And our music was better.

Picture the scene: it’s 11.30pm on New Year’s Eve. The family are at home, laughing and joking, having feasted on hams, having drunk all the wine, all the cider.  Or perhaps you prefer the view down at the pub, old school-friends back for the festive season, gathered around a table or two to catch up and get a few rounds in. Nice, isn’t it?

Ten years ago, this was fine. Ten years ago, this was fun, this was what festive gatherings, family gatherings, any gatherings were all about: people, together, sharing each other’s company.

This was before the invention of the fucking smart phone.

At 11.30pm on New Year’s Eve I sat in a room with family looking at Youtube clips on their ipads. In the pub, people were staring at updates on their Blackberries or taking pictures of themselves and posting them on Facebook.

I know this sounds like an old-man whinge; and really, it is. But we have an iphone at home, and it’s shit. It’s just Facebook in your pocket. It’s the office everywhere you go. It’s a chain around your neck. Be under no illusion: you are your phone’s bitch.

I think our generation had it so much better. We got to enjoy ourselves without the constant need for reinforcement, without having to show someone else so that they could like it. We got to watch bands, and not just film them. We had time to think, to be alone. These days, everyone is their own Big Brother.

I just bought a new phone. It’s a Nokia 100. It’s hot pink, and has a torch. A full battery lasts two weeks. The kids at school asked me why I don’t want a ‘proper’ phone. I wish I could explain.

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This is a Call

For the last week I’ve been trying to work out what’s wrong, why I’m not happy or satisfied, and what it is that’s missing. It came down to this: I like my job, and I like the school I work in, but I don’t like it enough. That goes for the last 6 years too, in Ecuador and Malawi – but this is your abbreviated version of the story.

Gandhi said something like “be the change you want to see in the world” (I saw it carved on the bar in Mabuya), and a guy I saw at an MUN conference in Nairobi a couple of years ago made me really think about what I could contribute to the world. He was awesome.

Long story short, I want to build a school. I want it be a ‘publicly’-funded school for brilliant kids from unprivileged backgrounds; and kids who’ll stay, once educated, and not just leave their country for wealthier pastures. As such, it fits no model I have yet encountered (kinda UWC, but not). And as I’m likely to move to Ecuador in a year or so (it’s where my fiance is from, and thus where I’m likely to settle), that’s where I’m likely to try this first.

Anyone want in?

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42 degrees is just obscene, thought Will. I should be in the mountains; I should be on a beach, with a breeze. Instead, he stood sweating on the roof of a hotel, balancing his iPhone on a ledge, leaning it on a rock, levelling it with a twig, a dead bug.

Agra, India, June: 42°C and rising. Continue reading

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An Analysis of the Issues involved in Managing an Effective Organizational Culture in an International School

“The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture” (Schein 1985 in Stoll 1999, p.105)

Management is a contentiously-defined term; organizational culture is a notoriously difficult concept to pin down; and international schools not only come in many sizes and shapes, but also bring with them relatively little research. In the following paper we will explore the often clashing concepts of leadership and management, the various discourses on culture in schools, and finally how these things can and should be successfully combined. At each step we will begin with a review of the literature, expand as best we can to include international contexts and concerns, and then compare these theoretical concepts with a real life example of an international school in Southern Africa.

Continue reading

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Lying to Your Kids (Thumbs Up)

It’s wrong to lie to your kids, right? Otherwise they might grow up to, what, distrust you? Distrust any adult? Distrust anyone? Lie? Yeah? Yeah. Except, it seems, at Xmas, for Xmas is that happy happy time of year when millions of parents around the world (I couldn’t possibly understand, I’m not a parent, etc.) deem it not only right to lie, but downright obligatory to do so. Continue reading

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Which learning strategies can be used to transcend the digital divide for 21st Century high school students in an African international school?

The digital divide is a concept predicated on the theory that the future (or present) is digital and information-based, and that those without the resources to partake will be (or are being) ‘left behind’. The implications of this for education are exacerbated further when one takes into account the limited educational resources available in some parts of the world, and further still when the students in that education system will soon be required to compete in a global market. This paper attempts to address what impact the digital divide need indeed have, if any, and what learning practices might best be employed to compensate. Continue reading

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Danny doesn’t seem to have a lot of recurring dreams these days (these nights). He used to have a lot more. There was one, not so long ago and quite regularly, in which he was supposed to be taking an exam, or simply graduating from a class (to Dan’s surprise, Freud had talked about this one), usually a maths class, only to realise that he hadn’t attended the requisite number of lessons to qualify, and so he’d have to do it all again if he ever wanted to be a writer, or get a degree, or finish high school, or whatever. There were also a number which involved school or work in which he would be late, or be lost, or be naked, or any combination of the three (and Freud’s right here, too: the thing about being naked is that nobody notices; how depressing). These seem to have tapered off though, of late. Or at least that’s Dan’s story, and he’s sticking to it. Continue reading

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