Even More Great Reading

Reading a book

It seems that good reading lists are a bit like Number 11 buses – none come for ages, then they come three in a row. I shared a really good list a couple of days ago and here are two more. Needless to say, these have simply added to my ‘to be bought’ list that was already quite long enough, and motivated me to push on reading what I’ve already got lined up a bit faster!

Inc – 25 of the Most Inspiring Books Everyone Should Read

McKInsey – What Executives Are Reading in 2019

And for anyone who looks at these lists and says, “I don’t have time to read,” they had better never utter the words that they expect children to grow up to be lifelong learners (especially my fellow educators).

Enjoy 🙂

 

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Book List

Adam Grant Books

Those who know me well (or have set foot in my home) know that i always surround myself with books. When electronic books and things like podcasts came along I thought I would probably slow down the number of books i bought and read. However, what’s happened is that I simply increased my consumption!

On my various bookcases I have one shelf on which i keep all the new books that are waiting to be read. Every time I pass it I’m taunted to read faster so as to satisfy my anticipation to get in to those books. When the contents of that shelf start to get a bit light, that’s my permission to buy some more. Already, there’s a list of around 17 books on an online book sale website ‘parked’ as my shopping list.

And then , ……………….. Adam Grant puts out the following note on books that are coming soon. He’s privileged as a known and very prominent writer to receive advance pre-publication copies of lots of books (I even wonder when he last bought a book!)

This list contains at least three books that I knew were due out and was already looking forward to, but also a whole load more that look very interesting and some of which will undoubtedly find their way on to my ‘to buy’ list.

LinkedIn Article – Adam Grant – New Fall Books on Behavioral Science, Leadership and Life

So, Mark, read faster because there’s a load more books coming in soon!

Risks and Challenges for International Educators

Flags

Being an international educator brings some wonderful opportunities to travel, to live for extended time in some amazing and fascinating parts of the world, to earn good salaries  and to engage with other cultures. Also, generally, a lot of international educators believe that they get more freedom professionally within their schools and more opportunity to use their voice to shape educational approaches.

However, it’s not always a soft ride and people need to be aware of. the issues – it’s not a decision to go in to with rose tinted glasses. Some of the issues are really quite serious.

In some recent blog posts I’ve touched on a couple of important issues. Teachers have found themselves in very troubling situations when confronted with cultural differences – for example, coming to know about child abuse, but not having access to the support services and facilities to protect the child (or where family and local perceptions will be that this is a matter of family private choice and that the educator needs to stay out of it). i shared the evidence of even online teachers from the US experiencing trauma after witnessing child brutality at a distance, but having limited ability to do anything about it. It’s even more challenging when you can see the results of abuse almost daily, but have few direct tools with which to confront it.

Some teachers choose to take up roles in countries that subsequently become volatile and sensitive politically.  I had some of my own experiences with this. When I first went to Bangladesh in 2005 things were relatively calm. However, within months the tension levels ratcheted up significantly. What made it worse was that both geographically and for reasons related to the owner’s political affiliations, the school (and my apartment across the road) were right on the front line of the battle for power that was unfolding in the country. Some evenings while working late in my office I was aware of the inherent risks caused by meetings taking place in the room next to my office attempting to create a third political front to challenge the existing two party system. Thankfully they were never caught in action!

In many weeks i was only able to open the school for three days. Each evening I would spend hours on text and phone with a parent who was news editor for a local TV station. He was my eyes and ears to understand the issues, the risks and on which days i could offer an education for children and on which days the risks were too great. The daily stress was there very evident in the parents, pupils and teachers. We even had to deal with the ‘disappearance’ for some days of a teacher who was known to be politically quite active. When rioting broke out, chanting protesters armed with knives, machetes etc would pass the school front door, even as mothers clutching their children’s hands weaved through them. Then would come the tear gas as the protesters were dispersed.

Over the last 10-12 years one of the most rapidly growing communities of expat educators is in China. However, there’s evidence of a political/ cultural shift there which is now bringing their job security in to question. Whether it’s linked to the trade war with America or not would be near impossible to deduce. Around a year ago the Chinese government announced that they expected to enforce rigidly a law that previously had existed, but had been ignored by all parties. Put in simple terms it said that the private schools in the country were not meant to make a profit (similar to laws in India). However, some of the school groups expanding rapidly in China were quoted on US stock markets – where they openly and transparently reported their profits regularly, in accordance with the law there.

