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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As a new cohort of graduating teachers look forward to their first role as newly qualified teachers, I reflected on how mine was coming to an end and contemplated on advice I would have given myself at the beginning of mine and how I might have done things differently.
My A-level chemistry teacher on my first day of A-levels taught me and my peers a very valuable lesson and outlook, and one I still use today. “Close your eyes and imagine it is results day and you receive your brown envelope with your results in it. You’ve applied to the university you want, and they have given you a conditional offer, all you need are the grades. You’re so nervous and all your friends also have theirs and are opening their envelopes one by one. As they do, a wave of euphoria and excitement hits them as each is successful, but now it’s your turn. You open your envelope. As your eyes glance along the bold letters, instead of the same ecstatic emotions, you feel distraught because you, out of all your friends, are the only one who missed, and what makes it worse, by one grade. The realisation sets in that you are not likely to get in to your first choice, maybe not even second, or worse still, not at all. The summer of relaxation before heading off to university vanished by the thought of frantic phone calls hoping and praying that clearing will allow you in, but it is still no guarantee. You think to yourself, if only I had a time machine I would go back and tell myself to work harder instead of going out every Tuesday because its student night or play that extra hour every night of COD and instead study.
Now, open your eyes. You found the time machine and you’re here, back at the start where you can put those things right. I exaggerate for effect of course but the premise is the same. There are a few things, had I known, I would have done differently, or paid more attention to, which would have made my NQT year a little easier, not least for starting and maintaining good habits. So as we dive in, do not take these as things you must do or “another one of those teachers who thinks they know everything” but someone offering some gentle thinking points about what might make your NQT year, and beyond, a little less stressful.
Most schools offer at least a 1-day induction. Some more and some offer PGCE students an early start at the school in June upon completion of the course. DO IT! I was unfortunate not to do this due to personal reasons (I got married instead) and had I known this I would have altered my wedding dates to allow me to attend the induction period at the very least. As a result, I started the academic year behind and it took me at least 7 weeks to get up to speed with the material, the schemes of work on top of other equally important bureaucracy areas such as behaviour policies, school policies etc. Our main job as teachers is to teach and if you are not comfortable with what you are teaching, everything else becomes much more difficult to understand and implement.
Aside from teaching you are expected to enforce and follow school policies ranging from behaviour management to meetings and duties. Naturally it will take some time to fully understand and feel comfortable and confident in following said policies as it is often much easier to understand once you see it in action. Try your best to think of every scenario and how you would deal with it. As you will likely be new in your school, the students will try you catch you out and push the boundaries. This is when they will find you if you know the policies or not and can set the tone for the rest of the year or longer. Read, read and read again and run through some scenarios in your head with how you would react and how you would deal with it.
There have been some improvements in recent years in terms of workload for teachers and one thing that has improved significantly is the quantity of marking. Though marking is immensely important, or I should say feedback, for student improvement, it can take up most of your time outside of the classroom leaving less time for planning and preparation. Each school will have their own marking policy and it is essential that you understand how the marking works and how often it needs to be completed. On top of this, it is important to understand HOW the marking is to be done and what notations should be used for the marking. I recommend making a timetable for yourself of which classes you will mark on which days and stick to it. A little marking everyday is much easier than no marking and having to do it all in one afternoon/evening. Your marking will also be more beneficial to the students as the marking time will be less each day so feedback will be more constructive than a standard comment.
During my PGCE one of the tasks we were asked to do was to track three students. By this they asked us to find information on them (SEN, PP etc) and then keep a record of how they were doing whether that be BfL, scores, homework or just a few notes about students that stood out, both strong and weak. Though the actual task was monotonous and tedious, I realised in my NQT year just how useful it is to do this. Each school has their own set of students with their own personalities. It really helps to get to know your students, what makes them tick and what makes them bored. Additionally, track students who have a record of being stronger and weaker and try to support them as much as you can. Every student needs to make progress so ensure you use techniques (extensions, scaffolding, keywords etc) to allow ALL students to progress.
