EARCOS ET Journal Spring Issue 2024

Page 20


A Link to Educational Excellence in East Asia

Featured in this Issue

Teacher Research

Effective Teachers in International Schools: What We Know and What We Need to Know


Empowering Educators, Elevating Students: Introducing the International Literacy Coach Cohort to EARCOS Schools


Combatting Math Anxiety in Elementary Education


The ET Journal is a triannual publication of the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS), a nonprofit 501(C)3, incorporated in the state of Delaware, USA, with a regional office in Manila, Philippines. Membership in EARCOS is open to elementary and secondary schools in East Asia which offer an educational program using English as the primary language of instruction, and to other organizations, institutions, and individuals.


* To promote intercultural understanding and international friendship through the activities of member schools.

* To broaden the dimensions of education of all schools involved in the Council in the interest of a total program of education.

* To advance the professional growth and welfare of individuals belonging to the educational staff of member schools.

* To facilitate communication and cooperative action between and among all associated schools.

* To cooperate with other organizations and individuals pursuing the same objectives as the Council.


Catriona Moran (Saigon South International School), President

James Dalziel (NIST International School), Vice President

Jim Gerhard (Seoul International School), Secretary

Rami Madani (International School of Kuala Lumpur), Treasurer

Gregory Hedger (The International School Yangon), WASC Representative

Karrie Dietz (Australian International School Singapore)

Matthew Parr (Nagoya International School)

Marta Medved Krajnovic (Western Academy of Beijing)

Kevin Baker (American International School Guangzhou), Past President

Margaret Alvarez (WASC), Ex-Officio

Andrew Hoover (Office of Overseas Schools, REO, East Asia Pacific)


Edward E. Greene, Executive Director

Bill Oldread, Assistant Director

Kristine De Castro, Assistant to the Executive Director

Maica Cruz, Events Coordinator

Ver Castro, Membership & I.T. Coordinator

Edzel Drilo, Professional Learning Weekend, Sponsorship & Advertising Coordinator, Webmaster

Robert Sonny Viray, Accountant

RJ Macalalad, Accounting Assistant

Rod Catubig Jr., Office Staff

East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS)

Brentville Subdivision, Barangay Mamplasan, Binan, Laguna, 4024 Philippines

Phone: +63 (02) 8779-5147 Mobile: +63 917 127 6460

In this Issue

an eSports as an After School Program By Joshua


Networking and Inclusion: Tackling DEBJ in Beijing as a Team By Timizay Ruiz, Individuals & Societies Team Leader Social-Emotional Well-being

Providing for the Social-Emotional Well-being of our Multilingual Learners in the Dynamic setting of an International School By Edna Lau & Stephanie Drynan

Press Release

From Listening Games to Hands-on Manipulative, Concordia’s Grade One Teachers Build Foundations While Making Math Fun By William P. Badger, Jr.

Press Release

- In Community (p44)

- EARCOS to Partner with PeerSphere for 2024/25! (p46)

- EARCOS Teacher Leader Institute (p47)

- Global Citizenship and Service Learning (p48)

- Council of Administrators of Taiwan Expatriate Schools (CATES) (p49)

- Moonlight Foundation Nepal (p50)

- Spring Heads’ Institute Report 2024 (p52)

High School Art Gallery

- Concordia International School Hanoi

- Seoul International School

- Dominican International School

- International School of Ulaanbaatar

Executive Director’s Message

While there are some school days that seem interminably long, school years seem to flash by. It is hard to believe that most of us are staring at the end of the 2023-2024 school year. May the coming weeks be filled with only happy surprises and celebrations.

The summer break is a time for family, friends, excursions, courses and, perhaps most of all, reflection. The school year offers teachers and educational leaders far too little time for deep thinking and reflection. Considering the multitude of issues and challenges facing educators in today’s tattered and warming world, time for reflection is indeed a precious gift—and an imperative for each of us.

The EARCOS Tri-annual Journal exists to promote the exchange of ideas across the 216 schools in our dynamic community. I hope that within the 58 pages of this issue, you will find more than a few ideas and strategies to consider in the coming weeks. The collection of articles in this issue addresses some of the most pressing topics facing international educators today. These include, among other topics, Artificial Intelligence, DEIJ(B) and Unconscious Bias, the growing prevalence of Instructional Coaching, Research on Effective teaching in an international context. Thank you to those who have contributed to the creation of this issue of ET!

I hope you will also take a few moments to enjoy the awesome artwork from students in Seoul international School, Concordia (Hanoi), Dominican International and the International School of Ulaanbaatar. A very special thank you to those talented young artists and their teachers for sharing these pieces with us and making this issue such a visually stunning one.

We look forward to seeing many of you at the University Admissions Conference, the Leadership Conference (in Bangkok) and the Teachers’ Conference (in Kuala Lumpur). We also look forward to seeing you at some of next year’s webinars, currently under construction. And please remember to take advantage of the newly launched institutes: the ILLC, with Monica Olds-Medina and Shannon Hobbs-Beckley, the Effective Teaching Institute for Middle Leaders with Leslie Grant and James H. Stronge, and the PeerSpheres initiative with Michael Iannini.

From all of us at EARCOS, here’s wishing you a wonderful break with lots of time with those you love, and plenty of time to recharge and reflect. The next school year will be knocking on the door before you know it. Enjoy!

Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand


Belonging and Becoming

24-26 OCTOBER, 2024


Dates & Deadlines



This award is presented to a student who embraces the qualities of a global citizen. This student is a proud representative of his/her nation while respectful of the diversity of other nations, has an open mind, is well informed, aware and empathetic, concerned and caring for others encouraging a sense of community and strongly committed to engagement and action to make the world a better place. Finally, this student is able to interact and communicate effectively with people from all walks of life while having a sense of collective responsibility for all who inhabit the globe.



Students designated by their schools as a Global Citizen are eligible to apply for one of six $500 Community Service Grants. These grants are awarded to Global Citizens who are actively involved in a service project benefiting either children, adults, or the environment. The grant is intended to enhance and support the student’s continued efforts with the project during the final year of high school. Interested students are asked to work with their high school principal or designated faculty advisor to complete the application which is found below.



The EARCOS Board of Trustees has established the Richard T. Krajczar Humanitarian Award to recognize, each year, the work of one not-for-profit organization with a proven record of philanthropy in the East Asia/Pacific Region. For more information please visit the earcos.org website.


Those interested in joining the program as mentors or mentees are invited to complete the registration and preference ELM questionnaire. Registration for the program is ongoing at https://tinyurl.com/tae2jqz

EARCOS is excited to announce a new partnership with PeerSphere, a leading organization in peer learning communities for international educators. Together, we are set to elevate professional development opportunities for middle leaders in the 2024/25 school year, aligning with EARCOS’s commitment to fostering excellence in member schools. Find out more about the 5 EARCOS Middle Leadership communities and how your school can get involved here .

Want to experience a PeerSphere live session for free? Register now for one of our 4 Taster Sessions between May 13-16 and connect and learn with your peers! Click here to find out more.


SEPTEMBER 20-21 2024


The strength of this institute is due to the vibrant partnership among the region’s counselors and university representatives as they collaborate on topical issues and together offer solutions to challenges faced in the region.

Call for session proposals

We invite you to submit a session proposal that will spark dialogue on international admissions and guidance as it relates to schools and students in Asia. click here

In loving memory of

Dr. Thomas H. Farrell

b. July 25, 1946 – d. March 17, 2024

Dr. Thomas H. Farrell, a beloved teacher, coach, and longtime school administrator, died on Sunday, March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day) surrounded by his family. He was 77. He lived with his wife of 46 years, Debbie Porter Farrell, in both Kennebunk and Weld.

Farrell’s professional life was one devoted to youth. He spent over 50 years in education; first as a high school teacher and coach in Maine, and then as an administrator and Superintendent of schools in Maine, Colorado, and Taiwan. He wrote, “Teachers are very important people in the lives of children. That is why I love our profession and what I do. We can play a role in the well-being of every student and even help save some.”

Farrell was a national leader in drug prevention education and consulted for many years with the FBI, DEA, and Major League Baseball International, as well as the US Dept of Education, and the US Information Agency (which later became the US State Department). He served on the Board of Directors of the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth (chaired by former First Lady, Nancy Reagan) from 1985-1989. In 2001 he was awarded the Enrique S. Camarena Award for outstanding contributions to community service toward America’s drug abuse reduction effort. He was also awarded the Carey E. McDonald National Citation by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association in 2000 (an award given annually to recognize persons of national renown who have made a unique contribution to a high school, amateur, or professional sports and/ or the coaching profession). He received many other national accolades throughout his career. But according to Farrell, “My greatest reward was receiving hundreds of letters from graduates years later thanking me for being there for them and making a positive dierence in their life.”

Thomas Hackett Farrell was born at Mercy Hospital in Portland, Maine on July 25, 1946, the third of five children of Thomas James Farrell and Elfreda Mae Hackett. He spent the greater part of his childhood playing various sports and causing mischief in the “Brick Park” section of Rumford, where his father was a high school teacher and coach. After graduating from Stephens High (now Mountain Valley High School), Farrell went on to play both Division 1 basketball and baseball at the University of Maine at Orono, where he graduated in 1968 with a BS in Political Science. Straight out of college, and for the next ten years, Farrell taught and coached sports at various high schools around Maine (Mexico, Lawrence, Oxford Hills, and Winslow High Schools), and then moved into administration–first as the Assistant Principal at Mt. Blue, then Principal at Dirigo, and finally Principal of Skowhegan, which under his leadership became one of Maine’s top three schools and achieved a “National School of Excellence” designation by the Department of Education in 1987.

In 1988, Farrell left Maine and headed out west on a whim to Aspen, Colorado, where he would spend the next fteen years–his first two years as Principal of Aspen High School, and then the subsequent thirteen as the Superintendent of Aspen School District. In 2003, after his three boys had graduated from Aspen High, Farrell decided to return to Maine as the Superintendent of the Kennebunk School District (from 2003-2008), where he successfully implemented the first International Baccalaureate® (IB) diploma program in the State of Maine. In the final chapter of his career, from 2008-2017, he moved to Taiwan to become the Director of the Kaohsiung American School, where he again helped revitalize a struggling school by quadrupling its enrollment, hiring a staff of world-class teachers, and by overseeing the construction of a new state-of-the-art campus, including academic, arts, and athletic facilities. He was nominated by his School Board for International Schools Superintendent of the Year. The school’s new athletic complex was named after him on November 15, 2016. At the end of that school year, Farrell officially retired from a career in education. As he put it in his memoir, “I loved going to work every day, and that passion never ended in my 50 years in education in the US and Taiwan.”

For the last several years of his life, Farrell and his wife Debbie (referred to as “Pops” and “Nana” by their adoring grandchildren), split time between Kennebunk and Weld, and devoted their energy to family. Dr. Farrell wrote, “With seven grandchildren, we had plenty to do and loved every second spent with them. I was content to stay retired in beautiful Maine, go south during the cold winters, and enjoy family. Life remained very good!”

He is survived by his wife, Debbie; his three sons, Thomas, Nicholas, and Lucas; three daughters-in-law, Tierney, Courtney, and Louisa; and grandchildren, Maisie, Peyton, Bramigan, Beya, Jack, Minna, and Crew (as well as one more on the way). He is survived by a sister, Jennifer Coughlin of Brunswick; and two brothers, Dennis Farrell of Rumford, and Kevin Farrell of Skowhegan; and was predeceased by his parents, as well as one sister, Joy Ann Milligan of Cape Elizabeth and Weld.

A celebration of Tom Farrell’s life will be held on May 25th at the Portland Country Club. Donations can be made to a Maine high school student scholarship program (“The Future Leaders of Maine Fund”) that his sons have set up in their father’s memory. Details for both can be found at Farrell’s memorial website, www.drtomfarrell.com

The 19th EARCOS Teachers’ Conference 2024

“Awareness, Agency, and Action”

The 19th EARCOS Teachers’ Conference in 2024 took place at the stunning Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. With over 900 delegates in attendance from across East Asia, the conference proved to be a resounding success. The event kicked off with a variety of pre-conference sessions on Wednesday, offering a rich array of options including WASC Accreditation training and several College Board AP workshops.

As the conference workshops commenced on Thursday, delegates were presented with more options, with 60 different workshops available on the first day. These covered a wide range of topics spanning Service Learning, Global Citizenship, STEM, Mathematics, Science, Humanities, and General Education. Additionally, many teachers took advantage of the Job-Alike sessions, providing them with the opportunity to engage in discussions and exchange ideas with fellow educators in their respective fields.

Furthermore, the exchange of ideas transcended the physical confines of the conference, extending into the virtual place via the Community tab on the Whova conference app. Here, attendees shared their favourites tech ideas, documents, articles, and more, fostering a dynamic and collaborative learning environment beyond the workshop sessions.

The first day’s general session featured keynote speaker Myron Dueck, who delved into the topic of deeper learning. Dueck challenged educators to adapt to the evolving landscape where digital technology and artificial intelligence increasingly encroach upon tasks traditionally reserved for human intelligence. He prompted reflection on how instructional methods and grading practices might need to evolve in response, and whether AI could assist teachers in navigating these changes, emphasizing the importance of staying relevant in the face of technological advancements.

After immersing themselves in a day filled with fresh ideas, delegates eagerly anticipated Friday’s keynote address, setting their expectations high. And they were not let down. Attendees were inspired by keynote speaker Loung Ung, a bestselling author, public speaker, and activist known for her book and her work on the critically acclaimed film “First They Killed My Father.” Ung spoke passionately about the power of small actions to effect monumental change, drawing from her own experiences and activism. A screening was arranged to view the film, followed by a Q&A session with Loung, providing delegates with the opportunity to engage with her about her experiences.

Before the keynote address, special recognition was bestowed upon Olivier Fernandez from Ruamrudee International School for

his 19 years of service as the EARCOS teacher representative. His unwavering dedication to the organization was duly acknowledged and appreciated.

The third day featured two keynote speakers, the first being Russell Lehmann, who offered profound insights into the world of autism, mental health, and disabilities. Drawing from his personal experiences, Lehmann provided invaluable perspectives and practical approaches to supporting individuals with invisible disabilities. He emphasized the importance of recognizing and addressing these often-overlooked aspects of the human condition, reminding attendees that sometimes what is unseen is more crucial than what is visible.

The second keynote David Begbie inspired us to embrace our individual capacity to instigate transformative shifts in our world. Through profound insights, he navigated the complexities of effecting change amidst the myriad challenges facing our society today. David’s message transcends; it serves as a call to action, urging us to embody the change we wish to see.