Then there are headlines and stories like the following:

Next Shark Article – China is Arresting, Deporting More Foreign Teachers Than Ever Before
(Click on the link above to read the article in a separate tab or window)

For any expatriate teacher working in China this would certainly be alarming. Likewise for those large numbers working in Hong Kong. The article appears to indicate that there is a specific objective which is about increasing ‘patriotism’ in schools. In other words, ideologically manipulative authorities would be uncomfortable with foreign teachers who encourage and incite ‘free thinking’, global perspectives and student voice.

The truth is that by no means are all international educators saints. Too many schools have rules that are way too lax when it comes to verification and security checks. Sadly, the profession has, at times, attracted some bad elements. Also, it could be said that some teachers who choose to go international really don’t think through the risks that they might be taking if they are going to engage in actions or choices that are out of alignment with local laws, traditions or expectations. Those of us in the field have also heard stories of teachers in the gulf countries, particularly UAE who have inadvertently stumbled in to legal quagmires through careless, indiscreet or other actions that are frowned upon locally.

Teachers have also found themselves getting in to difficult situations with parents and local communities over their teaching where it clashes with local customs or practices.  Issues can arise around gender issues, sex education, issues where the teaching of certain science comes in conflict with religious dogma etc. As the world suffers collective forgetfulness of history, permitting politicians to take actions that separate and divide people, the risks in these areas may well increase. Actions by one country can spark counter actions and international teachers can find themselves caught in the crossfire (hopefully only metaphorically).

I believe being an international educator is still a wonderful career. As a new academic year is getting under way there are experienced and fresh teachers are starting out with new classes, new colleagues and opportunities. Schools and their management can do more to open teacher eyes to the issues before they take up roles. But, ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the teachers to make themselves informed and to be sure that they’re comfortable with the things they will need to contend with. There’s no point believing that you’re going to go to someone else’s country and simply demand your right to openly act or speak in the way you choose, if you know it goes against the local values and beliefs.

We don’t always get to tell the rest of the world that we’re right and they’re wrong, or that our way is the best.

 

The Spread of International Education

international schools

There are now over 5.4 million children attending English medium international schools worldwide, revealing just how rapid has been the expansion worldwide.

The following report carries some of the top line data and information that shows the full extent of this growth:

Times Educational Supplement – Report – Phenomenal Growth of International Schools
(Click on the link above to open the link in a new tab or browser page)

There are a whole variety of implications that flow out of such rapid growth. There is no question that over the last 10 years it’s provided a big opportunity to UK educators who were ready to travel, especially those who were becoming frustrated with issues in the UK schools system.  There’s also no question that such rapid growth has thrown up some issues of ‘indigestion’. Schools find it harder and harder to find talent, especially for leadership roles and this has resulted in considerable inflation in the salaries paid to expat educators. Until now, those increased costs have been passed on to parents willing to pay to satisfy their high aspirations for their children and willing and able to pay.

Within many geographies there is a sense now that the ‘low hanging fruit’ has been gathered and that future growth will be more challenging. Also, for a market of over 10,000 schools with over 5 million pupils it is still incredibly fragmented, with little consolidation of market power and ownership. Some geographical variations are quite stark as school models have been tweaked and adjusted to meet local expectations and demands. There are now many markets where the growth potential is still there, but the methods to tap in to it will need to change. Also, the ‘high end’ has been mostly filled by schools linked or associated with prestigious British Independent Schools.

I believe that in many such markets there are still plenty of potential children whose parents can afford an international education, but they have not been satisfactorily convinced of the merits over alternatives – especially when the price differences can be very significant.  Some of the response to this will be about improved creation of awareness and information about what international education is and its benefits in a globalised, rapidly changing world. Some will also be about raising standards and consistency to ensure that parents perceive quality.

It’s also very important to increase the emphasis on ‘leaving a legacy – international educators not satisfying their own ends by making their schools dependent on their presence, but ensuring adequate effort is given to the training, coaching and mentoring of local talent. This should not only be for teachers, but to see locals holding roles in leadership – not as token representatives, but with the full range of knowledge and experience of global mindedness and depth of awareness of the aims and objectives of international education.

Provision of high quality international education is about so much more than swanky premises, white-skinned teachers, good exam results and admissions in prestigious named international universities – or it should be. There’s still much work to be done.

More on E-Sports

E-sports

Readers here will recall that a few weeks ago i wrote a piece in which I set out my reasons why I was unhappy to see schools falling in to the trap of offering ‘E-sports’ as an option – as an alternative to physical sports and physical education in the curriculum.

So, I was interested to see the following article in which the pros and cons are discussed;

Peak – Is E-Sport a Sport?

