Summer Rest & Relaxation: School Leadership

School Leaders work extremely hard during the school year to help keep so many systems running smoothly, often doing many tasks that go unnoticed after hours.  It is important for leaders to take some time to relax over the summer in order to recharge their batteries for a new school year in order to be as sharp and positive as possible for the next school year.  What are some ways that school administrators can relax and recharge over the summer in order to be the leaders our schools ask of us for the upcoming year? 

  1. Technologically get away. This may be a difficult one for school administrators, especially at larger schools and districts with more amounts of responsibility, but turning off your device/s for even a few moments a day can help recharge. 
  2. Physically get away. Go somewhere you like, a favorite lake or country. A getaway can help hit the refresh button for a new year.  
  3. Volunteer.  Give back to the communities that have helped you along your path. 
  4. Get in touch with loved ones.  Take a moment or two to reach out and thank those important people in your lives that helped you get to where you are today.   
  5. Reflect.  Take time to write and reflect on successes and areas for improvement.
  6. Read.  Catch up on the latest educational trends and areas that you may need more professional development.
  7. Get into nature.   

These are just a few recommendations for school leaders to relax and recharge after a busy school year.  Be kind to yourselves, you deserve it, no one knows how hard you have worked to keep your schools functioning at such high levels. But your body and mind do.  And they deserve a break, so that you can come back next year with positivity, strength and joy in order to be the best leader your school needs.


Building Trust: Working with Local Staff

            “I want to help you, but I can’t” was what I was told.  I am not big on being told no, especially by someone I had a working relationship with.  I was the Head of Department, and what I was asking was both reasonable and something that I had asked before.  I was frustrated with this fellow employee.  However, what I learned helped me to understand the importance of learning the culture as we build trust within the school system.

            When I worked in the public-school system in the states, there were clear structures and order to things.  There were ways to get things done that were followed.  However, there were also ways to get things done that had nothing to do with structure and order.  The second version, which usually was faster, was based on who you knew and how you related to them.  If you had met people, and built positive relationships with them, they were more likely to help you out in time of need.  At many times in my career, my relationships with the security team, grounds team, maintenance staff, and others has come in very handy when things have not gone the way they should.

            While working in the states, it is easy to meet people and build rapport.  Everyone, for the most part, speaks English as a first language and communication is easy.  If we want to build trust, we need to start by speaking with people.  Hold a conversation, ask questions, listen to the answers, and try to be supportive as you are able within the context of your job.  Following through with what you say you will do is also critical.  This is highly simplified and very dependent upon your role as a leader.  The greater your leadership role, the more critical discussions, listening, setting standards, and follow through become as a matter of trust.  How about overseas though?

            Some people assume it is much more difficult to build relationships, rapport, and trust with local staff.  It can be.  Language is the number one barrier in most schools. We don’t speak the local language and struggle to connect with the local staff.  However, language is only one barrier.  We can learn the local language, or at least some of it to break down barriers.  But we will likely never be fluent in the local language.  While this will continue to be a barrier, we can work to build rapport and trust by making attempts to use some local language.  This is only one barrier, and in my opinion not as big as we might think.

            Our attitude towards the people we work alongside is far more important than just language.  If we treat the local culture as less than ours, we will never truly build rapport and positive relationships with the people we work with.  I have heard the phrase “ugly American” in many places I have worked and visited.  It is not a positive phrase and rightly given due to the actions of some Americans with a specific attitude living or visiting abroad.  We want to avoid treating others poorly just because we think we do things better in our country.  We are guests in another country and must respect that.  Even though we may not agree with what we observe, we need to work within their system to make changes rather than work within our context.

            Cultural context and expectations become much more important when working with locally hired staff.  If we attempt to do things according to our own cultural context we are likely to run into challenges as we do not do things according to the country we are working.  This can create cultural divisions and increase levels of distrust with the people we work with.  The appearance is that we are imposing our beliefs and values on a system that operates differently.  I have found a willingness to work within the cultural context of the country we reside is valued and increases the level of trust and willingness to work with one as a person. 