There are a plethora of areas that schools can focus on and each school is different. Some schools focus on classroom environment and management, some on teaching and learning and others on the tasks surrounding it. All schools will have some form of CPD and twilight session to address all of these, but most will identify their weakest and try to improve them. Knowing what areas are being targeted helps you to understand the current ethos of the school and drive with all colleagues in the same direction. It also helps you when completing your official observations as it shows your observer you are paying attention to what management are wanting to focus on and that you are taking the CPD sessions seriously.
This isn’t a make or break but can lead to unnecessary stress at the start of term. In all schools I’ve been to, students like to think they are on control without being in control. They like to know that there is always someone else they can ask if they don’t know something. If you are asking students how to get to rooms, some students can get a bit confused and it may even harm your respect, particularly with the older students. It’s not the end of the world, but if you are constantly asking students, then it can have an impact. Get to know your rooms, how to get there from your previous room and what the layout is. This will help with room transitions so your start of lesson is as punctual as possible to cut down on classroom disruption as possible and knowing the layouts will help you organise your seating plan as early as possible to avoid classroom disruption.
All teachers will have some expertise in one area of teaching or more. Find out who these people are and what their specialism is. As an NQT you are expected to find more answers on your own so seeking out those who are more experienced could not be more important at this stage. If you are struggling with classroom management, as many teachers do, find out who is the expert. Ask them to sit in your lesson and to find out what you could improve. If you are struggling of thinking how to teacher a certain topic, find out the subject specialist and quiz them, or better still, observe their lessons to see how they engage their students. Questioning is a major focus currently. Seek out someone who is great at questioning students and having discussions.
In my first school I didn’t see my colleagues outside of school save for a wedding. I regret this looking back because I would have enjoyed my time a lot more had I made the effort to get more comfortable with my colleagues. I may have asked more questions and progressed more so as a teacher. There were some great teachers in the department so use them, both for professional advice and social relaxation. The usual Friday drinks at “the library” are there for a reason so go, enjoy yourself and moan to your hearts content so the people at home don’t have to listen.
The PGCE does a great job of getting teachers to become reflective. This becomes especially important as you enter your NQT year and beyond as there isn’t someone who is observing you most lessons and telling you where you need to improve. It is important than from the outset you assess yourself and think about common weaknesses over a series of lessons. One suggestion could be to keep a diary and write a few notes after each lesson/day about things that what went and things that didn’t. This will help you really understand areas of strength and weakness. Once your NQT year is complete, you will have yearly appraisals where you set your own targets and to meet them you need evidence. This relies on you knowing what our weaknesses are and how to overcome them which requires you to know yourself as a teacher.
Your NQT year is very important because it helps you to understand yourself and how to become an independent teacher. The career you have chosen is a very rewarding, challenging and exciting career. One with many prospects and benefits, both personally and professionally. This is your springboard for a (hopefully) long, happy and successful working life. Enjoy it, set out with the mindset you wish to continue with and try, though it may seem difficult at times, to relax, destress and remember why you got into teaching.
I hope these 10 suggestions help you enjoy a more productive and less stressful year. In my experience, my PGCE year was more stressful though not all teachers have the same opinion. Just remember, you’ve done it before, you can do it again.
This article was submitted by International School Community member, Steven Simnett.continue reading
“How about Italy?” she said.
I was lying on my friend’s couch. It was 2010. Los Angeles. I was 20, visiting from University in Boston.
That year I had stopped playing competitive tennis. I had a spinal injury. I was depressed.
“You love food,” she said.
2007. High school. End-of-the-year evaluations. My Spanish teacher sat me at a desk in the back of the room, away from the other students. She opened a manila folder with my final course grade, and then closed it.
“You have great tenacity,” she said.
“But you’ll never learn a foreign language.”
