Blog Year in Review

Students reflecting on their journey

This time of year lends itself to reflection. As I considered my customary examination of highlights, low lights, and lessons learned in 2015, I decided to reread my blog posts for the year to see what they might tell me about my year. It was fun to relive some of my adventures and see what I was puzzling over as the months unfolded. A couple of themes emerged.

The first pattern I noticed was that I wrote most often about school initiatives. This makes sense, as I work primarily with schools. I continue to be impressed by school leaders who are embracing concepts and practices such as experiential education, design thinking, and global-local connections; paying attention to risk management, program assessment and staff training; and creating meaningful overseas partnerships. I love working with schools, and I am encouraged and inspired by educators who seek improvement through both strategic planning and new initiatives. Serving on the Independent Schools Experiential Education Network (ISEEN) and the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG) boards continues to shape my thinking, provide support for my work, and add meaning to all of my consulting partnerships.

Students from Trinity School (NYC) doing service work in New Orleans

Students from Trinity School (NYC) doing service work in New Orleans

Travel opened my mind and heart this year, whether to places far away like Namibia, South Africa and Peru, middle distances such as Arkansas, Santa Fe and New Orleans, or nearby in Victoria, B.C. and Olympia, WA. Each experience made me think about the world in new and interesting ways, and the people I met reinforced my belief in both our similarities and our differences. I returned home stimulated by new landscapes, engaged in new relationships, and brimming with new ideas for collaborative global and experiential education.

Another theme that emerged as I examined the posts is the importance of art and culture in all of their rich expression. My focus on visual art through Exhibit Be, theater for Little Bee, and music for OneBeat underscores my belief in the power of art to connect, to inspire, and to heal. I noticed that I invited my readers to engage with the world through art and also through political movements like Black Lives Matter, world events like the devastating Nepal earthquake, and then I encouraged heeding the call to an interior life (such as unplugging from technology and connecting with a group like Seasons of the Soul) to stay centered and able to both bear and help ease the pain in our world.

2015 - 2016 signpost in a desert road background

Bring it on 2016: I’m ready!

As I look back, I realize how grateful I am for the kind of work I do and how much I enjoyed writing about it. I appreciate the weekly practice of reflection and putting into words what I am thinking about, engaged in, puzzled by. The greatest joy the blog brought me this year came in the form of my twelve guest bloggers: former students and program associates who wrote about how global travel and experiential education have influenced their lives. Their testimonials reinforce my career choice and provide motivation to continue working on behalf of global and experiential education. Bring on 2016: I’m ready!

Strategic Planning

IMG_8773I am, by nature, not a planner. I like to let life unfold, see what appears, and work with whatever shows up to move me to the next phase. This makes me particularly well suited to experiential education: it’s not that I never plan, it’s more that I do something first and then, upon reflection, create the structure to understand and support the next action. Nevertheless, the importance of strategic planning cannot be underestimated. Organizations that have a clear vision and mission and then take the time to create concrete structures and plans to support their big picture vision are those most likely to get where they want to go. While few would dispute the value of this type of planning, I love the fact that there is no one way to do it. The methods an organization can employ vary by the kind of organization, number of people involved, desired outcomes, and time allotted. Going in with a commitment to mission-driven practices and producing actual measurable results appear to be common denominators to success.

ISEEN Board in Cleveland

ISEEN Board in Cleveland

I recently rejoined the board of the Independent Schools Experiential Education Network (ISEEN). I am thrilled to be back as a member of the group guiding this important and wonderful organization. When I attended my first ISEEN institute eight years ago, the group was called ISAN (Independent Schools Adventure Network) and existed to support outdoor and adventure education practitioners. Over the ten years since, the organization has grown to encompass other forms of experiential education programming (global, service learning, sustainability, student leadership), and added an institute for classroom teachers who wish to have more experiential pedagogy and practice in their classrooms. We have achieved our initial goals and met last weekend on a retreat with the purpose of creating new ones.The process included a review of current programs, including the winter institute for practitioners (this year held in Hawaii, hosted by Punahou and Iolani Schools — and focusing on place-based education), the summer institute for teachers (held in Santa Fe for math, science, and arts educators), and our relatively new membership platform. After reviewing them as a group, we spent time individually and then in triads, outlining new goals, finding commonalities and differences, and finally, coming together to set benchmarks and timeline for the work. It was gratifying, inspiring, and energizing as we move forward into the next five years of growth in the organization.

GEBG Board in Miami

GEBG Board in Miami

Another group on whose board I serve, the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG), is going through a similar process but in a slightly different way. We formed a strategic planning committee at a meeting last spring. This group met three times, once in person and twice virtually, to identify five priorities for the organization. Each committee member signed on to develop a couple of goals and create benchmarks and a timeline for reaching those goals. The material was sent to the Executive Director for review, and will appear on the agenda of our November board meeting to be discussed and voted on by the full board. We will outline our strategic plan to the wider membership at our annual conference in April (this year hosted by Isidore Newman School in New Orleans).

