As all International School Community members know, each of the 2147+ school profile pages on our website has four comments sections: School Information, Benefits Information, City Information and Travel Information. Our members are encouraged to submit comments on one or all of these sections if they currently work at an international school or have worked at one in the past.
It is important that we all share what we know so that we can in turn help other teachers make a more informed decision before they sign any contract! *Additionally, for every 10 comments you submit (which are anonymous by the way), you will automatically get one free month of premium membership added on to your account! The more comments you leave, the more free membership you get!
So, what are the recent statistics about the School Information sections on all the school profile pages? The current total number of submitted comments in the School Information section is 16907 (out of a total of 36283+ comments).
There are 24 subtopics in the School Information section on each school profile page. Check out each one of these subtopics below and find out the total number of comments in that specific sub topic and an example comment that has been submitted there.
• Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus. (1594 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The school is set in 3 separate building, one being a 5 minute walk and the other across the road. Crossing the road is quite a safety hazard with the kindergarten class due to taxis over taking them whilst they are on the crossing and the local police not doing anything to monitor this. There is no proper play area and students are taken to local parks for lunch breaks, which is difficult when having to share with babies. No proper gym areas make p.e quite difficult.” – Canadian International School (Tokyo) (Tokyo, Japan) – 93 Comments
• What types of accreditation does this school have? When is the accreditation up for renewal? Any religious affiliations? (1193 Total Comments)
Example comment: “It is a non-religiously affiliated school owned by a Christian affiliated college and operated on that campus. It is WASC accredited, but is not accredited by the Korean authorities and seems to be a limbo in regards to its local status.” –Global Prodigy Academy (Jeonju, South Korea) – 48 Comments
• Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.). (781 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The school is discussing becoming IB and has implemented Teacher’s College Readers and Writer’s Workshop as well as whole language learning in the primary schools. Secondary schools do MAPS-based action plans to show and monitor student improvement and compare them to US students.” – American School of Torreon (Torreon, Mexico) – 64 Comments
• Describe their hiring policies. Which recruiting fairs do they go to? How do they typically hire (e.g. face-to-face interview, Skype, etc.)? Are there any hiring restrictions mandated by the country? (1543 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Last year they were NOT hiring people with non-EU passports. Some positions that they had last year were local hires, even if the candidates weren’t the strongest of the CVs that they received. Most of this though is out of the school’s control and more the new/changing laws regarding hiring foreigners into the country.” – Southbank International School (London, United Kingdom) – 15 Comments
• Describe school’s location in relation to the city center and to the teacher’s housing. How do staff get to school before and after school? (1462 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The school is located near one of the hub stations in Tokyo, with easy access by several trains and subways. The school also has two school bus routes. The school will help the teachers find housing if necessary, but it does not itself provide housing. A transportation allowance is provided to cover the transportation cost from home to school and back.” – New International School of Japan (Tokyo, Japan) – 30 Comments
• Are the expectations high of teaching staff? Are there extra curricular responsibilities? Describe workload details. (828 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Expectations are high but the atmosphere is supportive. Staff are expected to undertake duties on a rota bais before and after school, at break times and lunch times. Staff are expected to run one extra curricular activity for one term per year. There is a decent amount of non-contact time at around 20% of timetable.” – Rasami (Thai-British) International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 75 Comments
• Average class size for primary and secondary. Describe any aide support. (848 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Class sizes are very small. In primary, they are normally a combination of two grade levels (i.e. Grades 1 and 2 together) and about 16 kids with a teaching assistant. In secondary class size is smaller and can range from four to twelve per grade level.” – Hiroshima International School (Hiroshima, Japan) – 64 Comments
• Describe language abilities of students at this school and what is the “common language spoken in the hallways”? Is there one dominate culture group? (1229 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The Thao Dien (Primary) campus in the expat area has students from about 20 countries. The TT Campus, Primary, Middle School and Secondary is mainly Vietnamese. Korean is the next largest student group. Very few students from Western Countries. Has a large EAL population.” – Australian International School HCMC (Vietnam) (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) – 19 Comments
• Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, nationality, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate. (1268 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Primarily expat teachers, without any one nationality dominating things. When I left in 2011 there were teachers from Australia, Canada, US, UK, South Africa, Belgium, and Tanzania just within my department. Some teachers stay 7 to 10 years or more, while others just 2 to 4 years, as in most international schools.” – International School of Tanganyika (Dar es salaam, Tanzania) – 171 Comments
• What types of budgets to classroom teachers/departments get? (518 Total Comments)
Example comment: “budgets have been steadily dropping. Ownership slyly changed the school from a not for profit school to a for profit school, without notifying parents of the change.” – Makuhari International School (Tokyo, Japan) – 22 Comments
• PARENTS ONLY – General comments from parents of students that go to this school (181 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The mastery system is open to the interpretation of each teacher, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.” – QSI International School of Dongguan (Dongguan, China) – 64 Comments
• What types of sports programs and activities does the school offer? (701 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The school offers a wide variety of after school activities which are run by teachers. There is no extra pay for this. Teachers can choose which activity they would like to lead.” – International School of Koje (Geoje, South Korea) – 47 Comments
• Name some special things about this school that makes it unique. (689 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The school has an excellent music program that frequently presents music and drama to the local community and other schools. Students in the diploma program seek out ways to serve the community needs.” – Oeiras International School (Lisbon, Portugal) – 183 Comments
• In general, describe the demeanor of the students. (617 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The students are generally great, however there are no entrance exams or behavior requirements. The owners Tehmine and Stephan want to make as much money as possible. There definitely are no requirements to enter this school.” – Surabaya European School (Surabaya, Indonesia) – 20 Comments
• Has the school met your expectations once you started working there? (342 Total Comments)
Example comment: “I’ve really enjoyed working at the school. I have always been able to approach admin if I needed to.” – The Codrington School (Int’l School of Barbados) (St. John, Barbados) – 70 Comments
• What does the school do to create a harmonious state of well-being and high morale amongst its staff? (400 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The school has a health and wellness program where a lot of teachers connect and exercise together. Also, the PTO regularly hosts cocktail events after school. Plus there are scheduled tours and cultural events.” – Anglo-American School of Moscow (Moscow, Russia) – 69 Comments
• Describe the technologies available at the school and how people are/are not using them. (485 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Each teacher has a PC (windows only. The printer server won’t talk to macs) and a smart board. However, the smart boards are not all hooked up or working so it’s a very expensive video screen. Slow internet. Nothing Google, youtube, or Facebook works in China.” – Tsinghua International School (Beijing) (Beijing, China) – 158 Comments
• Details about the current teacher appraisal process. (306 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Get on your principal’s good side and you are fine. If they do not like you you will immediately get put on a corrective plan and ushered out. Just flatter the admin and you will be fine.” – Abu Dhabi International Private School (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) – 43 Comments
• Is the student population declining, staying the same or increasing? Give details why. (460 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The number of students has increased. There is a waitlist for Year 6 now.” – UCSI International School Subang Jaya (Subang Jaya, Malaysia) – 11 Comments
• How have certain things improved since you started working there? (242 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The one more important thing that changed for the positive, in around 2011-12, was the school initiated an 8000 RMB per year, per teacher, PD allowance. Before that there wasn’t an allowance. There was though PD for the DP teachers before that.” – Yew Chung International School (Shanghai) (Shanghai, China) – 30 Comments
• How is this school different or the same when compared to schools in your home country? (178 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Well one thing that my school had in the United States was a coordinator for reading in the Primary school. I feel that CIS would benefit from having one of those. We need somebody to coordinate how the primary school teaches reading and someone to coordinate resources. Also, someone to help us have a clearer stop and sequence across the grade levels.” – Copenhagen International School (Copenhagen, Denmark) – 375 Comments
