Over the last few years, I’ve been extremely fortunate to begin consulting with other international and private schools around the US and Asia, along with a few of my wonderful colleagues from other international schools in the area. Although these kinds of experiences are professionally rewarding for the individual, I also believe that consulting and presenting benefit their schools, as a whole.
By visiting other schools, we can learn from their successes and challenges and bring back new ideas to implement at our own school. By spending time with colleagues outside of our own school environments, our ideas and processes can be challenged and refined. By strategizing about the difficulties that other schools face, we can learn how to react and deal with similar situations in our own schools. By visiting other schools, we can get a clearer picture of where schools like ours are going, where we need to be, and how we can get there. By presenting our own learning, we have the opportunity to refine our thinking and strive for clarity of expression. By collaborating with others, we can model a more open and inclusive view of teaching and learning. By connecting with others, we open our school up to new opportunities, experiences & possibilities.
And, of course, by doing all this a few times a year, we can make our schools look good. Everyone knows the names of the schools where presenters are most frequently from. Having teachers from one school present at many conferences builds the profile of the school. The more you hear about a specific school doing interesting things, the more interesting that school becomes.
Ironically, getting the time to be able to expand our horizons can become something we must fight for. In addition to my fortunate colleagues who have also started presenting, I know of just as many (probably many more) who haven’t been allowed professional development leave to share and learn elsewhere. Of course, time out of the classroom is not ideal, but the value we can gain from the experience, as an individual and as a school, often outweighs the disadvantages. Especially if the school knows how to leverage the experience into positive action.
Luckily, I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Here at YIS, our new Head of School has instituted a new type of professional leave: the YIS Ambassador Program. In our contract, we have the following clause:
Teachers representing the School at external events (such as presentations at conferences, serving on accreditation teams at other school, offering workshops, etc.) can be granted up to 10 days of paid leave. Leave will be granted on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the Headmaster. Consideration of other time off will factor into final decisions.
Now, of course, this doesn’t include the professional development opportunities where teachers are simply attending. This program is separate, specifically for teachers who are consulting or presenting, or in some way leading a professional educational experience. And it’s for everyone, not just the one or two teachers that can negotiate time off into their contract. Pretty forward-thinking, huh?
I know not every school is going to be willing to support their teachers to become Educational Ambassadors. The challenges of time and money, and the traditional perspective on the value of this type of professional development will continue to get in the way. For me, that feels like a lost opportunity. A lost opportunity for the school to gain valuable insights, as well as lost opportunity for the school to expand its profile.
What is your school doing to build a team of Educational Ambassadors? How do you see teachers presenting externally benefiting your school as a whole?