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SHORTCUTS by gabyion


                                          making life easier for international educators

Vol 4, no 2                                                                                 November 9, 2004

                                                           IN THIS ISSUE

                                                            ~ Editorial
                                               ~ Faculty Focus Groups & Resources
                                                       ~ Work Life Balance
                                            ~ International Leadership & Management
                                                    ~ Assessment for Learning
                                                   ~ Making a Good Impression


Last month I was fortunate enough to attend the Alliance in Education conference in Duesseldorf, I participated in the ―Peace & Conflict Resolution‖ strand, which was interesting and
enlightening. As international educators we pride ourselves on being open-minded and tolerant. Yet, too often, we only
get a one-sided view of the world through the media, which consciously or sub-consciously can affect how we view
other cultures.

I am thinking in this instant about attitudes towards the Islamic world, which have been coloured by the actions of
extremists. So it was with great pleasure that I listened to Dr Nabil El-Sharif, who reminded the group that the Arab
culture has historically lived harmoniously with other cultures. He highlighted the fact that conflict resolution is an
Islamic belief, which should be integrated into Arab curricula. The three days of discussion were stimulating and
reassuring and gave me heart that, through determination and continuing dialogue, educators from all belief systems, can
work together to educate our students in peace and conflict resolution and for a more optimistic future.

This issue features an article by Anne Poenisch on Faculty Focus Groups as a means of continuing professional
development. Some years ago my MA thesis was about teachers and their use of information. Research since the 1970‘s
has consistently shown that the most popular information sources were teaching colleagues and attendance at courses or
conferences. Basically they read very little professional literature! Faculty Focus Groups are an excellent way of tapping
into this need of teachers to communicate and work with each other on aspects of their own professional development.

Also covered here are a some resources regarding the Work Life Balance, a phrase that is currently in fashion. Some
schools are placing a high value of this in their communities and are even incorporating it into their philosophy

A reminder that the recruitment season is just a couple of months away and Executive Shortcuts can assist with your
CVs / Resumes. See the end of this newsletter for more information.

If you will be at the ECIS Conference in Nice next week do come and visit me at Stands 5 & 6, where I will be
promoting the ECIS Online Learning Program and the International Leadership & Management Program.

Jennifer Henley Editor

This free email newsletter is available to anyone in international schools. It is written by professionals to save teachers and
administrators time searching for information. Please feel free to forward the newsletter to other colleagues. Heads of Schools are
asked to distribute Shortcuts to all their faculty. However, we ask that you keep it intact and forward it in its entirety. To add or
remove your name from the mailing list please go to the end of the newsletter.


Schools commit a considerable portion of their annual budgets to professional development in terms of both time and
money. There are many ways of supporting teachers and administrators as they seek to improve their knowledge and
expertise and hone their teaching skills. We may engage consultants to work for us, we may send people on courses,
workshops and conferences, we may help fund further degrees and research, We may also engage substitute teachers and
thereby free teachers to plan together or observe each other at work in the classroom. All these are useful ways of
increasing our understanding of our craft.

At International School Manila (ISM) we have used and continue to use all of the above but we are also currently
developing a different perspective on the provision of professional development. We do not claim that this is new. We
have certainly borrowed ideas from others and are adapting them to our own specific needs and situation. However, we
are excited by what is beginning to develop and would like to share this.

Like many schools, ISM has worked hard at developing detailed whole school strategic plans of considerable
complexity and depth but what difference do these plans and documents really make to the quality of learning in any
given classroom on a Monday morning? We have often found ourselves committed to more initiatives and plans than we
can realistically monitor or implement successfully.

Mike Schmoker (2004)and others have suggested that what seems to work better and produce more tangible results than
large whole school systemic approaches to school improvement is the development of small teams of teachers working
together on various projects. Instead of cycles of curriculum review and improvement imposed on teachers from above
or outside, schools empower teachers to do what they know best... teach each other, working towards the creation of a
genuine learning community.