Finally, I have been contracted by an independent school to help develop a strategic plan specifically for global education at their school. During a strategic planning process for the whole school, they identified global education as a big part of that plan and they desire a more specific framework for global initiatives. I will spend a day on campus meeting with relevant stakeholders, review their current programs, and facilitate a conversation about the steps they might take to set new goals and the process to achieve those goals.

As I work with organization boards and schools, I realize I would like to undertake a similar process for my business. Where do I want Global Weeks to be in five years? I know my mission has expanded since I started the company 4 years ago: what are my new goals? What partnerships do I want to cultivate to help me create a process, outline strategies and reach new heights? I look forward to exploring this topic further and I invite you to do the same: what does your strategic planning process look like?

If you’re moved to share your strategic planning process with the Global Weeks community, I invite you to comment below.

Coming Home

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Beautiful Parcas

Beautiful Parcas

I spent the past two and a half weeks traveling. Six airport stops, the equivalent of a couple of days in the air, and several days each in four different ecosystems: the Andes mountains, Lima’s damp coast, the breezy warm moonscape of Paracas, and tropical Miami. We had rainstorms, hail, dry windy sand storms, clouds, sun, low-hanging mist and 100 degree humidity. We wore many layers of fleece in the thin mountain air, bathing suits by the pool, our lightest clothing to walk around Miami, and sweaters and scarves to deal with hotel air conditioning. Now I am home in the gray of Seattle, back in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt, my go-to uniform for this time of year.

Lovely ladies in the Andies

In the Andes

What does it mean to experience so many different climates, time zones, cultural and environmental zones? How do we make sense of it all? How do we transition home? I think sometimes because world travel is so accessible, because it is possible to fly all over the globe in a matter of days, that we downplay the significance of the transitions. We forget that our bodies, adaptable as they are, need time to adjust to each place and time. We wonder why we pick up stomach issues or respiratory problems, why we’re not thinking as clearly as we might when we first return. I find myself moving more slowly than usual, resting and napping, wanting to prepare simple, healthy meals and sit in silence. I vow to honor this transition time, feel what it means to be “in-between,” use it to integrate the experiences I had, the people I met, the foods I ate and the places I saw.

GEBG

Global Educators in Miami

As I transition, I think of the people in and around Kathmandu, Nepal, as they deal with the trauma of the earthquake that shook their foundations, killed loved ones, destroyed most of their homes and forever altered their lives. I feel sad. I grieve for a place although I have never seen it, because we are all connected. I feel powerless to make things better, even as I am glad I can contribute to the relief efforts. As I return home, I am aware of many who are likely to be homeless for a very long time. I also feel the pain of what is happening in Baltimore right now, and in other parts of this country where young men are being mistreated and killed because of the color of their skin. My own disorientation because of my travels, in my lucky privileged world where I can experience a family vacation overseas and a global education conference, somehow help me feel the pain and loss of others who are experiencing terrible tragedies right now. And that is a good thing.

Global Education: A Roadmap to Program Development

I just returned from attending the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference, held this year where the temperatures were low and the snow drifts were high. This in stark contrast to the warm temperatures, lack of snow (even in the mountains) and early spring in Seattle.  Global climate destabilization indeed.

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Boston

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Seattle

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along with listening to inspiring speakers, attending edifying workshops, and networking with colleagues from all over the country and many parts of the world, I had the opportunity to share a new IMG_6789resource with the NAIS community. My colleague Willy Fluharty from Cape Henry Collegiate School and I introduced a book we co-edited over the past two years. Willy and I are both founding members of the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG) and have been active in the organization since its inception in 2008. At that time, four schools (Cape Henry, Lakeside, Providence Day and Charlotte Country Day) met and then at the behest of NAIS, invited 15 other schools to join us. We embarked upon a mission of benchmarking, sharing, and collaboration that has served individual schools, and also helped define and develop global education in all independent schools.

With Willy

Over the years, we have collected data to benchmark what GEBG schools are doing in their programs, created a Wiki page to share information, become a 501c3 entity with a Board (on which Willy and I both serve), and organized an annual Global Educators Conference. A couple of years ago, we realized we had learned so much through collaboration that would be useful to others outside of GEBG. We gathered resources from 24 different global educators representing 12 schools and 12 outside organizations, and compiled it into a handbook that GEBG published as an iBook available for $20 on iTunes.

Global Education: A Roadmap to Program Development

 

The first section of the book concerns itself with Why We Should Be Global, the philosophy behind the work including a compelling essay by Father Steve Sundborg, President of Seattle University who gave the keynote address at the first GEBG conference at Lakeside School. Next we created a chapter outlining a number of different ways to become global at all levels of K-12 education. Subsequent chapters deal with curriculum, collaboration, competencies, finances, and risk management. Finally, we included sample data charts from our annual survey and resources to help people develop their own programs.