The networking and connections cultivated at EARCOS conferences often transcend the workshop and assembly settings within informal conversations and various social evening gatherings. This cherished tradition of EARCOS serves as a unifying force, allowing past and present colleagues to reconnect, share stories, and revel in the vibrancy of our community. A key dimension of the conference, always, is the support given by our many sponsors and exhibitors. We are all indebted to them for their generosity.

As educators carry the inspiration and insights from this conference back to their classrooms, the EARCOS team is eagerly looking forward to next year’s gathering. The 20th Annual Teachers’ Conference will convene at the International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The conference will feature strands focusing on Physical Education/Wellness/Health, Visual Arts, Film, Design Technology, Robotics, Performing Arts, and General Education Topics as always. Attendees are encouraged to come prepared to engage and learn. The theme will be Empowered to Explore and Express

Overall, the 19th EARCOS Teachers Conference provided a platform for educators to engage with cutting-edge ideas, share best practices, and foster meaningful connections within the educational community. It served as a reminder of the importance of continuous learning and adaptation in the ever-changing landscape of education.

Effective Teachers in International Schools: What We Know and What We Need toKnow

So Why Are Teachers (and Teacher Research) So Important for International Schools?

We’ve known for as long as there have been schools that the quality of education – and especially student learning – is largely a consequence of the quality of the teachers who serve in a school. The formula for success in our profession is quite simple: Great teachers (and great leaders) = great schools!

Indeed, research provides abundant evidence that teachers have a profound and lasting impact on student achievement (See, for example, Aaronson, et al., 2007; Chetty, et al., 2013; Stronge, et al., 2011; Stronge, 2018). Few studies, however, exist that explore teachers who work in international schools – including research that reflects the importance of understanding both the context of working in intercultural settings and the skills that allow teachers to flourish in these settings.

So, given the common factors of teaching that are transportable across most any setting, in combination with the unique attributes (and challenges) inherent in teaching in international school settings, what do outstanding international school teachers do? How do they teach? What are their dispositions toward teaching? And, what makes them unique? In this first installment in a series to be published in the EARCOS Triannual Journal, we begin the journey of exploring answers to these and related questions that are vital to building a better foundation both for understanding effective teaching in international schools and for supporting, developing, and sustaining effective teachers in our classrooms and in the international school teacher pipeline.

Why Focus on Effective Teachers Now?

The international school student population is expected to increase exponentially between now and the year 2030. As of 2024 there

were approximately 14,000 schools with 6.9 million students and 665,000 educational staff. By 2030 ISC Research (2024) predicts there will be 19,000 schools with 11 million students and 1 million educational staff. With this rapid increase in international schools and the need to staff these schools with high quality teachers, the time for a focus on effective teaching within this context is now.

What Do Know About International School Teacher Effectiveness?

The short answer to this simple question is: Not a lot. In a systematic review of the literature that we conducted as background for our current research project (Grant, et al., 2022), we found only 23 relevant studies that specifically focused on teachers in international schools. For the entire body of extant literature across decades of research, that isn’t much. Nonetheless, we drew from a synthesis of these studies to adapt Stronge’s (2007, 2018) Qualities of Effective Teachers framework for exploring what teachers in international school settings are like in their teaching practices and dispositions toward teaching.

Who Did We Select for the Project?

To launch the project, we selected teachers from East Asian schools (predominantly EARCOS schools) to participate in a field-based study in which we visited the teachers’ schools and explored their teaching contexts, observed their teaching, and interviewed them to discover their more about their beliefs and practices for effective teaching. The teachers were nominated by their school leaders as being highly effective teachers based on their work in their schools. We aimed for representativeness across grade levels, subjects taught, and large/small school inclusion. Ultimately, we selected 30 teachers from six countries (Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam) and 11 schools to compose the maximum variation sample.

What Did We Learn?

We can’t explore the entire study in this first article, but we decided it might be interesting to start with a look at: 1) how many instructional activities these effective teachers typically use in their teaching and what are those activities, and 2) the cognitive levels of engagement where their teaching is situated. Here is a quick look at these two findings.

Many and Varied Instructional Activities

All instructional activities were recorded in 5-minute segments using codes established by the Differentiated Classroom Observation Scale (Cassidy, et al., 2004). A total of 231 segments were observed over 30 total lessons. The mean length of classroom observations was 7.7 segments. What we discovered is that teachers used an average of 3.92 instructional activities per 5-minute segment in their

observed lessons. These data indicate that teachers used many different instructional activities during one lesson. Additionally, the table below highlights the instructional activities teachers used most frequently, as shown by the (1) percentage of teachers who used the instructional activity and (2) percentage of overall observation segments. Notice that at least half of the instructional activities involved direct connections among teachers and students, indicating a student-centered approach to instruction.

Cognitive Engagement during Instruction

Within each 5-minute observation segment, we noted whether each cognitive level of Bloom’s Taxonomy revised (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001) was: (1) not evident, (2) evident, or (3) well-represented. The graph below shows the mean representation of each cognitive level across observations for the participating teachers. The cognitive levels of Knowledge, Comprehension, and Application were documented as evident and highly evident. Analysis, Evaluation, and Creation ranged from not evident to evident, indicating that students were occasionally engaged in higher levels of thinking, but not consistently or with the same consistency as lower cognitive levels. The cognitive level most evident was Comprehension.

Note: During each observation segment, cognitive levels were noted as being “1” – not evident, “2” – evident, or “3” – highly evident.

What’s Next?

Typically, we spent a day in specific schools observing and interviewing the teachers included in this study and what a joy to see teacher excellence at their craft and to hear their passion and enthusiasm for

teaching in international schools. In this first installment, we highlighted that these effective teachers used many different instructional activities within a lesson focused on engaging students in the learning process. Similar to other studies we’ve conducted in U.S. and China government schools, we found that lower cognitive level activities were most evident while higher cognitive level activities were less evident. Higher cognitive level activities typically tended to be focused in middle and high school levels. In our next two articles we will focus on observations and characteristics that we did not find surprising as well as observations and characteristics that emerged as unique qualities that make teachers particularly effective in the international context. Stay tuned …


Aaronson, D., Barrow, L., & Sander, W. (2007). Teachers and student achievement in the Chicago public high schools. Journal of Labor Economics, 25(1), 95-135.

Anderson, L., & Krathwohl, D. (2001). Taxonomy of learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.

Cassady, J. C., Speirs Neumeister, K. L., Adams, C. M., Cross, T. L., Dixon, F. A., & Pierce, R. L. (2004). The Differentiated Classroom Observation Scale. Roeper Review, 26(3), 139147.

Chetty, R., Friedman, J. N., & Rockoff, J. E. (2013). Measuring the impacts of teachers II: Teacher value-added and student out comes in adulthood. Washington, DC: The National Bureau of Economic Research.

Grant, L.W., Stronge, J.H., Smucker, A., Mendizabal, P., & Mo, Y. (2022). Characteristics of effective international school teachers: A systematic review of the literature [Paper presentation]. Consortium for Research on Educational Assessment and Teaching Effectiveness, Asheville, NC.

ISC Research. (2024). Data on international schools. Oxfordshire, UK. Retrieved from https://iscresearch.com/data/

Stronge, J. H., Ward, T. J., & Grant, L.W. (2011). What makes good teachers good? A cross-case analysis of the connection between teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Journal of Teacher Education, 62(4), 339-355.

Stronge, J. H. (2007). Qualities of effective teachers. ASCD. Stronge, J. H. (2018). Qualities of effective teachers (2nd ed.). ASCD

About the Authors

Leslie W. Grant is an Associate Professor of Education in the Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership Department at the William & Mary School of Education.

Swathi Menon & Altaf Khosa are both affiliated with William & Mary School of Education.

James H. Stronge is the Heritage Professor of Education, a distinguished professorship, in the Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership Area at the College of William and Mary. Additionally, he is CEO and President of Stronge and Associates Educational Consulting.


Empowering Educators, Elevating Students: Introducing the International Literacy Coach Cohort to EARCOS Schools

After eight successful International Literacy Coaching Cohorts (ILCC) we are proud to announce the first ILCC in the EARCOS region facilitated by Dr. Monica Medina and Ms. Shannon HobbsBeckley. But what is the ILCC and how can it help my school?

Are instructional coaches and teacher leaders a part of your school’s instructional support system? Perhaps you’re looking to ensure that your school’s professional learning resources are impacting student learning and wondering, “what’s the best way to do this”? And… what does the research indicate about the impact coaching has on teachers’ ability to transfer their learning to classroom instruction?

The Case for Instructional Coaching

Our schools are places of learning and growth for our students and for our educators. Instructional coaching is a learning design that helps teachers transfer their learning to their classroom, directly impacting students. Joyce and Showers influential analysis of research first published in 1982 and further discussed again in 2002 helps demonstrate the impact that coaching has on teachers’ ability to transfer their learning to their classrooms. Training Components

History of the ILCC

The first international training program for literacy coaches started in the fall of 2007 and was jointly sponsored by NESA. Since that time, there have been 7 other cohorts sponsored by NESA, ECIS, and CEESA. Each cohort is made up of approximately 25 participants representing many different countries, schools, grade levels, roles, and educational specialty areas. In fact, over 75 schools have enrolled literacy leaders in the ILCC. Prior participants have held positions as classroom teacher, grade level leader, literacy coach, curriculum specialist, ELL teacher, director of teaching and learning, and represented grades from early years through high school. Under the direction of Carrie Ekey, Monica Medina, Katherine Casey and Shannon Hobbs-Beckley these teachers completed a two year program with our most recent cohort graduating in Valletta, Malta in March 2024. The opportunity for in-depth, focused training over time coupled with the ability to network with literacy enthusiasts from schools around the world have been especially valuable to the participants and impactful on schools.

Adapted from: Joyce and Showers 1981

Also, 2018 meta-analysis of 60 causal studies found that the difference in effectiveness between teachers with instructional coaches and those without was equivalent to the difference between novice teachers and teachers with five to 10 years of experience. It reinforces that a well trained coach can support overall school growth and development by providing deep and sustainable change in literacy instruction at the classroom level. Coaches provide professional training, create collaborative learning cultures, induct and mentor new teachers, steward curricular resources, provide demonstration on teaching and engage in side by side coaching in ways that other school leaders such as principals and curriculum leaders are not able to.

The knowledge I gained from working with these extremely devoted teachers, mentors, friends and professionals will truly impact the way we teach Literacy at our school for years to come.

Truex, Benjamin Franklin International School, Barcelona Spain

Participants working on data analysis using a protocol to deepen their work.

The EARCOS cohort will begin in November 2024 or January 2025, depending on participant preference. The experience will enable cohort participants to support their schools while deepening their own knowledge of literacy, assessment, and leadership. They will gain skills for successfully facilitating groups of teachers in analysis of student work, develop understanding of adult learning, and practice crafting the curricular components necessary for a high quality literacy program throughout your school. What makes this cohort particularly unique and impactful are the built-in exercises afforded by on-site training and practice in EARCOS schools. Cohort participants move beyond learning about curriculum, leadership, and coaching to engaging in the work in real time with feedback and support. They will grow and develop in a community of peer and expert guidance, while building a trusted network that lasts long after the final session concludes.

While the sessions provide extensive support for literacy leaders and coaches, these individuals are most successful when a school has a coherent system of support. In the 2nd year, our cohort brings together these teacher leaders with a school administrator. There is an expectation that a member of your school’s administrative team attends the 2-day administrator session during session 4. Their initial commitment to attend this session is critical in supporting the participant’s efforts as a literacy leader/coach and for having sustainable impact on your school

If you need more information write to Monica Medina at medinaolds@gmail.com.

This ILCC experience has changed my career more than any other professional learning. I learned and practiced the skills of being a coach, deepened my knowledge of literacy, and created a network of colleagues with a wealth of knowledge that I can draw upon. If you are wanting to have a positive impact with your team, in your division, or your school, this is the professional learning experience for you!

Rani West-Singh American School of Dubai


Joyce, B and Showers, B. (1982) The Coaching of Teaching. Educational Leadership, v40 n1 p4-8,10

Joyce, B. & Showers, B. (2002) Student achievement through staff development. 3rd ed. London: Longman. S

Lavin, R. et al. (1996) Every child, every school: success for all. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Kraft, M.A., and Blazar, D. (2018). Taking Teacher Coaching to Scale: Can personalized training become standard practice? Education Next, 18(4), 68-74.

About the Authors

Shannon Hobbs-Beckley is a career educator having served in US public schools and international schools as a teacher, literacy specialist, instructional leadership coordinator, principal, and most recently as the Chief Learning Officer at Graded - American School of Sao Paulo. She has facilitated and consulted for all eight ILCC groups. Shannon is passionate about human and organizational development, helping individuals and institutions to align their values, aspirations, and actions to reach their goals. She is founder of Shannon Beckley Coaching & Consulting.

Dr. Monica Medina holds a Doctorate in International Multicultural Education, an interest area that was impacted by her experience growing up as an English Language Learner. She served in US public schools and international independent schools as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and deputy head of school. She was also an instructor in the Education Department at California State University, Channel Islands for 8 years. Presently she consults with US and international schools who are renewing their literacy programs. She has facilitated the ILCC cohort for the past 8 years. After many years as a school leader she has a strong belief in the power of professional collaborations that strengthen teaching and learning in schools.

Participants using a problem solving protocol to discuss issues at their schools to develop an action plan.

Launching Fall 2024



Literacy Coach Cohort

Led by Dr. Monica Medina and Shannon Hobbs-Beckley, the ILCC is the original literacy coach training program designed specifically for teacher leaders in international schools.

This comprehensive, cohort-based program meets in person, studying the most recent research and trends in literacy instruction, riculum design, adult learning, instructional coaching and leadership development.


In-depth cohort model, meeting 5 times over 2 years

Lab classroom and coaching experiences

Facilitators with over 3 decades in international schools

Graduated over 150 participants in 75 schools since 2007

For literacy coaches, curriculum coordinators, & teacher leaders

Are you ready to apply? Would you like more information? Contact Monica! medinaolds@gmail com

~ Carla Santoro


Finding My Way: A Coach’s Journey with the International Literacy Coaching Cohort

American International School of Zagreb sara.kirby@aisz.hr

My journey into coaching began in 2009, during my master’s studies in Elementary Education. Inspired by Jennifer Allen’s “Becoming a Literacy Leader,” I hoped to one day create a nurturing environment for teacher collaboration while fostering children’s reading growth. While I grew into different types of leadership roles over the years, I never felt ready to take the leap. Fast forward to 2022, when my principal proposed I step into the role of Literacy Specialist and Coach. I was eager for the challenge, and immersed myself in virtual training and professional texts. While my knowledge grew, I struggled to find direction without a supportive network of fellow coaches.