Sadly, mention the term ‗community of learners‘ to many teachers today and they will roll their eyes sardonically and
groan! The term is becoming one of the most misused and misunderstood terms in current use. At ISM we have recently
been revising our vision, mission and core beliefs statements. Our first redraft contained the phrase ‗community of
learners‘ and although they subscribe to our being such a community many of our teachers were loathe to include the
phrase in the new statements! Schmoker suggests that this is exactly the problem that we are faced with. ―Such learning
communities — rightly defined — are still extremely rare.‖

So, how does this connect to Faculty Focus Groups (FFGs)? Last year, in moving around the different sections of the
school and sitting in on a variety of meetings, listening to teachers talking over lunch, listening to the ‗real chat‘... the
conversations that teachers have ‗after‘ the Professional Development workshop, it became clear that we have huge,
untapped expertise, experience and enthusiasm amongst our faculty for teaching and learning from each other.

Following teacher initiative there were already a number of FFG-like groups meeting. Some were sharing books and
articles informally; others had formed a discussion group to look at aspects of gender, diversity and ethics; some had
formed ‗wellness‘ type groups such as yoga and exercise classes; others were passing on IT skills; a painting class
started. The list was growing. I knew of some other schools that were recognizing the importance of giving teachers time
for such meetings and so I talked to them. Some called these groups ‗Critical Friends Groups‘ and followed the various
discussion protocols initiated by the Annenburg Institute of School Reform at Brown University in the USA; others used
the groups to focus on short term school goals, problems or research questions and others used the groups to improve
their teaching in specific areas by examining student data in depth. In other words, schools were fashioning the idea to
suit their own particular needs, climate and way of doing things.

Last year at ISM we moved away from holding major faculty meetings at the end of the school day and started what we
call the ‗Late Wednesday Start‘. We now start school 80 minutes later on a Wednesday morning. We use that early
morning slot for a cycle of weekly faculty meetings and workshops. It was a popular move with all the community. We
found that we were more alert and better prepared for our meetings and achieved more in a shorter time!

This year we have allocated a number of these Wednesday morning meeting times to Faculty Focus Group meetings.
My first idea was to ask faculty to generate a list of suggestions for groups so that by the first meeting in September we
would have a nice tidy list of options with every teacher (180 of them) signed up for one group! However, in talking to
others and in my readings on this, it seemed that this was not the way to make it work. It has to grow slowly and
naturally, reflecting the real needs of the school and of groups of teachers. Also, some groups need to meet throughout
the year, others need only two or three sessions to achieve their goal. It should remain fluid.

Month by month, it is growing. We now have groups working on the following areas of interest, bibliotherapy,
community service, IT (three groups), learning the Tagalog language, curriculum development (various separate interest
groups), Tai Chi Chuan, faculty choir, world films and literature, exploring the artist within, painting and Pilates.
Another eight groups are in the planning stages.

Feedback from teachers has been very positive. The groups bring teachers from all different sections of the school
together via common interests. In a large school it is often difficult to create enough opportunities for staff working in
very different sections to meet. This helps create a better ‗whole school‘ community feeling. Teachers feel empowered
in the sense that they plan and lead these groups, fuelled by their own interests and passions. Those who have not yet
joined a group have also commented on how useful it is to have some time for personal reading and research within the
school day. Some teachers are also using the time to work in partnership with others and to peer coach.

Towards the end of the year, we plan to ask teachers to write some reflective notes on their experiences in the various
focus groups. Some have already noted that the groups they have formed or joined are working on goals that are relevant
to their own personal professional goals for the year. In this way we hope to form a natural link between teachers sharing
their own expertise and our collective professional development goals.

Anne Poenisch is Assistant Superintendent at International School Manila. She is also a partner in Executive Shortcuts,
mentoring and advising international educators on their careers.