“It’s just a small application,” she said. “You’ll finish it by the afternoon!”
On the plane to Italy I sat next to a girl my age, knees shaking, scratching her wrist. She was crying.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“My father died on September 11th,” she said.
We held hands. And we took Italian together.
That summer we practiced Florence.
Fast forward to 2012. I studied more Italian at the Middlebury Language School. A couple teachers there helped me with my application to be a high school teacher abroad. I moved to Crema, Italy. The town is now known for the Oscar-winning movie “Call Me By Your Name.” Some days I’m jealous. If only the director had spotted me years ago! Seeking male 18-24 American, speaks French and Italian.
I speak French because I moved to Bordeaux.
Because why not?
My roommate was a grandmother. I still remember her first email to me:
“Malgré my advanced age it’ll be a pleasure to pick you up from the airport.” What does malgré mean?!
Despite. She was 74.
She stewed the best fig jam. Little dotlets of confitture and hot yellow butter, glistening against a crisp o’clock baguette.
My new grandmother got sick. She had to stay in the hospital for several weeks. She couldn’t swallow properly. I should’ve noticed. All the little yogurt spoons in the dishwasher.
I had to leave France when she was still in the hospital. She held my hand.
“Go, go, adventure!” she said.
I left for Los Angeles, a Master’s program. When I finished, I thought I was moving to Sweden, a fellowship I was applying for, a project between Portugal, Sweden and the United States.
I had to learn Portuguese and Swedish, enough so that I could pass the speaking portion of the B1 proficiency exams in both languages.
I touched every word I could find, working with online teachers, making sure I made that girl on the plane, and my French grandmother proud. Go, go, adventure!
If I listed to you the languages I now speak, it would sound arrogant. But to recount the sequence of events that make me feel like any language is possible, I turn to the territory of the heart.
It’s quite random, who opens us. It would be easy to say that my high school teacher’s ignorance was what fueled me to learn many languages. Perhaps a little fuel. It’s a more profound idea to say that the ultimate compassion of friends, teachers, and strangers transform us. It’s not one individual who lets us learn. It’s the fragile edges of connection, from a sofa to a girl on a plane to a malgré grandmother, all who expressed self-love and towards-love simultaneously. Not romantic love, but a spiritual love, surfaced through the language of kindness.
Kindness is not about the expectation of others. I was a New England kid who expected to stay in Boston my entire life. I was expected to never learn a language. Ignore the preconditions. Start listening to the language of kindness – “how about…?”, a child’s cry, the goodbye wave – as open acts to start a conversation. Language then becomes living – the courage to sit with others, which is a bodily language, a language of our senses, which I’d argue is the easiest way for us to learn a language, to be an expat.
Resistance to foreign culture isn’t necessary when we’re close to the senses of others. Spoons in a dishwasher aren’t just spoons. It’s a physical memory I can recall. A relationship tied to a breakfast table. Jam is sweeter, adventure more of a quest than an itinerary. More words absorbed than “do you speak French?”
I speak what needs to be held, with hands, with my eyes, with my stomach. That’s real multilingualism. In fountains, gardens, kitchens, courts, alleyways, with the falling leaves, and flowers blooming. That’s real learning.
Go, go, adventure.
Joshua Kent Bookman is a writer and artist. Like the characters of his book, “close to elsewhere,” he calls several places home, and has worked in France as an agricultural laborer, as a high school teacher in Italy, and tennis instructor in the United States. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1990.
“close to elsewhere” was released this summer by the Swedish publisher LYS. This is Bookman’s first novel.continue reading
When most international teachers move abroad, they aren’t thinking “oh, this is the country that I want to be living in for many, many years.” They also aren’t thinking “When I move there, I’m going to do whatever it takes to become a citizen.”
But somehow, some of us get ourselves into that exact position. What was once the goal of staying at an international school for 4-6 years has turned into 8, 10 or even more than 12 years!