At the same time, the education world was undergoing a transformation. Research came to the surface that reshaped our understanding of how children learned to read. Recognizing the need for significant changes, we began to make small shifts in our school, although our international context posed unique challenges. Fortunately, I received an invitation to join the CEESA International Literacy Coaching Cohort with Monica Medina-Olds and Shannon Hobbs-Beckley. This offered not only guidance from the experts, but the opportunity to connect with other educators facing similar challenges in international schools.

On the first day of the cohort, I nervously sat in a room full of unfamiliar faces. Monica described the deep connections that we’d form, proving accurate throughout the 19 days of learning that we shared. Together, we delved into the intricacies of literacy programs, adult learning, leadership skills, and coaching methodologies, emphasizing the importance of aligning school goals with professional development and coaching cycles. We discovered that while there are many ways teachers can master new instructional practices, it’s the coaching that makes the biggest impact on learning.

Upon returning to school, I was able to immediately incorporate much of what I learned. Crafting a literacy handbook created alignment in our instructional and assessment practices. To solidify our learning around reading research, teams developed common agreements for instruction. I facilitated professional learning experiences, equipped with a set of protocols that fostered constructive conversations among colleagues. Experimenting with different coaching models, I began to find my own balance of what best supported the teachers in my school setting.

My perception of coaching evolved significantly throughout this journey. Initially, I viewed a coach as an expert who people turned to for guidance. Over time, I realized that while a coach may or may not be an expert in certain areas, the true purpose of a coach is to empower and build capacity in teachers through reflective conversation. A coach’s role is multifaceted, and teachers can be supported not only through coaching, but through consultation and collaboration as well. This work prompted me to develop coaching guidelines with my principal, so teachers could clearly understand my various roles and be able to identify the type of support they need.

Most importantly, I realized that cultivating positive relationships is crucial for effective coaching. An impactful coach must build trust with teachers, celebrate their successes, and exemplify what it means to be a lifelong learner. Through ample opportunities to observe Monica and Shannon navigate their way through live coaching sessions, as well as taking part in meta-coaching where we had the

chance to coach each other and reflect on our own coaching, my confidence in my ability to do this work began to grow.

The camaraderie of my fellow educators within the cohort brought the experience to life, more so than any online training or resource could. Beyond the 19 days we spent together, we sustained our collaborative community through WhatsApp messages and Zoom meetings. From discussing how to implement a new phonics program, to receiving advice on facilitating data chats, to simply having a thought partner after a tough day, we truly embodied the collaborative spirit instilled by Monica from day one.

The guidance and support I received through this cohort helped me refine my school’s literacy program and create better alignment across the grades. It gave me a plethora of tools to create a culture of collaboration and learning with my colleagues. Most importantly, I realized that even though I have a long way to go, I do have the potential to grow into this role and make an impact as a coach. This experience has influenced my career in many ways, and I am looking forward to seeing where it takes me next.

About the Author

Sara Kirby is the Lower School Learning Coordinator and Instructional Coach at the American International School of Zagreb. She can be contacted at sara.kirby@aisz.hr.


Equitable and Growth-Focused Teacher Evaluations

In today’s challenging educational climate, cultivating a school culture where teachers feel valued and supported should be one of our most urgent leadership priorities. Therefore, examining best practices around teacher evaluations, and recognizing what impedes their proper implementation, is essential. Executing evaluations as a practice done solely to comply with policies, rather than as a considered process to advance both teachers and their students, can leave teachers disconnected from their professional practices and feeling unseen. Providing teachers the opportunity to grow and experience success depends on leaders’ ability to nurture a collaborative culture of professionalism, transparency, and respect. Two proven practices that contribute to such a culture are teacher evaluator training around unconscious bias and effective implementation of a clear, agreed-upon framework for talking about teaching and learning.

The Role of Unconscious Bias in Equitable Teacher Evaluations

Before engaging in fair, productive conversations with teachers about instructional practice, leaders must recognize how unconscious bias can influence their own interpretation of those practices. Biases are mental shortcuts that we all use, and unconscious or implicit biases can guide our behaviors without us being aware of their impact. As Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald explain in Blindpsot: Hidden Biases of Good People (2016), “the signal property of the mind does a great deal of its work automatically, unconsciously, and unintentionally” and they stress that this is “ordinary mental functioning.” To be human is to have biases. However, for those in supervisory positions, it’s crucial to accept the existence of unconscious biases and consider methods for mitigating their impact. While many types of bias exist, a few are especially pervasive in teacher evaluations and can impede meaningful professional collaboration towards growth.

Affinity bias is the tendency to be influenced by personal preferences for specific practices or behaviors similar to our own and that we perceive as favorable. For example, administrators who tend to work extra-long hours may have less favorable opinions of teachers who work regular hours, or an extroverted administrator may believe an extroverted teacher is an inherently better math teacher. In fact, the two things are actually independent of each other. Banaji and Greenwald note, “Economists, sociologists and psychologists have confirmed time and again that the social group to which a person belongs can be isolated as a definitive cause of the treatment he or she receives” (2016). This does not just refer to negative treatment, but includes preferential treatment as well.

Attribution bias is the inclination to make judgments about behaviors as though they were inherent personality traits. If someone is successful at something, we may downplay it as luck rather than their actions, and failures may be linked to their personality rather than outside factors. For example, a leader may attribute teacher performance, such as the ability to manage student behavior, as inherent to their character (disinterest in building connections with students, for example) rather than situational context. On the other hand, they may attribute a teacher’s ability to connect well with students to her younger age, not recognizing she has worked hard to develop communication, trust-building, and listening skills geared toward adolescents.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret information in a manner that confirms or supports pre-existing beliefs about a teacher, even when the evidence is to the contrary. The horn or halo effect is a subset of confirmation bias. For example, with the horn effect, if an

observer’s first interaction with a teacher is negative, he may ignore positive attributes during the classroom observation in favor of information that supports this negative belief. Conversely, if a supervisor has a terrific first conversation with a new teacher, that teacher may benefit from the halo effect, where only positive attributes are noted.

Cultural bias is one of the most insidious biases in our particular line of work. This type of bias stems from differences in cultural backgrounds between the observer and the teacher that may manifest as language proficiency, accent, teaching style, or cultural references. For example, an observer may more favorably evaluate a teacher who uses instructional resources representative of the observer’s own culture, while another observer may perceive a teacher as less equipped for success because their accent is less familiar.

Collectively, these forms of bias present important behaviors and attitudes that may be “blind spots” for all teacher evaluations. In the pursuit of equitable, growth-focused evaluations that support teachers and are grounded in trust, empathy, and transparency, leaders have an opportunity to proactively take steps towards mitigating the effects of bias.

Unconscious Bias in Evaluations Cannot Be Cured, But It Can Be Addressed

Once educators acknowledge the influence of bias on teacher evaluations, the next step is to commit to addressing it. We have found meaningful impact by applying the following strategies:

Ensure Annual Implicit Bias Training for Anyone Conducting Observations

Regular training brings the unconscious to the conscious level and heightens awareness of our own proclivities before formal observations occur. The creators of Harvard’s IAT (Implicit Association Test), working in tandem with other researchers, have noted things we can do to create “elastic changes” (Banaji & Greenwald, 2016). For example, one researcher asked college men and women to spend a few minutes thinking about the attributes of a strong woman before completing the test: What can she do? What are her hobbies? This simple mental exercise decreased the association that male = strong on the IAT measurement. The researchers found that repeated applications of modest (low demand of time or cost) interventions could lessen persistent stereotypes and associations.

Utilize Common Language Around Teaching and Learning

A school staff may include educators with diverse backgrounds and levels of experience. Establishing a common language across every grade and subject that describes teaching practices, not teachers, is an important early step that fosters transparency, limits the influence of unconscious bias, and ensures validity of evaluations. Using the Danielson Framework for Teaching (2022), for example, provides a universal guide from which observations may be conducted. A schoolwide framework allows teachers to trust that they and their observer hold a mutual understanding of what practices will be evaluated - no more “mystery observations.”

Train Observers to Collect Accurate Evidence, Not Opinions

No matter the level of an observer’s expertise, there is a risk for qualifying evidence in an instructional observation with personal opinion. Evaluators must first recognize the distinction between

evidence and opinion. Thereafter, ensure that all data gathered in an observation (what the teacher and students say and do, for example) is strictly objective, free from opinions that may be influenced by unconscious bias. For example, consider the difference between an opinion statement, “the students were not engaged,” versus the evidence of “nine of the 17 students were on their cell phones during the teacher’s instruction.” The latter presents data that opens a conversation around engagement rather than a potential discrepancy between what teacher and observer consider as the definition of “not engaged.”

Calibrate Observations Frequently to Ensure Consistency

With the presence of a system-wide framework describing teaching practice, the next step is to ensure everyone utilizing the framework applies it consistently. This requires those observing instruction to periodically calibrate, or conduct observations of the same teacher(s) and determine performance levels, together. Engaging in this practice often illuminates the presence of unconscious bias, which allows observers to then recenter their work on the explicit language in the framework. Additionally, periodic calibration ensures the validity of any data gathered from performance levels that may inform high-stakes decisions such as planning professional development.

Leading Change in Teacher Evaluations

Traditional teacher evaluations carry an inherent implication the teacher must change their practice to improve. To create an environment in which teachers feel inspired to grow, and trusted to take risks, we propose the change begins with school leaders. By examining the influence unconscious bias plays in evaluations, leaders can improve their own practices and enhance the overall learning environment. Further, by adopting and communicating a schoolwide framework for teaching and learning, evaluations become conversations around practice in which teachers feel respected and supported. It is through these deliberate actions that we can transform our educational culture into one that truly nurtures and celebrates the whole teacher, thereby enriching our students’ learning experience and advancing the educational mission of the school.


Banaji, M., and Greenwald, A. (2016).. Blindspot: hidden biases of good people. Bantam Books.

Danielson, C. (2022). Danielson framework for teaching. The Danielson Group.

About the Authors

Dr. Lindsay Prendergast is the Assistant Director of Learning Experiences for The Danielson Group and a former international school principal. She can be reached at prendergast@danielsongroup.org

Aparna Sundaram is the Chief Operating Officer of the Diversity Collective. Her 30-year experience in education spans public, independent, and international schools. She can be reached at aparna@ diversityfair.org and www.linkedin.com/in/aparna-sundaram-mex


Exploring Classical and Keynesian Economics through Artificial Intelligence

The landscape of education is rapidly evolving, making technology an integral part of the teaching and learning process. As an Economics teacher, I recently undertook an interesting journey with my International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) students, utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to delve into the nuances of Classical and Keynesian Economics. Through an engaging assignment, students engaged with the AI tools of ChatGPT and Character.ai, seeking responses to several questions pertaining to two popular schools of economic thought – Classical and Keynesian, reflecting on the application skills of the available AI tools and their alignment with traditional classroom teachings.

Recognizing the capability of Artificial Intelligence to boost the student learning experience, the assignment required students to use iterative prompts to have the selected tool answer from the perspective of chosen economists from Classical and/or Keynesian school(s) of thought. One of the goals was to explore which tool might be more accurate with regards to an insight into the contrasting theories of the schools.

Students framed questions that delved into the core principles of each school, addressing issues such as role of government, efficiency of the market mechanism, short run vs long run, conflict between macroeconomic objectives and so on. The diversity of queries allowed students to witness the resourcefulness of the tools in generating contextually relevant responses.

As the students delved deeper into the assignment, based on the reflection, they seemed pleasantly surprised by the capabilities of the AI tools. While both tools demonstrated an impressive ability to generate contextually relevant answers, out of the two tools- it was ChatGPT that seemed more accurate in its responses to questions that covered less popular topics like the Long Run Phillips Curve. While the quality of responses generated by ChatGPT depends on the appropriateness of prompts provided, Character,ai assumes the identity of the personality one wishes to interact with and students seemed to have fun in engaging with AI characters of economists like JM Keynes and Friedrich Hayek, and asking them questions within and beyond the scope of the assignment in a conversational mode.

dents look at already understood economic concepts from a new lens. This dynamic interaction with the AI tools allowed students to grasp the theories learnt in class better by asking questions about the same and thus going beyond the confines of traditional learning material.

Figure 2- Use of Character.ai application to understand the perspective of Keynesian Economist - JM Keynes

Some of the responses threw a fresh, unique perspective on the theories learnt in class incorporating real-world context making stu-

Recognizing the importance of a neutral perspective, I guided my students to critically analyze the responses of the tools they choose by comparing them with the content covered in class and their textbooks. This was done to showcase to them the potential risks of accepting responses generated by AI models as the gospel of truth. On comparing with the class notes and textbooks, students were able to discover numerous cases where the responses generated seemed to have strayed from the established theories and misinterpreted less popular concepts. This deviation ensured that students learnt the critical lesson of accepting responses generated by the AI models with a critical eye. It became clear to the students that while some of the AI tools like ChatGPT were capable of generating highly relevant information pertaining to the context, the responses were not always accurate and the tools can occasionally misunderstand established economic theories.

Reflection and Clarification

The students were made to write their reflections post the assignment which showcased their improved understanding of economic theories while also discovering the working of the AI tools – their areas of expertise and pitfalls. This critical evaluation paved the way for improved analytical skills – an essential aspect of the IB curriculum. An important accomplishment of the assignment was clarification of conceptual doubts the students had pertaining to the differences between the theories of the two schools of thought. The interactive nature of the AI tools allowed students to ask unending questions and seek clarification on a variety of subtopics while receiving prompt responses, which created a dynamic learning environment. While the assignment encouraged students to understand better the perspectives of economists from the two schools of thought, the discussions in class as a follow up to the assignment helped expose them further to a diversity of viewpoints about the economic theories and the working of the AI tools.


The integration of AI tools in classroom as an assignment set the stage for a deeper, dynamic and a more engaged learning experience for my students and myself. This assignment hence showcased the potential of technology to combine with classroom instructions and create more superior learning outcomes while promoting flexibility and enhanced critical thinking skills needed in the era of AI.

Figure 1- Use of ChatGPT to understand the perspective of Classical Economist FA Hayek.