            The example I gave at the beginning was an actual example.  The staff member I worked with did want to work with me.  However, I was asking him something that needed to be asked in a different way.  The greatest gift he gave me that day was explaining to me how to ask for assistance for that issue and others in the future.  When I left the school, he shared with me, years later, that he appreciated that I knew how to work with him and his staff as many people did not learn how to do that.

            Building rapport with people you work with and building trust in any context is important and, in many cases, critical.  In my experience, speaking with people, taking time to listen, setting clear expectations and following through are the critical pieces for building trust in any culture.  However, once we leave the comfort of our own culture, we must recognize that there are different rules for how things happen and how these relationships develop.  We must be willing to step outside our own context and acknowledge that things work differently than we might know.  If we wish to build trust, we must be aware of our own lack of knowledge of the culture we work in, accept that we operate differently, then learn how to operate within the context of the country we are working.  Too often, we are quick to notice differences as faults.  In this case, acknowledging that our differences can be strengths if we are willing to be open and learn from those, we work with is the key.

            I hope as you work within your school setting that you build positive, healthy relationships with local staff.  Commit to learning more about them and how the structure of leadership works within their context so that you can be more effective in your leadership.  This will pay dividends in the long run towards building trust.  If you commit to this piece, and work within the leadership structure of the organization, this will increase trust between you and the staff you work with.

            Feel free to contact us if you are interested in our insight on this or any of the topics we write about.


Volunteer teacher training in Honduras : From Data/Research to Practice.

Someone might ask you one day, how have you used data to make a difference in an educational setting?

I would like to share with you a recent example of an answer to this question from my practice.  

I am currently 18.75% finished with my doctorate in education via University of Illinois: Champaign-Urbana. My research for my doctorate so far has looked at high school graduation rates in Honduras and some of the reasons for low (estimated less than 50%) rates in comparison to the USA (estimated 84-85%).  One of the reasons consistently cited in research for low public high school graduation rates in Honduras is a lack of schools and teachers. 

Serendipitously, recently I was asked by Head of Operations & Partnerships at E2E: Ada-Cruz-Torres to get involved with teacher training as a volunteer with Educate2Envision (E2E), a non-profit organization whose goal is to “bring affordable and impactful secondary school education to rural/poor communities across Honduras.” Based on the data from my doctoral research and research of E2E as an award-winning NGO, I decided to say yes and get involved with volunteer training of E2E teachers in bilingual Spanish/English principles of Understanding by Design (UbD).   

We decided on UbD as a valuable training topic to help E2E teachers and learners articulate ‘big picture’ learning outcomes and plan backwards prior to implementing courses in entrepreneurship, leadership, community-building and other game-changing topics for Honduran youth.  Today was the first teacher training. 

I started at 7:45 am and drove 1 hour and 15 minutes from my apartment in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to Catarranas, Honduras a scenic, winding drive through hilly green countryside to deliver the first training on phase one Understanding by Design (UbD) to a group of young leaders.  We worked for 2 hours in a spacious office connected to the public library, where Educate2Envision‘s office is located. 

I gave the entire training in Spanish, which was a challenge but the participants were patient with my Spanish, which is advanced but not 100%.   The training involved 12 bright students.  We started with brief introductions and then discussed what their current classes typically look like and what they are learning.  The participants shared with me that they are learning many subjects including how to become leaders and how to teach other youth to become leaders in their communities. I asked them if they had ever used the UbD format to plan their lessons.   They said they had not. 