If the situation is good where you are at, then why not stay?! Most likely, not everyone can work and live where you are. Actually, some international school teachers would probably die to live and work in your host country! (note: the grass is always greener problem…)
As you stay longer and longer in your host country, the question about trying to become a citizen starts to be a popular one to talk about and discuss (depending on where you are living, of course).
Things to think about:
What are the requirements to becoming a citizen in your host country? There are many in some cases!
Can you have dual citizenship so that you don’t have to give up your home country passport? Some of us would very quickly give up our home country passport, but many of us would very much not!
What is the time frame for waiting around to get your citizenship application approved? In some countries the processing time can take up to two years!
So the question comes, what then does it take to actually become a citizen?
You will probably have to fork over a sizeable amount of money for your application. Could be from hundreds of USDs to thousands of USDs!
You will probably have to pass some sort of host country language test. Some countries don’t have this as a requirement, but others do. Sometimes just having a A2/B1 level is alright, but other countries might want higher than that!
You will also most likely need to pass some sort of citizenship exam. There will be a bunch of questions about the culture, history, politics, laws, etc. of the country. It can take quite some effort to read and study about all of these topics so that you can pass this exam.
Once you pass all the tests and pay all the fees, the next step is to complete and submit the application and also to check and see if you meet the rest of the requirements. For example, if you have unpaid speeding tickets from driving, that can be a problem. If you have received some financial support from the government in the past few years, that can also be a deterrent. Other problems can include: if you have been outside of the country for more than 6 months, if you haven’t been making a certain amount of money during the time you’ve been working there, if you haven’t had full time work for the duration of your stay so far, etc. All of these things can delay or make it so that your host country will refuse your application.
Even if it is fun to get caught up in all the excitement of becoming a dual citizen, what does it mean to really be a citizen of your host country? Maybe you have got married to a local and had children together and need to get citizenship so that everyone in your family has the same legal rights in the country. That can be stressful for you until you get the passport!
Another question to ask yourself: Once you get citizenship, does that mean you will stay there the rest of your life and that your life as a roving international school teacher is over? That prospect could sound daunting to some people. It is good to have choices though in life. Once you get a host country passport, you could still move and try living somewhere else for a bit, and then you can rest knowing that you could always move back if you want. If your new passport is from an EU country, that would definitely open up more possibilities for places to live and work without the hassle of having some school sponsor you in anyway (which is often a problem for most schools in EU).
We all know that the passport you hold can really make a difference in many ways. If you have an EU passport, you can often get through passport control much faster. If you want to visit Iran, then it would be much easier to go there on an EU passport vs. a USA one. If you want to vote and participate in the main elections in your host country, a passport will allow you to do just that. If you want to get out of teaching and your current job, a passport would allow you to try out a different school or even a different career. The benefits and advantages go on and on…
Of course, the main advantage of having a host country passport is that you can rest and relax knowing that you will not be kicked out of the country for any reason, you will have the same legal rights as any of the other citizens there, and you can stay as long as you want and enjoy the country that you have gotten to know and fall in love with over the years. Even though you probably don’t have your own relatives and direct family there with you, you can stay with and build even stronger relationships with your new family in your host country (or now just your country).continue reading
Mitesh Patel discusses the steps teachers can take to look after their mental and physical health when working in a new country.
Securing a new teaching position abroad can be tremendously exciting, particularly if you’ve triumphed through a frustrating and long-winded application process. It can be so exciting that it’s easy to forget that travelling abroad and living abroad are two very different things. Whereas when you’re on holiday it’s all about fun and relaxation, moving overseas means you need to be mindful of the more mundane practicalities of everyday life.
In fact, feeling at home in your new country is often the deciding factor in the success of a new assignment. You’ll find that a little planning goes a long way in staying mentally and physically safe and well when you teach abroad. Here are some simple tips to get you off to the best possible start:
Mitesh Patel is the medical director at Aetna International. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.aetnainternational.comcontinue reading