What makes students succeed Page 8
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THE BEST CAMBRIDGE CANDIDATE & SCHOLAR? Dominika is 18 years old d – she is a scholarship student and candidate for Cambridge University to read Architecture. She is an artist, kick boxer and hardworking student of the English International School, Prague. Dominika loves travelling, languages and has performed in theatre. More about Dominika on www.eisp.cz We think we are the best international school in Prague. Visit us to nd out whether we are the best for your child. The English International School, Prague, Brunelova 960/12, Prague 4 - Libus, 142 00, tel: 272 181 911, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.eisp.cz
THE ULTIMATE ITALIAN ART OF CREATING JEWELS
Roberto Coin Boutique Parˇížská 1, 110 00 Praha 1 robertocoin.com
What makes students succeed Page 10
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Family Matters Issue 2 Contributions welcome from all of the Prague community. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
The English International School firstname.lastname@example.org
Travis Murray email@example.com
Travis Murray firstname.lastname@example.org
Aelred Doyle email@example.com
FAMILY MATTERS EDITOR’S WORD
n interesting thing happened to me on a recent trip to my native country that I had yet to experience in my years as an expat living abroad. I’m not sure what the precise term for it is, but I imagine it might be called reverse culture shock. While most people are aware of what culture shock is and how it affects those who have relocated to a foreign land, I’m quite sure far fewer have experienced the opposite effect – returning to their native country and having culture shock deja vu, so to speak. Over the course of my time abroad I’ve generally visited home (I still call it that) with regularity, at least twice a year for a few weeks at a time. However, over the past three years, due to my work schedule and other international travel, I had not been back, instead opting for Skype video calls on holidays and birthdays. Understandably, I
didn’t fully understand the effect that this prolonged absence was going to have on me. The most interesting and annoying aspect of my experience was my seeming lack of ability to shut out the voices of others in public places. Upon visiting the food court of a busy shopping mall, I found myself unable to enjoy the long-missed food that I had specifically sought out on this occasion. Instead, the conversations of those around me overtook my mind, causing what could be described as a minor anxiety attack. Perhaps it might be better to describe it more as indoor road rage rather than anxiety, but either way, I desperately wanted those around me to stop talking. I didn’t want to hear about Justin Bieber’s new song or that it might rain later that afternoon. I didn’t want to know. So I grabbed my food and
exited stage left, finding a quiet bench outside to enjoy my lunch on. I realised at that moment that my long immersion among people who spoke a language I didn’t understand had weakened some mental muscle I didn’t know I had. Apparently that muscle allowed me, and presumably others, to block out the noise of those around me. It was sort of like taking off your sunglasses on a sunny day, exept that your eyes don’t adjust. Sensory overload, in other words. While the symptoms did seemingly subside in time and were by no means cause for genuine concern, the experience did instil in me an appreciation for one aspect of expat life that is generally overlooked – peace and quiet amidst the cacophony of everyday life. § The Family Matters team
CONTRIBUTORS Sarah Ford firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Kucker email@example.com Wade Dawson firstname.lastname@example.org
The English International School Prague Brunelova 960/12 142 00 Prague 4 Tel: (+420) 272 181 911 Fax: (+420) 272 181 924 Email: email@example.com Entire contents © 2011 by Family Matters Magazine unless otherwise noted on specific articles
12 20 24 Facts Machine
making the best choice
do we speak their language?
Mark Angus offers helpful insight into how to get the most out of your school
Antony Winch takes a look at the questions parents should ask when choosing a school
Sarah Ford offers insight into how to improve your child’s language skills
8 XX What makes students succeed? Mark Wilson explores the formula for educational success
52 62 66 82 Playful Prague
taking the plunge
Bank of mum and dad
Suchi Rudra explores the familyoriented playful side of Prague
Suchi Rudra takes a peek into Pragueâ€™s village neighbourhood
The challenges and rewards for expat children
Some advice on financing your childâ€™s education
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COMMENT Why we need some good old fashioned advice
The art of getting your children to talk to you
Some reasons people avoid seeking help even though they need it
Helpful ideas to encourage better communication at home
roblems come in different shapes and sizes – from minor inconveniences to crisis situations that can’t be outrun or wished away. There’s no way to escape these trials of faith and sanity other than facing them head on.
from getting the help they need, because they value what others think about them more than what they need emotionally and psychologically. They fail to see the value of professional counselling, which is objective, scientific and result-oriented.
Among the difficulties people face every day, none are so distressing and painful as relationship problems. These can cause a great deal of stress and even lead to depression, and fights between couples can become so overblown that the only way for the fight to end is for a mediator to come in. Sometimes, a mediator is needed to be a third party, a referee or a peacemaker. The mediator is also expected to provide the necessary guidance and counselling to the feuding parties.
Fear The fear of facing the truth and reliving painful experiences like sexual or physical abuse, drug addiction or trauma from violent incidents can prevent people from going to a counsellor. Remembering painful memories is usually part of counselling sessions and therapy. These memories cause fear and anxiety on the part of the patient. But if someone under great stress or suffering from severe depression neglects to get proper therapy, the problem can be expected to get worse. Reopening a painful emotional wound is never pleasant, but we don’t heal unless we learn to face, and eventually cast away, painful memories from our past. Through counselling, people with serious problems can learn to adjust and cope with their emotional and psychological issues.
Still, many involved in a tussle refuse to acknowledge the need for counselling. Whether we’re talking about a married or engaged couple, siblings or very close friends who suddenly became bitter enemies, the thought of seeking professional help just doesn’t come to mind. Many people hold back from seeking counselling for the following reasons: State of denial Angry people sometimes deny the existence of a problem. With stubborn pride, an angry person can just fume away and dismiss the need to control anger and resolve a problem, believing in effect that things will simply sort themselves out. People can also camouflage or mask their vulnerabilities by refusing to seek help. They see counselling as a situation that will expose them for who they are, warts and all. They wish to avoid that kind of vulnerability at all costs and, as a result, find themselves in a state of denial. Social stigma Some people have a misconception that only mentally troubled people go to therapy. This mindset prevents a lot of people
Religious stigma Some associate counselling with religion or dogmatic beliefs, making the act of getting counselling uncomfortable for those who don’t consider themselves religious or spiritual. While many people have found comfort and refuge in churchbased counselling sessions, many are still wary of getting counselling there since they think they will have to become a member of the church. Few people are strong enough to face life’s storms alone, and there’s no shame in seeking counselling to cope with relationship problems. The important thing is to put time and commitment into your relationship, in the hope of positive results, and over time the resolution of your problems. §
eing a parent isn’t easy. Some days just getting everyone in your family all together at the same time for dinner can seem like an impossible dream. Between after-school sports and clubs and working and errands and carpools, it’s not surprising that almost half the parents in a recent survey said they felt a growing distance between themselves and their children. Today’s children have more things to deal with than kids did even just twenty years ago. Drugs, mixed messages in advertising, peer pressure, packed schedules and outside activities all add to the pressure they face. So how, in the midst of all this chaos, do you find time to talk to your kids – and more importantly, have them talk back to you? Here are several ideas that can help: 1. Eat dinner together as a family at least three times a week. Conversations flow easier when they happen around the dinner table. If your family is conversationally challenged at first, think of conversation starters before each meal. Plan a family vacation, letting each child talk about where they’d like to go or what they’d like to do. Talk about current events, the latest films or upcoming special events. Ask your children open-ended questions that have to be answered with more than a yes or no. 2. Turn off the outside world. Set aside family time each night and have everyone turn off their phones, computers and the television. Let your friends and extended family know that you won’t be available during that time, and stick to it. Your kids (especially teenagers) may joke about it, but secretly they’ll probably be delighted. Use this time to reconnect with each other. Watch a film, play board games, take turns reading out loud, but whatever you do, do it together.
3. Cook at least one meal a week together. Even your youngest children can do something to help. If your kitchen is too small for everyone to fit, schedule a helper or make your children responsible for different parts of the meal. Your family will grow closer during this time, and your kids may even start the conversations themselves. (You can always get the ball rolling by talking about things you did with your parents. While you may not be cool, chances are your kids think your parents are, and will be impressed.) 4. Make it safe for your kids to talk to you. Let them know that you won’t get angry or upset if they talk to you about what’s going on. If they tell you something off the record then make sure it stays that way (emergencies and dangerous situations aside). 5. Listen to what they have to say. If you’re working or doing something else when your child starts to talk to you, they may give up if they know your attention is really somewhere else. Give them your undivided attention when they’re speaking. 6. Use active listening skills. Make sure that you understand what your child is telling you. Repeat what they told you and ask questions. 7. Set aside special time to spend with each child. It may be nothing more than taking one child at a time with you when you run errands, but let each child know that you value spending special time with them. 8. Be patient. Don’t expect a perfect family. If you’re not a 1950s TV family, it’s okay. Remember that perfect families don’t really exist anyway. Just keep trying, and you’ll learn the art of conversation with your kids isn’t as hard as you thought! §
WHAT MAKES A STUDENT SUCCEED? HOW TO ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD THROUGHOUT THEIR SCHOOL YEARS By Mark Wilson
ENCOURAGE INQUIRY All children are born with an inquisitive approach to life. They study the faces peering at them from birth and learn to read the expressions and the tones of voice. They test their parents by wanting to put their fingers in danger, put dirty things in their mouth and climb on things that are high! Adults recognise the dangers inherent in such inquiry but also value the spirit with which such inquiry promotes learning. Inquiry is a key element of a child’s learner profile and at the heart of all learning. Creating a learning environment in which students feel confident to explore, grow and challenge themselves is what all good schools should set out to do.
MAKE THE MOST OF THE EARLY YEARS Professor Paul Bloom argues that 50 percent of learning takes place before the age of four and another 30 percent between four and eight years old. Children learn through their five senses – of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell – and the sixth step
THE ONLY DUMB QUESTION IS THE QUESTION YOU DON’T ASK Paul MacCready, inventor
of what we do physically. Each moment is a learning experience. They love to touch things, find out how they work, explore space and their environment and imitate adults. All of these learning activities create pathways in the brain, either new if it is the first time or building on existing pathways. Children learn to talk by talking; they learn to crawl by crawling; and, they learn to walk by walking. Giving students the opportunity to learn by using all their senses, and especially by doing, is another key element to fostering success. All the best sports people learn by doing. Roger Federer did not perfect his serve by reading about it; Tiger Woods does not improve his short game by watching videos of others chipping; David Beckham certainly did not learn to cross a ball by listening to others discuss it. The best way to learn is to do. Success is aided by giving students the opportunity and confidence to learn by doing, reflecting on their progress and doing it again.
MAKE THE MOST OF THE WORLD AROUND YOU Our homes, our beaches, our parks, our forests, our streets, our cities are all great places to learn as long as children are encouraged to explore them safely, through all their senses. Taking a walk around a wood provides endless opportunities for learning about nature, science and the world around us. Finding your way around a complex subway station is a real world numeracy lesson. My son has guided us around stations by reading the numbers on signs since he first started being able to do so. This links perfectly
30% of a child’s learning occurs between the ages of four and eight, according to Professor Bloom
to educational research, which tells us to link learning to real world experiences in order to create deeper learning and meaning for students.
ENCOURAGE POSITIVITY We all know how we feel after positive comments and how we feel after negative comments. Accelerated learning pioneer Colin Rose says: “It is true that throughout life if you think you are a poor learner then you probably are a poor learner.” American research shows that young people are likely to hear six times more negative comments than positive ones. Comments like: “Don’t do that. Don’t touch that. Don’t play with that.”
the age at which a child is said to have done 50% of their learning, according to Professor Bloom
EIGHT-YEAR-OLD CHILDREN HAVE A RADICALLY DIFFERENT LEARNING STRATEGY FROM TWELVE-YEAROLDS AND ADULTS. EIGHT-YEAR-OLDS LEARN PRIMARILY FROM POSITIVE FEEDBACK (‘WELL DONE!’) Science Daily (September 27, 2008)
The power of positive thought is well documented. Whole industries are being built around positive thought and vision. Muhammad Ali, arguably the world’s greatest boxer, made 19 predictions about the round in which he would win a fight in his career. He was right, to the round, in 17 out of 19 fights, which he puts down to visualising success. To create an atmosphere of positivity is to create an atmosphere of learning.
litres a day to stay effectively hydrated. Water, not energy drinks.
COMMUNICATION & CONCENTRATION. PARENTS
communication triangle STUDENTS
DEVELOP GOOD COMMUNICATION BETWEEN PARENT, CHILD AND SCHOOL The world is based on good communication. Schools, parents and students all play equal parts in ensuring that there is good communication. Create, foster and develop good communication between these three elements and you open dialogues that will help guide each component through the journey, through the changes and towards success for the students, parents and school.
EAT, DRINK AND SLEEP WELL Your brain needs energy from food to work: “As an adult, the brain weighs 2% of your total weight but uses 20% of all energy you develop.” (The Learning Revolution, 2004, Dryden and Vos) The most important meal of the day is often cited as breakfast. Not only does it kick-start the metabolism and awaken our bodies to work effectively, it also provides the energy our brain needs to begin working well. We would not try and exercise our leg muscles by going for a run without making sure we had taken on board the food to provide the energy required. Athletes use carbohydrates as these release energy slowly and enable longer training periods. Our brain, like all other organs, requires food to make it work. The right type of food is important. Junk food, crisps and chocolate do not have a sustained energy input. Fresh fruit (bananas are good because of their high
loss in hydration
potassium levels, as are fruit with high Vitamin C like oranges) and vegetables are good because they are high in glucose, which is what the brain requires for energy. Staying hydrated is also very important. 5% dehydration = 20% loss in concentration. Drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated. Studies show that people should drink between one and two litres of water a day to remain effectively hydrated. Tea and coffee do not count as hydration. Energy drinks like Red Bull are very high in caffeine and will give a shortterm hit of energy, but this is not sustained and will leave you feeling worse within about 20-30 minutes. Likewise, drinks high in sugar will give a short energy hit but not sustain or hydrate you. Always have a bottle of water with you when studying. Sleep is important for refreshing the brain and the body. A shortage of sleep will affect performance and the lower energy levels will affect concentration. A student should aim for eight hours of sleep minimum.
PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE As adults (teachers and parents) we need to develop our skills to support learners. Maccoby and Martin (1983) established four main types of parenting behaviour: authoritative, where high standards are explained and reasons for controls are given; permissive, where parents emphasise freedom of expression with few controls; uninvolved, where parents neglect the emotional needs of the child; and authoritarian, where parents engage in high levels of control and lower levels of affection. They believed that while these are used by different people to varying degrees at different times, generally punishment has to be balanced with praise; leniency has to be balanced
20% loss in concentration
IF I HAD MY CHILD TO RAISE ALL OVER AGAIN, I’D FINGER PAINT MORE, AND POINT THE FINGER LESS. I’D DO LESS CORRECTING, AND MORE CONNECTING. I’D TAKE MY EYES OFF MY WATCH, AND WATCH WITH MY EYES. I WOULD CARE TO KNOW LESS, AND KNOW TO CARE MORE. I’D TAKE MORE HIKES, AND FLY MORE KITES. I’D STOP PLAYING SERIOUS, AND SERIOUSLY PLAY. I’D RUN THROUGH MORE FIELDS, AND GAZE AT MORE STARS. I’D DO MORE HUGGING, AND LESS TUGGING. I WOULD BE FIRM LESS OFTEN, AND AFFIRM MUCH MORE. I’D BUILD SELF ESTEEM FIRST, AND THE HOUSE LATER. I’D TEACH LESS ABOUT THE LOVE OF POWER, AND MORE ABOUT THE POWER OF LOVE. Diane Loomans, Full Steam Ahead
EDUCATION with rules and controls; authority has to be backed with reason. In the same way as authoritative leaders create effective schools, so we find that authoritative adults are best placed to support learners. The key to a childâ€™s success is providing boundaries, explaining reasons for the limitations placed on them and providing a warm, supportive environment without over-indulgence. No one ever said that it was easy to be a parent or a teacher. However, when we establish the right balance for the needs of the individual child, success is guaranteed for the healthy, happy development of the child. Â§
Facts Machine GIVE YOUR NEW SCHOOL ALL THE INFORMATION THEY CAN HANDLE by Mark Angus
veryone wants the business of starting in a new school to be as smooth, quick and painless as possible, especially if it’s also in a new country. Pupils want to meet their new classmates and teachers and make friends as soon as they can, while parents want to feel reassured that they have made the right decision and that their child will be happy and flourish in their new environment, so they can stop worrying!