Based on this, we used leadership as a topic for designing our first UbD unit: Leadership.  We began with an introduction to key terms translated to Spanish, such as enduring understandings, transfer, topical understandings, essential questions and common misconceptions.   Then we planned a sample unit on leadership.  Working in groups of four, participants developed a 2 week plan for a leadership unit.  Along the way we shared ideas with each other focusing more on the process than the content.  By the end of the two hour session we had 3 first drafts of leadership units at Stage 1.  We took a photo and said thanks to each other, created a group chat on whatsapp for collaboration purposes and plan to meet again in a few weeks to continue planning more units together. 

Overall, this was a great volunteer experience from my point of view, it was nice to share the UbD format with a group of young leaders.  Hopefully the training will help with their curricular planning  and documentation, which in turn will engage more students in Honduras and ideally lead to an increase in high school graduation rates in Honduras.  When I started my doctorate program I did not think the research and data would lead to action so quickly.  Ultimately, a short conclusion can be framed in a brief essential question: Is research/data complete without action?



Collective Teacher Efficacy : Top effect size

According to John Hattie’s research in a 2017/2018 ranking, collective teacher efficacy (CTE) has the biggest positive impact on student learning. And the difference is quite large. CTE scored 1.57, with second place (self-reported grades) scoring 1.33, which represents an 18% increase in effect size. Why is this data important? Because this can shape where an educational administrator or policy maker puts their efforts when it comes time for staff professional development (PD). Ultimately we want to enact changes and policies that positively effect student learning. If we take Hattie’s research to be accurate, that CTE is by far the most effective way to increase student gains in the classroom, then we must ask ourselves, how do we increase CTE?

One way to begin is with education/PD. Not all teachers are aware of what CTE is. Collective teacher efficacy is defined as: “the collective belief of teachers in their ability to positively affect students.” Beliefs fall under the intangible core bottom line that at times is difficult to measure. Other bottom lines in education such as fiscal and academic have more quantitative data, money and percentages being much easier to use a traditional barometer. With the intangible core, or the culture of a school it may be much more difficult to put a number on. But now we have a number. 1.57: 18% greater than second place. With that data in mind it may require that we pay more attention to collective teacher efficacy in our schools.

Recently, in our March High School staff meeting at American School in Tegucigalpa we led a short (15 minute) teacher training on CTE that I share with you below in italics:

Objective : Understand the term  ‘collective efficacy’ and share instance/s that you have caused learning since our last faculty meeting.  

Collective Efficacy (4:18-5:07): The collective belief in teachers that they can positively effect student learning.  The believe that “I (the teacher) cause/d learning”.

Collective efficacy currently has highest effect on student learning according to John Hattie.

Group discourse strategy : Mix-Freeze-Pair-Share

  • 1-2 minutes: Write down a time that stands out for you in the last month of an example that you caused student learning.  
  • When signaled, freeze and pair with the nearest person.
  • Share your responses.
  • Mix, freeze and share again
  • * Can be used with music

(Adapted from this source)

Recap: Collective efficacy has the highest effect on student learning. Thank you all for causing learning.

It was rewarding to listen to teachers share successes with each other. Those a-ha moments that teachers live for, when a teacher sees the light go on in a learner’s mind from what they have planned. PD for teachers + sharing successes with one another are two ways to increase CTE. Questions remain regarding how to gauge the level of teacher collective efficacy at your given school. Here is a link to a Collective Efficacy (CE) scale from seminal author Megan Tschannen-Moran’s website that is one way to measure CE at your school.

Given the fact that teacher collective efficacy is the biggest difference maker in student performance it may behoove us as educational leaders to explicitly teach the concept to our staff, give time for our staff to share successes with one another and measure the current state of Teacher Collective Efficacy at our schools.


The Job Search

It’s amazing how stressful it is to search for a leadership position.  Many of us have the same story where we start by searching for an admin position and we are open to searching for a position that we are currently in (ie. homeroom teacher, middle school math, counselor).  Having two options is comforting and feels like a safety net when it comes time to tell our current schools that we are not renewing our contracts. There is one big problem with this, more of our experience, and potentially our talents, are with the current position.  We are often interviewed and considered for a non-administration position (sometimes with the promise that we will be seriously considered for any future openings) or we are often told on paper or in person that we lack the amount of years of experience or skill sets that the school is looking for in a leadership position.  