Art Education Reimagined: Integrating AI in a Surrealism Unit

The debate around using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in art is ongoing, and educators face the challenge of equipping students with the necessary skills to navigate this rapidly evolving landscape. Rebecca Jardin, a Middle School art teacher at Saigon South International School, has taken on this challenge by incorporating AI into her Surrealism unit for middle school students. This has led her students to reflect on how they can intentionally collaborate with AI to understand Surrealism better and effectively express themselves through art.

A Collaborative Approach to Learning

As we began planning the unit to include AI tools, a question that guided our understanding was, “How will students effectively learn to use AI as part of the creative process?” How this question was framed helped us understand how to introduce these tools correctly and effectively at the appropriate time.

We began with a discussion of the unit goals and the challenges that lay ahead. Central to the debate was how to effectively introduce AI as a tool for creative expression. Canva, Playground AI, and Padlet would be the tools for our students to explore while raising questions regarding copy-to-learn, fair use, and copyright laws within the context of AI-generated art. Students were exposed to the works of renowned Surrealist artists like Salvador Dali, Vladimir Kush, and Rene Magritte, gaining a deeper understanding of the movement’s techniques and principles. Teaching young artists about surrealist art techniques is challenging! It’s full of impossible things, like melting clocks and floating apples. It’s all about exploring your imagination and letting your mind run wild.

Creativity Unleashed

Rebecca engaged students with the concept of Surrealism through play and creation. Using the “text to image” app in Canva, students combined their understanding of Surrealism with random words from their automated writing and created a unique artwork. They compared the final result to Dali’s art and evaluated the prompt. This activity allowed them to experiment with and refine prompts, translating their ideas into AI-generated surrealism imagery. Reflecting on their work, students analyzed how Dali’s influence manifested in their creations.

“My prompt was ‘an extremely large bird sitting on a desert with bare trees in the style of Salvador Dali. A slightly blue sky and a small plane flying.’ This image is inspired by Dali because of the barren trees, dreamlike setting, and large shock-

ing animals.” Laurel, Grade 7.

Utilizing Padlet, students were armed with student-generated surreal prompts from their automated drawings, such as “a bear turning into a fish in the style of Magritte,” and used AI to bring their visions to life. This hands-on experience helped them understand surrealist art, the capabilities and limitations of AI and fostered a sense of ownership over their artwork.

“This image is not exactly what I thought it would give me with the text I entered, but I feel this is a lot like Magritte’s art style because it plays with the perception of reality.” Tristan G7

“I slightly got what I imagined from my prompt; however, I hoped that the pineapple was whole and not cut. I really like how the sky looks, and how it looks like the pineapple is balancing on the cat’s nose. I think this artwork is in the style of Magritte because it was inspired by a painting called “The Son of Man”. If I were to turn this into my own painting, I would add flying fish into the sky.” Xoai G7

Understanding the Legal/Demystifying the Machine

Copyright and fair use are critical aspects of artistic expression, especially when utilizing AI tools. AI tools can churn out creative content, blurring copyright lines. Lawmakers say human input is critical, but how much is enough? While copyright law needs an AI makeover, let’s work with students to define creativity in the machine age and ensure fair play for all. To address these concerns, videos, and articles were presented, demystifying the legal complexities surrounding copyright law and its application to AI-generated artwork. Students explored the concept of parody through the example of AI evolving the Mona Lisa, gaining valuable insights into fair use and its boundaries. The unit also delved into the inner workings of AI. Students watched a video and read an article, giving them a deeper understanding of how AI algorithms function and the data they rely on. Students were asked to reflect on “What does AI do well? And What do humans add to the art process?” This knowledge empowered them to critically evaluate AI’s limitations and biases, fostering responsible and informed use of this powerful tool.

Human-AI Collaboration: A New Frontier

The unit culminated in a final artwork where students combined traditional art skills with AI-generated imagery. They were tasked with creating a surreal artwork, showcasing their understanding of the movement and ability to collaborate with AI. Students learned to apply copyright and fair use principles to their artwork, ensuring legal compliance and ethical practices.

A Vision for the Future

Rebecca Jardin’s innovative approach to integrating AI into her Surrealism unit demonstrates this technology’s immense potential in art education. When reflecting on the outcomes of this unit, Rebecca found pros and cons to using AI in art: “Using AI to generate ideas in the form of an artistic style helped students immensely in understanding the techniques of Magritte and Dali.”

In retrospect, some students struggled with the prompts and generating images that matched their creative ideas. They felt limited in their ability to create what they wanted because they were required to collaborate with AI for the final product in this project. “Next time,” Rebecca added, “I would offer it as a choice to incorporate it in their final artwork but continue to use it for idea generation and art analysis.” By providing students with the tools and knowledge to navigate the complexities of AI, Jardin empowers them to become responsible, critical, and creative users of AI, ready to contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of art.

This integration of AI enhances the learning experience and paves the way for future collaborations between humans and machines, leading to the creation of genuinely groundbreaking art.

About the Authors

Rebecca Jardin serves as the Middle School Art Teacher, and Daniel Mendes is the Instructional Coach for MS Technology, both at Saigon South International School. They can be reached via email at dmendes@ssis.edu.vn and rjardin@ssis.edu.vn respectively.


Aela School (2023, August 9). Artificial Intelligence: How AI is Changing Art. https://aelaschool.com/en/art/artificial-intel ligence-art-changes/ AI Weirdness (n.d.). The Kitten Effect. https://www.aiweirdness.com/ the-kitten-effect/?ref=ai-weirdness-newsletter (Retrieved from https://www.aiweirdness.com/the-kitteneffect/?ref=ai-weirdness-newsletter on January 24, 2024”).

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Creating a Sense of Belonging Through Instructional Coaching

During the EARCOS Teachers Conference there were many conversations about instructional coaching. It’s clear that instructional coaching is growing in the EARCOS region and that school leaders, educators and coaches are all excited about the potential for student and professional growth.

During the pre-conference I facilitated, as well as the three sessions I offered during the conference, we focused on the ways that instructional coaching can not only improve student learning and deepen professional growth, but also build and foster a sense of belonging within our school communities. As Carla Marschall notes: “Coaching creates humanizing spaces for all stakeholders… It brings an element of selflessness and generosity, because listening is an act of compassion that provides space for the other individual. If we want to develop organizations that are humanizing but effective, coaching is one of the ways we can do that.” (Cofino, 2023). Despite our need to create efficient organizations, we can not sacrifice our humanity for the sake of efficiency.

We know that a school’s biggest investment is in people. School leaders spend extensive time, energy and resources ensuring that they find just the right fit for every open position. It’s a costly endeavor because replacing an employee typically costs 25% of their salary (Norton, 1999). In addition, when teachers move on, it disrupts the collective efficacy of the institution. “High teacher turnover is a drain on the social capital of the school… [and] takes a serious toll on the human side of operations.” (Odland, 2008). It’s even more difficult to measure “the value of the time spent by administrators in coping with the constant flow of teachers into and out of their schools.” (Odland, 2008). With all of this in mind, retaining high performing teachers and ensuring that they continue to grow should be a priority for our schools.

Therefore, when international schools work so hard to hire the best teachers, they must also consider how they work to retain those teachers. Creating a sense of belonging and potential for growth is one of the ways that instructional coaching can support this process. Teacher belonging leads to an increased feeling of safety to try new things, to innovate and grow, which contributes to improved student learning. Creating a safe space to grow for the high performing teachers whom schools hope to retain increases teacher fulfillment, job satisfaction, which they pass on to the students in their classrooms. Teacher belonging helps create a sense of belonging among students and other community stakeholders as well. Ultimately, “when schools invest in coaching, they invest in teachers.” (Cofino, 2023).

As Jennifer Abrams noted in her session at ETC, “adult development is not an indulgence.” Educators deserve the opportunity to continue to grow, and time invested in learning how to communicate, collaborate, and reflect on our practices will only improve our collective efficacy. Jennifer also noted that “less social friction allows for more intellectual friction by creating psychological safety” (Abrams 2024). Instructional coaching develops an environment where it is safe to process our thinking, where it is encouraged to reflect on our practice, consider different points of view, and to be vulnerable in our own growth.

In addition to the importance of developing a safe space to be a learner, instructional coaching also provides a layer of support for educators who are ready to grow into the next step. As Jim Laney

points out, “education is typically very flat, it’s possible to have 50 teachers supervised by one leader. It’s not a real supportive environment for growing and learning. Coaching helps fill that gap and creates a step for those strong teachers to take the next step.” (Cofino, 2020). Instructional coaching demonstrates a strong value for the professionalism of teachers - both to growth through being coaching and through facilitating coaching conversations.

Instructional coaching creates a framework for consistent and ongoing growth by personalizing learning to individuals or teams. James MacDonald, Head of School, International School Brussels, notes that “the more we can individualize PD, the more we can move forward as a school.” (Cofino, 2020). Instructional coaching provides a pathway for personalized learning for educators - exactly the way we encourage educators to personalize learning for their students in the classroom. Instructional coaching visibly demonstrates that schools embody the values they declare in their mission statements. Further highlighting the benefits of this individualization, Niki Dinsdale, University Advisor at United World College Southeast Asia in Singapore, explains that “coaching highlights my own self-worth. I’m worth stopping and thinking about my professional growth.” (Cofino, 2019). She describes her experiences being coached as an “intellectual spa.”

Instructional coaching is the most relevant professional learning schools can provide, because it is customized to each educator or team, and happens as close to the classroom as you can get, with coaches working in classrooms alongside teachers. Anne Marie Chow says that “the biggest impact of having coaches on staff is the impact on professional learning. With whole school PD, you’re going to get 60-75% relevancy for teachers, but when you have a coach working with an individual or a team that has identified this desire to get better at their practice, you’re going to get 100% relevancy. Everything the coach puts in is going to go back and impact student learning.” (Cofino, 2021). When coaching is successful in one classroom, it’s likely to see a ripple effect to others in the grade level or department. When coaches are part of the school community, they understand the unique school context, community, and host-country culture, and they are able to grow and change with the school.

It’s important to note that instructional coaching does not take place in a vacuum. For instructional coaching to be implemented well, it requires intentional planning and support. A thriving coaching culture requires clarity, consistency and community. (Cofino, 2023). These three phases are part of the Thrive Model for Sustainable Instructional Coaching designed for international schools (Cofino, 2023), and the foundation for The Coach Certificate and Mentorship Program.

To be successful, instructional coaching requires clarity of vision, purpose, terms, roles and leadership alignment of how instructional coaches work within the school. To be sustainable, instructional coaching requires systemic support, from leadership providing time and space for coaching within the school day, to positive representation of coaching in both actions and words, to ensuring that instructional coaches are spending their time doing coaching-focused work (and not additional administrative duties, like sub cover, exam supervision, field trip chaperoning, etc). To build a coaching culture requires community buy-in by measuring the impact of instructional coaching, building capacity across the school by connecting teachers

to each other and scaling the work of coaches, and clear and visible communication about the impact of instructional coaching.

Ultimately, if schools believe that learning is for everyone, learning is for the adults in the community too. Instructional coaching provides a very tangible way to ensure that teachers feel valued, seen, heard and respected for the professionals that they are. Kaitlyn Pettinga points out that their “coach is critical for culture building and teacher professional learning. It’s a safe space for teacher growth because they’re non-evaluative. The impact of coaching is a sense of belonging,” noting that her school culture is so collaborative around teaching and learning through the work of coaching that both teachers and students feel like they belong. (Cofino, 2023).

Putting the pieces together, instructional coaching is a safe environment to grow, which tangibly demonstrates a school’s value for teacher professional growth. Embedding instructional coaching within the existing frameworks, structures and systems within the school day provides personalized learning for individuals and teams, and creates space and time to reflect. All of which leads to teacher fulfillment and improved student learning, creating a sense of belonging. If we are working to create a sense of belonging within our school communities, instructional coaching is one of the ways we can tangibly and effectively make that happen.

The Association for the Advancement of Instructional Coaching in International Schools (AAICIS, a brand new not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization, launched during my pre-conference at EARCOS), is seeking to understand where international schools are within this process of developing instructional coaching programs. If you would like to contribute to our research, please complete the survey here: https://aaicis.org/survey


Abrams, Jennifer (2024). EARCOS Teachers Conference.

Cofino, K. (Host). (2019, June 12). Instructional Coaching as an Intellectual Spa with Niki Dinsdale (39). [Audio podcast episode]. In #coachbetter. Eduro Learning. https://coach better.tv/episode-39/

Cofino, K. (Host). (2020, April 29). Essential Coaching Skills That Can Make You a Better Leader with James MacDonald (79). [Audio podcast episode]. In #coachbetter. Eduro Learning. https://coachbetter.tv/episode-79/

Cofino, K. (Host). (2020, June 17). How Instructional Coaching Supports Professional Growth at All Levels of the School with Jim Laney (86). [Audio podcast episode]. In #coach better. Eduro Learning. https://coachbetter.tv/episode-86/

Cofino, K. (Host). (2021, December 1). Building a Coaching Culture With Both Cognitive Coaching & Instructional Coaching with Anne Marie Chow (140). [Audio podcast episode]. In #coachbetter. Eduro Learning. https://coachbetter.tv/ episode-140/

Cofino, K. (2023, February), When We Invest in Coaches, We Invest in Teachers. The Learning Professional, Tackling Turnover, 44(1) 26-29. https://learningforward.org/journal/tacklingturnover/

Cofino, K. (Host). (2023, October 4). Creating a Positive School Culture Through Coaching with Kaitlyn Pettinga (215). [Audio podcast episode]. In #coachbetter. Eduro Learning. https://coachbetter.tv/episode-215/

Cofino, K. (Host). (2023, November 29). Building a Culture of Coaching with Carla Marschall (223). [Audio podcast episode]. In #coachbetter. Eduro Learning. https://coach better.tv/episode-223/

Cofino, K. (2023). Fostering a Culture of Growth and Belonging: The Multi-Faceted Impact of Instructional Coaching in International Schools. In Barker, M., Hansen, R.C., & Hammer, L. (Eds). Handbook of Research on Critical Issues and Global Trends in International Education. IGI Global.

Cofino, K. (2023). The Thrive Model for Sustainable Instructional Coaching. https://edurolearning.com/thrive/

Norton, M.S. (1999). Teacher retention: Reducing costly teacher turnover. Contemporary Education 70(3), 52-55.

