Last week, after spending nine years on the board of an organization for which I was a founding member, I finished my final term and left my seat on the board. Though somewhat sad, I am incredibly proud of the work we have done together and excited about where the organization is headed.
Originally formed as a small group of global educators in U.S. independent schools, the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG) now consists of about 150 member schools in the U.S., Canada and overseas. When we first met, our task was to define a “global” school and benchmark the data that awarded that status. At our yearly meetings, about 10-12 of us sat around a table talking about what forms we use for programs and how to get various kinds of support from our administrators. We devised an annual survey to measure all aspects of our programs, and over the past eight years we have continued to map things like compensation, risk management plans, languages studied, number of students traveling abroad to which countries, service learning programs, and subject-area focused excursions. The yearly compiled results help schools see where they are in relation to their peers and assists global education directors as they advocate for stronger programs. Our member listserv is constantly buzzing with topics like how the Zika virus and attacks in Europe are affecting travel, how to vet service providers, and communication policies while traveling. We keep a database of information, forms, and procedures that members can access as well.
In 2013 we decided to hold an annual globally-focused conference at a member school, running sessions on all aspects of our programming. The first year we had 50 participants and this year, hosted by Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, we had over 200 attendees, a couple of featured speakers, and sessions on topics such as risk management, faculty training, assessing global citizenship, setting up school partnerships, using third-party providers, global scholars programs, and more. There was strong representation from many parts of the world, educators eagerly sharing stories and making plans for further collaboration during regional meetings. Of course, having our opening reception in a hotel in the French Quarter, complete with the Treme brass band, and our second night reception in an old mansion in the Garden District didn’t hurt. Throughout the two-day conference, there was time for educators to connect, teach and learn from each other, share resources and make plans to collaborate.
It has been a great pleasure to serve with such wonderful people creating important services for schools and having a great time doing it. I urge anyone interested in a cause to get involved via board membership – it is highly rewarding work. I will miss the biannual meetings and the excitement of developing new projects, but I know our friendships will continue and I plan on attending next April’s conference at Chadwick School in California!