Schools also want joining a new learning environment to be a positive experience for all concerned. They want to get to know you and your child, to welcome you into the community and to be able to get on with the business of helping pupils to learn as soon as they can. So while different schools in different countries with different systems might all have their own registration, enrolment and induction procedures, each with their own particular idiosyncrasies, there is nevertheless one constant, one thing that any school wants about their new starters, wherever in the world that school is – everyone wants information. Therefore, you can really help your new school simply by giving them as much information about your child as you possibly can. You might think that schools are only interested in dry, academic documentation. Of course this is important, but schools are about so much more than this and, as a consequence, they value and appreciate information from as wide a variety of sources as possible. It might seem irrelevant, unimportant or even silly, but you’d be surprised at what schools can make out of seemingly unpromising material.
School reports vary markedly around the world, depending on factors such as whether the school is in the independent or maintained sector, the style of curriculum and assessment, the frequency of the reports and a host of other things besides
What do schools want to know? Academic School reports vary markedly around the world, depending on factors such as whether the school is in the independent or maintained sector, the style of curriculum and assessment, the frequency of the reports and a host of other things besides. It may be that the school reports you have are familiar to us, or they may represent a new variation on a theme that we have not encountered before. Don’t worry – whatever the format, a school report will always provide us with useful information and therefore you should provide your new school with all the reports you have, not only the most recent ones. A range of reports over a number of years allows a school to see the ways in which a pupil has developed and gives them some idea as to what might be to come. Your previous schools may also have provided you with other documentation, and it’s useful for us to see that too. These documents might include: standardised test scores; CAT scores (cognitive ability test); educational psychologist reports; speech or occupational therapy reports; reading age scores. These and similar documents will always be useful, as they help us to make sure we are setting the right targets for
new pupils and challenging them appropriately right from the beginning. However, other seemingly less significant material is also of use to us. Small academic prizes might not in themselves demonstrate the direction of a pupil’s future career, but they nevertheless help a new school build up a more complete picture of that pupil as quickly as possible. Therefore, don’t underestimate the value of that Year 3 award for spelling, or that teacher’s commendation for a project, or that prize for memorising times tables – they all help us to understand your child’s overall approach to school, the pride they take in their work and their ability to do well under pressure or under test conditions. Knowing this information can sometimes save us a lot of time in getting to know just where your child’s particular strengths are. Community involvement All schools, and international schools in particular, place a good deal of emphasis on helping pupils to understand the importance of engaging with the community, learning about social responsibility and tackling difficult questions about how the wider world works. Therefore, it is extremely helpful to know the level to which pupils have previously been engaged in addressing these and other related issues.
For older students, we value very highly pupils who have taken part in the International Award (called the Duke of Edinburgh Award in the UK), as it means that they are already on the way to understanding the importance of civic responsibility. Likewise, pupils who have been involved in Model United Nations possess a degree of political and social understanding that sets them apart from their peers. This is information that your new school will definitely want to know about and will be useful in establishing the right expectations. In the case of younger pupils, involvement in organisations such as Boy Scouts or Cubs, Girl Guides or Brownies, army, navy or air force cadets, European Youth Forum, Rotary International, Junior Chamber International, Raleigh International or any similar organisation is also valued highly. If your child has been involved in a group or organisation of this nature, your new school will want to hear about it. It’s also useful if your child can speak enthusiastically about their involvement and what they learned from the experience. However, it isn’t necessary to have a certificate or badge to demonstrate the level of engagement. If your child has been involved in any sort of charity or community project, whether at their previous school or through an outside agency, encourage them to talk about it and describe the sort of work they did and what they felt the
School bus connection from/to Prague 1, 2, 4 and Pruhonice.
THE BEST TEACHER & CHEEKY ACTOR? Ben is 8 years old â€“ he is an actor, artist, student councilor, teacher and a cheeky student of the English International School, Prague. Apart from having two roles in the panto, he loves art, is an active member of the student council and helps his younger friend with mathematics. More about Ben on www.eisp.cz We think we are the best international school in Prague. Visit us to ďƒžnd out whether we are the best for your child. The English International School, Prague, Brunelova 960/12, Prague 4 - Libus, 142 00, tel: 272 181 911, email@example.com, www.eisp.cz
A range of reports over a number of years allows a school to see the ways in which a pupil has developed and gives them some idea as to what might be to come
benefits were – this is the sort of conversation that principals love to have with prospective pupils and families, and that will really help your new school welcome you into its community. Sports A lot of the school sport in international schools is of an extremely high standard and very competitive, and so principals are always keen to hear about new pupils’ sporting skills and exploits. Therefore, this is an area where it’s useful to provide as much documentation and physical evidence as you can. If your child has earned medals, certificates, ribbons or badges for any sort of sporting event then it’s always a good idea to bring them along to an interview or meeting. Have they set a school or district record? Been involved in a championship winning team? Won a gold medal? Been selected to represent their county, state or country? Achievements like these are things to be proud of and shared, and you should encourage your child to talk confidently about their favourite sport and discuss their achievements as maturely as possible. However, people don’t have to be an expert or a champion, or even especially skilled, to enjoy sport; it doesn’t matter at which level your child has competed or if they have ever been a gold medallist; the very fact that they enjoy and take part in a sport will be important to their new school, and so they should feel comfortable discussing what it is that they like about their sport, and why.
Extracurricular activities There are as many extracurricular activities to potentially talk about as there are pupils in the world, so no matter what your child’s into, tell us about it! There are formal activities from which you may have supporting, documentary material (it’s helpful to collate this and be prepared to present it during an interview or meeting), or there are smaller-scale activities organised on a much more casual basis. In either case, it’s really helpful if your child feels secure and confident enough to be able to talk about them with us. They may be a musician who has completed grade examinations (the universal standard for describing competence and confidence on an instrument); they can show us the pieces they’re working on now to give us a good understanding of their level so we can match them up with the right teachers and fellow musicians. They may have been in an orchestra or ensemble at their old school, in which case it is really useful if they can talk about the pieces they played and their composers, as well as describe their role in the group. Or perhaps they were in a band – again, it helps if they’re able to talk about the type of music they play, and discuss their influences and the other sorts of music that they like. There are many fascinating things out there that people are interested in, and so many things we are interested in hearing your child talk about. Maybe they can speak other languages. Are into mountain climbing. Have an unusual pet. Have travelled to exotic locations. Have met someone famous. Collect antique coins. Like going to the theatre. Spent some time in hospital. Are part of
a large family. Anything! We think hearing them talk about it will help us understand the sort of person and pupil they’re going to be. Therefore, perhaps the most important thing when your child meets people at their new school is that they know how to talk about what interests them. Can they explain when they first became interested in mountain climbing? What is the most valuable coin in their collection? Why do they like to travel? What is the play they have most enjoyed? Their aim should be to share with us their knowledge, understanding and passion for their hobbies and interests, so that we get a good idea of what makes them tick.
Next steps In the end, you really can’t be too prepared when your child is applying to a new school: • Get as many documents together as you can, even if they seem unimportant or trivial. • Get your child ready to show off their sporting medals and ribbons. • Think about the way in which your child presents him- or herself, and make sure that they’re confident talking about and answering questions about their hobbies or interests. Doing all of this will help the school to get to know your child as quickly as they can, and then everyone – him or her included – can get straight down to the serious business of really enjoying the new school. §
helping others to be the best they can be WWW.NORDANGLIA.COM/PRAGUE
ducation and learning have always been our focus and our area of expertise. Our people and the people we work with all have a good understanding of what this means to us. We aim to provide students with the opportunity to be the best they can be.
HELPING We do everything to support people and be useful to them, always keeping their best interests at heart. OTHERS Our communities: students, parents, policy makers, the societies in which we live and, of course, our own people. Our work reaches all of them. THRIVE To grow. To flourish. To learn. To be inspired. To stretch yourself further than you, or anyone else, thought possible. To experience more. To keep going, onwards and upwards, closer and closer to your aims and dreams.
EMAIL US AT ADMISSIONS@EISP.CZ OR CALL +420 272 181 911 TO ARRANGE A VISIT TO OUR SCHOOL OR TO ORDER A SCHOOL PROSPECTUS
making the best choice What kind of school is right for you? By Antony Winch Vice Principal, School Leader – Student Experience The English International School Prague
arlier this year, my brother was looking for a school for his children. He phoned me and asked what he should look for in a school. I told him that he shouldn’t be influenced just by what he sees. His reply to this was, “OK, then what should I ask about?” It’s a good question. When visiting schools, you’ll probably be shown around the building and given lots of information. At some point you should be able to ask questions; and in my opinion, there are five key questions you should ask. • What curriculum do you use? • What are the school’s visions or aims? • Do students make progress? • Is the school open, can it support the claims it makes, and how? • When my child leaves your school, what kind of child will they be?
EDUCATION Primary Years Programme (PYP)
What curriculum do you use? The curriculum is of significant importance to you and your child. In trying to establish which is best, you need to think of the long term. For example, if you’re going to be abroad for two years you may consider whether you wish to study a curriculum closely linked to that back home. If you know you’ll be posted to different countries, then you should choose a curriculum used by many international schools worldwide. There are a number of curricula used in international schools: American curriculum The American curriculum is designed to provide American children with the equivalent of the education they would receive back in the US. It helps students progress towards the SAT, but in my experience students who have studied a British curriculum, IGCSEs or the IB can also succeed on the SAT. International Primary Curriculum (IPC) The IPC is only followed by 563 schools around the world, in 41 countries. The vast majority are in the UK (413) or the Netherlands (60) and many are not international schools. So why mention it? To make the point that a curriculum needs to be portable if you’ll be moving between countries. There are 5,979 international schools in the world (according to www.iscresearch.com) so only 8 percent use the IPC. The IPC is thus not very portable.
In the IBPYP the written curriculum is arranged within six “transdisciplinary themes”. The themes are: • Who we are • Where we are in place and time • How we express ourselves • How the world works • How we organise ourselves • Sharing the planet Teachers use these themes to create lessons in six subject areas: language, social studies, mathematics, arts, science and personal, social and physical education. The National Curriculum of England, Wales and Northern Ireland The National Curriculum is taught by 21,000 schools in the UK and around the world. It has been well embedded and as such there is plenty of teaching material and professional development courses to enable teachers to deliver it. It assesses well, allowing teachers to monitor their students’ progress . It builds on the Early Years Foundation Stage (PN to Reception), which also monitors children’s progress closely. A criticism that could be made of the National Curriculum is that it’s too British. In this situation it’s worth asking whether the curriculum has been adapted to make it more international. Middle Years Programme (MYP) for 11-to-16-year-olds A student on the MYP programme studies their mother tongue, a second language, humanities,
sciences, mathematics, arts, physical education and technology. They also need to show their understanding in their final year through a project. Critics of the MYP argue that assessment is not rigorous and that all students who complete the final two years receive a certificate. International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) The IGCSE is the international version of the British GCSE. It allows students to take approximately 10 exams, and for many schools is seen as a rigorous assessment. IGCSEs don’t follow the National Curriculum, are very flexible and cater for students in over 100 countries. In the UK, where more private schools are adopting it, IGCSEs are seen as more challenging for brighter students. Traditionally IGCSE courses are taken over two years in Years 10 and 11. The IB Diploma Programme The philosophy of the IB Diploma Programme is to make students “enquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, well-balanced and reflective”. This is a philosophy that we’re embedding across EISP, from the youngest to the oldest. The IB prepares students for life beyond school – whether this be university or the workplace. Students must choose a broad curriculum which includes languages, social studies, the experimental sciences, mathematics and possibly the arts. In addition, students must:
There are many schools to search through, but hopefully, by asking the five key questions, your search will be a little easier and you’ll be more reliably informed about the school you choose for your child
• write an extended essay • study Theory of Knowledge – critically reflecting on the nature of knowledge • undertake Creativity, Action, Service, which involves learning and helping others outside the classroom
What are the school’s visions or aims? In many ways this may seem like just a tagline, but it’s important that you, as a parent, agree with the school’s vision and make sure both you and the school understand what it means. If the vision is “A school where people want to be”, then you should ask why people want to be there, or ask the people themselves. If it’s “Helping others to be the best they can be”, how does the school do this?
do students make progress? Every school will say yes and probably add, “Look at our IGCSE results or IB results.” These are important, but do they show a student has made progress? If a genius student enters the school in Year 12 and achieves 45 out of 45 in the IB, have they made progress? Or if a child
with learning difficulty enters the school and achieves 12/45, have they made progress? Can a school show you how it ensures its students make progress?
Is the school open, can it support the claims it makes, and how? Many schools have a ‘wow’ factor – for example, the arts or sport facilities may be amazing. It’s easy to be distracted by this and not consider that a school should give your child the best possible start in life. A school may have a great theatre, but that doesn’t help if your child can’t do maths. If a school says, “Our children are super in English,” or makes other claims, have the school prove it. If a school says, “The behaviour in our school is first-class,” ask how they know. If a school claims that all its teachers and teaching are outstanding, ask how they have come to that conclusion.
When my child leaves your school, what kind of child will they be?
earlier? Or a different philosophy? You need to ask yourself how you’d like your child to develop while at school.
Conclusion So how many other international schools are there around the world? Per www.tieonline.com/ view_article.cfm, the numbers are as follows: • American international schools – 197 in 138 countries • Canadian international schools – dozens in over 30 countries • British international schools – 2,200 in every corner of the globe • IB schools – could be any of the above and provide for over a million children There are many schools to search through, but hopefully, by asking the five key questions, your search will be a little easier and you’ll be more reliably informed about the school you choose for your child. At The English International School Prague, we welcome such questions and are confident that we can answer them well. §
When a child leaves an international school, will he or she embody the IB profile mentioned
ony is the Assistant Principal and holds a Masters in Education. He joined the school when it moved to its new site five years ago and has previously taught in Romania, Switzerland, Sri Lanka and in Prague, where he was the Head of another international primary school. Since joining The English International School Prague he has taught throughout the school and moved from being Head of Primary to Assistant Principal three years ago. His roles include managing the curriculum, timetabling, administrating the school database and overseeing the virtual learning environment known as Moodle. When he’s not in school, he can be found learning to play guitar and rock climbing, though not at the same time. Vice Principal, School Leader – Student Experience The English International School Prague
Do we speak their language? HOW WE ENCOURAGE OUR YOUNGSTERS – AND THOSE NOT SO YOUNG – TO IMPROVE THEIR LANGUAGE SKILLS Sarah Ford Subject Leader for Languages The English International School Prague
Designing a policy Reading the IB Learner Profile, we find that the IB programme is designed to overcome boundaries defined by cultures or languages. An IB school helps its learners to become thinkers, enquirers and risk-takers. To be knowledgeable, yet open-minded, balanced and reflective. To be caring and principled. And to be communicators. With these qualities in mind we can design a Language Policy. What is our main aim for our language learners? Is it simply that they leave our classes able to speak a foreign language? Or is it something that’s much more complicated – more ‘IB’ – than that? Speaking foreign languages is about much more than simply speaking, as anyone who has learnt a second language knows. There are endless lists of new vocabulary to learn, for starters. Then come the grammar rules which, if you study Slavic languages with seven or more cases, can give any student a headache with too much exposure. Then – just when you think you can put together a sentence and express something even vaguely close to what you want to say – there’s always someone around to correct your accent or pronunciation, or to laugh at the offensive thing you just accidentally said.
anguage-learning is a topic which always provokes passionate discussion in international communities. From the translators who wrestle daily with the complexities of syntax to the travellers who swap tales of hilarious misunderstandings in bars of an evening, we can all share our own stories of life in a multilingual setting. In a school, it’s parents, leaders, teachers and other stakeholders who come together to decide on language policy and to
work out how we can best develop our students’ confidence and competence in foreign languages. At EISP we’re working hard to develop simultaneously these two strands of language-learning: policy and practice. Parents often ask me how they can help their children with their language learning, and I reassure them continually that there are many ways to support our policy and our practice, to help their youngsters grow into multilingual success stories.