• What controversies have been happening lately? Please be objective. (306 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The school hires foreign teachers but sometimes it is difficult for the teachers to integrate into the school. It is really a combination of moving to Chile and assimilating as a foreigner as well as the schools lack of support to receive foreign teachers. The administration has recognized this problem and is working to help future hires.” – Santiago College (Santiago, Chile) – 24 Comments
• What insider information would you give to a teacher considering working at this school? (456 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Remember state school teachers are paid twice as much for half the work. All the locals are on waiting lists for Govt. schools but they are years (centuries) long.” – International School of Paphos (Paphos, Cyprus) – 123 Comments
• How much curriculum development work are you expected to do? (Atlas Rubicon, etc.) (280 Total Comments)
Example comment: “A curriculum coordinator offers huge levels of support for this. During the current year, this load is heavy because of where we are in the accreditation cycle. High School has used Rubicon for a while. Lower School is just starting to use Rubicon.” – American School of Marrakesh (Marrakesh, Morocco) – 29 Commentscontinue reading
Around the world, there are countries (like Indonesia) that have more than one international school. Many times there is an American school, a British School, and an international school that uses an international curriculum.
Some countries, though, have MANY international schools! When that is the case, how do the comments about each school compare to each other?
This blog series looks at comparing some of these comments, all coming from international schools in the same city.
Currently, we have 53 schools listed in Indonesia on International School Community.
23 of these schools have had comments submitted on them. Here are a few that have the most submitted comments:
Australian International School (Indonesia) (39 Total Comments)
Beacon Academy (Indonesia) (32 Total Comments)
Gandhi Memorial Intercontinental School (34 Total Comments)
Global Jaya School (33 Total Comments)
Green School Bali (70 Total Comments)
North Jakarta International School (29 Total Comments)
Raffles International Christian School (33 Total Comments)
Royal Tots Academy (35 Total Comments)
Sekolah Victory Plus (118 Total Comments)
Surabaya Intercultural School (54 Total Comments)
“The school typically hire teachers from India. The job advertisements are published on local websites and Indian newspapers namely Times of India and Hindustan Times. Shortlisted candidates are called for face to face interview usually in New Delhi in the month of February most of the times. Couples and teachers with family are very much welcome.” – Gandhi Memorial Intercontinental School
“The school went to the UNI fair in February 2012. It is important to note that the reporting date for new teachers is during the last week of July. The school is not able to hire teachers over 55 years of age. Min. 3-yrs. successful overseas experience is preferred.” – Surabaya Intercultural School
“The school generally does not attend recruitment fairs, they prefer Skype interviews or face to face if you are already in Indonesia.” – Sekolah Victory Plus
“School is located in a high-rise building alongside several embassies. The students ride the elevator to transfer to the library, a small playground and cafeteria.” – Royal Tots Academy
“The website will show it all. There are drawbacks to teaching in this type of environment though. Mold, bat guano, sweat, snakes, leaky roofs… It takes a special kind of person to show up day in and day out. Regarding the surrounding area- jungle.” – Green School Bali
“The Kemang campus is very green and small; great for the kids to get around!” – Australian International School (Indonesia)
“Teachers share a 2-bedroom apartment unit within the school compound. The school pays for the rent while teachers pay for utilities such as electricity, water and other building fees (e.g., surcharge and sinking fund), which can be ridiculously expensive. Some students and their family live in the same apartment therefore teachers end up feeling that they live in a bubble. There is an option for teachers to live alone in a 1-bedroom apartment unit at a nearby apartment building, however teachers will have to shoulder the difference of rent (from the original teacher housing).” – Royal Tots Academy
“Housing allowance has been recently increased by almost double.” – Sekolah Victory Plus
“Teachers live in apartments that are close to the school. The apartments are for single occupancy. The apartments come furnished.” – Beacon Academy (Indonesia)
“The school provides 2 bed rooms furnished apartments to all expat teachers and staff. Utilities are paid by the school up to a limit which is very much generous.” – Gandhi Memorial Intercontinental School
Health insurance and medical benefits
“Full international health coverage. Very good program.” – Green School Bali
“There is medical benefit but it is meagre and can only be used if its in-patient hospital service. Teachers pay for doctor consultation especially when it is out-patient hospital/clinic service.” – Royal Tots Academy
“Outpatient is not covered, you can reimburse 85% of bills up to a maximum of 2,500,000 per year.” – Sekolah Victory Plus
“Excellent medical benefits are provided.” – Surabaya Intercultural School
(These are just 4 of the 65 different comments topics that on each school profile page on our website.)
