there been a more amazing time to be a creator, a maker, a connector, a collaborator, and a learner than right now, but it is the job of school leaders to articulate this vision. Finally, he recommended a great book, Yuva Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.
Executive Director of the Council of International Schools Jane Larsson delivered a progress report on the work of the International Task Force on Child Protection (ITFCP) in her talk Visible Leadership in Child Protection. The organization has launched a website dedicated to resources for the international school community. It has also been given a full agreement by accreditation and inspection agencies to launch the enhanced child protection standards written in 2016. Additionally, a new Interpol initiative has been put forth to create one certification of clearance that will include 190 Interpol member countries.
The ITFCP insists that school leaders continuously reflect on how they ensure that every child who comes to their school is valued, safe, and respected. Jane presented a series of considerations. If there are “notes” in the file about any former employee, these should be re-examined and investigated. Mobility patterns for faculty should be read as a red flag. The number one barrier to identifying abuse is the misunderstanding of cultural norms. Does everyone who joins the school know the definition of child abuse? Is there a formal policy for dealing with any allegations? School leaders should have the following in place:
The Guiding Question: Is this person suitable to work with children? This question must be considered even where a criminal investigation does not proceed.
A Protocol: Managing allegations of abuse against educators and other adults
Guiding Principles: A duty to children, a duty to the alleged perpetrator, and a duty to the law and mandatory reporting obligations
Two school leaders shared recent experiences of dealing with child abuse allegations at their schools. Their stories were riveting. Both speakers recommended listening to any students, former students, or faculty who come forward, before doing a careful investigation, communicating openly with the school community, and taking any courageous actions that are needed.
While Julie and Gary connected with many conference participants at the busy Search Associates table in the International Marketplace, Brent and Gunther consulted with leadership candidates and schools that are anticipating head of school searches soon.