So, what is the solution to this problem?  Just cut the cords and take the leap. Do not open yourself to get a position in the career that you have already had. Only apply for the leadership positions.  We need to be prepared for the rejection that is going to come our way as we search for the school that is willing to have faith in a new leader. We need to know that there will be many schools that will not even look our way when they see our CVs.  Some schools that we interview with will seem like the perfect fits, but they do not call us for a second or third interview. The interesting thing is that the majority of educational leaders in schools share the same story. Interview after interview of rejections.  You will find schools that you are sure will give you an interview and not even make it through the first round.

In some ways, I feel that this rejection piece serves a purpose.  After receiving several rejections, even within my own school, I started to ask more questions to the ones who had interviewed me for the positions.  “What were my strengths that you noticed?” “What were the growth areas or reasons why I was not chosen for the position?” I did not accept “We went a different direction.” I asked for details of how I can become a more well-rounded leader to be considered in the future.  One of the greatest gifts I received from the rejection was that of self-reflection. I realized that I had holes that needed to be filled with new learning and more practice.

Now, heading into a new round of applications, interviews, and hopefully my first leadership position, I feel a little more confident.  Yes, I felt quite stripped of my pride at the time of hearing that I did not get the second interview or the position, but now I am better prepared. I have learned new vocabulary for speaking about the way I coach others.  I have gone out of my way to better understand the complexities of curriculum and standards and how you create teacher buy-in and opportunities for teacher input to ensure success while implementing new curriculum. If I do not get the next interview, I will be asking questions to find out what I am missing or how I can improve myself in the process.

I am far from fully prepared for my first position, but I am more confident than ever that I have the capacity to continue to grow and learn in the new position and seek out opportunities to fill the holes to be a better leader.  

For all of you who have embarked on the journey of finding that first position or who are about to, know that you are not alone.  We will rise up from the rejections and find the right school to help build us to be the best leader that we can be.


Classroom Management: Observing the Start of Class

          Routines are those things we regularly do.  The patterns of our life as it were.  The examples of patterns in our lives are endless.  Our morning routine of waking up and, for me at least, starting the water for coffee, checking my phone for social media, getting breakfast for my children, and getting ready for the day.  These consistencies allow me to start my day and get in the mindset for the work ahead.

          Classrooms are a series of expected routines that the student recognizes and is familiar with.  This routine brings stability and consistency to the student.  They know what to expect and they know what is likely to happen next.  A dramatic shift from the normal routine can cause significant behavioral shifts in the classroom.   Consider the impact of an unplanned fire alarm on the school day, or the week before a major break.  So, what routines should the administrator look for when observing?

          Let’s take a look at the start of the class rather than the entire lesson.  In this we will look at just Entering the Classroom to Starting the Class.  This is a significant time of transition and sets the tone for the entire class ahead.  For reference, I draw heavily from the work of Michael Grinder and Kendall Zoller especially in the areas of getting attention and connecting with the audience.

          The management of students entering the classroom is far more important than most people realize, especially during the beginning of the school year.  As the teacher, you are verbally and non-verbally setting the tone for the period of time you see them. 

There are a myriad of examples on YouTube and other social media about teachers doing all kinds of greetings and individual handshakes for their class.  I don’t know about you, but keeping track of 15 – 20 different greetings or handshakes per class is not going to happen for me.  So, my advice, do what comes natural for you or for your teachers.  Do not try to fake something that you are not.

As an observer, I want to see the teacher greeting students and interacting in a positive manner.  I like seeing teachers meeting students at the door, making eye contact, and greeting the students.  This serves as an initial greeting for your classroom and setting high expectations.  It also allows a first contact that is positive and if one is observant, an idea of where the student is at socially and emotionally for the day.  Each teacher will be different, but a positive greeting goes a long way towards connecting with students.  This sets a positive tone for the class and provides the teacher with some information about the students for the day.