If you work at an international school in Indonesia, share what you know. Consider becoming a Mayor for unlimited premium membership!continue reading
v2012.01 – 7 January, 2012:
The Wonderful World of International School Recruitment Fairs: Lesson #5 – “Check your ego at the door.”
“Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent.” Sigmund Freud.
The greatest sports legends, the inventors of things we rely on today, great actors and actresses, all of these people must seem to have a big ego. Maybe it comes with their achievements or our projections of them? Then there are the great dictators, the generals of war or just some average Joe that just won the biggest-ever on his lottery ticket. Ego comes in many shapes and forms, and albeit some are seemingly more attractive than others. It’s a hard task to know when to enhance or down play your own ego.
We’re constantly told to either just stand in line or be like others, that we don’t really deviate from the mass, that we’re just one in a million, that perhaps we’re not as special as we think. Then we’re told we need to stand out, make a difference, show our true colors, let the ego steer and victory will come our way. So, how are you to act at the international school recruitment fairs?
Ego is an ambivalent thing, you could say that it’s both our chance and our fall. It’s the chance to express ourselves, to enhance our personality to make it clearer how we stand out from the masses, what makes us special, what we’re capable of; how we’re the best of all of them. But there is a line, and if that line is crossed, our personality becomes too big and a bit desperate, we express ourselves in a way so superior to others that we make them feel small, we become way too special, maybe even too good for our own good; we are the best of all of them, no question there, there’s “me” and no one else.
It’s often in job interviews we’re left with the difficult task of being the best and out-shining the competition, but in such a manner that we don’t let our own ego get the better of us, and suddenly instead of standing out positively in the round-robin session or in the administrator’s hotel room during the interview, we stand out negatively instead. It’s practically a game of ego vs. humble. It’s pointing out the things you are good at and how you are the best for the position, but it’s just as much being humble, being likable, charming, sitting straight, smiling, having eye contact, being interested, letting your ego shine from time to time, but not letting it consume the space.
“There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.” James Lee Burke.
And every so often your ego takes a blow during your experience at a recruitment fair. When you venture in life, there’s always the risk of rejection. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t any international school out there that wants to hire you. It’s basically the same whether you open your heart for someone you love or you are at a job interview, getting that “no” is a sour sting to your ego. And that’s when the inventory begins: should I have? or could I have? Would it have? And so on and so on…
Every mountain we climb in this life should probably have two gates: “for exit hurry” or “in risk of rejection”. We can’t go through life (and through international school recruitment fairs) without getting a little hurt sometimes, without bruising our ego. It’s all part of living as they say; the smart and clever ones. So maybe you didn’t have enough experience, maybe the connection just wasn’t there, or maybe, just maybe someone was just better than you. You know, you shouldn’t take it personal. It just means you get a few more rounds through the “in risk of rejection” gate. And who knows, just one week after the fair, where you weren’t offered any contracts to sign, you might receive in your email inbox the offer from the international school you have been dreaming of working at! Believe us, it is happened many times in our International School Community.
Go ahead and send a private message regarding hiring and fairs to one of our members. International School Community’s current members work at or have worked at 92 international schools! Check out which schools here and start networking today!