 Schmoker, Mike. Tipping Point: from Feckless Reform to Substantive Instructional Improvement. Phi Delta Kappan:
Volume 85, No. 6, February 2004, pp. 424-432
The Annenberg Institute web site includes a useful section on Tools for School Improvement Planning. These are links
to Web sites containing observation protocols, focus group samples and questions, surveys, questionnaires, and other
techniques to help you examine your specific school-improvement concerns.
This PDF document offers guidelines for conducting focus groups. It describes a focus group as a group of individuals,
usually six to eight, brought together for a more or less open-ended discussion about an issue.
Phi Delta Kappan has published a report on the development of Critical Friends Groups. It describes a program where
―coaches are trained to create a collegial culture within their groups, one that promotes close reflection on practice and
student work, with a constant focus on improving student learning. To create this culture, coaches use a number of
protocols — examining student and teacher work, solving problems, discussing texts, observing peers, setting goals,
building teams, and creating teacher portfolios.‖
An online article from ASCD (May 2002) — Critical Friends by Deborah Bambino describes how providing structures
for effective feedback and strong support through Critical Friends Groups helps teachers improve instruction and student

A rather prescriptive definition of CFGs is given by National School Reform Faculty (NSRF) in their glossary section.

The General Teaching Council for England has published a leaflet ‗The Learning Conversation: talking together for
professional development‘. The content is based on examples from schools and research. It offers insights on how
learning conversations can work in schools, and about the structures and skills needed if they are to have an impact on
teaching and learning.
          The leaflet gives definition of learning conversations, when they might happen, how they are supported and the
benefits. There are suggestions for further reading. The link at the
bottom of the page is to a PDF version of the leaflet.

Teaching is a stressful occupation. There are the strains of ―performing‖, of managing classes, examination pressures,
parental pressures — the list is endless. Add to this all the preparation, marking and extra-curricular activities and you
have the ingredients for stress-related illness and/or damaging effects on home life.

A recently published report Managing Teacher Workload: Work-Life Balance and Wellbeing has a self-audit toolkit
enabling you to examine how long you are working, what you are spending most time on, whether the quality of your
teaching is improving and whether you are working effectively. The book includes:
     an explanation of workload issues
     a copy of the Teacher‘s Worktime Self-Audit Toolkit
     practical tips on how to reduce time spent on planning, marking,
     display and in meetings
     advice on time management
     guidance on how to make the best use of support staff
     ideas for managing organizational change successfully.

Bubb, Sara & Earley, Peter (2004). Managing Teacher Workload: Work-Life Balance and Wellbeing. London: Paul
Chapman Publications ISBN: 1412901235. Paperback: $22.95

The ECIS Online Learning Program has a course on Time Management. The course is divided into three modules:
       1. Understanding your personal approach to using time
       2. Improving your own time management
       3. Working with other people and resources
Working through the course will enable you to: analyse the way you currently spend your working time
      learn how to prioritise your tasks, both in broad terms and in detail
      learn how to stop doing tasks that aren‘t necessary
      learn how to say no when tasks are passed on to you
      inappropriately or unfairly
      analyse how your organisation currently helps or hinders the
      efficient use of time
      learn how to improve the time management efficiency of your
      organisation
Clutterbuck Associates have a ―free‖ section where you can download files on Work Life Balance, mentoring and
coaching including The Work Life questionnaire, aimed at giving you insights into how you are managing your work-
life balance. All you need to do is register your contact details to gain access to the download section. is about stress and how to beat it. It provides a wide range of information about stress symptoms,
therapies and relief, plus news and articles on how to combat stress. The Relaxation Zone provides ambient music and
short movies to soothe your nerves. For instance you can relax by watching snow falling on mountain tops or butterflies
fluttering through a wood!! There is also a stress test to measure your own Stress Quotient.

Avoiding Faculty Burnout through the Wellness Approach Eastman, Wayne (1996)
ERIC Document: # ED399987 This conference paper can be downloaded from 00000b/80/22/ba/bc.pdf Suggests that
individuals need to take responsibility for their own health status and offers strategies for managing time, space, people
and physical well-being. Gives five components of ‗wellness‘: spiritual, social, emotional, intellectual, and physical
well-being. A self-assessment instrument for avoiding burnout and time management charts are included. Diet and
exercise tips for avoiding burnout are appended.

