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?

Final Thoughts

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?

Flock of Starlings swarm the London Eye by AKinsey Foto

11 thoughts on “Becoming an Educational Ambassador

  1. great blog. Out school (Bangkok Patana) has started inviting staff to give the keynote on PD days. This went down really well. As a direct consequence having given such a keynote I was invited to speak at the Beijing Learning Summit.

    Now II would like to try and develop the same opportunity for colleagues. I really like the contractual comments. I will share this tomorrow Monday.





  2. Great post Kim. I agree that it is important for a school who is on the cutting edge and doing interesting things to share their successes and failures with other schools. It obviously cannot hurt a school’s reputation, but more importantly it helps the teacher presenting to fine tune their own ideas and learning.

    But you have to keep in mind that it takes experience, confidence, and skill to be an ambassador. I think there is something to be said for teachers just trying it out. It can be intimidating for teachers just starting out to try and get on a consulting circuit or to present at conferences. Perhaps one way is to have regional shared PD, where teachers come together and present to a few schools. They can use these arenas to sharpen their skills for bigger more formal presentations.

    I have had the pleasure of watching you go from a new somewhat nervous presenter, to a highly sought after speaker. It is a pleasure to watch you present and your success illustrates what I am talking about.

    There comes a time when you go to enough sessions and you say, hey I can do that! It would be nice to have a school that not only allows you the opportunity to present, but rewards and encourages you to do so.
    Jabiz Raisdana´s last blog post ..Welcome

  3. This is a very forward looking and thinking policy and your administration is to be commended for this. I believe you are exactly right, there is a lot of benefits to schools when people are allowed to leave to do this type of work. Unfortunately, especially with ever tightening budgets, the days are becoming more difficult to got.

  4. Thanks Kim for this post. It’s always a juggling act trying to work out what to go to and what to say ‘no’ to. I love the YIS Ambassador program concept and will be re-tweeting about it.

  5. As a literacy coach in three different school districts, I have become an educational ambassador by default. Even though these three districts are located in the same geographic area, there is great variety in how students are educated. I constantly bring ideas from one district to another. The competition between the districts sometimes get in the way but it only means I have to be diplomatic when sharing between schools.

  6. Hello, Mrs. Cofino,

    I am a student at The University of South Alabama studying education. I have been assigned to read your blog regularly and post comments. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog posts; I think it’s so interesting to see what someone “high up” in the world of education thinks on different issues.

    I agree with you on most of everything you had to say in this blog post. Some of the things discussed, obviously I can’t have a strong opinion because I don’t deal with those types of things yet. But in the future I will, and I think that’s why it’s important that I familiarize myself now with the ways of idea sharing in the education world. Thank you for your post!
    Krysten Malone

  7. I love the Ambassador idea. Creative ideas like that can give a school real vision and make educators feel like they’re doing something special, not just plodding along on the old teaching treadmill!

  8. Wow, that is a very forward-thinking vision that YIS has. How wonderful to see them setting a precedent like this. I can only hope other schools follow suit. It’s tremendously empowering and recognizes the importance of reciprocity in professional learning.

    Worth mentioning, however, is that this kind of “ambassadorship” is not for everyone. Not all teachers are comfortable in this kind of situation and I hope we don’t unfairly presume that every educator should be this kind of ambassador. I do think reflection and action on that reflection is a necessary part of one’s growth as an educator, though, and so I would advocate some kind of process whereby educators discover their own best way to be an ambassador — whether that’s through running external workshops, or participating in and sharing action research within a committed group of teachers in one’s school, or even just a simple blog for reflection.

    Thanks always for making me think, Kim!
    Adrienne Michetti´s last blog post ..Practice- your personal guru

  9. Dear Kim

    An inspiring post! I am fortunate to be given 10 days too. I have to try to present the plan for my days away at the beginning of each academic year to make my time away more manageable.

    Fortunately, the massively improving technology here in Bali has also made it easier for me to stay in virtual touch with my students from various airport lounges and schools, minimising the impact of my absences.

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