Odland, Glenn, “An Investigation into Teacher Turnover in International Schools” (2008). Seton Hall University Dissertations and Theses (ETDs). 212. https://scholarship.shu.edu/ dissertations/212

About the Author

Kim Cofino recently presented at the EARCOS Teachers’ Conference 2024 in Bangkok, Thailand and at past Leadership Conferences. She can be contacted at mscofino@gmail.com


Combatting Math Anxiety in Elementary Education

Imagine a regular math class in the 1990s in a public school classroom in a Canadian town. I, Haley Osbourne, an excited fourth grader, was in a math class in the early afternoon, completing a daily timed Multiplication drill.The room of young students and the teacher was silent. My classmates around me feverishly pencilled in newly learned multiplication sentences. We had been learning multiplication by memorizing multiplication tables, and I was a very eager student, memorizing and repeating facts alongside my peers. However, something happened that day. I went to complete my 7 and 8-factor columns, and I completely froze. At that moment, I could not recall any of the multiplication facts in the columns, and I felt myself tense up as I tried desperately to remember what I had just been taught a few days prior. Feeling paralyzed and ashamed, I turned in a nearly empty page to my teacher, a first in my career as an elementary student. When I confided in others, both adults and peers, the universal responses fell along the lines of “Some people just aren’t good at math.” and “Maybe you’re not that good at math, but you’re such a great reader!” This was a pivotal moment in my learning life. Math was no longer fun and interesting, something I could explore and practice. Math was frustrating. Math was scary. Math was something I just wasn’t good at.

What is Math Anxiety?

Stories like this are not uncommon. Every teacher has likely seen a student put their heads in their hands and exclaim “I’m just not a math person!” One may ask, why do the other subjects in school not seem to garner the same response? We are unlikely to hear a student, when faced with difficulties in Social Studies, declare “I just don’t have a Humanities brain!” Yet, it is not uncommon to hear even our youngest learners suggest that math causes them stress. Math anxiety can be described as fear or nervousness that gets in the way of success in mathematics (Ashcroft, 2002). This anxiety can lead to avoidance, not only in the classroom setting but worryingly can dissuade students from pursuing careers in mathematics and STEM (Boaler, n.d). Further, math anxiety is so common that 93% of Americans have reported feeling nervous when doing math (Blazrer, 2011). So then, what causes this anxiety in students?

Causes of Math Anxiety

Several factors can be pointed to when exploring why some students develop anxiety around math. One area that contributes to this fear is how we assess math. As teachers navigate standards that use language around automaticity and fluency, it is important to ensure that students are developing conceptual understanding around these facts, not simply memorization (Boaler, 2015). This becomes particularly true as we assess students on their understanding of math facts. Often, students are given timed tests and this can be the beginning of anxiety in math (Boaler, 2014). Timed tests are not a clear marker of mathematical understanding. Math facts, such as multiplication facts, are stored in the brain’s working memory. However, when feeling stressed or under pressure, the information in the working memory is more difficult to access (Boaler, 2015). Students who feel anxious may not have full access to the knowledge they have when given a timed test, thus creating the narrative that they may be “bad at math” or that some people are “math people” while others are not. This can also create a belief that to be proficient at math, one must be able to do math quickly (Boaler, Course). These encounters contribute to a negative outlook on math as a subject and also to anxiety around math ability (National Numeracy, 2023).

Adults also play a role in developing math anxiety in children. If a parent or guardian discusses math negatively around their child, this can contribute to a fear of the subject (Schaeffer et al.). Making comments like “I am not a math person” around children impacts their own identity around the learning process. Additionally, many families are comfortable reading to their children from an early age, thus creating positive feelings toward literacy. However, it is less likely that families give the same energy to math, particularly before formal schooling, so young students potentially have less access and experience with mathematics (Ehmke, 2023). Fortunately, several things can be built into the classroom experience that help to mitigate these fears and support mathematical learning and curiosity.

Classroom Tools

A variety of tools can be used inside the classroom to empower students on their journey to becoming confident and inquisitive mathematicians. Math is a language. In math class, all students are language learners (Burns, 2007). When students have access to math vocabulary, they can build conceptual understanding (McConell 2008) and become better problem solvers. The use of math word walls serves as a visual reminder of rich mathematical language students can use to describe their thinking and justify their reasoning. Educators may use a whole class math word wall, individual math word walls for students to keep as a tool in a math journal, or even a collaborative math word wall created by the students themselves.

The work surface on which students share their thinking process after being given a task impacts student engagement and learning. Liljedahl (2020) studied the length of time students spent on a math task across a variety of surfaces, including both horizontal and vertical spaces. Students were engaged for the least amount of time when using paper notebooks to solve math problems. However, students were highly engaged when problems were solved on vertical whiteboards or vertical non-permanent surfaces. By utilizing vertical, non-permanent surfaces, a collaborative culture of thinking, not just answers, is developed (Liljedahl, 2020). By using a non-permanent surface, students are given a low-risk environment to test out different mathematical ideas. Additionally, by celebrating the process, not just highlighting the result, students are encouraged to share their ideas and knowledge with their peers as well as the teacher.

The use of physical manipulatives in mathematics provides students with a visual and tactile representation of mathematical concepts. When students are given manipulatives to demonstrate their thinking, they are encouraged to demonstrate the why and not just the response to a given question (Heddens 1997). Manipulatives allow students to construct their cognitive representations and allow them to express their thinking with teachers and peers. (Sowell, 1989; Ruzic & O’Connell, 2001). We, the authors, believe students of all ages should have access to manipulatives freely, students should be encouraged to grab whatever manipulative they feel will help them succeed. We have seen an enormous impact and boost of confidence in our students by allowing them to choose the right tools for their learning journey.

Math as Inquiry

An inquiry approach to mathematics lessens math anxiety. Inquiry enables students to move beyond memorizing steps they may forget or be unable to make sense of, to instead a deeper understanding of the concepts in math (Boaler, n.d.). Approaching math from an

inquiry perspective flips the traditional order of lessons. Instead of beginning with the algorithm, or asking students to memorize concepts and then allowing for application, inquiry-based math starts with a rich, relevant problem that students can explore, dissect, and interrogate (Cal Poly, Liberal Studies). From this approach, students focus first on the problem aspect of math. From there, students can be led through a series of problem-solving steps, wherein they both individually and collaboratively work to find the answer. With teacher guidance, this leads to discovering ways to solve the problem, rather than simply being told the algorithm to use. This allows for a rich discussion of how students arrived at the answers they got, allowing them to see multiple ways of thinking.

How do we begin to do this in our math classes? Particularly as students are often familiar with a certain flow of math lessons. Jo Boaler outlines the following steps for what she refers to as the Mathematical Thinking Process that can engage all levels of math learners.

Think, Say, Draw: Have students read the question carefully, and take time to consider it fully. This can look like rereading it, drawing out what is happening, or exploring how the problem may look with manipulatives.

Discuss: At this step, students discuss with their classmates what they notice about the problem, what they are thinking about it, or even look to resources that they believe may help solve the problem.

Estimate: Next, students come up with an estimate of what they think the answer should be close to. This also allows for a consideration of the reasonableness of their answer.

Mathematize: Here, learners start to solve the problem, taking what they have thought about from the other steps, but now attempting to apply it to the number sense they already have. Try it out and revise: As students mathematize, they try out the steps that they think may work. If it doesn’t, students collaborate to see the different methods of thinking or try a new approach. Make sense: The final step, though it is a step that students are ideally doing throughout, is asking themselves, does my answer make sense? Is it reasonable given the situation?

Giving students time to manipulate and think deeply about the math concepts takes a focus away from the “right or wrong” nature of math, and instead makes room for the beauty of what math can be. For students with math anxiety, this opens up the world of math in a new way.


Students in our classrooms are grappling with anxiety. As we continue to prepare learners for an uncertain future, we must ask ourselves what we truly want our students to be able to do. Whether in math class as ten-year-olds, as young adults in the workplace, or even as educators working to give students the best education possible, the skills of using the resources available to you, problem-solving, and exploring have relevance. Cultivating these habits in our learners not only allows them to be more confident mathematicians, it allows them to be more prepared for whatever they may encounter, in or outside of the classroom.

References: Ashcraft, M. H. (2002). Math anxiety: personal, educational, and cognitive consequences. Current Directions in Psychological Science,

11(5), 181–185. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.00196

Boaler, Jo. (2014). Research Suggests Timed Tests Create Math Anxiety.Teaching Children Mathematics, 20 (8).

Boaler, Jo. “Fluency without Fear.” YouCubed, 28 Jan. 2015, www. youcubed.org/evidence/fluency-without-fear/.

Boaler, Jo. (n.d.). How to Learn Math for Teachers. Stanford Online. https://online.stanford.edu/courses/xeduc115n-how-learnmath-teachers

Burns, M. (2007). About Teaching Mathematics. Math Solution Publications

Ehmke, Rachel. “How to Help Kids with Math Anxiety.” Child Mind Institute, Child Mind Institute, 25 Jan. 2018, childmind.org/article/ help-kids-with-math-anxiety/.

“Inquiry-Based Learning Builds Mathematical Confidence.” Cal Poly, 2023 liberalstudies.calpoly.edu/inquiry-based-learning-builds-mathematical-confidence

Heddens, J. W. (1997). Improving mathematics teaching by using manipulatives. Retrieved October 23, 2010, from http://www.fed. cuhk.edu.hk/~fllee/edumath/9706/13hedden.html

Liljedahl, P. (2020, September 28). Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12.Corwin Press

National Numeracy. What is maths anxiety? | What is Maths Anxiety & What Causes It? (n.d.). https://www.nationalnumeracy.org. uk/what-issue/about-maths-anxiety

Schaeffer, M. (2018). Disassociating the relation between parents’ math anxiety and children’s math achievement: Long-term effects of a math app intervention. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 147,12. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000490

Sowell, E. (1989). Effects of manipulative materials in mathematics instruction. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 20, 498505

Ruzic, R., & O’Connell, K. (2001). Manipulatives enhancement literature review. Retrieved February 11, 2011, from http://www.cast. org/ncac/Manipulative1666.cfn

About the Authors

Leah Holliday is a grade 5 teacher and team leader at Brent International School Manila. Previously, she worked at the International School of Hyderabad where she worked in a team to implement an inquiry-based program, and in her home country of the United States as a teacher-leader. She can be reached at lholliday@brent. edu.ph.

Haley Osbourne is a third-grade teacher at Brent International School Manila. She is the grade 3 team leader as well as the Lower School Math team leader. Previously she worked at an international school in Kuwait where she met her husband, a high school English teacher. She has been an international teacher since 2014.


Leveling Up: Adopting eSports as an After School Program

A healthy After School Program (ASP) should consist of a variety of activities that help to nurture positive skills and holistic learning for students. Studies have shown that consistent participation within ASPs can lead to academic, social and psychological benefits for students (Cortellazzo et al., 2021). Engaging students with opportunities to learn and practice art, debate, science and athletics, among countless other activities, should be an area that schools work towards supporting more. Fostering this engagement should be authentic, and students should gravitate towards activities that they find interesting - as the voluntary nature of an ASP should help to promote. With this in mind, the adoption of an eSports program could greatly benefit schools, and students, looking for something new to embrace. As an activity, eSports is gaining ground in the mainstream media and becoming much more of a household term - even becoming a bit of a buzzword in some spaces. The rise of platforms like Twitch, Facebook Live and Youtube have helped to not only make eSports a billion dollar industry, but has also helped to elevate the industry far past the “niche” status it held in the early 2000’s (Block & Haack, 2021). Given this popularity, it makes sense to bring eSports to students in a safe and manageable environment. Not only can an eSports ASP help students to practice certain skills that are important in learning any type of sport, but students can gain skills that apply to the litany of other career paths within the eSports industry and beyond. The following paper will describe some ways that we, at Aoba Japan International School, utilize eSports as an ASP to drive motivation, encourage global leadership and cultivate a positive community.

When conceptualizing this ASP, one of the first obstacles we focused on overcoming was the stigma that students would “only” be playing video games. Though being an eSports athlete is one of the more popular and glamorized positions, it is far from the only pathway that a student can potentially take. The eSports career “ecosystem” generally consists of roles like entrepreneurs, content creators, organizers, strategists and players. These roles branch out into more specific jobs such as coaches, event organizers or streamers (Anderson et al., n.d.). In order to help break the misconception that an eSports ASP is solely for playing games, students were asked during our first meeting to describe some hobbies or skills that they were interested in outside of gaming. Students who were interested in public speaking, or were very knowledgeable about the games we were playing, had the opportunity to broadcast and commentate on our YouTube channel. Students who were interested in videography or photography were able to film, interview and take photos for our Instagram account, while those interested in computer science could tinker around with optimal setups and streaming platforms for our streamers. Linking an ASP to skills and activities that students are already interested in can help students to build more positive interpersonal connections and can also have them positively consider their future careers and plans (Cortellazzo et al., 2021). Giving students the opportunity to work on skills that they already enjoy, in an activity they enjoy, greatly motivated students to produce authentic work during the ASP. As an example, the student-led YouTube account has multiple gameplay videos and streams, but also full-length documentaries of events that we have participated in. Along with that, the Instagram account that the students help to run and provide content for continues to upload regularly and has gained a small following of students and parents.

Not only do students improve skills associated with eSports, but they also tend to grow socially and emotionally, as well. Adopting an eS-

ports ASP can help lead students to being “more outgoing, more social and more highly committed” (Steinkuehler & Lee, 2020, p. 8) and this motivation can also directly impact the games that they play. Over the few years that this ASP has run, students have been much more interested in competing and improving outside of the confines of the program. Students have joined tournaments and competitions outside of school where they can test their mettle against varying levels of skilled players. This outreach into the greater eSports community has led our students to take on the role of global leaders.

Within our school’s core values, we define a global leader as one who “initiates, leads and participates” in activities while also understanding “multiple perspectives related to physical, managerial, psychological, political, cultural, and spiritual domains” (Aoba Japan International School, n.d., para. 1). Our eSports ASP had the great opportunity last year to volunteer at one of Japan’s biggest eSporting events, Evo Japan. Evo Japan, part of the Evolution Championship Series, is a multi-day tournament that gathers players from all across the globe to compete in various fighting games (i.e Street Fighter and Tekken). Over the 3 day period, our students were asked to help attendees navigate the Tokyo Big Site arena, where the event was being held, and to help to translate. With over 5000 people competing in the tournament, and even more attending the event, our students had to quickly adjust to the rigors of how a professional tournament is run. The event helped to embolden our students; especially given the fact that they could immediately see that their translation and critical thinking skills helped to positively impact those that they came across on the day.