Our hope is that people will examine the book as a whole, and then use it, like the title suggests, as a roadmap for global program development. Rather than a rigid “how to” manual, we want it to be a guide to help clarify program goals and identify appropriate paths to those goals. Some readers may spend more time investigating the big picture questions of philosophy and pedagogy; others will dive right into specific sections on risk management and curriculum; still others will use the data to support their own desired outcomes. The book highlights a few trends such as the rise of global diploma programs, the need for better risk management practices, and the push to integrate global experience and classroom practice. Because the field of global education is relatively new and constantly changing, we plan to provide periodic updates. We are currently preparing it for publication on PC-compatible platforms and Kindle as well.

IMG_6782A couple of talks I heard at the NAIS conference this year were particularly relevant to our experience editing the book. John Maeda talked about the importance of creativity, thinking outside of the box, and making bold choices without bowing to public opinion. We certainly dove into this project with no prior publishing knowledge, and we learned a great deal through trial and error.  Sarah Lewis, who wrote The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery described the difference between success (a single accomplishment) and mastery (consistent excellence) that comes only through continual examination of failure and subsequent adjustments. Willy and I encountered many obstacles, and while I make no claims about mastery, we did approach the process with curiosity and the belief that we could overcome any obstacle through persistent effort. It was a fascinating collaborative undertaking, and we hope it serves as a useful and enjoyable tool.

Experiential Education via ISEEN

This is the Mt. Saint Helens I climbed!

This is the Mt. Saint Helens I climbed!

I had some great teachers in elementary, middle and high school. Some of the fascinating and useful things I learned in class have even stayed with me. And yet, when I think back on my education, most of the transformative moments, those times when I made huge leaps in my learning, happened outside of the classroom. The dude ranch camp in Arizona I received a scholarship to attend; the time we climbed Mt. St. Helens (before it lost its top) and had to abandon our expedition in the middle of the night in a rainstorm; the Japanese exchange students with whom we could only communicate through sign language and by teaching each other children’s songs; the “world without war games” during a project week; my demanding crew coach inspiring our boat to beat the college teams in one regatta: those are the experiences that stand out. I imagine this is true for most of you. Our education system was set up to support the industrial revolution, creating factory workers and “company men.” Now we need to educate for life after the digital revolution, and many systems have not yet caught up. I would like to tell you about one organization whose leadership and members advocate for the integration of what has often been called “extra-curricular” with direct classroom learning.

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My “homeroom” group doing an orienteering exercise

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in one of my favorite experiences each year. I attended the 10th Annual Independent Schools Experiential Education (ISEEN) Institute, this year hosted by Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Ten years ago, a small group of independent school employees met to see how they might support each other in the unique challenges they faced as program directors in outdoor education. An organization called the Independent Schools Adventure Network (ISAN) was born and they began holding an annual institute for providers to learn from and support each other. A few years into the organization, I attended one of their annual meetings at Albuquerque Academy. Although I wasn’t working in outdoor education per se, a colleague of mine was sure I would find “my people” in this group. She was right. I have been attending ever since, I served on the board for a number of years, and I come away inspired every year.

10454268_10154277967830693_8413933604781990685_oThis year was no exception. Looking at ISEEN from a ten-year perspective, there is much to be proud of:

  • The organization changed from ISAN to ISEEN to expand the scope from just outdoor and adventure education providers to include global, service learning, sustainability, and student leadership. This year we even had a strand for administrators who are overseeing multiple areas under one experiential umbrella, a trend I find particularly exciting.
  • We grew from just a few practitioners the first year to 130 this year.
  • We have been hosted by a different school every year, giving us all a chance to learn firsthand from the experiential programs at other schools.
  • We have had sessions from some of the top thought leaders in experiential education pedagogy and practice; this year included Dan Garvey, former President of Prescott College, Grant Lichtman of The Learning Pond, David Streight of the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education and Eric Hudson of the Global Online Academy.
  • We have become a membership organization.
  • We had a number of pre- and post-conference workshops to expand our offerings. I facilitated a workshop this year on integrating curriculum into global travel programs, whether for a specific experience or on a school-wide level. We spent a lively three hours sharing ideas for deepening student learning by connecting direct off-campus experience to classes and other school activities.
  • This summer, we are offering the first annual professional development opportunity for classroom teachers who want to incorporate experiential education pedagogy and practice into their daily teaching.

Although much has changed, much has remained the same. We plan the institute very carefully so we can maintain the intimacy of the early days through small group discussion and time for specialty groups to convene. Many participants feel the need to come every year to connect with colleagues and friends — some of us feel it is our “annual department meeting” — and every year there are new people coming to learn and connect for the first time.  ISEEN is a vibrant organization, working to advance the pedagogy and practice of experiential education as a leading model for student transformation.