· 06 Jan Canadian International School Beijing (5 new comments)
“There is an annual flight allowance, return trip to Canada or equivalent…”
· 06 Jan Berkeley International School (Bangkok) (8 new comments)
“As for the location, it’s very convenient opposite Bitec, close to BTS, Central City Bangna, and to other International Schools such as St Andrews, Patana, CIS and the Mega Bangna super mall…”
· Using the School Profile Search feature on International School Community: Search Result #2
“Only on International School Community will you be able to search for the perfect international school for you. The possibility to search (using our unique search engine) for international schools based on the type of school that best fits your criteria…”
· Survey results are in – How many countries have you traveled to so far this year? (in 2011)
“The survey results are in, and it seems as if most visitors and members of International School Community have been to 1-3 countries in 2011. We were thinking that people would have traveled to more countries as a typical international school teacher travels many times throughout the year…”
· Video highlight: St. Stephen’s International School (Bangkok, Thailand)
“How great to start off each day with the flag ceremony and the Thai National Anthem! Being that the majority of their students are Thai, they have a strong focus on honoring and respecting Thai and Asian cultural values…”
· Highlighted article: India’s most admired international schools
“Within the hearts and minds of the uninformed, there is considerable prejudice against India’s small but growing number of new genre international schools. Left intellectuals and fellow travelers who dominate Indian academia and have considerable influence in the media, naively dismiss them as elitist and expensive…”
· Comments and information about hiring policies on International School Community #2 (Beijing, Seoul and Beirut)
“This school went to the Search Fair in Boston in 2011. The interview was 1 on 1 with the principal. It was quite informal, but he also asked some important interview questions. After the first interview, I receive an offer on contract in my mailbox, so they for sure want to hire at the fair. They were able to allow for a few a day to decide as well which I think is important…”
Teaching and living in “The World’s Happiest (And Saddest) Countries” – According to ForbesAccording to this Forbes article, the top 10 happiest countries are: “Joining Norway and Australia in the top 10 are their neighbors Denmark, Finland, Sweden and New Zealand. Equally small and civilized Switzerland and the Netherlands are also up there. Rounding out the top 10 is the United States at 10th and Canada (sixth).”There are many international schools in most of these countries, offering many opportunities for international school teachers to live very “happy” lives, or so it would appear…
Highlighted blog of an international teacher:
International Teaching Fair 2/2010“International Teaching Fairs are the traditional way to connect prospective schools with teachers. I believe technology will be changing this practice more each year as it is less costly to interview via Skype than to send a hiring team around the globe. Skype misses that element of personal connection which can be critical in creating a good fit between staff and school, although some principals with extensive international teacher hiring experience may not see that as a priority. Online portfolios allow the applicant to upload files, photos, even videos and the administrator can choose what they would like to review. If different documents are needed, a quick email to request and a few moments to transfer, is all that is required. In my case, my use of rubrics was of interest and I was able to share specific lessons, rubrics I created and student work samples in several content areas. The ability to upload immediately demonstrated my ability to respond to requests quickly as well as my organization and technology skills. The job offer that I accepted was the one where the process was all online, except for the one concluding phone call. At the time of the fair, though, I had only sent this school my CV and resume…”“I woke up later than I anticipated, but really was taking my time, I think, to feel in control. I didn’t want to be one of the first to arrive and the days schedule was long. By the time I walked across the parking lot to the conference rooms I was nervous again. There was so many people! Going into the candidates “lounge” where the rooms walls were covered in sheets of paper listing the school, country and positions available, I noticed that most people had an intensity that I wanted to resist. The tables were covered in laptops and I started to regret not bringing Brett’s, but I travel light. I did end up using the hotels business center at a cost of $5 for fifteen minutes and calling Kelina to go online for me quite a bit…”
*If you are an international school teacher and would like your blog highlighted on International School Community contact us here.
It was a privilege to speak at the Council of International Schools Conference in Melbourne recently. The educators committed to educating for global citizenship and an ethical world, were inspiring.