Speaking foreign languages is about much more than simply speaking, as anyone who has learnt a second language knows
Because of all these things and more, learning a language requires – and develops – many more skills than just speaking. When students learn to follow grammar rules they are becoming thinkers, and if they can fix inaccuracies in their own work, they are enquirers. Improving their work needs them to be reflective, and including everything they need for a particular Level, IGCSE or IB grade makes their work balanced. A student with a good working vocabulary in a foreign language is certainly a knowledgeable one. Caring and principled students listen to others’ points of view in oral lessons, and adapt what they say to avoid offending their peers. They are open-minded when learning about the cultures of targetlanguage countries. A student listening, reading, speaking or writing in a foreign language is learning to be a communicator. And of course – and I believe this can be dangerous if overlooked in the classroom – every time one opens one’s mouth to use a foreign language, one is a risk-taker. So when we at EISP consider our Language Policy, we take into account this long list of skills which our language teachers are trying to engender in their students. Is it any wonder that learning languages is a tough and at times exhausting challenge for our youngsters? And on the back of this question, how can teachers and parents help to make it all a little bit easier for them?
Putting it into practice Recently I made a request to our Language Department members at EISP: Tell me the sign of an outstanding lesson. Karin Karafotas, our German teacher, said, “Checking back on our lesson objectives and seeing that the students really can do what they set out to achieve.” Adam Quesnell, teaching French and Spanish, answered, “When students can construct their own meaning in the language you are trying to teach them.” Irena Balcarova talked about “students’ displays of enthusiasm”. Most telling of all was Czech teacher Zuzana Kocourkova’s sentiment that a successful lesson is “when you are not a teacher but a partner in discussion”. If we can achieve such things with our students in their language lessons we must surely be approaching the IB Learner Profile’s goals, and making this arduous linguistic challenge more engaging for our students. Teachers in our Modern Language Department make sure that their students feel comfortable and at ease learning languages. One of our Czech teachers even has a sign on her door stating V cestine jsme doma! – “In Czech we are at home”. They plan a carefully-balanced repertoire of games and activities, focus and challenge, grammar and vocabulary, writing and speaking. They provide opportunities for learning in different ways, by facilitating debate and discussion or by using technology with students creating videos or using iPhone vocab apps. Teachers keep lessons pacey but focused, because students learn best when they’re challenged and motivated. And they measure their students’ learning using all manner of techniques and giving great feedback – ranging from a detailed written report on an essay to a simple puzzled look when a sentence said in class just doesn’t compute.
THE BEST LINGUIST & PHOTOGRAPHER? Dasha is 17 years old â€“ she is a linguist, photographer, house captain and charming student of the English International School, Prague. She loves languages - speaking French, Russian, and English, as well as some German - and is preparing to read business studies or international relations at university - ideally in France. She also is fascinated by history, plays badminton and has taken photos for the school calendar. More about Dasha on www.eisp.cz We think we are the best international school in Prague. Visit us to ďƒžnd out whether we are the best for your child. The English International School, Prague, Brunelova 960/12, Prague 4 - Libus, 142 00, tel: 272 181 911, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.eisp.cz
EDUCATION Our parents help us to make their children’s language learning easier too. They take home workbooks which match the textbooks and they practise learning new words together. They liaise with private tutors, face-to-face or on Skype, who support students in their home language. They enable us to take their children on visits abroad – we have visited Germany and Austria already this year, and our IB students have been to a German play and a French film. Or they arrange and attend our International Food Fair, which always generates enthusiasm for foreign lands! Whatever they do, we know that our school families value languagelearning and share our aim for their children to speak – and their understanding of the complexity that lies behind ‘just speaking’ will help us all to support our young learners.
all of us – teachers, parents, leaders, stakeholders – can think of our young learners as linguists in the making
Not just the young, however – two of our Language Department teachers are currently beginners again too! They attend evening classes in Czech which help them recapture that feeling of being completely helpless, and this in turn makes them more sympathetic towards their students. Czech communicators they may not yet be, but risk-takers they certainly are.
Creating success For parents looking for a school where languages are taken seriously, I suggest these five points: • ask to talk to the Subject Leader for Languages about the Languages Policy – expect it to be a recently-written or in-progress working document • visit some lessons – think about the atmosphere and the looks on the faces of the students – see whether the teachers’ empathy is there • make note of displays and resources – it should be clear that there are sources of help, other than the teacher, easily available • talk to students – look for a range of approaches to lessons, so students with different learning styles can learn in new and exciting ways • be understanding – the perfect language-learning solution probably doesn’t exist! But a school should always be trying to make it easier for its linguists And as individuals, how can we help? Well, all of us – teachers, parents, leaders, stakeholders – can think of our young learners as linguists in the making. They’re on their way to becoming balanced and reflective risk-takers; knowledgeable and communicative thinkers; open-minded, principled and caring enquirers. Parental support makes languagelearning meaningful. School visits abroad make it relevant. Technology, games and activities make it fun. And sympathy and empathy make it easier. So next time you open your mouth to try a foreign sentence – palms sweaty, heart racing and aware of that deep-down certainty that what you’re about to say is completely wrong – think of the children. They’re young, and yet in their language lessons they’re challenged so many times a day. But combined with the support, the relevance, the empathy and the fun, taking these risks will help them on their way to linguistic success.
arah Ford is the new Subject Leader for Languages at The English International School Prague. She studied French and German, and trained to be a teacher, at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. After working Subject Leader for Languages in the UK for six years teaching German and French to senior students and The English International School Prague developing Schemes of Work and training for primary language teachers, Czech Republic Sarah came to Prague to experience first-hand a more diverse range of students and languages. This year Sarah aims to establish a strong Modern Languages Department, to bring Czech, French, German and Spanish under one umbrella, to set up more school visits abroad and to start improving native-language provision for students at EISP. To grow as a teacher, Sarah will study at Nord Anglia Staff College this year, and to keep her linguistic brain working she takes on the daunting challenge of learning Czech in the evenings. Most of all she enjoys seeing her own students’ linguistic confidence grow.
History The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was established in the UK in 1956 by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, as a response to growing social concern about how to engage young boys and men between 15 and 18, the ages at which they could leave school and had to enter National Service, respectively. At first the programme was only available for boys, but it didn’t take long before a scheme for girls was launched in 1958. Further evolution followed, until the current format was established in 1980. Although the Award has always been arranged around four sections, these have changed over the years. In 1956, the four sections were: Rescue & Public Service Training; the Expedition; Pursuits & Projects; and Fitness. In 1980 these became, and remain: Service; Adventurous Journey; Skills; and Physical Recreation. Furthermore, in 1980 it became possible for young people up to the age of 25 to take part in the programme.
Award Accepting the challenge By Mark Angus
The value of the Award quickly became apparent to schools and organisations around the world, and the programme was soon to be found in a wide range of international schools and youth organisations throughout the British Commonwealth and beyond. In 1971 the Award operated in 31 countries, and by 1989 this number had increased to 48, seeing the Award delivered in countries beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth for the first time. This rapid expansion saw the formation of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Association (IAA) in 1988, while the name became The International Award for Young People. Currently, over 120 countries operate the Award and over 6 million young people worldwide have taken up the challenge. The programme is now expanding to include groups of people who have not previously had opportunities to develop themselves. Recent Award projects around the world have focused on involving young offenders, those with disabilities, street kids and aboriginal communities. The impact of the Award on many of these young people is extraordinary: it transforms their lives.
The challenges involved The award is tough – deliberately so – but it is about young people challenging themselves as individuals, not about reaching specific standards set by others. However, the Award does challenge them
the award teaches pupils that selfimprovement is the most valuable critical skill that they will ever develop
to re-examine their own beliefs about what they can achieve. Award holders are also highly valued by both educational establishments and employers because of their self-confidence, ability to work as part of a team and leadership skills. The programme has three levels, each requiring more commitment than the last: • Bronze Award – at least 14 years old and requiring a 6-month commitment • Silver Award – 15 or over and requiring a commitment of at least a year • Gold Award – 16 or over and requiring a commitment of at least 18 months Candidates are required to complete activities in the four different areas: • Service • Adventurous Journey • Skills • Physical Recreation Service – Candidates are required to undertake work that shows a commitment to wider society, such as community service projects, conservation work or voluntary service in hospitals or homes. This can also include specialised training in areas like lifesaving and first aid. Adventurous Journey – This part of the Award is about adventure and discovery. Participants can hike, ride or cycle, and on the way develop an understanding of the environment and the importance of working as part of a team with a common purpose. They learn the significance of training, preparation, self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Skills – In this section of the Award, candidates have the opportunity to develop their personal interests and learn practical skills. They are not required to reach any set standard – rather, they set their own goals against which they can measure their progress. Physical Activity – All participants are required to undertake organised and regular physical activity, showing perseverance and improving fitness. They will record their own progress, and can participate in individual or team sports of their own choice.
Why not get involved? The International Award is the ideal project for pupils at international schools to become involved in. It promotes civic values, recognises and rewards physical courage and achievement and teaches pupils that self-improvement is the most valuable critical skill that they will ever develop. §
gung ho chaps! OUTWARD BOUND: A BRITISH CONCEPT
here are many exciting and challenging experiences generated in the classroom and the school environment that aim to give students the knowledge and skills to contribute meaningfully to society, as well as be successful individuals in the future. Schools spend large amounts of money on buildings, classrooms, laboratories and equipment, as well as on employing qualified staff and ensuring they attend professional development training to keep them up to date with the latest developments.
Abseiling, bungee jumping, the sky’s the limit with adventure sports
But there’s an area of learning outside the classroom that’s often overlooked because it’s seen as expensive, difficult to organise and full of health and safety issues and bureaucratic obstacles. In addition, the outdoor events and expeditions do not appear to directly link with GCSE and A-level scores, nor help with league tables. A number of schools believe that the more opportunities there are for learning, providing a service and being physically and mentally challenged, the more equipped students will be to cope with life’s ups and downs, both inside and outside the classroom. Students also become more positive, helpful and well-rounded individuals, willing to get their hands dirty and make a positive difference to others. Schools that follow this type of programme promote the following: - a sense of adventure, unpredictability, drama and suspense - a consistently high level of expectation - a positive, success-oriented approach in which growth is supported and encouraged - an atmosphere of mutual support - a sense of enjoyment and fun, the opportunity to laugh at a situation, and at oneself and others - group problem-solving –
problems requiring a variety of personal contributions that can’t be solved individually - exposure to the less predictable and less familiar (when compared to the school classroom) But this is not just for fun. Giving students a physical challenge, pushing them a little outside their comfort zones and allowing them to experience different things have
Kurt Hahn also says...
“I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial and above all, compassion.” “There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.”
4 OF THE WORLD’S TOUGHEST CHALLENGES what would hahn make of these?
Race Across America Bike Race (RAMM)
3,000 miles, 14 states, climbing over 100,000 feet. Taking saddle sores to a new level.
a very positive effect on how they cope with everyday difficulties and stresses. Most of us spend our time in a comfort zone, dealing with everyday occurrences, but experiencing the unexpected in a controlled environment allows us to learn how to deal with unexpected and stressful circumstances in real life much better. A good school makes sure that students are stretched and learn new skills in the growth zone, but are not pushed too far or put in dangerous situations which they will struggle to handle.
Kurt Hahn (1886-1974) A lot of the experiential learning used in school comes from Kurt Hahn, and his ideas have led to the creation of other programmes around the world, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and the International Award. This is a quote from Hahn, founder of Outward Bound:
Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.
Summary In short, money and time invested in experiential learning and working with students in the great outdoors has so many positive outcomes:
Increased self-confidence and self-actualisation Compassion toward others Learning to live a healthy and balanced life
The ability to set goals, and to inspire and guide others to achieve them The ability to collaborate, communicate, solve problems and resolve conflicts effectively
Service • •
Social and environmental responsibility Actively engaging in service to others
Concern and acting with a spirit of respect and generosity in service to others
Being your best self, pursuing craftsmanship in your actions and living a healthy and balanced life
Inclusion and diversity •
A 2,930-mile race across the Atlantic, this typically takes 3650 days. Bring a raincoat.
Character development •
Acting with honesty, being accountable for your decisions and actions
the atlantic rowing race
Valuing and working to create communities representative of our society that support and respect differences
Physical fitness •
the everest marathon A commemorative event to celebrate Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay reaching Everest.
The whole programme promotes undertaking arduous outdoor challenges and meeting tough goals. Students need to train and practise in order to reach the minimum requirements to undertake many of the targets and sporting or adventurous activities.
Can you beat the world record of 7 hours to swim the 21 miles?
omework can be stressful, for parents and for children! Sometimes it brings out the very thing we don’t want – arguments and pressure. So wouldn’t you like to learn some effective strategies that bring out the best in your child and the best in you as a parent? For many parents the most difficult challenges are: • How to avoid interfering with children’s independent completion of assignments • How to provide guidance without giving answers • How to get children to do their homework without force and threats. If you’re like many parents you may feel you lack the knowledge, time and guidance to support your child’s homework. So here are some important first steps. • Provide a quiet, well-lit study space with all required materials (books, paper, pencils). Be flexible; some children do like to do homework close to the kitchen where they can readily get help from a parent. • Help with time management. Discuss what other extracurricular activities your child has for the week and problem-solve with them how they might manage their time. Remember that children need free time too. • Discuss workload management. This refers to the actual homework task and assisting the child to prioritise the most difficult tasks. • Model attitudes and behaviours of self-discipline and completion of tasks. Share with children what you are doing. Children like to know if you are completing a home budget, a report for work, reading a book. Show your love of books and learning by reading with your child daily. You may feel pulled in many directions – feeling time pressure, expectations of school, disappointment in your child’s lack of enthusiasm or willingness. This can often lead to you putting pressure on your child to get the homework done, and done NOW! So before I share some other positive strategies, let’s take a look at why using threats, yelling or force does not bring out the best in your child intellectually.
Bring out the best in your child by Kathryn Tonges, Parenting Consultant
Children feel good about themselves when they solve problems – it’s empowering and avoids power struggles
How do you usually respond to these emotionally charged words from your child? • I don’t know how to do this. • I don’t know the answer to this. • I don’t know which topic to choose. • I don’t know how to draw an elephant. • Do I have to do homework now? Sometimes you might respond by doing the work for them, other times you might tersely snap back in anger. Doing the work
Your child can plan and use their memory more effectively now. To disperse those heavy dark clouds of feelings, you could say, “It’s really difficult making a choice”; “It’s hard to figure out how to draw an elephant”; “You don’t seem very enthusiastic about doing homework right now. Tell me about that.” You never know what they might share and it opens up the pathways of communication and positive responsiveness. Maybe the homework is too difficult or too much and you need to find out more from the teacher. You will free your child to feel more positive and willing to try. Active listening shows your child you are interested in understanding them. They will be more willing to listen to you after this. You can follow your active listening by problem-solving with them, encouraging them to come up with solutions for their challenge. “Can you think of some ideas that would help you draw an elephant? Can you think of some ways you’ve had to make a choice before? What might be another way?” Of course, sometimes children do need direct help. Very often, however, parents take on solving children’s challenges before listening to truly identify their needs, and before the child has the opportunity to think of solutions first. Children feel good about themselves when they solve problems – it’s empowering and avoids power struggles. (You can learn more about problem-solving skills and how to effectively confront your child’s unacceptable behaviour in Parent Effectiveness Training by Dr Thomas Gordon.)
for them undermines confidence and creates dependency, while responding in anger can create a stress response in your child which usually leads to defensiveness, smart-aleck comments, tantrums, withdrawal or feelings of inadequacy. The fight or flight response! It affects their brain chemistry adversely at the very time you want their brain to be working optimally.
muscles tighten and anger may be vented, underpinned by negative thoughts: Why did I bother asking? I know I’m hopeless at this! He doesn’t understand how difficult this is!
‘Fight or flight’ is the involuntary result of the sympathetic nervous system which releases hormones that dull memory and feelings in response to stress. Your child’s
So how do you trigger the PNS, not the fight or flight response, to best handle those emotionally charged words from your child? Your best response is to tune in and to actively listen to your child’s feelings. When children are really heard and understood, their clouded feelings begin to disperse, revealing clarity of thought – the clear blue sky after the storm!
When you use effective communication methods you help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) for you and your child. The PNS is activated voluntarily. This means you can role-model and teach your child how to do this. A whole different group of chemicals in the brain is activated when you decide to change your thoughts and actions. The frontal lobe of the brain concerned with planning skills and memory is activated. These are the very processes you want your child to access for doing homework.
Above all, build fun positive family time into your lives so that homework isn’t the only time you are together. Encourage your children to problem-solve a list of fun ideas for things to do together. Children are more willing to listen to you and be influenced by your values when they feel connected and loved. Future employers are looking for lateral thinkers who show initiative. If you want children who are self-disciplined and have high self-esteem, then how you communicate is vital. If you want your children to change, in the words of Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” §
and technology The evolution of the teacher in the modern classroom By Stuart White
ou don’t have to spend too long browsing through the science fiction shelves of your local bookshop to realise that teachers are past their sell-by date and can be readily replaced by direct memory implants / computer terminals / memory pills / genetic engineering [delete as applicable – or insert your own best guess as to the technology of the future]. If novelists are to be believed, we are an endangered species, about to go the same way as VHS video, film cameras and books. Although – come to think of it – books are still with us, so perhaps not all tried and trusted learning methods are for the axe just yet!