To be clear, the article isn’t particularly about the issue of E-sports being in schools, but it does go to the core of whether it’s appropriate for E-sports to be promoted as a legitimate sport. My personal reading of the article is that there is little strength in the arguments in favour of permitting it to be treated as a sport.

In my view, this alone would strengthen my concerns about allowing the games in to schools.However, we can add to that a brief snippet of a news item i caught on TV in the last week, as I entered the room. The gist was an investigation and suspicions that E-sports were willingly permitting advertising and other activity that brought gambling to the attention of children. This seems to be a massive red flag and increases my fears that it’s a trojan horse – working to get in to schools and the lives of children under a cloak of respectability for purposes that are not in the best interests of children.

I say even stronger – keep it out of schools.

 

Employers Get What They Attract, Not What They Say They Want

how_to_write_a_resume_banner

Firstly, I share here an article and would ask you to read it before going on. It shares the best six attributes of a CV/ resume according to a top head hunter:

Inc.com  – Best Resume Article

When I read this piece, my heart sank for two particular reasons. The reality is that this headhunter isn’t really saying anything that comes as a surprise to most employees in companies or potential job hunters. However, there are two aspects that stand out as going directly against what so many companies claim they want in today’s fast moving and creative work environments.

Let’s remember that the review of a CV by a headhunter or their employees will determine which candidates get called for further interviews and exploration. A CV doesn’t land a person a job, nor is it meant to. Likewise, nobody can claim that the issues I’m about to flag up can be discussed out in the face to face discussions – those won’t happen if the CV/ resume is rejected at the pre-selection stage.

The first issue is in point 2 in the article – a clear story of progression. According to the article, attractive candidates have nice linear careers with every step logically thought out and all steps thoroughly thought out and in the control of the candidate.

Companies and employers today claim that they are crying out for people with creativity and the willingness to take risks. Some also claim that people should be willing to take lateral or even backward steps in order to gather knowledge and experience so that they can move forward armed with strong skills and abilities. Such a route won’t look nice and linear, with logical progressions all in ‘the right direction.’

What the article says is an admission that whilst companies say this sort of eclectic gathering of knowledge and being able to bring new and innovative ideas to the table is what they want, their actions tell a different story. It says we reward those who are masters at climbing the greasy pole in nice logical self-directed increments.

Secondly, as highlighted in point 4 of the article – we want CVs/ resumes that are honest and reflect integrity on the part of the applicants – no untruths or exaggeration. However, points two and three represent a reality that makes it almost inevitable that large numbers of job applicants will embellish and expand on reality when it comes to their achievements – especially when you take the two points together.

According to this piece, you have to be able to show this lovely linear career progression, with unmitigated success at every step. Yet, we tell employees that they shouldn’t be afraid to fail, that failing is a great way to learn.  We also tell them to subsume their personal identity in the interests of teams. So, if you’re part of a team where the project takes too many risks, doesn’t succeed or is curtailed by the company (even perhaps for political reasons), to admit so on a CV would be the kiss of death.

Yes, employers have to do a massive sifting exercise to decide shortlists for who to interview. But, if their actions tell everyone that the people who get interviewed are those who have trodden a safe, predictable, politically crafty career, especially if prepared to polish the apple a bit – then that’s what they will have to choose from.

Ant then, they can keep bemoaning the lack of fire, creativity and risk taking entrepreneurship in their employees.

Shame.

 

Sun Tzu and the Art of War

It’s sometimes very tempting for people to believe that in a rapidly changing world, what’s new is all that has value. However, I believe that more and more, as fast as the world around us changes, we need to keep one eye on the great learning and wisdom of the past in order to understand how to operate most effectively in the world.

One example in recent years has been the increased interest in the work of the Greek stoic philosophers to understand and make sense of how to live an effective life. Other works that bear study to understand the world we live in include the writings of Plato or the Analects of Confucious. One of my favourites is ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu. Even though the book was written over 2,000 years ago it still has valid lessons today for business or life generally.

For those who want to get a simple taster, or a way to share the work with younger learners, I recently came across a cartoon video series. The thirteen videos each take one chapter of the book and make it very accessible.

Some people are uncomfortable with models related to war, battle or conflict to deal with issues in modern life. however, I believe this is to ignore the fact that in many situations if we are in a situation where, given the chance others would potentially act on a win-lose basis towards us, then it is naive to proceed as though life should not entail competition. I believe one of the greatest strength in this written work is the emphasis on using strategy to avoid battle.

The Playlist of all Thirteen Episodes
(Click on the link above to open a separate tab with the full playlist of all the episodes)

Well worth watching (and hopefully being inspired to go on and read the book)

 

 

 

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