As the students enter the classroom, it should be apparent that there is some sense of what to do next.  Do they hang their bags up?  Do they get their materials out?  Do they turn in work somewhere?  Is there some task accessible, that the student can begin work on and engage with the learning?  Does the teacher provide a written task on the board or projected on a screen describing the starting task or activity?

An entrance task limits down time, engages the student immediately with the subject, and sets a tone of importance for the class work.  All of this can be done without the teacher supervision, but it must be taught at the beginning of the school year and set as a routine.  An administrator walking in this class will see academic engagement and students on a task.  When the students are asked about the work, they should describe some version of expectation to get started immediately.

This is a time of significant transition for the class.  It is that moment where the students move from the passing period to the start of class.  This is where I draw on the work of Michael Grinder for Getting Their Attention.  I look for the following non-verbal and verbal cues when starting the class:

Teaching Space (non-verbal):  A teacher has a spot in the classroom where he or she teaches.  If you observe teachers, it is easy to spot but they may not realize that they are doing this.  Where do they stand to teach and give instructions?  Teachers always have a teaching space that they work from.  Do they come to that spot before beginning teaching?  If so, students engage quicker knowing that this spot is important for instruction.

          Freeze the Body (non-verbal): In preparation for the transition, the teacher, when in the teaching space, stops moving and freezes their body.  This is a non-verbal shift in the students mind that something is happening.  With practice, the teacher entering the teaching space and stopping will gain the attention of the class.  The caution is that this is a transitional state.  The teacher should not remain stationary for the entire class.  Just long enough to gain attention, using the Above – Pause – Whisper, as the verbal transition.  Then the teacher may continue with the discussion.

          Above Pause Whisper (verbal): When the teacher speaks to gain attention, how do they sound?  What is their volume level?  Great managers know that they need to speak ABOVE the volume of the class with a short attention getting word or phrase to interrupt what is happening in the class.  An immediate PAUSE and freezing the body, allows the class to re-focus on the instructor.  Then dropping the voice down to a near WHISPER verbally draws the class in to the instruction before moving to the next step which is instruction.

          Physical Cue (non-verbal):  At the beginning of the year, the teacher should combine the teaching space, frozen body, and above pause whisper with a non-verbal cue.  I like to place my right arm at 90 degrees at my elbow with my hand up and the left hand at my bellow button.  The idea being that this non-verbal cue replaces the verbal cues over time.  If I have done this correctly, I will start with a verbal and non-verbal cue, and slowly drop the verbal cues in favor of the recognized non-verbals only.  In this, my management becomes less verbal and more non-verbal and if done consistently, expected by the class.  Then, one can begin teaching.

          Written Instruction / Entrance Task (verbal and non-verbal):  At the beginning of class, we need to teach students how we expect them to start.  Writing an activity on the board, projected slide, or other method where everyone can see, allows the teacher and students to refer to it.  Initially, the teacher needs to teach this Entrance Task, the activity that students are expected to start once in the class.  However, over time, if consistent, the students will recognize this starting task and beginning to work on their own.  Or, if the teacher is providing instruction for the start of class, it is available for reference by the students and teacher.  This limits the need for the teacher to repeat instructions, instead they can simply non-verbally point at the instructions when the student say, “I don’t know what to do”.  It also allows our English Language Learners the opportunity to process the written word rather than navigating verbal instructions.

          When I am asked to observe the start of class, these are things I look for as the teacher begins class.  One can learn a lot about how the management of the class by observing the start of the class.  This significant period of transition is worth paying attention to, especially at the beginning of the school year.  Extra attention given at this portion of class will pay benefits throughout the class period.