Didactic teaching, while worthy, will have many students repeating the dictums that they have been taught, without understanding, empathy and/or application. When the students work out their ‘truths’ and how they interpret them, then it becomes lasting. By inviting young people to become fellow travellers in story, it enables them to empathise, explore, identify, question and understand, situations outside their experience. They become emotionally involved, recognising their own value while challenging prejudice, racism and intolerance.
Increasingly children’s and young adult literature is tackling issues of social justice in areas as diverse as emotional disorders, family relationships, autism, epilepsy, anorexia, learning difficulties, cancer, war, racism, the plight of refugees, environment, world issues. There are powerful children’s books that have opened dialogue for social justice from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon with its sensitive exploration of Asperger’s syndrome and acceptance of difference to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne exposing racism, the outcome of a world without moral responsibility and the redemptive power of friendship.
Young people read differently to adults, where if story touches to them, they will read and re-read that book, testing it against their developing value system. Fiction that addresses ethical issues such as bullying, inclusion, disability, racism, multi- culturalism, gender identity, feminism, peace, sustainability, diversity, through relatable story is a powerful way to create empathy and action for positive change.
Ethical issues are deeply personal for me. My parents were refugees who went though war, communism, the ultimate in power abuse. They were targets, bullied and vilified, not registering as human. We know about the Cambodian Killing Fields, Armenian genocide, the Anfal genocide of the Kurds, Rwandan genocide, the Holocaust. But we cannot fully comprehend those huge atrocities. We see, are horrified, but they often are outside our experience, of interest, but what can we do about it? People feel powerless, shocked, close their eyes, maybe donate some money, send some clothes. These stories of victimisation are too big, too foreign, make us turn away, as we go about our lives.
But there’s a way to relate, to engage, to get under the skin of everyone. It’s through the small stories of ordinary lives. My son Jack, is one of those small stories. ‘I Am Jack’ is his fictionalized story, when he faced school bullying.
Jack’s a great kid, funny, inventive, smart, a deep thinker, a good but annoying brother. He has great mates, supports his grandmother, wants to be like his Grandad, helps his mother. JACK is your son or daughter. He’s you or your mate or the neighbour or a kid in your school or someone you know. His family is yours, mine, ours. A mix master family with its quirkiness like all our families, in our mix-master communities with all the permutations of what makes up family today.
Jack didn’t understand how he ended up targeted, isolated, bullied, until it wasn’t funny anymore. He was afraid, powerless, victimised. It was a hard journey to win against bullying, but he did with the support of family, school, community.
JACK invites you into a real home, family, community, life. Narrative truth can be powerful story and everyone loves JACK – our everyman – who takes bullying into your heart and makes you shout ‘no’. When Jack and his Vietnamese mate stand up together and lead the school, teachers, parents, kids, neighbours, everyone to stand up.
How do I make JACK’s world yours? I’m a tricky writer. I draw unsuspecting readers into the familiar, the safe, with humour and narrative, until they’re captured emotionally, crying, laughing, angry, heroic, until JACK’s story is theirs.
The four ‘I Am Jack books’ invite critical thinking about bullying, blended families, aging grandparents, bush fires, multi-culturalism, community, terrorism, social responsibility within the safe and familiar context of family and community.
There are outstanding middle grade authors, whose books take readers into these areas. Authors include the classics such as the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis to books by Jackie French, David Almond, Jacqueline Wilson, Kate Di Camillo, Lois Lowry, Philip Pullman, Michael Rosen, Michael Morpurgo.
Young adult novels are edgier than middle grade, reflecting that perilous journey between childhood and adulthood. They are a time when identity is fragile, communication high-risk. It is a time of spiritual, sexual, emotional searching, friendship, peer group power, leadership, gender, dependence-independence in that journey for identity. There is a wealth of extraordinary authors who take young adults on this journey from the classic ‘Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger to the verse novels of Ellen Hopkins, the teen novels of Cath Cowley, Meg McKinley, A.J.Betts, Neil Gaiman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Markus Zusak, ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins.