After seeing the grand magnitude of an event like Evo in person, students pushed to hold tournaments of their own. Not only did they want to hold something competitive, but students also wanted to strengthen the bonds of our community through the games we played in our ASP.To create this tournament, students theorized how and where gaming consoles and monitors should be set up, what the rules of play would be and even contemplated prizes for top placing individuals. Students also found time to promote the event with posters around our campus and on our Instagram account, they filmed YouTube videos, and created a comprehensive Google Forms sign up guide. The event, which was held during a school festival, saw over 70 attendees and the players ranged from early elementary school all the way up to high school and faculty members!

As teammates within the eSports arena, students develop trust and understandings between each other. Just like a quarterback and a wide receiver in American Football may have some sort of unspoken language, so would a “Jungler” and “Mid” within the realm of the game, League of Legends. These bonds don’t just end when the games are over, though, but they also continue on outside of gaming. For example, Freeman and Wohn (2017) found that players, “considered supporting team members in the offline life a ‘natural process.’” and that, “care was a mutual activity: in order to receive help, it was important and necessary to give help. This constituted the key to win and the very basis for trust” (Freeman & Wohn, 2017, p. 442). In order for students to create a positive community, they came to understand that they must construct that foundation and nurture that community. Being able to start with positivity in an ASP and bridge that to the entire school was a great, and meaningful, step for students to take.

An eSports ASP should be an activity that schools should consider including because of the wide range of the skills that students can learn and apply to their lives, the opportunity for students to be agentic and autonomous in how they approach participating in the ASP and as a way to motivate students as individuals and as community members. An eSports ASP can broaden students’ career horizons and empower them to positively impact their communities. Esports, as a medium, is continuing to expand and develop as a mainstay of mainstream entertainment, so the time is right to explore the possibilities and applications of what an eSports ASP could provide to your students. Game on!

Student volunteer prepares to compete at Evo Japan.


Anderson, C. G., Tsaasan, A. M., Reitman, J., Lee, J. S., Wu, M., Steel, H., Turner, T., & Steinkuehler, C. (2018). Understanding esports as a STEM career ready curriculum in the wild. IEEE, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1109/VSGames.2018.8493445

Aoba-Japan International School. (n.d.). Our core values. AobaJapan International School. Retrieved February 9, 2024, from https://www.japaninternationalschool.com/ourschool/our-core-values/

Block, S., & Haack, F. (2021). eSports: A new industry. SHS Web of Conferences, 92(04002). https://doi.org/10.1051/ shsconf/20219204002

Cortellazzo, L., Bonesso, S., Gerli, F., & Pizzi, C. (2021). Experiences that matter: Unraveling the link between extracurricular activities and emotional and social competencies. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.3389 fpsyg.2021.659526

Freeman, G., & Wohn, D. Y. (2017). Social support in eSports: Building emotional and esteem support from instrumental support interactions in a highly competitive environment. Proceedings of the Annual Symposium on ComputerHuman Interaction in Play, 435–447. https://doi org/ 10.1145/3116595.3116635

Steinkuehler, C., & Lee, J. (2020). NASEF internal report: Student motivation in league play. In Connected Learning Lab. https://connectedlearning.uci.edu/wp-content/ uploads/2022/09/5013.05_Y3-Motivation.pdf


College Admission is Not a Competition

Our schools are used to having strong college-going cultures, and families may be choosing to apply to and attend our schools based on the historical college admittance track records of previous graduates. However, instead of understanding that the college admissions process – especially to US colleges and universities – is based on the concept of individual “fit” with each institution, the entire college admissions process has morphed into one competitive game that is unfortunately driving up anxiety, stress, and mental health issues of not only our students, but our entire school communities. What may be factors not under anyone’s control has now turned into a lucrative external industry trying to make sense of decisions that only colleges and universities know why they were the right ones to make in crafting each new freshman class.

At the EARCOS Leadership Conference 2023, I presented a session titled “What Heads Need to Know About US College Admissions”, as a crash course on how US institutions make admissions decisions and how schools on the K-12 side can help calm their community’s anxieties through understanding the work of admissions officers and the crucially important work of their own counselors. Counselors who work at secondary schools are the primary liaisons with universities, with the critical responsibility of acting as each student’s advocate and making sure the secondary school and all its unique offerings, grading policies, and graduation requirements are introduced to colleges and universities around the world. It is a key distinction that should be highlighted in your communities that

school counselors are the real college experts, many with extensive experience having worked in a college admissions office or another secondary school’s counseling office, and are the only individuals who have direct access to admissions colleagues who will read your students’ actual application files.

Experienced counselors also know how to help a student (and family) manage expectations throughout the process. For example, the entire set of Ivy League institutions in the US should be categorized as “far reach” schools for all students around the world, simply because of the high volume of applications these institutions will receive. No one is guaranteed to be admitted, nor should be led to believe they are entitled to be admitted, or that someone else is “taking their spot”. Counselors are also responsible for ensuring students apply to a balanced list of colleges, and to continually confirm that a student is equally as excited to attend all the schools on the list, no matter the selectivity. This is why researching schools thoroughly before filing an application is so important; sadly, this part of the process is usually rushed or overlooked when students make up their college lists, especially when there is too much outside influence. Students then end up applying to schools without knowing why they would even be a good fit with a particular institution. Not knowing why a college would genuinely be a good fit automatically puts a student’s application at a disadvantage, as any essay questions about perceived “fit” turn out to be incredibly difficult to answer and painfully generic to read.

The ideal situation happens when how students describe themselves matches what adults say about them, and a picture of who will show up on move-in day is consistent with what the college is looking for in order to craft the freshman class it wants. It is easily confirmed through the school transcript and scores (if required) that the students can do the academic work on campus. But this also happens more than there are spaces available for everyone who would be “qualified” to be admitted. This is where it is also crucially important for school communities to understand that in many cases, the admissions process is incredibly human. A GPA or a test score or a certain number of honors/AP/IB courses is not the reason anyone gets into college. Instead, admissions officers verbally fight it out in many committee discussions about which students will add more to the experience of their classmates.

No one could have predicted the educational disruption caused by COVID-19. Many of you already knew that standardized test scores have always only been used to corroborate the academic strength of a student, which was already presented via transcripts and recommendation letters. High test scores are often misinterpreted by students and parents as a way to compensate for lower grades at school. However, to colleges, test scores that are much higher than a GPA should indicate introduces even more questions to colleges. Is the student even learning at school if the grades don’t seem to match the testing ability? Does the student refuse to do homework? Does the student refuse to participate in class? Did the student waste money to receive really good test prep for a test that doesn’t even measure real academic ability? It opens up more questions about how this student will do in college. There are many other students for the college to choose from than try to understand why a student has test scores that may actually seem too high as compared to their high school record and how their free time could have been used more productively than going to tutoring.

It’s important to keep in mind that at selective private institutions, there are many people reading every application and each admitted student had an advocate that helped convince other members of the admissions committee that the student would be a good fit. Again, no one is using the argument “But this student got a XXXX on the SAT/ACT!” or “This student comes from this particular high school!”. It’s important to keep in mind that students may be admitted despite a low submitted standardized score.Then the admissions committee conversation becomes really interesting as in, “Can we disregard the score that the student submitted - and didn’t have to. She brings this and this and this to the college and we already know she can do the work here.” That student would also have been counted in the statistic of students who submitted their scores but was actually admitted in spite of her scores. The goal is to be the student that admissions officers fight for!

As I hope has been made clear, a GPA or test score or a certain number of honors/AP/IB courses or the name of your high school is not the reason anyone gets into college. On the flip side, not getting into a top choice college is NOT a judgment on a student or the high school, period. Colleges that admit fewer than the number of students who apply must make decisions about “fit”, and in the majority of cases, “fit” is something that cannot be controlled by the student, the high school, or the family. The most honest and bluntest way to explain US college admissions is that perhaps a school is only looking for oboe players which are desperately needed to complete

the school’s orchestra. One could be a top student-athlete on paper with off-the-chart grades and scores, but if they are not looking for cello players who also captain the soccer team, that is no one’s fault, but that top student is most likely not going to be admitted that year.

We all know the gossip in that student’s international school community is the disbelief that this cello-playing-soccer-captain didn’t get into his top choice school while the college went and accepted a student from a smaller local school who is the exact oboe player they need, who also reassures the university she can also handle the academic work. This is a perfectly realistic scenario that shows that the university can do whatever it wants to formulate its freshman class and that it has made the right choice about institutional fit. The best we can do is to encourage students to be themselves, choose to study and participate in activities they love, and to be able to demonstrate a lifelong love of learning that will carry them way past their college years. The more a student’s life is curated, the more we actually lose sight of who the actual teenager really is and how they make decisions for themselves.

The selective American college process is all about trying to figure out who a student is, and who they will be on a college campus. If a student has been properly counseled and has a balanced college list, they should be applying to colleges where everyone else like them looks the same on paper when it comes to academic factors. Schools need to be assured students can do the work when they get on campus. That question is most easily answered as soon as admissions officers see a transcript and read some recommendations. So admissions officers focus more on what do students bring to campus and every application is evaluated for non-academic aspects of what the student will bring.

Here in Asia, we are all trying to best explain and reconcile more familiar Eastern philosophies of education with Western college results that many families desire. Past history of acceptances from your high school have no effect on what is going to happen this year, as US institutional priorities continue to expand to populations and schools that have never sent applications to colleges before. The best we can do is to stay true to your school missions, trust the expertise and networks of your counselors with those who will read your students’ applications on the other side of the desk, and cheer on all students alongside your faculty and counselors. We are all on the same side to help each student find their perfect college match, and the more we all understand this unique American concept of fit and don’t get discouraged by things that are not under anyone’s control, the better we can celebrate the strengths of each individual student, no matter where they will go after high school graduation.

About the Author

Grace Cheng Dodge retired as Head of School of Taipei American School in July 2023. She served as the school’s second Director of College Counseling in 2011. Grace is also a former Director of Admission at Wellesley College and former Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Harvard University. She currently consults for Heads and trains school counselors to increase their knowledge of US college admissions and can be reached at grace@ dodgeconsultants.com

Networking and Inclusion: Tackling DEBJ in Beijing as a Team

In this article, we embrace uncertainty, not knowing all the answers, and even doubt. Most importantly, we embrace the power of networking and the reassurance that comes from looking for others to seek support and to figure things out… together.

Julie Lawton, at Beijing City International School, welcomes participants to the first session of the Beijing Inclusion Network.
Photo designed by pikisuperstar / Freepik

Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Justice (DEBJ and any of its, many acronyms) have become undeniably visible in international education in recent years. In the wake of global demonstrations for racial equity and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the imperative to address issues within the context of DEBJ solidified across industries. International schools were put under the spotlight as data emerged showing the inequities in hiring practices and recruitment. (Marsh, 2023)

The landscape of DEBJ within international schools often appears as a dauting and multifaceted challenge. School leaders and members of school communities acknowledge issues rooted in inequality and lack of diversity, but often reach no consensus on what the issues are or the extent of their impact. For everyone in the school communities is important that DEBJ related work has a positive impact on learners and schools, yet most schools don’t know how to make this impact happen or where to begin. Diversity, equity, and inclusion issues are among the greatest leadership challenges in education. (Carla Koppell, 2021)

Recognizing this challenge, schools have employed various approaches, tailored for their own needs but usually within a common repertoire of strategies; these include hiring consultancies, developing policies, creating committees, drafting inclusion statements, reviewing and updating hiring and inclusion policies, and seeking parental involvement. However, these efforts usually occur in isolation and may fail to yield concrete or lasting results. As noted by Amy Marsh (2023) in schools’ journey with DEBJ, “There will be points at which this feel difficult, frustrating, and overwhelming; but coming back to why we are doing this, planning for incremental change over a period of time, and by having a supportive network, significant change is possible.”

In Fall 2023, Keystone Academy hosted a second session of the Beijing Inclusion Network. This time, some schools in the city came to strengthen their understanding of key terms such Justice and Diversity. They shared resources and ideas on how to approach next steps ranging from policy drafting to instructional implementation and more importantly, gaining parental involvement and support

Central to the success of the Beijing Inclusion Network, has been the sense of community it creates and the collective purpose that it fosters. Participants have left each session feeling validated, knowing that their effort to affirm the identity and the sense of belonging of the members of their communities is shared, seen, and acknowledged.

Networking became a significant tool for the international schools that are part of the Beijing Inclusion Network, not only because it allows them to collaborate towards a common goal but also because of the understandings that have emerged from the gatherings. By now, most of schools have realized that work in the context of DEBJ is gargantuan and can be overwhelming, that it requires a delicate balance between caution and bold action, that is work that requires time, reflection, and commitment. Coming together has helped us gain reassurance on our own processes; it has also helped us keep accountable to our missions and to our communities. It allows us to collectively come from a place of humility, a place that allow us to ask questions, try strategies, have discussions, learn, reflect, and try to do better.

As this year unfolds, the Beijing Inclusion Network prepares for its third session, this time, it hopes to shift the focus towards prototyping protocols for sharing DEBJ related statements with the parent community and to fostering further collaboration with other schools in the region. In the journey toward Diversity, Equity, and Justice in education, collaboration emerges as a powerful catalyst for commitment. Through initiatives like the Beijing Inclusion Network, international schools in Beijing are forging paths forward. We know, that “for Schools to meet their obligation to educate all children, they must be equitable, accessible, and safe. [But] what does this mean in practice?” (Alberto Arenas, 2016) This is a question that some international schools in Beijing are trying to answer… together.

Works Cited

Marsh, A. (2023). Preparing a School Community for DEIJB Work Through Developing Social and Emotional Competencies. EARCOS Triannual Journal , 18-21.

Carter, D. J. (2007). Why the Black Kids Sit Together at The Stairs: The Role of Identity-Affirming Counter-Spaces in a Predonimantly White High School. The Journal of Negro Education, 76(4), 542-554.

In response to the need of having that supportive network and in the spirit of collaboration, Beijing City International School (BCIS) pioneered and hosted the first Beijing Inclusion Network in Spring 2023. The inaugural gathering brought together representatives from eight international schools in Beijing. The aim was to identify schools actively developing or strengthening their DEBJ practices and provide a platform for sharing experiences, challenges, and insights.

Carla Koppell, R. E. (2021). Transforming International Affairs Education to Address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Council of Foreign Relations, 1-20.

Alberto Arenas, K. G. (2016, September ). 7 Reasons for Accommodating Transgerder Students at School. Phi Delta Kappa International, 98(1), 20-24.