          If you are serious about changing the classroom management style of your school, get out and visit the classrooms.  Use informal observations and create a checklist for behaviors and management skills you wish to see.  Provide feedback to your teachers about what you saw.  Have a conversation with the teacher, or teachers about what you observed and the strengths or challenges they seem to be having.  Encourage the teachers to observe other teachers who are successful at classroom management, or are demonstrating successful practices in their classroom.

          Shifting the culture of a school takes time, hard work, commitment, communication, and a willingness to commit the time to make the shift.  Keep in mind that small changes can make significant impacts in a classroom, and school.  Consistency across the school in teacher expectations has shown to have significant positive impacts in students behavior and academic behavior of students.  I encourage you to take the first steps towards making positive shifts in your school climate and classroom management practices.

For more information on the above topics, I recommend you view some of the hyperlinked videos below as a frame of reference.  Michael Grinder and Kendall Zoller are experts in the field of non-verbal communication and have provided some excellent resources for you to review in this field.

High Expectations (Michael Grinder)

I share this video as an example of how teachers can adjust how they stand to increase the non-verbal expectations.

Above, Pause, Whisper (Michael Grinder)

A description of the skill set of Above, Pause, Whisper.

Above, Pause, Whisper – Demonstration (Michael Grinder)

A demonstration of Above, Pause, Whisper with a group of teachers.

Exit and Entrance Directions (Michael Grinder)

Michael describes an Exit Direction for use with students.  This is easily modified to become an entrance direction at the beginning of class for students.

Digital Workshop: The Choreography of Presenting (Kendall Zoller)

Kendall Zoller shares his Choreography of Presenting in this video. While not specifically classroom based, it does provide us with a great deal of information as educators when we consider how we present information to the classroom.


Vulnerability as a Strength in School Leadership

There may exist an old-school conception that educational leaders should not show vulnerability as it may display weakness, which could undermine one’s authority.  Think of Morgan Freeman’s first speech to his faculty as a new High School Principal in Lean on Me when he shouts ‘no one talks in my meetings, no one!’   This is a great movie, but times have changed in school leadership.  With the increase of desired traits such as emotional intelligence, self-awareness, transparency and authenticity, vulnerability may now be viewed not only as a strength but as a necessity.

This idea is succinctly reinforced in an article from Forbes: “Every leader has vulnerability. The greatest leaders have the self-awareness to recognize this fact. They also recognize that showing their vulnerability is a sign of courage and strength.”

The question that remains is when are appropriate times for a leader show vulnerability?  A short answer: To make those ever-important human connections.  Human connections between school leaders and teachers often gets pushed aside or ignored as we are consumed with results, paper work, deadlines, evaluations and testing.  Of course all of these are important for making a school run, but behind all of these processes are people.

This is summed up by this quote from Harvard Business Review: “Why is human connection missing at work? As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This stereotype is changing however and is one reason why AI may not be able to replace a strong/vulnerable leader: because AI cannot empathize as meaningfully or effectively as humans.  Ironically, AI’s weak spot may be that it doesn’t show weakness.  In the end, in education, we are humans working with other humans, none of us are perfect, all of us have weaknesses and all of us deserve forgiveness.  Taken from the same Harvard Business Review article : “Forgiveness doesn’t mean tolerance of error but rather a patient encouragement of growth.”  A strong educational leader not only recognizes their vulnerabilities, but forgives all stakeholders including themselves for the mistakes and shortcomings that come with being human while at the same time maintaining high expectations.  We are not perfect, but we can always work to be better, including our ability to show strength through vulnerability.


Curricular Integration : STEAM

One comment I have heard is that the acronym STEM or STEAM may perhaps not be the best way to promote curricular integration.  What does this mean?

It means that STEAM may not just be confined to Science, Technology, Engineering and the Arts.  It also means that schools should have strong Science, Tech, Engineering and Arts programs, but not while sacrificing other disciplines.  In short, the end goal is curricular integration via 4Cs: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking & Communication (twenty first century learning skills).