Students don’t need their teacher to be an encyclopaedia any more, and the ‘sage on the stage’ has become the ‘guide on the side’
t is true that the future may yet hold many twists and turns. The wellknown socialist historian Eric Hobsbawn once said that “the only sure thing about the future is that it will surprise even those who have looked furthest into it” and I am sure he was right. It is also true that technology has appeared in today’s classroom in all sorts of ways, and our children are better educated because of it. Is technology, however, a replacement for the teacher, or is there still a role for him or her? The answer is – as all good answers are – not quite straightforward. Classrooms without teachers have proved elusive and ineffective so far, but the role of the teacher has undoubtedly changed greatly in the single generation that separates the classroom experiences of today’s children
and their parents. I remember sitting in a lecture just over a decade ago, listening to Lord Puttnam speak about his views on technology and education, and I recall his observation that our Victorian forbears – at least those who postdated the great 1870 Forster Education Act in the UK that paved the way to universal education – would recognise the classroom that their great-great-grandchildren occupied. Blackboards, chalk and slates had largely given way to whiteboards, coloured marker pens and lined paper, but the essence of the teaching process was relatively unchanged in practice. But that was a little over ten years ago, reflecting education at the end of the second millennium, and – to coin a phrase – what a difference a decade makes! Teachers no longer have to know everything. Our students have access to
information in ways that we could only have dreamed about (or read in those science fiction books) when we were their age. They have access to more or less every piece of information recorded throughout human history just by using Google. What’s more, there is simply a lot more ‘stuff ’ to know about. Students don’t need their teacher to be an encyclopaedia any more, and the ‘sage on the stage’ has become the ‘guide on the side’. Once one accepts the role of teacher as guide, the processes of modern education become clear. Students must be presented with progressively more difficult problems and challenges, and encouraged and helped to understand and solve them. The array of technology at their disposal is formidable, and the teacher can and must help them to make effective use of it. All our classrooms have computers,
electronic whiteboards, Internet access and all sorts of other technology on demand. Freed from the need to focus on recall and routine calculation, students spend more time on higher order thinking skills – analysis, creativity and evaluation replace facts and figures. But higher order skills require thinking – intelligence – and this is where the computer has to step to one side, and where the teacher comes into his or her own. Many years ago I studied Artificial Intelligence as part of my undergraduate degree, and it is a subject I have maintained an interest in ever since. As a field of research it has come a long way from the early days, but intelligence and computing have remained steadfastly separate. The (probably apocryphal) story of the US government experimenting with an electronic computer designed to
translate English into Russian illustrates the difficulties. The programmers allegedly fed it with the words “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”, whereupon the machine responded with a sentence in Russian which said, according to an expert linguist, “The vodka is agreeable but the meat has gone bad.” Computers are good at remembering, but bad at thinking. They can perform millions of calculations flawlessly each second, but they are not good at working out which calculations needed doing in the first place. They free students of the constraints of having to focus on low-level memory skills and allow them to spend time learning to be thinkers. In the less than two decades since the arrival of the World Wide Web, given to the world by a British physicist in 1991, information has become so widely available that the nature
of teaching has been profoundly and irrevocably altered. The modern teacher is the perfect counterpoint to the computer. We are bad at remembering, but we can analyse and imagine, and we can help our students to learn how to harness the technology at their fingertips to achieve things beyond any Victorian dreams. Louis Armstrong expressed it perfectly: “I watch them grow / They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know / And I think to myself / What a wonderful world.” §
Why is it important to learn MUSIC? By Heather Brown
ou don’t need to be fluent on an instrument to reap the benefits of learning music. Simply humming your own tune or listening to your favourite music can instantly bring on a smile. Music gives people the confidence to step up to their peers and perform with their own interpretation and feelings. Music gives people the opportunity to lead and work as a team. Music can help to define a nation’s culture and shape communities. Music can help to characterise moods and is proven to help heal the body. In short, music features in everyone’s life in some form or another, so learning about music can be extremely beneficial in shaping a person’s future, attitude and work skills.
different levels. This may be performing your own composition, or singing while acting a role on stage. Perhaps you will perform to the class, or maybe to the whole school – perhaps even on television. Performing allows you to develop the skills needed to face an audience, make mistakes and deal with those mistakes under pressure. Performing also gives you the chance to learn about your audience, discovering how to engage and interact with them. Reading an audience can be crucial in clinching that deal or selling your product, summing up to the jury or breaking news of a life-threatening condition to a patient. Performance skills are easily transferable to other subjects and situations, and music is one of the simplest platforms for improving these skills.
Confidence and self-esteem
Leadership, management and teamwork
How many times have you been nervous when delivering that presentation to the executive board, taking charge of a meeting or speaking in front of the class? Having the confidence to perform in front of others, either solo or in a group, is an invaluable skill that can be transferred into nearly every school subject and area of life. Music gives you ample opportunities to perform on many
Many jobs today require leadership, management and teamwork. Being part of a musical group can help to advance these skills in a fun and creative way. Learning to be a principal player in an orchestra, lead trumpeter in a jazz band or front man in a rock band gives you the opportunity to take responsibility for others in
If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. I get most joy in life out of music. Albert Einstein
” the group, manage rehearsals and build a positive and healthy team attitude. Management skills, deciding who gets to perform what solo when or which piece to play at which concert, are crucial. Decisions have to be made in all areas of life, and making sure everyone is catered for while enjoying themselves and improving their skills is a fundamental management skill found in nearly every profession. Opportunities to develop such transferrable skills, are abundant throughout all kinds of music activities, at all ages, from the recorder ensemble in primary right through to the senior choir. Creating an ensemble together teaches you to accept ideas from others, implement your own ideas and learn to compromise, and demands negotiation and discussion skills from all members of the group.
Every culture shares some common features and celebrations such as weddings, funerals and birthdays, and music can be the one thing to gel them all together. You don’t have to speak another language to be able to jam or perform with someone. You don’t have to be fluent in German or Italian to enjoy listening to Mozart’s operas. Music can help children to understand the values
of others and the way their cultures and nations think. Through performing, listening and composing their own Christmas, New Year, Divali and Thanksgiving music, for example, children can learn the similarities and differences of music from cultures around the world and appreciate their richness and diversity. It also helps children to define their own identity.
Music also gives people a chance to work across the age groups, religions and races. People from different walks of life get the chance to meet others, not only within their own school or community, but also through wider regional, national and international competitions, school trips and regional orchestras. For children, there are also national youth initiatives such as the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Children get to work with adults both in and out of school hours in a professional capacity. All these opportunities help children develop their sense of relationship with people and their varying roles within the community. Furthermore, performing in the community allows children to become a greater part of it and, in some ways, define it. Look at music of the recent past, for example. Music from the
“Students who can perform complex rhythms can also make faster and more precise corrections in many academic and physical situations.” Centre for Training and Motor Skills, 2000
One group of elementary students received musical training, while another group received an equal amount of discussion skills training. After six months, the students in the music group achieved a significant increase in reading test scores, while the reading test scores of the discussion skills group did not change Journal of Research in Reading, 1994
latter half of the twentieth century is full of statements concerning both war and peace, and bold political statements, all of which helped to define certain eras. For instance, Live Aid in 1985 was perfect proof of how powerful music can be in linking communities around the world and helping to achieve a common goal. In addition, music has been proven to affect the brain. Research done by the American Music Therapy Association and the British Music Therapy Association has shown that a strong beat and /or a change in tempo can bring about changes in brain waves, heart and breathing rates and memory. These changes can be used to relax the body and help it deal with stress. Listening to music has also been linked with improving the symptoms of people with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.
So, how can I learn more about music?
It’s easy! Depending on where you are in the world, most schools have a music programme in some form or another, either embedded in the curriculum or as a programme allowing extra lessons or activities around school hours. Lunchtime activities and extra-curricular activities (ECAs) after school and at weekends provide ample opportunities for children and adults to get involved. Staff bands are also open to parents and friends.
So what can learning music do for you?
Music improves your mind and body, develops your knowledge and understanding of different cultures and gives you a bank of key transferable skills. And if nothing else, music is fun!
10 things you need to know about your child’s education by Mike Embley
Much of what affects education at your child’s school happens outside the classroom
o many parents base their choice of school on the feeling they have five minutes or less after entering a school. They are quite correct! Those initial instincts speak volumes about the school. The way the students walk about between classes. How they play in the playground. How they address adults and other students. These things are hugely important, even beyond the obvious desire of any parent for a well-rounded, wellbehaved and pleasant child (both at home and at school). They speak to the ethos of the school and its approach to the whole package of education. Education is not simply about textbooks.
Looks can be deceptive
icture this: You walk into a classroom and all the work on the walls is perfect. Well-written, beautiful, coloured within the lines, x and y axis labelled in perfect script. Sound like an ideal school? Not quite. A school should reflect the reality of what happens in the classroom, not what the teacher can produce and put on the wall to create an impression of perfection. A good principal who pays attention to what happens in school will of course spot this immediately. Nonetheless, some families might actively prefer this false image of perfection. I would suggest that in this they are in error. Students take pride in the world around them and in their own achievements. A pretty poster made by the teacher fades into the background. No child, younger or older, will take pride in drawing the attention of their parents to the work of a teacher placed on the wall. If it is their own work, even if it’s not perfectly executed, they will be proud and inspired to achieve greater things.
Exam results, real and imagined
ome schools manipulate data at length. This is indefensible. Speaking simply, it can be seen as better for the school’s results to discourage a student who is not able in all subjects from taking an exam in which they might not do too well. Let me illustrate with an example. A student scoring A, A, A in three IGCSE examinations would give the school a pass rate on their website of 100 percent A grades – how lovely! How perfect to quote in texts. But let us look closer. Would it have been better for the student to have been allowed to take a full set of examinations and score A, A, A, B, C, D? Of course it would. However, that school must now quote 50 percent A grades. The question here that parents must look into in some detail is: Who is the school serving? The school’s website, or the students? Any school that states that all students pass all exams with great results should be treated with huge suspicion.
Excuse me, who are you?
hen visiting the school, did you meet the principal? Did he or she really care about your children? Did he or she know who they are, how old they are? Did the principal talk to the children? Did he or she in fact care about them? This matters because it again speaks about the school in depth. It’s all too easy to add polish to a website. It’s more important that the principal not be hidden away staring at a spreadsheet all day long.
Molefe is 9 years old – he is a keen gymnast, dancer, artist and student of the English International School, Prague. He likes both drawing and painting, as well as working on the computers in ICT. Molefe loves school trips and when he grows up, he would like to be an explorer maybe in India or the US. More about Molefe on www.eisp.cz
THE BEST GYMNAST & EXPLORER? At the English International School of Prague we recognize that each young person is the best in something. We work with parents and students to ensure a cherished experience and to develop their talents and prepare them for the future with a unique mix of • outstanding education, • individual approach, • range of subjects & extracurricular activities, • friendly multicultural environment, • and excellent facilities. The future for our students can be one of the best universities in the world or an interesting work life in which they can thrive. We think we are the best international school in Prague. Visit us to nd out whether we are the best for your child. The English International School, Prague, Brunelova 960/12, Prague 4 - Libus, 142 00, tel: 272 181 911, email@example.com, www.eisp.cz
Teachers are your friends
What are they actually doing?
eaching staff are the heart and soul of a school. Their knowledge, enthusiasm, drive and sense of humour will have a genuinely transformative effect on the children in their care. This might seem obvious at first but is not always at the forefront of a parent’s mind. Sometimes the best advice given to a parent is to make friends with their child’s teachers. This might seem almost radical at first! Of course teachers should be professional, that is expected. Like any human being, though, teachers respond well, and will work that little harder, for parents who talk to them regularly, and who are supportive. This is not to suggest for one moment that teachers should not be accountable. Of course they must be, but human nature dictates that in any walk of life we will most enjoy working with, and for, positive people. A parent who berates a teacher if a child who has had a great day running, learning, talking, listening and studying comes home having lost a pen or pencil will make that teacher just that little more defensive, just that little bit less likely to try an exciting lesson.
ommunication is not something every school is good at. But it’s vital. For a parent to be involved in all stages of a student’s learning and journey through school, the school has to keep them informed. Pre-Nursery children cannot always tell their parents what they have been doing without prompts. Sometimes surly teenagers are not the most willing communicators! Parents who are interested in their children’s education and progress need to know what they are doing.
Is there anybody there?
Learning from peers
ho’s in the school? When you walk in, are other parents there? Is the school lively, welcoming and active? Can you pop in to see the principal? Does the school have regular input from parents that it actually listens to? Many schools get this part right, in fact. Sometimes parents need encouragement to join in with the life of the school. Dry events – another lecture on homework – are not always the most inviting! Sometimes it’s best to simply get into the school and have a chat with other parents, the principal or deputies and get a feel for what’s happening. This also gives parents a better sense of the intangible, but absolutely essential, ‘feel’ of the school.
his is a big one. In secondary school, take an honest look around. Is your child’s (and they are still children) school more of a zoo? Are the students still wellbehaved, still keen to learn, still bright-eyed and active? Or are they out until late at night, drinking or worse? Does the school promote more positive activities? Does the school allow poor behaviour and poor choices to spread? Does the school in fact passively encourage students to meet and follow poor role models? This is a huge issue for all parents, not just those of older children. Much of a child’s education takes place outside the classroom, from those around them, their classmates. The atmosphere of a school influences the behaviour of the group. The behaviour of the group affects the atmosphere and effectiveness of the school. It’s a loop that the school must get right. One simple acid test: When leaving school at the end of the day, do the older children make way for the little ones, or carelessly knock them over? Very easy, very important.
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Much of a child’s education takes place from those around them, their classmates
What does it offer?
n education is more than just the curriculum, more than the basic co-curricular or after-school activities, more even than the ethos of the school. It is a thirst to learn whoever you are. The average student doesn’t exist; everybody is a mind waiting to find inspiration, that one spark in the day that will light the fuse and let them fly. It could be a 30-second game of football with the PE teacher at break time when they are told “well done”, it could be the maths teacher who makes jokes while explaining triangles so the atmosphere lightens for a few seconds, it could be the principal who plays an instrument and helps the students overcome stage fright; it doesn’t matter. It could be any of these things or others. This is perhaps the single most important attribute of a school principal, oddly enough. We can all run a school. The best schools have a principal that really fires a school, and drives it through personal example.
International, or little England
obody in tomorrow’s world will be complacent and able to sit in one place their whole life. Perhaps this statement is a little dramatic. However, it does highlight an important matter. The values of a school should be apparent. They should reflect the name and nature of the school, in reality of course, not simply through glib advertising. However, schools, even The English International School Prague, have come to realise that creating little England, or trying to somehow pretend they are creating old England, is counterproductive. The world is smaller, changing quickly and increasingly international. Parents know this; they work for companies or services that span the globe. Equipping our students with the tools to move forward, as strong, positive, creative, well-qualified individuals in the real world, that is the most important thing. You need to know that your child’s education is providing them with these tools.
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Ten must-read books for teenage girls
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By Mark Angus
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (13+) A truly gripping novel that all teenage girls should read! It is the story of an orphaned girl who is unloved by her aunt and sent to boarding school. After school, she becomes a strong willed governess and takes a job at the house of Mr Rochester, where she hopes she might have finally found love and companionship. However, Mr Rochester has a dark secret from his past which continues to haunt him in his present. This is one that you really can’t put down once you get started!
Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy (16+)
As with many of Hardy’s novels, I found this one took a little time and perseverance to get into when I first read it as a teenager. However, it is truly worth the wait! It is an incredibly powerful novel which will rouse your emotions and leave you shocked and, at times, in disbelief. It is a heavy read and deals with many tragic and shocking issues, but it is also a fascinating one, revealing the strength and honour of Tess in a weak and dishonourable Victorian world. Suitable for older teens.
Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman (13+) This is a really thought-provoking and clever novel which discusses issues of racism and prejudice. Callum (a Nought) and Sephy (a Cross) find their life-long friendship being torn apart by a segregating society in which the Crosses dominate and the Noughts become increasingly oppressed. Blackman skilfully turns the world as we know it upside-down and forces us to see the world from new perspectives and in different ways.