Participants of the first session of the Beijing Inclusion Network delve in discux`ssion


Providing for the Social-Emotional Well-being of our Multilingual Learners in the Dynamic setting of an International School

The setting

A growing International School in Singapore with an international clientele that is seeing a surge in the Chinese Mainland contingent of its demographic.


Our decision to present at EARCOS on the topic of ensuring the Social-Emotional Well-being of our Multilingual Learners was prompted by a reflective provocation. Our EYPY Principal, Edna Lau asked us to consider something very new that we had learned or done recently. Then she asked us to reflect on whether we had learned to do something new - even though we might not have wanted to. Most of us could not identify a totally new thing we had learned or done. Usually the ‘new’ was a permutation of an older skill such as starting to learn another language, or taking up Pickleball in lieu of Tennis. ‘And yet’ - shared Edna, ‘we’re asking our newcomers to dive into lots of new things - and they don’t always get a choice! They didn’t choose to leave their home country and come to Singapore. They didn’t choose to enroll in an English-speaking school, They didn’t ‘choose’ to leave their friends and familiar sights behind.’

Edna is described as ‘leading from the heart’ - and it’s so very true! We gathered our thinking partners and brainstormed all the ways we might improve our socio-emotional support for our newcomers and existing international students. Some of our shifts were big, and some were small, and each of them mattered to someone. Making shifts is

easier when the shifts are aligned with your learning principles. At XWA one of our learning principles is that “The well-being of the learner should be prioritized for learning to happen.” Each shift, even the smallest, has made a positive change in lives.

For a fairly large shift we leaned heavily on Jon Nordmeyer’s article ‘Let’s Talk about the Fee’ in getting conversations to happen around our fee structure. At the time we had tiered fees, with higher fees for ‘lower’ EAL students who needed more support and lower fees for ‘higher’ EAL students. The tiered system stigmatized students, and possibly demoralized them. Students experienced pressure from parents to ‘move up a level’ in order to save money. In some cases parents pressured teachers to ‘help’ the students move up a level, or pressured teachers to spend more time with the so-called ‘level 1’ students. We shifted to a more responsive model of provisioning with a single fee for all. While we were not yet at the ‘no fee’ ideal in my head, it was a step. There were additional unforeseen benefits: billing was simplified, scheduling became a little less burdensome, we had greater flexibility on programming with fewer constraints and were able to be more responsive in providing the right support at the right time, and thoughtfully withdrawing scaffolds before they became crutches. Students were grouped with more similar language proficiency so teachers could better differentiate and target for their specific learning needs. Of course, there was still pressure to move students out of EAL support to avoid the fee altogether, but these diminished as our divisions learned to be more responsive. We improved our exit system by reviewing student progress not semesterly, but quarterly, and even mid-quarter if the data supported it. This entailed our billing department to also become a little more nimble, and to activate a policy of reimbursement for partial semesters.

Being able to exit EAL support with greater frequency was supportive of students who were ready for it. In Primary years the decision was made in concert with the homeroom teacher who considered the whole student, the specialists who might see a different side of the student, and the EAL specialists and in Senior Years such decisions were triangulated with the Pastoral Head of Grade and subject teachers to consider whether the student was socio-emotionally ready to make the leap out of EAL support.

A small and significant shift was our own languaging. With the WIDA being the benchmark assessment for placement and exiting, it was a key driver to changing how we talk about our students and use more asset-based language about them. We shifted from discussing students as low, or high, as level 1 or level 2 to describing students as emerging, entering, developing and so on. In EYPY we began bringing a school-wide focus to language objectives, to WIDA language outcomes, and key language features.This helped our staff to provide more accessible lessons and learning tasks for our multilingual students. Small shifts, or ‘teacher moves’; and significant to the students’ well-being.

And the occasional mis-step: In considering the well-being of our EAL students, we altered the schedule to ensure that they started their day in the EAL room, where it was believed they would be supported in their languaging and start the day with confidence and a sense of belonging. When students reported to their EAL and Homeroom teachers that they felt like they were missing out on important information by going to EAL in the first 30 mins of the

day, the schedule was altered to return them to their HR at the top of the day and find other opportunities for in-class support instead. They learned that their student voice mattered! And we took the time to enact another small pivot for their well-being.

After attending a Collaborative Practices workshop with Andrea Honigsfeld and Jon Nordmeyer, we learned new languaging ourselves, and as practitioners we work hard to call our support ‘in class support’ and ‘small group support (?)’ rather than ‘push-in’ and ‘pull out’. We believe language influences thinking, and having a more positive linguistic slant on the provisioning of EAL support influences how all the stakeholders think about our students.

As a school we have engaged in significant DEIJ PD from such providers are Matthew Savage. I was especially impressed with his presentations on ‘Spikes’ and ‘Curbcuts’ - A UDL approach to DEIJ. His professional development encouraged us to re-see our context and identify previously unseen ‘spikes’ and co-create ‘curb cuts’ for our student population. One small example arose from a cafeteria conversation, resulting in a significant ‘curb cut’ for our students. A distressed student did not have his lunch, and our Principal, Edna Lau, was there to see his distress. She speaks Chinese, and learned in the new student’s home language that the student did not have his lunch. All the staff on duty know that we have a ‘no child goes hungry’ policy, and have lunch vouchers available, but the new student had not communicated his need, believing that no staff spoke his home language. Edna instituted two practices: 1, ensuring that all students know who the adults are in their environment who speak their home language (including cafeteria staff and janitors, and 2, tagging home language specialists to each home room to drop in and check on students weekly. The student’s perceived inability to communicate with staff was a ‘spike’, assigning and identifying Home Language staff was the ‘curb cut’.

In sum, all these are shifts, large and small, which we have embarked on to provide for the Social-Emotional Well-being of our Multilingual Learners in the dynamic setting of an International School. Changing the fee structure, shifting our languaging, identifying spikes and implementing curb cuts, responding to student voice/agency, using WIDA’s ‘Big Ideas’ to transform our practice, and most of all, remembering that while as adults we choose an international life, our students don’t always choose to leave home and become young expatriates. Is there more work ahead? Always!

About the Authors

Edna Lau is the EY/PY Principal at XCL World Academy and Stephanie Drynan is the Head of EAL and Home Language Support for XCL Schools Singapore.


From Listening Games to Hands-on Manipulatives, Concordia’s

Grade One Teachers Build Foundations While Making Math Fun

Foundations for success

Concordia is well known for our strong math program. Concordia Reception students are well prepared when entering grade one with a strong math foundation, and our teachers personalize each student’s math learning to boost their skills.

“One reason why a student should come here for early elementary instead of waiting until grade five is that they’re going to get the academic foundations in grade one they need to succeed at the next level,” said grade one teacher Mrs. Wood.

“The aim of grade one math is to cement foundational math skills. We keep reinforcing foundational math skills, and students become proficient math learners much faster,” said Mrs. Wood.

“I can see our former grade one students who have progressed throughout the school, and how they can apply those foundational skills to a lot more complex problems, and how important these foundational skills are. When these skills are cemented in grade one, children become much more successful in later grades,” Mrs. Wood added.

Customized Learning

“We always see the potential in each student, and we make accommodations as to what each student needs, rather than just teaching math as a general class lesson,” said grade one teacher Mr. Turner-Williams.

“From the first day, the children are using hands-on manipulatives to solve difficult higher order thinking. Concordia is very well resourced in the classroom for the kids to use a multisensory approach, like manipulatives and visual aids, for learning math,” said Mr. Turner-Williams. “As a result, by week five of grade one, students can use those skills and apply them to difficult problems.

“I think the best example is solving word problems. For a problem like ‘Jane has 6 pennies and finds 4 pennies - how many does she have?’ The student can use her knowledge of numbers to solve the problem without needing to know what a penny is,” Mr. TurnerWilliams added.

A Fun Part of a Whole

“Math at Concordia is not just done by numbers - it’s part of a system. Reading and writing are used together with math, so that the child doesn’t just know how to solve number problems, but is also able to understand and apply those skills through their reading and writing and overall learning,” said Mrs. Wood.

“Even though math is a core subject we make math fun. Students will actually say ‘Hey it was a fun math lesson, I enjoyed math time, I learned about addition because I played this kind of game, and I understand it better because we played this game,’” said Mrs. Wood.

“This is something we are proud of as a school, and makes us stand out. Not just in grade one, but throughout the school, teachers like to make numbers and skills concepts fun for each child, and make math fun for everyone,” said Mrs. Wood.

“We also try to build academic independence, and make sure students know our expectations and their responsibilities,” added Mr. Turner-Williams. “Having the responsibility of homework and looking after their math book makes the students feel grown up. Showing mom and dad what she’s learning in math makes a student excited to show her homework in her notebook, and that keeps students engaged.”

Concordia grade one students shared how they like learning math.

“We used the 10 blocks and we practiced counting by 10s and 20s, and the one blocks to count by ones. The 10 blocks are stuck to each other, and the one blocks are squares,” said Maddie.

Hands-on manipulatives are one way that Concordia students learn math

“Prodigy is a game where you have to solve math problems to defeat monsters,” explained David. “Or do pet rescue,” added Gabrielle.

“We use Prodigy and IXL on our computers. I think they’re fun,” said Dania.

“Sometimes we write numbers and problems on the board, and that helps me learn,” said Gabrielle.

“Sometimes we use our math journals, we do drawings and we have to solve questions and word problems,” said David.

“We solve math problems in our math journals, like 2+3=5,” said Chan. “Or 3+4=7,” added David.

“We have a math book, it teaches us about how to use pluses, minuses and equals signs,” said Ariel.

Some students enjoy learning math through playing educational games on the computer

“We learn about plusses and addition and subtraction. Sometimes we do pluses and additions for homework, or sometimes we need to write math problems in our workbooks,” said Celia.

“We played a game in the book to fill in a square by answering lots of questions, some true or false questions, or we had a row of clips in number order and we had to fill in the missing number of clips,” said Celia.

About the Author

William P. Badger, Jr. is the Director of Community Outreach at Concordia International School Hanoi. He can be contacted at william.badger@concordiahanoi.org Spring 2024 Issue 43

“We tried to guess how many blocks we would need to measure Mr. Williams,” said Ariel.

“We played a math game called Prodigy. I liked it - it teaches us about time and pictures and math skills,” said Maddie.

“In Prodigy, there’s some math and it’s fun to play,” said Yeva.


In Community

a found poem with the voices of the participants of DEIx24

Being invited to be present, listen to understand, and speak to be helpful allowed space for me to better understand some of my privilege and bias for it to be exposed, seen for what it is.

That understanding motivates change.

I felt safe to speak, be heard and share personal experiences without judgment.

Everything was purposeful, intentional, and contributed to wanting to be better and do better for myself students and fellow humans.

Excellent facilitation

Profound level of depth thoughtful conversations reflections Connections

I won’t feel as lonely in the work anymorea full cup as I leave to show up with authenticity, inspired.

I feel so much more equipped to have difficult conversationsto stand up for injustices I notice in my school to aid students in their learning.

Lao local vendors, providers, and dancers: a wonderful idea - the workshops, beautifully complemented by the special touches.

Listening to stories

Learning from them

Authentic, humble good people helping us to learn more

An overwhelming thank you

Finally, able to release many of the built up fears and tensions into a space that was safe and freeing felt welcoming right from the start entering campus in the morning.

Phenomenal facilitators

Vulnerable conversations

Thoughtfully planned and executed sessions.

Loved the targeted focus! Going to one session, I did not feel like I missed out from another.

Joining this community officially for the first time, I felt encouraged to show up with authenticity as a learner.

I am Excited Inspired Equipped

Proud Fully engaged ... Not alone.

“Real is not how you are made... It is a thing that happens to you.”

About DEIx24:

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Exchange 2024

DEIx24 brought together educators from around the EARCOS region to connect, reflect, and hold action-oriented conversations dedicated to creating communities of Belonging within our respective schools. The words of the participants are woven together here to capture the essence of the day filled with pause, connections, hope… radical dreaming

Let’s keep talking, so that we do not let “[silence] pass over into forgetting” (Cathy Hong, Minor Feelings).

Liz Cho, Director of Learning Development @ Vientiane International School

EARCOS to Partner with PeerSphere for 2024/25!

Ed Greene, the Executive Director of EARCOS (East Asia Regional Council of Schools) is excited about partnering with PeerSphere for the upcoming academic year. He sees peer learning as a quintessential strategy for professional development and is thrilled that EARCOS will support the development of five PeerSphere peer learning communities (PLCs) for 2024/25.

“The strength of peer learning is in connections,” says Ed. “When people have the same challenges and interests, and when they’re able to meet in a small group setting, the ways they can think and work together are truly powerful. It’s about the conversations, the wisdom, the sharing, and the solutions. It’s how we learn together.”

Ed knows some schools do a good job of organizing on-site PLCs for teachers, but agrees with PeerSphere’s Michael Iannini that much to be gained by connecting with educators in similar roles outside a school community, too. “When this happens, people aren’t as constrained by systems and specific ways of thinking; more can happen,” says Ed. Just look at the popularity of the Job Alike sessions we hold at the ETC and the ELC each year. People want more and more time for those events.

During COVID-19, EARCOS partnered with the Truman Group to offer online communities for school leaders to ideate, strategize, and process challenges and solutions. This was successful and highlighted, for Ed, the power of peer learning and its role in ongoing professional development for EARCOS educators.

“We’re looking for more ways to pull educators together in smaller groups,” the EARCOS Director said. “Institutes, mentoring and coaching, small cohorts… these can be such dynamic and purposeful ways to learn and grow.”

When Ed was the head of school for 16 years at a leading school in Europe, he implemented peer learning structures for his staff. This led to changing the teacher evaluation system to revolve around small groups of 3-4 teachers engaged in observing each other’s classes and exploring meaningful co-learning strategies. Based on the Japanese model called ‘Lesson Study’ this led to a deep shift for the school’s culture of teaching and learning–and leadership.

“I realized that if we could structure our professional culture on the same things we wanted teachers to do in their classrooms, it would be a rich experience,” reflects Ed.

PeerSphere co-founders Michael Iannini and Ewen Bailey are looking forward to partnering with EARCOS educators next school year. As PeerSphere grows its number of PLCs and the reach of its impact on educators seeking professional development, both Michael and Ewen see partnerships like this one with EARCOS as essential.

“The foundation of peer learning is collaboration, openness and sharing,” says Michael. “And this means that partnering with excellent organizations and associations like EARCOS is a natural fit. I’m also really looking forward to seeing how PeerSphere can help EARCOS weave a tighter fabric of community across the wide region EARCOS covers.”