Instructional Principal: Quality Instruction: Lesson Planning: GANAG

‘Quality of instruction is the top priority for the instructional principal’ (link to source).  Lesson planning plays a crucial role in the delivery of quality instruction.  Fostering an environment in which a faculty uses the same lesson planning structure and language can help create a culture of practitioners that work collectively toward student gains.  One common lesson planning schema is via Jane Pollock.

Jane Pollock is a renowned author/co-author of seminal educational texts such as ‘Classroom Instruction that Works’.  In her books she describes her ‘Teaching Schema For Master Learners’ which is an improvement/evolution of Madeline Hunter’s work and is referred to by the acronym GANAG.  GANAG stands for Goal, Access Prior Knowledge, New Information, Application, Goal (revisit).

One question that may arise for Jane Pollock is ‘How does your schema differ from Madeline Hunter’.   Mrs. Pollock’s response might be that we have had many advances in the field of neurology since Madeline Hunter’s work.

Facilitating faculty adoption of a consistent instructional language is an exciting and rewarding process.  Along with quality teaching and learning improvements one might witness faculty being able to communicate with one another with more ease and fluency as they become familiar with a vetted common language.  While such an endeavor may be vast and time consuming, teaching and learning along with general climate could see marked improvements in a short amount of time.


‘Death of the Classroom Desk’

This is an article I wrote for TIE: The International Educator.  TIE has been in business for over 25 years, ‘matching the best educators with the best international schools around the world.’  It is an honor to be published in a leading publication for international education.  The article is shared in it’s entirety below:

Death of the Classroom Desk?

By Derek Kensinger



Death of the Classroom Desk?

The idea is ancient: Mens sana in corpore sano—a healthy mind in a healthy body. Regular physical activity is linked to general wellbeing in school and in life. But what is being done about this at the curricular level?

Most international schools have physical education classes, sports, and clubs, but do these activities meet often enough to provide each student with the recommended amount of exercise per day? What about academic classes, after school classes, and home, where most of our students spend the better part of their time? Are these huge swathes of time providing any physical activity? Why not?

Then there are the teachers; are they getting enough physical activity? And school administrators? Let’s not even go there. In response to the question “Are you getting enough exercise?” most of these folks would answer, “No, because I just don’t have the time.” This may be due to the fact that teachers and school administrators are so focused on their students’ success they neglect their own wellbeing. How ironic that we are so busy teaching lifelong habits of holistic wellbeing that we often don’t have the time to pursue the same tenets ourselves.

How is this issue dealt with at international schools? Does your school have a gym for its faculty? Does your school openly encourage teachers to exercise during their prep time? Such things are not unheard of.

One government has begun to take some of these matters into its own hands: Finland. The Finnish government is recommending that children get three hours of physical activity per day. That’s right—per day! Take a moment to think about your students as they are busy preparing for test after test, assignment after assignment. Honestly, how many hours a day are your students physically active? How many hours a day do your students play with other students? And we aren’t talking about video games. We are talking about physical play with other students on your campus. Go on, add it up. How many hours per day?

How is Finland encouraging/mandating more exercise? One way is in the way their school day is structured. A typical Finnish school day is divided into hour-long sessions that include 45-minute lessons and 15 minutes of outdoor play. Additionally, under Finnish curriculum, schools are looking at new ways of teaching that involve more movement among children. Finnish schools are also removing traditional furniture to encourage more circulation and collaboration.

These are measures that seem very possible for international schools to implement, and many international schools are already doing so. Such changes need to occur at the macro-level; schedules need to be changed, bells re-programmed, more spaces created for physical activity, and student activity more closely monitored not only by physical education teachers and coaches, but within academic scenarios as well. Can anyone else imagine classrooms with exercise bikes powering learning instead of groups of students uncomfortably hunched at desks?