ECIS, the NAHT and Fieldwork Education will be launching this innovative program in January, 2005. It will begin
with a four-day residential workshop in Windsor, January 20 -23, 2005, a few days before the CIS London Recruitment
Fair, so that participants who are attending the Fair will find travelling more convenient. Windsor is 15-minutes by road
from London Heathrow airport.

The ILMP has a different focus from similar courses on International School Leadership — it is very much school
specific. The International Leadership & Management Program is about developing leadership and management
capacity in the real context of the participants‘ school. Other courses tend to train in isolation away from the realities of
the participants‘ school context.

The ILMP has an online learning element to it that involves ongoing online tutoring and coaching so the leadership
learning is not confined to a particular length of time. The course is for one year, allowing more time for the
development of leadership and management skills. During the training year there will be two four-day workshops.

A flyer containing more information about the program plus a registration form can be downloaded from

If you would like to discuss the program or you need any more information, please contact Jennifer Henley: ECIS- or the other people named in the flyer and if you are attending the ECIS November Conference in
Nice please visit us at Stands 5 & 6


How the new International Primary Curriculum approach can help your school and your children
         Assessment for Learning is complex and it would be easy to hide behind the complexity and do nothing for a
long time. But it is also important. If we believe in learning, then we also believe in the right of children to receive
feedback on how their learning is going and help about how they can improve.

The International Primary Curriculum (IPC) has now come up with a new approach to Assessment for Learning. The
IPC Assessment for Learning Programme is a comprehensive and practical programme that provides professionally
developed classroom and teacher resources, facilitating full assessment and improvement of children‘s learning. The IPC
Assessment for Learning Programme is suitable for use in all schools, even those that do not currently follow the
International Primary Curriculum Units of Work.

There simply isn‘t anything else like it, anywhere.

You can find out more about Assessment for Learning and the other programmes available from the International
Primary Curriculum at the ECIS conference in Nice, France (18-21 November 2004). The IPC are running a one-day
Assessment for Learning Pre-conference Workshop on Thursday 18 November 2004. The cost of the workshop is ninety
pounds sterling (GBP 90) for each participant. (Teachers from IPC member schools pay a reduced price of sixty-five
pounds (GBP 65). The fee includes coffee/tea, sandwich lunch, handouts and tuition. If you are interested in registering
for the workshop please contact Sue Willmott on +44(0) 207 531 9696 extn: 210 or send her an email:

To find out more about the Programme and see examples of the IPC Assessment for Learning Programme resources,
showing you what the material looks like, then please send an email to Sue Isherwood:

The IPC Assessment for Learning Programme is a resource you can‘t afford to be without.

        “Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and        vote of confidence. Attending the CV Clinic with
you was exactly what I needed to ensure a positive experience throughout the conference. It was a tremendous learning
experience for me from the beginning to the end.”
                                                                                                    RP, Czech Republic

          Thank you so much for your advice and very helpful suggestions for improving my CV and application
writing. „Making a good impression‟ is an excellent resource too.
                                                                                                       NS, Australia

Suddenly it is already time to be thinking ahead to the season of recruitment fairs beginning in January. Is your CV /
Resume up to scratch? Why not get the assistance that was so invaluable to RP & NS?
         Too many excellent candidates let themselves down by CVs/Resumes that are too long; poorly presented; or do
not contain the information essential to catching the attention of a recruiter.

Jennifer Henley will be at the CIS London Recruitment Centre in January 2005 to offer teachers and administrators 20-
minute consultations on improving their CVs / Resumes. Consultations are available on January 28 & 29, 2005. For
January 26 & 27 only by prior appointment.

FEE: £5 when Making a Good Impression is purchased in advance or £20 – including a copy of Making a Good
Impression. You can purchase the guide direct by credit card at

Thank you for reading this issue of Shortcuts. If you have found it useful please tell others or forward the newsletter to them.

Your ideas and contributions for future issues are welcomed.
(c) 2004 executive shortcuts
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