Ewen agrees and adds that he had multiple generative conversations with EARCOS educators at the Teachers’ Conference in Bangkok in March. “So many teachers stopped by the booth to talk with me and ask questions; as awareness of our PeerSphere PLCs grows, you can see people’s interest growing and new connections evolving,” says Ewen.

If you teach in an EARCOS member school, you can learn more about this partnership by visiting this web page: https://www.peersphere.com/communities/earcos-middle-leaders-communities/.

Peer learning should be included in every educators’ professional development plan!

Professional Growth and Development for Teacher Leaders to Support Sustainable Change in International Schools

Academy Overview

Institute Leaders Leslie Grant, Ph.D. James Stronge, Ph.D.

The success of any international school is highly dependent on the strength of its teacher leaders This year long, hybrid, job-embedded professional learning experience will equip teacher leaders with skills to lead within their departments/grade levels and their schools Through engagement within their own communities of practice, participants will embark on a journey to contribute to the growth and success of their school. Specifically, teacher leaders will identify an opportunity for growth in their school, hone professional skills to develop and lead a comprehensive approach to addressing the school growth opportunity identified through action research or program evaluation, implement an action/evaluation plan, reflect on successes, and prepare for next steps Thus, this program is designed to directly benefit both individual teacher leader participants and their schools with tangible professional learning and school growth projects Individuals are welcome, and we invite school teams to participate Grounded in what we know makes an effective teacher leader within an international school setting and what we know about effective professional learning, the following roadmap describes the journey for individual professional growth and for building capacity within international schools.

Participants will receive 12 CEUs for completion of the program and project.


September 26, 2024: Starting the Journey Virtual via Zoom

February 2025: Small Group Team Meetings Virtual via Zoom

1 CEU = 10 hours of participation/instruction.

October 23, 2024: EARCOS Leadership Conference Preconference Session

March 2025: EARCOS Teachers' Conference Half-day Preconference Session w/ Virtual Option

Registration Link: www.earcos.org/stronge-grant

December 2024: Small Group Team Meetings Virtual via Zoom

April 25, 2025: Planning for Next Steps Virtual via Zoom

Registration Rates:

$500 for individuals

$400 per individual for teams of 3+ from one school

Note: We welcome individual teacher leaders and also encourage teacher leadership teams

Institute Supported by Stronge & Associates Educational Consulting: strongeandassociates com


Global Citizenship and Service Learning

The International School of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, participated for the second year in a row in the #MyFreedomDay initiative to raise awareness about human rights and human trafficking. We held a student-led assembly and exhibition that showcased how our learners and community are taking a stand on these local and global issues. Our guest speaker, Mr Ulziisumiya Undrakh (Officer in Charge of Multilateral Cooperation of the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia), spoke about the Mongolian perspective on the sensitive but important issue of human trafficking. ISU was proud to be able to bring students from grades 3-12 onto the stage to talk about their own learning process and experiences. They demonstrated how their actions within the wider community integrate with their learning and advocacy for human rights in Mongolia and beyond.

Personal Project Exhibition and Service Learning

Promoting Earth Day and Climate Awareness and Action in their Personal Project

At the International School of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, as part of their Personal Project in MYP5, we are proud of presenting two students Khuslen and Khaliun who promoted climate change and spread awareness using their visual arts skills.


Promoting Awareness Through Art: Visualizing Global Warming

In order to deepen my understanding of the extent of the impacts of global warming and how the implementation of renewable energies benefits the long-term sustainability of the earth, I created three paintings that model and display my research.

Khuslen reflected on the experience:

I produced an artwork that fully encapsulated the important parts of my extensive research on the climate sciences, and in communicating that visually and artistically. There are more people in my community that are more aware of climate change, global warming, and renewable energy now, which means that I have spread awareness about this global issue too. In conclusion, this was a new experience for me that helped develop my interpersonal and research skills while making an impact on the world, but also a stepping stone in my own growth as an individual in how I got to try my hand at exploring a topic that motivated me to become a better person and a better global citizen overall.


Spread awareness to Pre-K children in her illustrated book “Harry’s Adventure” to talk about the environmental implications that humans impose on wildlife.

Khaliun said: “I used my existing hobby of drawing to further enhance my skills and learned how to apply it to digital screens. I learned how to use my creative skills to make something impactful and reach the future generation. I wrote and illustrated a children’s book that will help Pre-K children become more aware of the harm humans have on the environment and how that affects wildlife. My book “Harry’s Adventure” will evoke empathy and sadness within the students to enlighten them about the harm of our actions. I shared two copies in our primary library section to reach the audience.”


On Saturday, February 24th, AST was bustling with activities as over 160 educators serving in Taiwan international schools gathered at AST to participate in the inaugural CATES Educators’ Conference!

CATES, short for the Council of Administrators of Taiwan Expatriate Schools, comprises most of the international schools operating in Taiwan. Under the leadership of its current president, Dr. Colin Brown, who also serves as the Head of School at our school, CATES organized its inaugural conference for educators on the island.

This conference featured over 30 workshops and a keynote address by Mr. Myron Dueck titled “Ask Them: Why Listening to our Students Matters.” Additionally, WASC, the accreditation agency, conducted visiting team training sessions during the event. With the participation of over 160 educators, this conference has proven to be an invaluable platform for education, fostering networking opportunities, and facilitating the exchange of ideas among educators in Taiwan.

We are very proud that AST has been heavily involved in supporting this meaningful event, and we congratulate all CATES members for their outstanding initiative. It was indeed a resounding success!

Foundation Nepal & Nepal Trekking Company Moonlight

Moonlight Nepal Trekking Company was founded in 2011 to provide financial support to the Moonlight Foundation off Nepal. The Moonlight Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free education, meals and medical assistance to underprivileged children in Kathmandu.

As a socially-conscious enterprise, Moonlight Trekking Nepal dedicates sixty percent of its annual profits directly to support the educational and health needs of children through its not-forprofit foundation.

Established in 2009 with an initial enrollment of 20 children, Moonlight School has successfully operated ever since that time. By 2017, nearly100 children were benefiting from educational services, funded by profits from the annual trip organized by International School Bangkok and contributions from individual supporters who traveled to Nepal through Santosh’s travel company. In 2017, upon discovering EARCOS, Santosh decided to become an Associate member, aiming to promote his travel company within the international school community with a specific focus on supporting Moonlight School. The humanitarian initiatives deeply impressed many EARCOS member international

schools, leading to a gradual partnership between these schools and his travel company. As of today, we have been able to support over 200 children at Moonlight School.

Why Nepal is the Ultimate Destination for School Trips

Nepal stands out as the ideal destination for school trips due to its myriad unique opportunities for international students. From trekking along world-famous routes to engaging in rafting, jungle safaris, and cultural immersion, Nepal offers a diverse range of experiences. Additionally, students can participate in environmental studies, educational activities, and social services such as teaching lessons and experiencing authentic cultural interactions. These opportunities allow international students to not only enjoy but also enrich their understanding of Nepal’s culture, society, history, and people.

What makes Moonlight Nepal Trekking Company a preferred choice for international schools planning their trips to Nepal?

A number of high profile international schools from around the world, such as International School Bangkok, NIST Inter-

national School Bangkok, American International School Hong Kong, Canadian International School Hong Kong, Seoul International School, Korea, Alice Smith School Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Keystone Academy Beijing, China have chosen to travel with Moonlight Nepal Trekking Company, and confidently maintain long term relationships with this company. This is due to their premium quality services, which priorities student’s safety and comfort. But most importantly, the company is chosen due to their dedication towards the education of the most deprived and disadvantaged children in their community.

Moonlight Nepal Trekking and Adventure endeavors to establish a strong partnership with international schools, with the aim of making a significant and positive impact on the students of both institutions, including the International School and Moonlight School. Through this collaboration, international students are provided with the opportunity to embark on an exceptional educational journey to Nepal, offering them a life-changing experience. Carefully organized by their dedicated travel company, students will have the chance to explore and immerse themselves in new cultures. Moreover, this partnership enables Moonlight School to extend assistance to more underprivileged children in need. Thus, this collaboration proves mutually beneficial for the students of both schools.

Premier Travel Company Specializing in Organizing International School Trips to Nepal

Moonlight Nepal Trekking continues to lead the way as the premier organizer of international school trips in Nepal. As the sole company in Nepal devoted to delivering meticulously curated international school trips to schools worldwide, they ensure 100% safety and comfort, backed by extensive experience in this field.

International School Trip Programs by Moonlight Nepal Trekking

Our company’s programs include a 3-4 day trek in the Annapurna region, offering breathtaking, up-close views of some of the world’s highest and most stunning mountains. Following this, students engage in a 1 to 2-day service project at Moonlight School, involving teaching, organizing classroom games, and experiencing cultural exchanges.

Previous international school students who joined us attest that while Nepal’s mountains and trails are awe-inspiring, their most cherished moments were spent participating in service-learning

projects at Moonlight School. Here, they taught lessons, led classroom games, showcased music and dance, and enjoyed genuine cultural interactions. They expressed deep gratitude for the meaningful connections forged with the children of Moonlight School.

How Moonlight School sustains its provision of free education following its establishment.

Shortly after establishing Moonlight School, Santosh encountered Mr. Andrew Davies, the Head of International School Bangkok, during his family trip to Nepal in 2009. Mr. Davies visited the recently opened Moonlight School, where 20 children were studying in small rooms. Impressed by Santosh Koirala’s dedication to supporting underprivileged children with education, Mr. Davies decided to organize educational trips to Nepal for his students upon returning to Bangkok. Through Santosh’s travel company, which facilitates International School Bangkok’s annual trips to Nepal, 60% of all profits are donated. This contribution has enabled Santosh to gradually increase the number of children at Moonlight School from the initial 20.

Established in 2009 with an initial enrollment of 20 children, Moonlight School has successfully operated. By 2017, around 100 children were benefiting from educational services, funded by profits from the annual trip organized by International School Bangkok and contributions from individual supporters who traveled to Nepal through Santosh’s travel company. In 2017, upon discovering EARCOS, Santosh decided to become an Associate member, aiming to promote his travel company within the international school community with a specific focus on supporting Moonlight School. The humanitarian initiatives deeply impressed many EARCOS member international schools, leading to a gradual partnership between these schools and his travel company. As of today, we have been able to support over 200 children at Moonlight School.

Superb safety record

With an outstanding safety record, Moonlight Nepal Trekking Company ensures the safety and comfort of school groups by equipping its staff and local ground partners with their International Operations Manual, which clearly outlines appropriate emergency procedures. These detailed protocols guarantee swift and appropriate handling of any emergency situation. Recognizing the diverse dietary needs and restrictions of students, Moonlight Nepal Trekking and Adventure can prepare meals without nuts, dairy, or meat. Over 12 years of experience, neither students nor teachers on a Moonlight Nepal trekking trip have encountered food allergies or unexpected health issues. To ensure compliance with students’ dietary restrictions, the company provides its own cook during the trip.

Spring Heads’ Institute 2024

The recent Spring Heads’ Institute held at the Shangrila Hotel Mactan Cebu, Philippines, was a remarkable gathering, bringing together over 50 heads of schools from across the region. Hosted annually by EARCOS, this event serves as a platform to express gratitude to the heads of schools for their invaluable contributions to the organization.

This year’s institute, held on April 26-27, 2024, featured an impressive lineup of speakers who brought diverse perspectives and expertise to the table. Among them were Sohan Choudhury, Dr. Ulcca Joshi Hansen, Jasmine Wang, Warren Apel, and Greg Clinton each offering unique insights into the future of education and leadership.

Sohan Choudhury, co-founder and CEO of Flint, captured the audience’s attention with his expertise in AI tutoring and his entrepreneurial journey. Sohan shared his vision for leveraging technology to enhance learning outcomes.

Dr. Ulcca Joshi Hansen, Chief Program Officer at Grantmakers for Education, brought decades of experience as an educator and advocate to the discussion. Her work focuses on reshaping the fundamental values and approaches within America’s education system to adapt to the evolving needs of our world.

Jasmine Wang, co-founder of Trellis and a core steward of Verses, provided a fresh perspective on education and creativity. Through her ventures in LLM-powered tutoring and her involvement in building software artifacts for a more interconnected web.

Overall, the Spring Heads’ Institute was a testament to the commitment of EARCOS to provide enriching opportunities for school leaders to engage, learn, and collaborate. By bringing together thought leaders like Sohan Choudhury, Dr. Ulcca Joshi Hansen, and Jasmine Wang, Warren Apel, and Greg Clinton the institute empowered attendees to explore new ideas and approaches that will shape the future of education in the region and beyond.

EARCOS new board trustees. (L-R) Kevin Baker (ASIGZ, past President), Jim Gerhard (SIS, Secretary), James Dalziel (NIST, Vice President), Catriona Moran (SSIS, President), Rami Madani (ISKL, Treasurer), and Gregory Hedger (ISY, WASC Consultant).

Dr. Edward Greene EARCOS Executive Director presented certificates to the departing members of the EARCOS board namely Catriona Moran (VIS), Gerald Donovan (NJIS), and Kevin Baker (AISGZ).

Greg Clinton (AISC), Warren Apel (ASIJ), and Kevin Baker (AISGZ)


MARCH 19-22, 2025













High School School

Art Celebration

Concordia International School Hanoi

Sungyeon Park, Grade 12

AP Drawing

Pencil Value Metallics


Hyo Lynn Yi, Grade 12

AP Drawing

Pencil Value Metallics


Linh Khanh Hoang Do Grade 11

Advanced Art Charcoal Portrait

Seoul International School
(Left)Andrew Ro, Grade 11
(Center) Jimin Park, Grade 11
(Right) Celine Yang, Grade 11

High School School

Art Celebration

Aaron Lin, Grade 12

Watercolor on wooden board

17 x 44 inches

Dominican International School

“Deep Sea”

Cheng, Zoe Yang-Ching, Grade 11

Acrylic on canvas 15 x 17 inches

“Beyond The Veil of Superiority”

Isabella Hsieh, Grade 12

Watercolor on paper

12.5 x 17 inches

International School of Ulaanbaatar



Dulmaa Felgentreu, DP 2 HL

Acrylic paint and posca markers on canvas (100x100 cm)



Ilyos Rustamzoda


Acrylic paint, Acrylic Pens, and Oil

Pastels on canvas (150x70 cm)

Emerson Burg, DP 2HL


Watercolor on Paper (55x75 cm)

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