Episodes 1-3: Learning from international educators

In our first 3 interviews for the Education Passport podcast we’ve heard from amazing teachers from such varied contexts around the world, and I wanted to take stock of some of the things that have really struck me from these conversations and how they’ve affected my teaching practice. 

In episode 1, I spoke to Alamia who lives and works in Lebanon. I have kept thinking about how she said that many of her students, particularly the boys who had moved to Lebanon as a result of the war in Syria, did not have the language and the emotional tools to deal with their feelings, many of them only able to express anger. Whilst the situation for these students is far more extreme than those that I interact with on a daily basis, I have been able to identify this inability in some students to interact with and then communicate their emotions to themselves and others. I have tried to copy Alamia’s use of language with her students, where she gives them a word, such as respect and then a week or so later asks them to give an example of where they have demonstrated this trait. I don’t have any data based on large numbers, but I have really enjoyed the discussions that have ensued from trying this with my tutor group students, and think it’s a great way to engage with students to expand their emotional vocabulary. 

In episode 2 I enjoyed speaking to Tracie from New Zealand. I was really moved by her students’ kapa haka performance at the regional cultural event and thought the sound in particular that they produced was absolutely beautiful (you can hear a clip in the episode or see the full performance here). 

I was really impressed at how much time and effort that Tracie told me her students had put into this work, and I find it really striking that when students are passionate about something they really will go above and beyond the expectations of them. Tapping into this creativity and passion is something that is really needed in the classroom, and Tracie really made me laugh when she expressed the desire that is surely within all teachers to produce consistently creative lessons, but the reality is that sometimes you have to balance that with some basic “bread and butter” activities. I keep thinking of those students who also commented in the episode how much taking part in that event and it’s preparation meant to them, and how much it has enriched their education. 

In episode 3, Alice spoke to Caitlyn who is based in New York in the USA. What really inspired me about Caitlyn, was how she and her school have innovated to find new solutions to problems that are so common across many schools around the world. Her school has found serious issues around attendance and high suspension rates, but instead of sticking with a traditional, broken system which was doing nothing to change this, they came up with a new and different way to improve suspension rates. So often we have a fixed way that our education system operates, as it has done for decades, that it can seem as though that is the way that things have to be. Caitlyn, and more broadly all of the teachers that I speak to all over the world who are trying to innovate, remind me that it is possible to take different approaches and spark meaningful change for the better. 

With more episodes coming soon, I can’t wait to learn more from the amazing educators that we have lined up, listen again soon!

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