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Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (13+) An absolute must-read for all teenage girls! It is a novel in which you can fall completely in love with Austen’s characters and lose yourself in their world. It is a brilliantly witty story which offers great insight into the world and the way we make assumptions about the people we meet. It is considered one of the greatest love stories of all time and I honestly believe it lives up to that reputation.
Northern Lights – Philip Pullman (13+) This is another really gripping fantasy novel about a teenage girl, Lyra, living in a strange yet familiar world. Pullman’s writing and creation of this world is wholly convincing and forces the reader to consider new possibilities, questioning the world around them as they know it. It is jam-packed with adventure and action which doesn’t stop, from beginning to end!
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (13+) Another must-read for all teenage girls. The story of the March sisters and their determined sense of fun, happiness and laughter, both in good times and hard times, is one that all teenage girls can relate to. The way that comedy and tragedy are seamlessly blended together makes Alcott’s novel one which will be forever remembered as one of the greats of American literature. The fact that it continues to break its readers’ hearts today is testament to its brilliance!
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A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket (11+)
TwIlight – Stephenie Meyer (16+)
This is a novel and series that readers seem to love or hate! If you don’t take it too seriously and allow yourself to become absorbed in the fantasy, this is a fantastic read, as are the other novels in the series. The stories are filled with action, drama and suspense as well as a love story which seems doomed by an endless array of obstacles. It’s a good read, suitable for older teens who love a bit of horror, fantasy and adventure as well as a good old fashioned romance!
This is another brilliant series about the misfortunes and bad luck of three orphaned children following their parents’ death. The books warn readers that they are unpleasant and unhappy, and certainly live up to this warning! These stories offer a unique change from some of the more cheerful, traditional examples of children’s literature and make a point of not treating children like delicate creatures who need a happy ending every time. If you like horror, drama and something a bit different, you’ll love these!
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Vicky Angel – Jacqueline Wilson (12+)
This is a tragic yet beautiful and uplifting story of two best friends, Jade and Vicky. When Vicky is killed at the beginning, the reader is truly shocked. However, once the shock has passed you become captivated by the ongoing friendship between the two girls and Jade’s journey to come to terms with the loss of her friend and move on with her own life. This is a really inspiring and beautifully written novel for teenage girls to read.
The Other Side of Truth – Beverley Naidoo (14+) This is a novel which will make you think. The narrative is powerful and emotive from start to finish and raises issues of injustice, political asylum and bullying. The tragedy of the children’s lives in the novel makes you consider hard the life you have and the horrific experiences people living alongside you may have had, as well as the suffering taking place around the world.
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playful Prague Fun for the whole family
By Suchi Rudra
amily activity time doesn’t have to mean adults chatting over coffee while the kids tumble around the McCafe playground. There’s much fun and frolicking to be had in Prague all year long, and every member of the family can get their hands dirty. Maybe it means taking your tie off to play in the snow or race a paddle boat down the Vltava, but entertainment for the whole family isn’t so hard to find in a safe and family-friendly city like Prague.
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Outdoor winter activities The Czech Republic is known for its long winters, but fresh snow and frozen lakes open the door to a wide spectrum of wintertime activities. Czechs wait anxiously each year for the arrival of the first snow and for the ponds to freeze over. During this season, parks and slopes become one huge playground for Winter Olympics wannabes. Once you and your loved ones are bundled up in half a dozen layers of woolly winter clothes, it’s time to hit up the parks. Whether it’s an old-school wooden sleigh, a plastic model from Tesco, a piece of cardboard or a trash can lid, sledding usually guarantees hours of squealing delight for everyone. Prague’s hilly landscape makes it easy to find the perfect slippery slope close to home. Cross country skiing near Prague
During the winter season, parks and slopes become one huge playground for Winter Olympics wannabes
Ice skating in downtown Prague
For open-air activities in general, Prague’s two most family-friendly parks are Ladronka and Stromovka. Located between the neighbourhoods of Brevnov, Vypich and Motol, Ladronka Park features a very spacious and renovated leisure area. It’s the best place for a Czech wintertime favourite: cross-country skiing. Not only can you practise this sport without leaving the city, it’s also a fun way to get some decent exercise. You might consider investing in some equipment, which might also come in handy during your winter holidays at the mountain cottage. Everyone says that if you can rollerblade, you can ice skate. Find out if that’s true or not when you head to the nearest ice skating rink. When you’re ready to show off your skills to the outside world, try an outdoor rink. Each year, an ice rink is opened to the public right in the centre of the city at the foot of the Estates Theatre. The ice here is prepared to resist sudden warmer temperatures – but this is not the case with the frozen lakes which can be found all over the city. Try the small ponds in the green area next to Brevnov Monastery or, for something even more local, a little pond called Libocky Rybnik in Prague 6. Whatever you do, never skate in a place locals don’t. Always ask around before skating on a lake or pond, as Czechs know exactly how long it takes for the ice to be safe and ready. You might also consider taking a stroll to all those sights that are awash with throngs of tourists throughout most of the summer when even on a rainy day are seldom deserted. For photo enthusiasts, the sky will be clearer and you’ll be more likely to find that brilliant blue that makes your images the envy of all your friends. You will undoubtedly find the pace relaxing, the prices easier to negotiate and, best of all, no lines – anywhere. Whatever winter activity you choose to take part in, just remember that layers are best, sunglasses aren’t only for summertime and hot chocolate tastes best after a day of winter fun.
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A christmas sleigh ride is a great pastime in the winter months
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In Stromovka Park the whole family can revel in the wide variety of trees and plants
Podoli pool in vysehrad is perfect for diving enthusiasts
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Outdoor SUMMER activities
Paddle boats on the Vltava
When the summer season hits Prague, it’s nice to be close to the water to increase your chances of catching a cool breeze. And nothing gets you closer than a good old paddle boat down the Vltava River. There are several places around Charles Bridge or on Zofin Island where you can inexpensively rent a paddle boat or row boat. Boats fit a family of four or five and give you the chance to explore Prague’s famous monuments and landmarks – including Charles Bridge, the National Theatre and Prague Castle – from a refreshing new perspective. Don’t worry if you’ve never tried this before, the river is always calm and the boats are very easy to control. Take a picnic or a book and paddle away into the sunset. Although the Czech Republic can’t offer any true beaches, Prague does have Smichovska Plaz (a few minutes from Andel Metro), and also boasts excellent swimming pool complexes that offer all the snacks, drinks and diving boards you’ll need for a full day of family fun. Try the huge Podoli Swimming Pool in Vysehrad, the one in Divoka Sarka surrounded by wild nature or the more entertainment-oriented Aquapark Barrandov. Each of Prague’s many parks boasts its own specialities and attractions. In Stromovka, a perfect place for a nature walk, the whole family can revel in the wide variety of trees and plants. Along the same lines, Prague’s planetarium, inside the park, offers permanent astronomical exhibitions and English-friendly shows. The park also offers the possibility of renting horses and ponies for a slow ride through the specially marked riding trails. Just a five-minute walk from Stromovka, Letna Park offers stunning views of the city centre and the river from a privileged location. In this beautiful park, you’ll find a great playground for the kids and excellent sports facilities, including basketball and tennis courts. The tennis club offers lessons for both kids and adults and provides the chance to start learning a sport that has become very popular locally after the recent successful careers of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek. Ladronka, on the other side of town, has become the top place for in-line skating, due to the park’s very long and well-paved tracks. This completely renovated park also holds the fascinating and kidfriendly Burning of the Witches ceremony every April, an old pagan ritual that has evolved into a celebration of the end of the winter. Besides bonfires, this event also offers cultural and sporting activities for all ages.
For more panoramic views of the city, visit Petrin Hill. It’s easy to get to the top by funicular, but if you decide to walk you’ll encounter plenty of fruit trees on the way up. At the right time of the year, cherries and plums are there just waiting to be harvested. On the top of the hill, there’s a telescope, a climbable mini Eiffel tower and a mirror fun house.
Each of Prague’s many parks boasts its own specialities and attractions
Divoka Sarka Pool
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There are several places around Charles Bridge or on Zofin Island where you can inexpensively rent a paddle boat or row boat. Boats fit a family of four or five and give you the chance to explore Prague’s famous monuments and landmarks
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On the top of Petrin hill, there’s a telescope, a climbable mini Eiffel tower and a mirror fun house
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Indoor activities During less friendly weather, it’s good to have a few places in mind to escape to for some indoor fun. If everyone’s feeling restless on a rainy day, stretch your muscles with some rock climbing. There are several indoor climbing centres in Prague where kids can safely pick up some rock climbing skills from a young age. Museums are another option for indoor amusement, such as the Toy Museum in Prague Castle, which has the second largest collection of toys in the world. Just opposite the entrance gate is the Museum of Miniatures. Here you’ll find a collection of astonishing miniatures by Siberian artist Anatolij Konenko, including a 3D model of the Eiffel Tower, a flea with golden horseshoes and the world’s smallest book. All these microscopic marvels can be enjoyed with magnifying glasses and microscopes provided by the museum. If you’re interested in a family theatre experience, puppet shows are very common in Prague, as you might have noticed from the numerous marionette shops around the centre. The National Marionette Theatre is Prague’s most famous and presents marionette versions of classics like Mozart’s Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute. For a real Czech classic, enjoy the legendary marionette adventures of Spejbl and Hurvinek at their very own theatre in Dejvice. Though the stories are told in Czech, you don’t need to speak it to enjoy the show. If you’d like to combine family fun with some health benefits, then welcome to the world of artificial salt caves. Spending an hour in a room with a high concentration of salt in the air is more fun than it sounds, and has been very effective for treating respiratory and alimentary conditions and for preventing seasonal colds. These centres can be found all over Prague and are prepared to accommodate parents with children. They provide things for kids to play with, and by trading sand for salt, it might almost feel like a day at the beach – without the sun. Going out for some hot chocolate and pastries is always a good plan, but how about adding a bit of art to this tried and trusted equation? A few cafes in Prague offer the chance to choose and paint your own piece of pottery. Look for Maluj Creative Cafe in the centre or Vypalene kotatko in the Dejvice area. Sure, it’s a great way to keep the kids entertained while you enjoy your espresso, but see what happens when Mummy or Daddy takes up a brush and joins in on craft time. §
The National Marionette Theatre in Prague
The National Marionette Theatre is Prague’s most famous and presents marionette versions of classics like Mozart’s Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute
Museum of Miniatures in Prague
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Bubenec A peek into Pragueâ€™s village neighbourhood by Suchi Rudra
ust an uphill tram ride from the Vltava River or a 10-minute Metro ride from the centre is the beautiful neighbourhood of Bubenec, a small tucked-away area near the Dejvice district of Prague 6. Comfortably located between the Hradcanska and Dejvicka Metro stops, this is an area definitely worth a visit for its charming and peaceful small village feel; itâ€™s quiet but still full of life (but not tourists). When you need a break from the chaos of long lines and souvenir vendors, think of Bubenec as your sanctuary in the city.
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Parks and playgrounds The diverse array of ethnic shops and restaurants (Indian, Greek, Russian, Lebanese and more) in Bubenec reflects the area’s assembly of VIP residents from around the world. Prague is already one of the safest cities in the world, and thanks to the resident ambassadors in this area, this is the safest (and probably cleanest) neighbourhood in Prague. Embassy village makes for a leisurely – and educational – afternoon stroll through charming old villas that sit quietly behind leafy sidewalks and iron wrought gates, while the vibrantly coloured flags of the world wave peacefully at each other. As much as Prague offers the urban lure of a European capital, it also contains vast amounts of serene, green space within city limits. Much of it happens to be around Bubenec, including an enormous nature preserve known as Divoka
Sarka (named after the legend of wild woman warrior Sarka), which is just a 15-minute tram ride from the Dejvicka stop. This is a perfect and remote spot for climbing, hiking trails, swimming (outdoor pools or right in the Vltava River) or just taking a quiet stroll to the sound of a brook that truly babbles. Camping is also possible, as is golfing. Climb up to the cliff tops and take in the view of the city and its winding river as sheep quietly graze nearby. It’s a great picnic spot as well, or you can always head down to the beer garden or the cafes by the pool, which serve coffee, drinks, sandwiches and ice cream. Weekday visits are recommended, as they are usually less crowded than during the weekend. Take a tram to the Divoka Sarka stop, the end of the line. And don’t let the McDonald’s perched by the tram stop dissuade you from the idea that this is an isolated spot of peace and escape from the busy world. However, if you prefer to stay closer to Bubenec, two enormous parks, each with its
own unique personality, are located just a 10-minute walk from the Hradcanska tram/ Metro station. The park known as Letenske sady, or just Letna Park, simply can’t be beat for its thriving beer garden (the kiosk even stays open in winter, selling hot mulled wine, known as svarak, and hot chocolate) that perches over the entire city and the Vltava River. It’s a perfect, scenic space for picnics, Frisbee or a game of catch, and offers basketball and tennis courts, a children’s playground, well-kept rollerblading and bike paths and a little cluster of pubs. Once the daffodils and lilacs are in full bloom, you’ll come across intense games of marbles and petanque, as well as tightrope walkers and jugglers practising their skills side by side. Stromovka, the largest park in Prague, is the former royal hunting ground of Emperor Rudolf II, and his hunting lodge still stands today. In this oasis of green, you can go riding, wander through wide grassy meadows and stroll by the duck pond, and if you continue walking east, you’ll find yourself at the remarkable gardens of the Prague zoo.
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Orange Cafe, Pushkinskovo namesti 13 Orange Cafe offers a serene and sophisticated spot to meet for a light meal or dessert. Try one of the excellent risottos and a freshly-squeezed glass of orange juice. Also serves a delicate cheesecake, a hard-to-find treat in Prague.
Russian shops If you think that Prague is as close as you might ever make it to Russia, not to worry. Prague’s growing Russian expat population has become quite evident in the increase in stores selling Russian products and travel services. You’ll find a number of these shops right in the Bubenec area, and there are more than 20 Russian shops scattered around town. Matrjoski, Devjicka 18
View from Letna Park
This cosy and friendly shop is recommended for its good prices and wide selection of products. A two-litre bottle of kvas (a nonalcoholic fermented beverage made from rye bread) can be had for CZK45, and the delectable and highly popular sirok (frozen tvaroh with a thin chocolate cover) is only CZK8 – choose from strawberry, condensed milk or classic fillings. Arbat, Bubenecska 13
Pubs and cafes Traditional Czech food is often compared to German cuisine and tends to focus on pork, potatoes and dumplings. But you can also come across dishes like wild boar goulash, baked rabbit or roasted duck. In pubs that also offer hot meals, you’ll pay about CZK80 to CZK120 for a very filling portion. Simple places like the range of local pubs in Bubenec are a great way to dive right in and experiment with traditional Czech cuisine. Just look for the beer signs (like Pilsner Urquell or Gambrinus) hanging above the doorway and the hordes of locals inside seated on long benches and holding mugs of beer. Aside from the highly intriguing and tasty fried (smazeny), pickled (nakladany) or grilled (grilovany) cheeses, vegetarians may not be completely satisfied with pub grub, but there are also plenty of cafes in Bubenec, like the popular and inviting Cafe Calma, which features a nice little play corner for the kids and serves up a happy and healthy selection of veggie crepes, paninis, salads and pasta dishes. But Cafe Calma is just one of many lively and unique cafes around the area. When you’re looking for a place to sit down and relax over a snack and a refreshing drink, pop into one of these cafes to try a fresh slice of traditional honey cake (medovnik) or a draught beer like Gambrinus or Kozel. Some excellent cafes in the neighbourhood include: Kavarna Potrva, Srbska 2 Potrva’s beautiful, green outdoor patio is reason enough to show up at this unique corner cafe. But even in cooler weather, this coffee house and bar will keep you entertained with a weekly
lineup of live music, performances and more, all on a professional theatre stage. You’ll also love the perfect panini sandwiches and cheese and meat plates, all served up by some of the friendliest waitstaff in town. Cafe Calma, Kyjevska 2 Though not always as calm as its Spanish name suggests, Cafe Calma consistently offers a delectable variety (Czech and international cuisine) of homemade soups and hot meals, fresh teas and juices and irresistible salads and pastries. Linger over a Viennese coffee or a carafe of the house white and savour one of the freshly-baked pastries on offer. Boulevard Bageterie, VItezne namestI 14 You’d never know that this elegant and smokefree cafe is part of a bistro chain. Sip on strong cappuccino, chew on a toasted baguette sandwich and take in the chilled-out tunes. The views from this corner cafe are like watching a movie and will give you a feel for the real rhythm of Prague as the city flows around the busy and tulip-filled Vitezne namesti (Victory Square). Tchibo Kavarna / Cukrarna / Lahudky, Dejvicka 11 For its variety of pastries and cakes, this cafedeli can’t be beat. Tchibo is the biggest Czech brand of coffee, so you won’t find your usual range of Italian coffees here. But that’s not why you should visit this tiny local cafe – come for the food! Experience a delicate and colourful array of pastries with many layers of fruity gelatin or rich cream fillings. Or nibble on one of the traditional salads or snacks, like openfaced sandwiches (chlebicky).