In my YA novels I tackle the tough issues of search for identity, driven by extraordinary characters like JACK, who are ordinary too, like us. Despite the tough challenges, my books always offer hope. I have issues where YA books offer despair as the outcome. Adolescents are smart and filled with ideas, but have little experience of dealing with life. Story can take them into the darkest places. However there must be pathways out, so they can embrace their talents and address their world and the global world. The line I wrote in my YA novel ‘The Cave’, still moves me deeply:- ‘war is not brave, but men can be brave in war and in life.’ (The Cave, Chapter 13, page 141, HarperCollins)
Finally, what is the role of picture books in working towards global citizenship? The multi award winning picture book author/illustrator Mo Willems writes:
‘We create our work
for children not because they’re cute,
but because they’re human beings, deserving of respect.’
― Mo Willems
There are so many picture books that provide a quick rhyme, a rollicking jaunt, cliched themes with predictable outcomes. They are fine, but when you find the gems, they will enrich those very young readers to create a world that is filled with possibilities, ideas, exploration. Who can bypass ‘The Giving Tree’ by Shel Silverstein with its ethical question of what is unconditional love or unconditional selfishness? Or the books of Oliver Jeffers, David Wiesner, Munro Leaf, Julia Donalson and Axel Scheffler, Maurice Sendak. In my picture books I am driven by my commitment to partnering children as they face the world in those early years of development. ‘Ships in the Field’ is autobiographical as my family found home and hope in a new country, while ‘Gracie and Josh’ is about the bond of siblings despite the challenges of illness. ‘Elephants Have Wings’ embraces mindfulness and pathways to peace. I have had enormous pleasure from the endorsement of Good Vision for Life and Vision Australia, for ‘The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses’ which within the ambit of pirates, play, friendships, raises the issue of sight impairment and self and group acceptance of difference.
International Schools are at the forefront of creating global citizens and leaders of the future, as we seek to create an ethical world.
I will end with an endorsement I received for my YA novel, ‘Butterflies’ which still makes me emotional. I spent two years researching and writing ‘Butterflies’. Speaking at the World Burn Congress about the power of ‘Butterflies’ to provide succor and hope to burn survivors, families and community, was one of the great moments of my life. ‘Butterflies’ was written for all those who face the challenge of teenage years and coming out as warriors for an ethical world.
Dr Hugh Martin OAM
President of the Australian and New Zealand Burn Association and
Head of the Burn Unit, The Children’s Hospital Westmead, Sydney.
Every survivor has a story. Often the story is of interest, and even more often instructive. “Butterflies” is the story of a burn survivor, and is both interesting and instructive. It explores the complex areas of the emotional impact of a burn on the individual and family while giving insight into the world of hospitals, patients and doctors. It traces the development of the personality from insecurity and relative isolation to a healthier level of self esteem that enables the individual to form balanced relationships with family and friends. It shows how the inner person can triumph over a preoccupation with surface scars and know that basic values of commitment, caring and trust are more important than the texture of the skin.
‘Butterflies’ has relevance outside the narrow circle of burn survivors and their families. It shows the ebb and flow of emotions that affect us all, particularly in the transition between childhood and adulthood, and how parenting and family life make these bearable.
Those of us who are involved in the world of burns know how survivors need help from time to time, but slowly develop a depth of character and an inner strength which is rarely seen in others. Like tempering steel, the process of passing through the fire helps make a person of exceptional quality. “Butterflies” captures these subtleties for the reader, and gives a stunning insight into a difficult topic.
Paper: Butterflies: Youth Literature as a Powerful Tool in Understanding Disability: http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/844/1019
In 2015, I was deeply honoured to be awarded a Lifetime award for Social Justice through my body of works for young people, by the International Literacy Association.
This article was submit by guest author, Susanne Gervay OAM.
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