Entering Arbat is like stumbling upon a secret labyrinth, complete with travel agency, CD and DVD collection, a currency exchange hanging just above the staircase, traditional glass and wooden crafts downstairs in the corner and finally, across the way from the crafts – saving the best for last – the mini grocery store. The display case is bursting with excellent Russian (and a few Czech) cakes and pastries, like the traditional and delectable pirozok, with chicken, cabbage, mushroom or paté fillings. If you’re looking for high-quality Russian vodka, this is the place to find it. You can also pick up some Baltika beer, which ranges in degree from a non-alcoholic zero to a party-time number nine. Kalinka, Verdunska 1 Appropriately located right around the corner from Puskinovo Namesti, this shop has a selection similar to that of Matrjoski, including a long glass case full of several different types of fish caviar and a wide variety of smoked fish. The main difference at this shop is that the adjacent room is a small cafe, where you can drink your Cheburashka lemonade or savor the CZK10 ptichye moloko (literal meaning: bird’s milk) candy with either chocolate, creme brulée or original filling.
Getting around town When making travel plans within and without Prague, make sure to take a look at http:// jizdnirady.idnes.cz (for English, click on the tiny British flag in the bottom right-hand corner). Here you can find the schedules and details for city transport – Metro, train, tram, bus – and connections for getting out of Prague as well. §
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plunge The Challenges and rewards for expat children living abroad
By Zsuzsana Blau, Communication Manager Move One Relocations
tâ€™s normal for expat parents to worry about the impact that living abroad may have on their children, and to be concerned about how their children will adapt to the new environment, culture and routine. Leaving their friends and old life behind can make parents wonder if moving was the right decision for their family.
Itâ€™s widely believed that children are easy to travel with, as they adjust more quickly than adults. Some also believe that, for children, moving abroad means excitement, exploration and an opportunity to learn. We all tend to think that adjustment for a child in a foreign country is something that happens without major problems, simply because theyâ€™re children.
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his may not always be the case. Just as for adults, unfamiliar situations, feelings of uncertainty and inability to communicate can be frustrating for children. New environments aren’t always friendly from a child’s perspective, as making new friends may take time, patience and learning. Furthermore, parents are not always aware of their children’s feelings, as they’re going through an adjustment process of their own – trying to do their best at the new job, getting along with new colleagues, settling into a new home, etc. Children may be very confused and anxious about the different culture, habits and patterns of behaviour in school, at their friends’ houses or on the street. The language barrier may exacerbate their anxiety. All this can leave expat children feeling sad and scared, nostalgic for distant friends, family and familiar surroundings, and with displaced feelings of anger.
a foreign language in a way few people ever do. Some expat children attend classes and some learn the language just by playing with kids from the neighbourhood or watching local TV. In any case, children learn new languages surprisingly fast, and any expat child is likely to become bilingual or even multilingual. Such knowledge is truly a treasure and a child can only benefit from it.
Education Studies have shown that 81 percent of people who grow up abroad earn at least a bachelor’s degree, and half of them go on to get a master’s degree or a doctorate. A study conducted in the US identified these “adult third-culture kids” as significantly more academically successful than average.
While these concerns should not simply be dismissed, keep in mind that living abroad can be enormously beneficial for your children. Not only does it provide them with an opportunity to learn how to adapt, but it will also create a great foundation for their future in many ways.
As a child is learning how to adapt to new surroundings and meeting new friends, parental and sibling support is essential. This is a time for a family to stick together, and this can have a very positive effect on family bonding. Many expats claim that living abroad improved their family life and reinforced the family members’ connection.
Here are some of the key benefits:
Expat children are very likely to become excellent problem solvers, as they have to face so many changes regularly. Adapting to a new school, new friends, new house, new language and completely new culture makes a child think of new ways to communicate and behave. Situations in which children cannot simply say, “I don’t like my new school” or “I hate this neighbourhood” will make them think: “What can I do to get accepted in a new school?” or “How can I approach my neighbour to make friends with him?” And before you know it, they learn how to solve the problem. Or become exponentially more devious.
Most people don’t have to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings until they reach the age of 18 and leave home to go to university. Some don’t even have to then, if they decide to study in their hometown. Either way, at some point we all find ourselves in a situation where we have to integrate into a new community. Being able to integrate into a new culture and society from an early age gives expat children a great advantage in many later-life situations. Learning to communicate with different people and to adjust to different environments increases a child’s communication skills, knowledge, adaptability and self-confidence.
Getting to understand the world From the comfort of our homes, we can do our best to empathise with the difficulties faced by people living in less developed countries. We can even try to help by donating or raising awareness. But it’s through actually living in a different country that we learn to truly appreciate the differences in quality of life. For a child, this experience develops their sense of the world around them. It increases awareness of why recycling is important, or why wasting food is bad, all the while developing their empathy and willingness to do more.
New experiences, every day For expat children, childhood never seems to end. There are constantly new things to explore, stoking an unending sense of wonder. Children living abroad learn all the time, from new friends, new tastes, new places and new cultures.
Languages Living abroad gives a child the chance to learn
Studies have shown that 81 percent of people who grow up abroad earn at least a bachelor’s degree, and half of them go on to get a master’s degree or a doctorate
New things are good
Life constantly changes us, whether we like it or not. An expat child learns that new things are probably good and exciting, and that a challenge isn’t something to be avoided. Changes for them are positive and desirable. Children living abroad often develop positive approaches to unpredicted changes in life. If managed properly, moving abroad with children is the opportunity of a lifetime for a family, not a disadvantage.
Granted, parenting in a foreign country can be much more demanding than at home, where everything is familiar with an established support system. However, it can also be a wonderful experience. By exposing children to other cultures, expat parents can raise global citizens who are aware of the wider world and respect and value diversity. §
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believe that one of the essential tasks of parenting is being widely ignored across the planet. If parents were wise and put more emphasis on teaching their children how to treat their fellow man, rather than focusing solely on accomplishment in the huge variety of activities they expose their children to, we would eventually find the world a more peaceful and prosperous place. The most instructive guidance happens through the example parents set, not the words and discipline they employ. My mother, from my earliest days, has been my mentor, as I’m sure yours has been for you. My mom perpetually reminds me, “I’ll always be your mother, so it’s my duty to instruct you, as long as I’m able to.” Her constant “Richard, you should…” can grind on my nerves to the point that I typically tune her out. Even at my advanced age, however, my mom’s example speaks for itself.
steps, but this was nearly perfect for her. I say nearly, because she wasn’t in a bunk bed with some other travellers in a hostel, which was the accommodation category she sought out and preferred. The two of us had our own room, with lumpy but comfortable beds and, wonder of wonders, a bathroom of our own. Mom was never one to squander money, especially her son’s. This was not so much because she was a child of the Depression, but because her resources were reserved only for service to her Lord. All that she had, she’d gotten directly from His hand. Maybe, she thought, if she made her policy clear, her children would also realise how money was best allocated. I was irritated that she never failed to stop and engage the cadres of beggars that lined the streets. She had little money, but smiled and gave coins to all, and invited many, especially those
a month at most.) “Well, I’ve got enough money and they apparently don’t,” she’d reply. “You’re just lining the pockets of the guys managing the beggars,” I said. “Richard,” she’d say, “what they do with the money is their moral choice. My obligation is to care for the poor that I meet.” I would get really frustrated with her, because this was always the way it was. She always got in the last word and was firmly set in her ways. I smouldered inside, and looked for shelter from the rain as she took her time doing what she intended to do. I decided we should take the tram to the Topkapi Palace that day. It cost only a few coins, so Mom agreed that it was reasonable, given it was several miles away and the rain was heavy, and most importantly that the cost was negligible. After our visit to the museum (the fee for which I managed to conceal from her) I marched her
My Istanbul Lessons learned from my mother By Dr Richard Thomas WorldPath Clinic International
While she was living in Cyprus, I invited her to travel with me to Turkey. Mother joined me in Istanbul for a few days. We took in the Topkapi Palace of the Sultans as well as the Aya Sofia, a Basilica dating from the time of Emperor Justinian, which became a mosque when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople (Istanbul). It was winter and the weather was cold and rainy. This limited our walking comfort as we explored the city together. Mom was frustrating me because she couldn’t keep up with my walking pace in the inclement weather. Our hotel was tiny, cramped and inexpensive, since Mom – this was her condition for being my guest – would not permit any extravagance. Breakfast came with the room, the facilities were old and a bit malodorous and we were on a high floor without any view, up flights of
who looked thin, to join her in a bakery or diner for a small snack. This continued as the cold rain slowly soaked through our garments, even when we were on a particular mission, like visiting a historic site. At times, I’d take her by the arm, try to distract her with conversation, or complain about the rain and its likely health effects on us both. She remained undismayed. I reminded her that begging only encourages more begging. On several occasions, I pointed out to her that the poorly dressed, unkempt child she gave coins and food to ran to a man in a suit down the street and turned over her takings to him. She countered that yes, we mustn’t beg, yet the needy, ignorant and poor of the world don’t have the benefit of our education. “But,” I’d answer, “you don’t have excess money. You’re living on Social Security, and only Survivor’s Benefits, not even the full amount.” (She received USD500-600
back to the tram and we boarded without objection. Mom and I sat back to back on the aisle. Suddenly there was a commotion next to her. A Turkish man, perhaps in his 40s, was thrashing about, flailing his arms and yelling in high agitation. Although he was yelling in Turkish, it seemed his ranting was incoherent gibberish. I immediately surmised that he was mentally ill. I became nervous that he would lash out at Mom, since some of his flailing came close to hitting her. The people in the surrounding seats pulled back and looked embarrassed and as if they wanted to flee. Mom, however, calmly began to talk in English in soothing tones and laid her hands gently on the man, stroking his arms and smiling at him, as if nursing a bruised child. He ranted in Turkish and she responded softly and
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Suddenly, miraculously, this crazy man ceased his diatribe and lay his head on Mom’s shoulder as she twisted in her seat to receive his head and stroke his hair and say, “Yes, yes, that’s alright. Yes, yes, you’re fine.”
calmly in English, saying things like, “I know, it’s alright, yes, yes, don’t worry,” gently stroking his arms. After about a minute of this, she turned to me and said, “Richard, you’re a doctor. Help this man. He needs help!” “Oh God,” I thought. How am I going to help a raving lunatic who speaks only Turkish? She moved to get up and trade places with me. Luckily for me, someone else, apparently unaware of the situation, took Mom’s seat, while I gave her mine. The man continued to rave and flail. Mom, now with her back to him, again spoke calmly and lovingly to him, while his neighbours and countrymen shied away in fear or disgust. She patted him, she stroked him, she was ridiculously fearless, at least in my professional estimation. Suddenly, miraculously, this crazy man ceased his diatribe and lay his
head on Mom’s shoulder as she twisted in her seat to receive his head and stroke his hair and say, “Yes, yes, that’s alright. Yes, yes, you’re fine.” In stunned disbelief, like everyone else watching, I observed this scene with my mouth open and my belief system dazed and confused. What was this? How could this be? After a few more stops we reached our destination and I told Mom we had to go. She and the man smiled at each other, she got up and said a loving goodbye to him, and we got off the tram. All remained quiet. As I looked at my mother the healer with disbelief and awe, she headed off down the street as if this was nothing unusual in her world. I asked, “Mom, how did you do that?” “How did I do what?” she humbly replied. “Come on, Mom! How did you get that guy to calm down?” “Well, someone needed to help him. I just thought the
thing to do was to love him, so I did. That almost always seems to work for me.” This was a signal learning experience for me. I had for years seen my mother being courageous, being kind, being generous, but I had never so obviously witnessed her impact on others. This episode changed me profoundly. It changed my opinion of my mother and my ability to listen to, rather than politely ignore, her guidance. It changed my opinion of myself as a doctor. Who was the well-trained, competent healer on that tram? What was I trying to accomplish as a doctor? Love, which had been schooled out of me in medical training as “excessive emotional attachment which clouded professional judgement” was just the opposite: an essential key to healing. §
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MOVING WITH CHILDREN The friendly people at Allied Pickfords help Family Matters navigate through the issues of relocating with children in tow By Claudia Neumayer International Move Consultant Allied Pickfords
any expat families with children will be moving on from Prague. It’s important to understand what impact this move will have on your children. The needs and concerns of children faced with relocating vary greatly depending on their age and the destination of the move. With older children and teenagers, psychological and emotional needs are the priority, whereas babies and toddlers have more basic requirements such as physical comfort during the transition. Young children will generally feel safe and comforted as long as they’re in the presence of their parents; however, a major worry for them is being left behind. It’s therefore important that, no matter what age your child,
you communicate with them effectively. The move must not come as a surprise and you should introduce the subject as early as possible. As a parent, your role is to encourage communication, providing comfort and emotional support. Your children may experience a whole range of emotions, including anger, sadness, relief and excitement. You will need to help them through this emotional battlefield and allow them to express their fears and concerns openly. It can be beneficial to hold regular family meetings where you all discuss your feelings, questions and worries. Once children feel respected and listened to they become more open to discussing the positive aspects of the move.
General hints for making the transition • Encourage children to learn about the new country in advance (this will help you learn at the same time). • Provide children of all ages with a special address book and stationery for keeping up with old friends. • Email is a cheap way to maintain daily contact with friends. • Take video and photos of the new home and area if your children are unable to see them before the move. • Arrange to visit new schools and meet teachers before the actual first day of school. • Explore your new area with the whole family as soon as possible.
children may experience a whole range of emotions, including anger, sadness, relief and excitement
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Children of this age worry about being left behind, especially when they see their favourite toys being packed away and their parents’ attention diverted from them and their normal home routine. Instead of getting them out of the way by sending them off to Nana’s or a baby-sitter, let them stay with you and help you pack up their possessions and toys. Never throw out any of these prior to the move, regardless of their condition, as having familiar things around is of great comfort to young children.
YOUNG CHILDREN A major factor in ensuring a smooth transition for the whole family will be the initial reactions of each child. When
you introduce the subject of moving you should be as informative as possible and explain why you feel the move will be of benefit to the entire family, not just the working parent. With younger children, it’s best to keep things lighthearted and fun, as they will want to know things like how their toys and furniture will be transported from one place to another. Acting out the process with these toys will help them relate to what will be happening. Books and games are another good way to help your children express their feelings and concerns. If your child has special needs, it’s important that they understand any variations in how their needs will be addressed. Hints • Provide the needed reassurance, stability and security. • Show them the destination on a map; this helps them become familiar with where they’re going. • Books and games are a
useful tool for explaining the moving process. • Give them things they can do to feel involved, such as sorting through belongings for outgrown toys and clothes and putting things in boxes. • Help them feel involved on moving day by allowing them to pack their flight bag, selecting the books, toys and snacks they would like to take.
Teenagers will face more complex issues when moving. During adolescence, teenagers seek validation and approval, which is often achieved within friendship groups. Leaving these friends, changing schools and giving up coveted sports positions and various hardearned opportunities will seem a daunting prospect. Although they will understand the idea of belonging somewhere other
than where they’re presently living, they may not have the skills to accept the idea of moving easily. They may have concerns about their capability to adjust to a new culture, and fear of the unknown may leave them feeling insecure and anxious, and lacking in confidence. Hints • Be respectful of their emotional needs. • Be clear about the benefits to the whole family. • Anticipate some of the concerns that may arise and have responses prepared. • Encourage open communication and honesty. • Encourage them to keep a diary; this is a nonconfrontational way for them to work through their concerns. • Subscribe to magazines or hometown newspapers that have youth contact. • Suggest exchange visits with friends. §
The longest holiday of your life Making your retirement dreams come true By Wade Dawson Senior Partner Austen Morris Associates
s Oscar Wilde once said,
“When I was young I used to think that money was the most important thing in life. Now that I am old, I know it is.”
et me ask you: How close are you to becoming a millionaire?
Many of you may have just returned from a nice holiday. You planned, you budgeted, you made sure arrangements were just so, thereby ensuring a perfect path to relaxation. Retirement is kind of like a holiday – only a whole lot longer. It’s hard to come up with anything more important than saving for your retirement. And yet for many, retirement seems too far off to make planning for
it a priority. But as the longest holiday of your life, it’s never too early to figure out how to fund it. For all of you out there living paycheck to paycheck on a meagre income, you may think it’s impossible to start saving and investing now. I’ll let you in on a little secret: the amount of money you earn has little bearing on your ability to build wealth. There are plenty of others out there who probably earn more than you, but who spend unwisely. Therefore,
through sound budgeting you can easily save and invest as much or more than the executive on that full expat package that you might have been dreaming about. Let’s face it, we all like the good things in life: travel, dining out, enjoying a good bottle of wine, buying nice things. However, if you want to be able to afford these things not only in your prime earning years, but all the way through retirement, a sound financial plan for saving and investing is crucial. You need to set a budget and decide how
much you can realistically save and invest every month while still allowing yourself to spend on the things that make life enjoyable. So what are your financial goals? You might say that your financial goals are to travel the world, make lots of money and retire young. However, these are just dreams, not realistic financial goals – unless you start acting on a financial strategy today (or unless wealthy Aunt Helga plans to be exceptionally generous to you in her will).
To reach USD1 million Current savings amount per month; 8% expected rate of return To reach USD1 million Current savings amount per month; 2% expected rate of return
The total amount of money you need to invest monthly will almost double if you wait another five years to get started
You need to figure out what amount of money you need to have every year for the rest of your life to live comfortably. Next, start planning how to earn that money when you’re no longer willing or able to work. Of course, it’s going to have to come from your savings and investments. Maybe you think your retirement is too far away to start contemplating now. Guess what? The total amount of money you need to invest monthly will almost double if you wait another five years to get started. For example, if you want to have one million dollars in 15 years, you’ll need to invest $2,889 per month for 15 years at an 8% net annual growth rate. However, you’ll need to invest $5,466 per month at the same rate if you want one million dollars in 10 years. In this example, a delay of five years means investing an additional $2,577 each month (almost double) to reach your desired goal of a million dollars. As a financial advisor, how can I possibly advise you to do anything other than start an investment now with whatever you have? It becomes even harder to reach your goal of a million dollars if your money is stuck in lower yielding investments, or even worse, in bank deposit growth. For example, if
you keep your money in the bank for those 15 years at a 2% annual growth rate, you’ll need to deposit $4,768 per month into your bank account to reach one million dollars. That means saving a whopping $1,879 more each month over 15 years. Again, if you want to reach the same goal in 10 years with your money in the bank at 2% growth, you’ll need to deposit $7,534 per month in 10 years to reach one million dollars. The amounts may dazzle you, but the concept is clear: as soon as possible, you need to get your excess money working for you in growth-oriented investments. Setting and achieving financial goals is not overly difficult, but it does mean you have to take the time to make a realistic assessment of your current financial situation and begin to implement a financial plan for yourself for the next year, five years and through to retirement. Sit down on your own or with a trusted advisor and list your financial goals, then decide on the best financial vehicles for you to achieve those goals. Many people find that personal finance software, such as Microsoft Money or Quicken, are good tools for budgeting and planning. There are many websites which
If you want your money to work for you, you need to do the work to form a sound financial plan to create the best retirement, and ultimately the longest holiday of your life
can help you plan how much income you might need when you retire, how to design an annual budget, how to calculate an emergency fund and how much money you need to invest every month in order to reach your financial goals. If you want your money to work for you, you need to do the work to form a sound financial plan to create the best retirement, and ultimately the longest holiday of your life. §
ade Dawson has worked as a China-based financial adviser for the past ten years, helping individuals and families achieve their financial goals. He is a Senior Partner at Austen Morris Associates and lives in Shanghai with his wife and two children. As a result of his insights, he has served as a Senior Partner seminar speaker, given numerous interviews and written articles for multiple Austen Morris Associates publications on a range of financial planning topics. He is dedicated to providing high-quality advice and creating integrated wealth management solutions that simplify his clients’ lives. Wade recognises that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to private wealth management and thus designs investment advice that is unique to each individual client. He and his team aim to achieve returns and service that exceed the client’s expectations. His mission is to help clients reach their financial targets through a personal relationship that is cemented by knowledgeable investment advice.
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Hedge Funds: myths and facts
By Robert Webb Senior Associate Elgin Group
he very term ‘hedge fund’ rouses emotions, many of them hostile. Never has an industry so extensively studied by ‘experts’ produced such a surplus of myths, misunderstandings and half-truths. They have been demonised for causing instability in financial markets and are often associated with greed and ruthlessness. The incomes of many top hedge fund managers, often on a par with their egos, can be 100,000 (yes, that’s one hundred thousand) times that of the average Joe in the developed world. Investors disappointed by the dismal performance of equity markets over the past decade are flooding into hedge funds in search of managers who they hope will make consistently good money for them regardless of where markets are going. Try Googling “hedge funds” and you’ll get over nine million results – about 20 times the number five years ago. Before going on, we should define what the beast is. There are varying definitions, but the one we think most complete is the following: Hedge funds are investment vehicles that explicitly pursue absolute returns on their underlying investments. They invest within the financial
markets (stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, derivatives, etc.) and often apply non-traditional portfolio management techniques including, but not restricted to, shorting, leveraging, arbitrage and swaps. They can invest in any number of strategies and are perhaps most readily identifiable by their structure, which is typically a limited partnership (the manager acting as the general partner and investors acting as the limited partners) with performancerelated fees, high minimum investment requirements and restrictions on types of investor, entry and exit periods. What does it mean to ‘hedge’? It means to manage risk. In the end, the best managers are
the ones that best manage the many risks associated with financial markets. Why are they so controversial and despised by many? There are several reasons, the most important being: • Use of leverage (borrowing a multiple of the principal available for investing). This amplifies returns but also losses. Excessive leverage can lead to systemic risks, as was the case with Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM) in 1998. • Lack of transparency. Most hedge funds don’t need to disclose their activities to third parties, often quoting confidentiality and proprietary
These days, markets move together with a very high degree of correlation
systems. While most funds operate with strict compliance, the lack of transparency can also lead to fraud, which is often difficult to detect. Bernie Madoff was an extreme case of massive fraud. • High fee structure. Typical fees of 2% of assets + 20% of profits eat into investor returns. So should hedge funds be considered at all? Absolutely. While no one has exact numbers, there are probably close to 10,000 hedge funds, managing in total about USD2 trillion. There are probably a few hundred top funds out there. They attract the brightest managers and provide good risk-adjusted returns to their investors. When vetted properly, hedge funds are essential in portfolio construction as they add to the
stability and performance of the portfolio. This is because they can produce positive returns in both rising and falling markets. A good portfolio manager should have the ability and tools to filter the best funds, but also have the necessary relationships which open doors to great managers. Many of these great managers fly under the radar and don’t even have websites. Many investors believe they’re following the old eggs and baskets adage by holding lots of different stocks across a variety of sectors and countries. On the surface this may appear to be a quite well diversified portfolio… apart from the fact that they’re all equities, with maybe a few bond funds chucked in for good measure. These days, markets move together with a very high degree of correlation – Wall Street
sneezes and the rest of the world goes down with bubonic plague – so the addition of assets and strategies that can perform well, at times when the stock markets of the world do not, helps deliver far smoother returns than a portfolio overweighted towards equities. We end with a word of warning. No matter how good some hedge fund managers are, they can never always get it right. With hedge funds it’s very much about the skill of the manager himself (rather than a bunch of spotty graduates sitting around a table sipping lattes) and his commitment to his fund and strategy, which is why it’s sometimes very difficult to see exactly what he’s doing. The likes of George Soros and John Paulson don’t earn billions of dollars each year by letting on what they’re up to. §
We end with a word of warning. No matter how good some hedge fund managers are, they can never always get it right
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FINANCING YOUR CHILD’S EDUCATION
any parents who come to Prague on foreign assignment are unprepared for the high tuition at international schools (assuming their companies aren’t paying the bill). So if parents want to send their children to international schools, what’s the best way to plan financially for this? Unfortunately, if parents haven’t planned for this expense in advance, it may be a little too late to start a savings plan to cover these costs. However, there are options for coming up with the money in the short term (see below); and if they haven’t already, this should give parents the focus they need to start saving immediately for later years of schooling, such as middle school and high school if the child is still in primary school, and for university. They should consult a financial planner to discuss starting a savings plan or adjusting the amount of contributions.
Assuming tuition is USD15,000 a year, what do you advise for: 1) parents with one or two years to save for international school tuition? 2) Parents with five or more years to save for international school tuition?
EVEN IF YOUR CHILD IS LONG OUT OF DIAPERS IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO START SAVING
Those with only a year or two to save up should invest as much as possible right away in a high interest savings account or a fixed term deposit. These will guarantee a certain rate of return. The rate will be higher than that of a regular savings account, but will still be considerably lower than the rate you could achieve in an investment portfolio. However, due to the necessity of having the money available in such a short period, it’s not advisable to make a higher risk investment. For those with five or more years to save, there’s still time to start a savings plan with an initial period of exposure to high-risk (and potentially high-return) investments. Speak to a financial advisor right away to start such a plan.
Other than taking out loans, what else can parents do to insure they have money each year for school tuition?
There are a number of options available (varying considerably based on nationality) for funding tuition. Options include: • Dipping into retirement savings or putting less money into a retirement savings plan and redirecting funds towards tuition payments.
• Withdrawing money from a child’s university savings plan (some plans allow funds to be withdrawn tax-free for primary and secondary education). Of course, you’ll need a plan for making up the contributions in order to insure there’ll be enough money available to pay for university when the time comes. • Funding fees out of current aftertax income by cutting down on other expenses. • Starting a monthly savings plan to build up a lump sum (only applicable for those with sufficient time to save). • Asking a third party, such as a grandparent, to contribute. This is a popular strategy in the US and the UK, where there may be tax benefits for such contributions. • Utilising equity from a home or other property. • Selling off investments or assets • Taking personal loans to pay the fees. • Paying with a credit card with a very low APR. However, you need to be certain you’ll be able to make the payments as scheduled. Otherwise, you’ll be penalised with a high APR and late payment fees.
• Negotiating further with the employer to seek tuition funding as a benefit in kind. Before pursuing any of the above strategies, you should consult a financial adviser, as there could be significant implications for your long-term financial security. Additionally, international schools may offer a variety of financing options, including tuition payment plans. These allow you to stretch out the tuition payments over a year or longer. You should also ask schools whether they offer a cash discount for paying tuition in full by the due date. Check with the schools to determine what type of payment plans they offer.
For parents unaccustomed to paying tuition (for example, their child’s education was free at home), what advice can you give about budgeting for this new expense?
Although parents will have the new expense of international school tuition, they will likely have a lower cost of living in Prague than they would in their home country. All the money saved from the lower costs of dining out, shopping and so on should immediately be directed into an education savings plan.
There are numerous other ways families can stretch their budget. This includes limiting travel, eating out less often, making coffee at home instead of buying from Starbucks and cutting back on clothing and gift expenditures. Some families decide it makes sense for the second parent to take up employment, though this may not always be possible due to visa restrictions. One of the best methods of budgeting is to start a regular savings plan. That means a set amount is automatically deducted from your account on a monthly basis. This leaves you with a set amount of money to spend each month and will assure that your savings goals are met. Those who spend first and then put the remainder into savings often find that there’s nothing left to put into savings at the end of the month.
What advice do you have for parents with more than one child in school?
If you have more than one child at a school, certain schools might offer a quantity discount on your tuition. If you also have children enrolled in college, you should ask their college financial aid administrators to review the financial aid package to make an adjustment for the private school tuition you’re paying for your other children.
This may lead to an increase in the college student’s financial aid package by decreasing the discretionary income figure used in computing the financial need.
In terms of saving for college, what can parents do now to save for the rising cost of college tuition?
Ideally, you’ll have started an educational savings plan for your child soon after their birth. But even if your child is long out of diapers it’s not too late to start saving. If you haven’t already, consult a financial adviser right away so you can start saving for the rapidly rising costs of university education. As proud parents, we all desire the best for our children. It’s obvious that to give them the best education you need to save early in order to afford the increasing costs. Also, it’s very important to have someone talk with you and plan out a simple programme to achieve your son or daughter’s educational dreams. Visit a financial consultant sooner rather than later, and start saving today. §
ONE OF THE BEST METHODS OF BUDGETING IS TO START A REGULAR SAVINGS PLAN
rom early infancy, it appears that our ability to regulate emotional states depends upon the experience of feeling that a significant person in our life is simultaneously experiencing a similar state of mind. – Daniel J. Siegel, MD Resilience is our ability to cope with difficulty and to handle ourselves under stress. Resilience is not learned from a book; rather, it is learned from our environment, the most important part of which is our relationships. When we’re born, we have a very limited capacity for stress. We’re dependent on caregivers and are only able to learn about ourselves and our bodies through interaction with them. As babies grow, parents gradually learn to differentiate their baby’s signals: one cry indicates hunger while another indicates pain, and still another may be the baby’s way of manipulating Mum and Dad to be near 24/7. As parents learn to respond to their baby in different ways, the baby begins to understand and connect external occurrences with their internal experience of them. At the same time that we help to build a baby’s sense of self, they learn that certain reactions from their parents evoke certain responses. Mary Ainsworth, a researcher in the 1950s, found that children developed resilience and healthy attachments when they were “picked up when they wanted to be picked up and put down when they wanted to be put down”. Western parents tend to put children down before they’re ready, and Asian parents tend to hold onto children even when they want to be put down. Either approach hinders the child from developing the physiological and psychological sense that “my needs are respected and important.”
Learning resilience from being comforted and reassured During the first year of life in particular, babies cannot comfort themselves. The infant’s brain and body are simply not developed enough to self-soothe. Children slowly develop this ability by being comforted and soothed by calm and collected parents. The more adept
WHAT IS RESILIENCE, AND HOW DO I HELP MY CHILD DEVELOP IT? By Rob Blinn, Ph.D, Department Chair of Psychological Health Center, Beijing United Family Hospital
they are at comforting the baby when needed, the more able the baby will be to internalise this ability and comfort him or herself. This ability highly correlates with resilience. People who don’t learn self-comfort as children can still develop these skills as adults, as research has shown. As with children, the development of selfcomfort in adults must still happen in a relational context, perhaps through a relationship with a mentor, close friend, religious leader or psychotherapist, and sometimes in intimate, authentic relationships with a spouse or partner. Rather than make children wait until adulthood, how can we encourage resilience in our children now? All families face stressful events. It’s a fact of life. As an adult, if you remain calm, grounded and centred in a crisis, your child will be much more likely to develop the same abilities. Flight attendants tell adults to put on their oxygen masks prior to helping their children. I like to use this as a metaphor for stressful life events as well. When your panic centres are activated, slow down, take a few deep breaths, perhaps
Play, exercise and art are also quite helpful in building resilience
stretch or focus attention on your body to calm it down. Only after this should you engage the stressful situation. As you face stressful situations over and over again, your child will learn how to face stress in the same way. Additionally, children need lots of reassurance and may require a lot more time to work through intense emotions than adults do. Rushing them to get over emotional upsets will usually backfire. When a parent develops the ability to calmly and consistently reassure a child, the child will surely benefit.
Learning resilience from feeling safe Play, exercise and art are also quite helpful in building resilience. A friend of mine, educator Ale Duarte, has developed several games and activities to help children develop resilience or regain resilience after trauma. One such game is The Wolf Comes at Midnight. The object of the game is to have children prepare to get away from the wolf, whom they’re told is coming at midnight. They’re all given safe places and told they’ll be safe if they can get there
before the wolf gets them. At the beginning of the game, the kids are told that it’s 8pm. They have time to prepare, plan out their route and decide if they need a helper to get to the safe place. Throughout the game, and especially at the end when the child has reached the safe place (no child is ever ‘caught’), the child is asked what they notice in their body when they’re in the safe place. This game (and others) and calm parental reassurance can guide a child to internalising feelings of safety. When a child repeatedly has physical experience of feeling safe, they begin to internalise those feelings. Eventually, children understand what creates feelings of safety within them. Even when away from physical representations of safety, these children can modify their internal state to encourage those feelings of safety to emerge. When they feel safe, children also learn to feel comforted, reassured and calm. As these feelings become part of our normal daily experience, we become more resilient and able to cope with the stresses of life. The process of reinforcing symbolic safe places makes it easier for us and our children to emotionally go back to these safe places and stay there. §
THE WINTER BLUES HOW TO PROTECT SMALL CHILDREN FROM GETTING SICK THIS WINTER Provided by NCICH
he winter months bring an increase in sicknesses including colds, flu and other viral infections. Small children are not always able to fight sicknesses as well as adolescents. However, there are ways to protect children from getting sick or at least help keep their environment cleaner and more germ-free to decrease the number of illnesses.
Germs and disease spread easiest from hands and make small children very sick, especially during the winter season when people stay indoors more. Hand washing is the best protection from sickness and infections. So always wash your hands and your little oneâ€™s hands, and have anyone around your small child wash their hands often. You can also use hand sanitiser when needed.
Keep pets and pet hair clean. Pets can carry illnesses in their hair that spread from person to person. They can carry fleas, bugs and skin conditions obtained from outdoors. Pet dander and hair has a tendency to fly all over the house, even if you donâ€™t see it. So bathing pets and vacuuming your furniture and floors often will help protect small children from getting sick.
Keep me healthy! Oranges Oranges are a great source of Vitamin C and will help boost a child’s immune system throughout winter. Did you know that to get the equivalent amount of fibre of an orange, you would have to eat two bowls of cornflakes?
Face Masks Although controversial as to whether they prevent pollution from affecting the lungs, they are a great way to prevent your germs from spreading to your children when you have a winter illness.
Hand Sanitiser Make a hand sanitiser part of your and your child’s daily routine to stop the spread of germs, and you could soon see a reduction of winter colds in your household.
No Smoking Children are more susceptible to cigarette smoke, and second hand smoke can lead to infections in children. Smoke outside.
If you smoke, smoke outside. Smoking in the home is the leading cause of ear, nose and throat infections in small children. Children inhale the smoke from tobacco into their lungs, making it more difficult for them to breathe. This weakens their immune system and makes it harder for them to fight off infections and viruses. Good indoor ventilation is important too.
If you or other children and adults are sick, resist kissing your little one on the mouth. Germs are quickly spread through our saliva, which means when you kiss your child, sneeze near your child or even blow your nose, you risk making them sick. You may even want to purchase facial masks that can be worn by sick adults and children to protect your small child from getting ill. These can be purchased at any pharmacy. Try to avoid getting super close to your child, at least until you or other sick people are feeling better. This will protect your child from getting ill as well.
Feed your child healthy foods like fruits and vegetables often, and make sure they take a daily multivitamin. Strengthen their immune system with good foods, vitamins and minerals. If you’re unsure about the type of vitamins to give your small child, try asking your pediatrician first. Most recommend a daily multivitamin with fluoride to protect your child’s teeth as well. Foods rich in fibre, calcium and vitamins A, B, C and D are also a great way to help your child stay healthy. Your pediatrician can suggest foods that are good for your child, depending on their age and needs.
Sunshine is a good natural supplement for child development. Remember to take your child out for some outdoor activities for 2 or 3 hours a day. Exposing their skin to the sunshine is good for the absorption of calcium and helps prevent rickets.
Ensuring Recovery Treating basic sports injuries by SinoUnited Health
njuries are an inevitable consequence of playing sports, but they need not recur and become your lifelong bad back or ‘dicky knee’. Injuries that are treated effectively in both the short and long term have a good chance of healing completely and permanently.
The most common basic sports injuries are muscle tears and pulls such as quad strains, hamstring strains, pulled calf muscles and dead legs, sprained ankles and acute and chronic shoulder or rotator cuff injuries. While, later on in the recovery stage, each of these injuries will require different approaches and different rehabilitative strategies, there are some basic steps you should follow in the early days after your injury. In the immediate 48-72 hours afterwards, it’s important to avoid taking anti-inflammatories. SinoUnited Health Physiotherapists advise that it’s okay to take analgesics, but they must be paracetamol-based, not aspirin-based. This is because, at this stage in the healing process, you actually need that inflammatory process to bring along the good stuff to fight infection and encourage healing. White blood cells, for example, help to remove damaged tissue. In this crucial period it’s best to take the RICE approach. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, four actions
you need to take in order to limit damage to your tissues and create the best possible environment to allow your body to repair itself. (Occasionally you might also see PRICE or even RICER, where P stands for Protection and the final R stands for Referral. Protection means removing the risk of further injury, which can be done by taping or strapping, or by providing a splint, sling or brace. For tips on how to correctly tape an injured area and prevent further injury, check out the SinoUnited Health website at www.sinounitedhealth.com. Referral means sending the injured person to a specialist for a diagnosis on how to best treat the injury.)
rest Immediately after an injury it’s important to rest the area. If it’s causing pain, don’t try to continue exercising or playing sport. Don’t
In the immediate 48-72 hours afterwards, it’s important to avoid taking antiinflammatories
push through the pain if you can’t bear weight in the area or if movement of the joint is painful. Please note, however, that this is not carte blanche to set up camp on the couch with every single episode of The Simpsons known to man – try to keep up a certain amount of physical activity. The point is simply that you should not cause further damage to the particular area that is injured.
ice Ice should be applied immediately after an acute injury. When there’s been a localised trauma to the body and there’s an active bleed, it’s necessary to reduce blood flow to this bleeding site, as increased bruising (blood in the spaces between the cells) slows the healing time, and increases discomfort and scarring of the tissue. All of this makes complicated rehabilitation more likely. This should be checked by applying ice (to decrease blood flow volume through vasoconstriction – narrowing of the blood vessels) for periods of 10-15 minutes on and off for around two hours. In this time, you should be able to apply ice around six times. Too much ice (longer than 15 minutes at a time) will result in reflex vasodilation (widening of blood vessels to increase volume of blood flow), whereby more blood is sent to the area to compensate. Do not use heat on the area, as this will also encourage vasodilation.
compression Use a pressure bandage to help prevent and reduce swelling, which decreases joint movement. Wrap the injured part firmly but
make sure that you do not constrict the blood flow.
Elevation Keep the injured area elevated, as this will help to drain swelling away from the joint. The area should be elevated above the level of the heart, or at least higher than the most proximal joint of the limb concerned (i.e. hip or shoulder). The healing process takes place over 6-12 weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. In the 3-5 days immediately after the injury, the so-called ‘lag phase’, the body is trying to patch itself up. It’s like repairing something with wood glue: unlike super glue, which dries quickly, wood glue remains squishy and wet for a long time. When a wound is at this stage, it’s best not to prod it or stretch it and move it around. In some cases it may be necessary to see your doctor. Here are some red flags that you should watch out for: If it’s impossible to bear weight, you may have a fracture, cartilage damage or a serious ligament injury. Instability. If you can’t move the area as much as you used to, or indeed if it’s displaying signs of hypermobility (i.e. you can move it much more than usual), get to a doctor. Instant swelling within an hour of the injury means that bleeding is occurring, and is a sign of something serious. If at the time of injury you hear a crack, tear or pop, get to a hospital. And finally, decreased sensation (like a numb
hand after twisting your elbow) or a lack of pulse may indicate that an artery or nerve has been involved in the injury. For example, an elbow popped back into place may pinch the artery or nerve between the bones in the process. In the 5-20-day recovery phase, you can start gentle movements and stretching. After three weeks, you can begin to prepare the injured area for a return to the sport that caused the injury by targeting it with more specific rehabilitative exercises. Healing tissue is relatively dysfunctional and needs to learn how to move the way the original tissue did. The body loses its proprioceptive abilities in that area, as the receptors that send this information to the brain are damaged alongside the muscle or the ligament: thus, the muscles forget how to move properly. Consequently, injury is more likely to recur if you don’t take it slow and allow your muscles to learn how to move again.
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The obesity problem
A discussion with Dr Thomas By Dr Richard Thomas WorldPath Clinic International
hy are children much heavier than a generation ago? Is it important to recognise this in your child or family and intervene? What can be done about it? When I grew up in western New York State, getting out and exercising was what there was to do. Virtually every day, I met with neighbour friends and played active games like tag or pick-up baseball at a nearby empty lot (teams were chosen by the two best players flipping a bat, then alternating hands until a hand didn’t fit; the winner then grabbed the knob and got the first pick of teammate). Or we played basketball in the driveway of our home (first pick went to the guy who made the most free throws) or walked to the train tracks, then off into the fields to search for and capture garter snakes. In winter, we built forts and had snowball fights, or piled snow and jumped off the roof into it, or went sledding on the ‘Big Hill’. The ‘down the hill’
(10 seconds) was fun, while the ‘up the hill’ (60 seconds, or 30 if you ran, which we usually did) was the strenuous exercise part. When we had no energy left, we’d do it for another few hours, then drag home exhausted and happy from the fun and camaraderie. There was one fat kid in the whole neighbourhood, but he was fit and could out-tussle anyone. Those were the days! Will humanity ever see them again? No, not while there are mindless TV shows, or tons of violent game simulations on the latest iPhone or Wii. Not while parents cower in fear that their unsupervised child may be abducted, or lawyers lurk to sue any lot or pool owner who hasn’t fenced off and posted warnings on his property to stop kids from doing what kids do. Some wise parents decide that active lives are preferable for their children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends
limiting TV and other seated entertainment time to two hours a day. Many parents get their children into activities that provide an aerobic workout, like karate, tae kwon do, ballet or soccer, to name just a few. In my experience, staying active is simply a great thing for kids to do. Unfortunately, if there are too many calories going in kids get obese regardless of the frequency of exercise. Just think about sumo wrestlers – they work out rigorously, but they eat more than their bodies need. Parents need to assess the approximate daily caloric requirement for their child (and maybe for themselves). First three months According to the University of Chicago, infants this age need 116 calories per kg of weight a day. Each 30 ml of breast or formula milk contains 20 calories. A 3 kg infant requires about 350 calories, 540 ml of milk. Breastfeeding, in my experience, is self-regulating.
That is, kids simply don’t get too heavy while primarily breastfeeding. Up to one year Infants three to 12 months of age require 100 calories per kg a day, according to the University of Chicago. Iron-fortified rice cereal is an appropriate first solid food to introduce, followed by fruit, vegetables and meat. Composition The University of Chicago advises that an infant diet should consist of 40 percent carbohydrates, 10 percent proteins and up to 50 percent fats to meet caloric and nutritional requirements. Breast milk is high in fats (including the essential fat omega-3, which builds brain cells). Next time, we’ll talk about your older child and what we can do, aside from exercise, to help them avoid obesity. §
taking it in Budapest’s top FIVE Things to See By Ramada Hotels
here’s no doubt that the top end of the Northern Territory delivers a fantastically special and unique Australia holiday. The beauty of this area is the joy of exploring World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park as well as both Litchfield and Nitmuluk National Parks – all within a 3-hour drive of each other and Darwin. Easy driving and magnificent nature-based activities to enjoy for the whole family!
udapest, the pearl of the Danube, is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Budapest is full of unique sights and is the biggest spa city in the world. You can find Europe’s biggest parliament building, its longest cellar system (over 25 km long), a labyrinth in a rock, Roman ruins, the biggest artificial ice skating rink, Europe’s biggest synagogue, the oldest Metro line on the continent and much more… Budapest also has an intense and colourful cultural and night life, and there’s always an interesting festival going on. It’s not easy to figure out the Top 5 things to do here, but we took the challenge head-on, and this is what we came up with.
Buda Castle Hill W
alk around historic Castle Hill and enjoy a unique view from different spots in the Castle District. Start the tour with a walk over the chain bridge, enjoying the panoramic view, then explore the small hidden paths, parks and stairs up the hill; it’s even more amazing (and romantic) at night. The side towards Pest is very busy, while the side towards the Buda hills is very quiet and relaxing. You can also take the historical Funicular Railway up and walk around Buda Castle – enjoy the view from the Fishermen’s Bastion, visit the Matthias Church, have a cake and coffee in Cafe Ruszwurm or just have a rest in one of the small parks and gardens. Don’t forget to check out the inner court of the Hilton Hotel, where you can still see the remaining ruins of a medieval monastery.
udapest is suddenly tropical all year round at the biggest water theme park in Central Europe. If, after some exhausting sightseeing in the busy centre of Pest, you feel like having a little holiday in another world… try Aquaworld Budapest. Palm trees and exotic plants, a replica of Angkor Wat, rope bridges, a white water run and more carry you to another world, and there are also giant waterslides with names like UFO and Kamikaze. There are countless indoor and outdoor pools (including a wave pool) and a huge Wellness Area. While the kids are kept entertained in the Bongo Kids Club or the Adventure Park, you can play beach volleyball or just enjoy some refreshing tropical cocktails at the bar. There’s a free shuttle service from Heroes’ Square to this fantastic and unique place in Budapest. Have another holiday during your holiday!
Budapest by bike T
ry the most innovative and interactive way to discover Budapest – sightseeing on a bike. Companies like Budabike.com offer bike tours where you get to see not just the usual sights but also some lesser-known parts of Budapest, like Obuda or the Roman ruins. With the bike you see things more intensely than on a tour bus, and on the tour you see a lot more than if you go walking on your own. In Pest, for example, you can explore the most important sights as well as more hidden areas in the space of two hours. A personal guide will show you the enormous Parliament building, the beautiful Opera House, Andrassy Avenue and more… and the tour ends at the very impressive Heroes’ Square, where you can have a break and enjoy a cool drink below the trees. On a bike you don’t just see the city, you feel it too.
Night cruise on the Danube
udapest and the Danube by night are something very special. Maybe the best place to enjoy that amazing panorama is from a boat on the river. Take a Danube cruise at night for beautiful panoramic views of Buda and Pest. Several companies offer cruises; you can do a simple onehour cruise, or pull out all the stops and have a romantic candlelight dinner on the boat. You’ll see the wonderfully illuminated bridges of Budapest, Buda Castle and the Citadel, and you won’t easily forget the glory of the lights of Budapest (including the hundreds of lamps of the chain bridge) gleaming on the Danube, with the stars above glittering in response.
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margaret island E
njoy this oasis in the centre of Budapest, because it has it all: pools, beaches, a running track, cocktail bars, hotels, clubs, an open-air stage, snack bars… Almost three kilometres long, Margaret Island spans the area between Margaret Bridge and Arpad Bridge and boasts the city’s most beautiful park and a modern skywalk. In addition, it also houses ruins of medieval sacred sites, promenades flanked by statues, a water tower classified as a heritage site by UNESCO and the famous Music Well.
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FINAL WORD Hybrid vigour in the classroom Mike Embley evaluates the case for ‘hybrid thinking’ and how it applies to students and teachers
ny good gardener or farmer will be very aware of the idea and practice of encouraging cross-breeding to promote what is called hybrid vigour. The basic idea is that often crossing two pure-bred lines of plants or animals works to produce a new offspring with the best characteristics of both parents. Indeed, top-quality seeds for keen gardeners are often marked “F1 hybrid”, referring to the fact that they are a first-generation mix of two excellent lines. As with plants and animals, so with ideas. The mixing of minds and cultures often gives rise to something new and powerful. We can see this as modern communication allows ideas to move quickly around the world and mix in ways that their creators never intended or envisaged. Some of these ideas have been among the most
powerful cultural movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. While undeniably powerful, these ideas have not always been constructive or a force for good, and one can speculate on the ramifications of such cultural foreshortening as it progresses over future generations. However, one idea whose time has definitely come, and whose tangible benefits are apparent, is the movement of teachers and ideas about teaching around the world. Each and every top school must have at its core the success of its students as its first priority. This success shouldn’t be limited to, but of course must include, academic success. Many students gain just as much from musical, sporting or artistic endeavours though, and we shouldn’t overlook the role of personal challenge and development.
Each school has its own character that imparts something extra to those in its care. At The English International School we pride ourselves on our commitment to strong family-focused communication, good manners, social graces and discipline. Some would call these values traditionally British. It’s true that British culture places a strong emphasis on good manners, but this is not unique! In fact British culture is something of a hybrid itself, a fact which should not be forgotten. We are THE English School in many senses and must remain so. That fact brings great value, and our slightly traditional nature and academic, artistic, sporting and personal success is what our families expect from us. However our community is made up of families from all
over the world, all of whom have something to offer. Equally, our teachers have a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences on which we can draw. Teachers who have had exposure to a wide range of teaching methods in their training and continuing professional development also benefit from being able to choose the most relevant methods. Although the very trendy Learning Styles theory is falling rather out of favour of late due to the lack of evidence supporting it, variety remains very much an important part of a teacher’s tool kit. After all, our students must be able to operate in the modern hybrid world. What better way to succeed than for them to become exposed to a little hybrid thinking themselves? §
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