Archive for February, 2021

Activity: LwL The Principal Dialogues

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

I’ve been partnering with Learn with Leaders (LwL) on YCISL programs for about 8 months. It has inspired and enabled me to reach out to new horizons and focus on Zoom-enabled coaching. It’s been a fun challenge.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in an event called “The Principal Dialogues” where LwL invited a group of school heads/principals for a Popcorn with Colin-like online Zoom discussion group. The event came about as a result of discussions about how to partner with schools with our new series of online programs. As reflected by my organizing partner in Japan, it may be that (1) schools are still putting their focus and energy into re-grouping from the virus-induced disruption and concentrating on curriculum continuity,  or (2) the on again-off again switches creates too much uncertainty to make commitments. To find out more, we thought we would ask the school leaders.

We came up with an agenda where everyone took a turn to warm-up the discussion by sharing their reflections as an educator in 2020. For my part, I mentioned the ITW program and the five skills being coached, the NIFTI-SEWSS Scholars Program seminar series, and the in-progress NIFTI Roundtable planning activity. The uncertainty about whether we would resonate quickly dissipated as we found several in-common areas of thought. And we did this despite varying levels of disruption – or even non-disruption as described by Guy (Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Perth WA). Here are a few “bites” from the discussion (what I managed to jot down):

  • Awareness. We heard from Caroline (Liger Leadership Academy) about the importance of self-awareness. Mark (The British School, New Delhi) connected this to metacognition and the “snowflake” condition. To me, this fits well with my YCISL interest in emotional intelligence and the application of design thinking to developing a personal brand identity through our “Your Personal Story” exercises. I think the issue is that there is a common belief that one’s awareness and brand identity is already naturally present and needs no additional investment or work. The problem is in the form and function being absent of EQ.
  • Playfulness Quotient. Many of the participants identified social isolation as a front-line issue during the current educational rollercoaster ride. This isolation has inhibited in-person social interaction as well as creating new connections. Like a neural network, there is a decay going on. Monica (Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon) raised the term “Playfulness Quotient” which piqued my interest as it resonated with the YCISL activities (eg, ping pong game) emphasizing play as a means for sparking creativity. This “PQ” idea extends well from Tim Brown’s “Tales of Creativity & Play” from which we learn that interventional action is needed during the school years to ensure happiness and well-being for life.
  • Thinking Skills and a Culture of Creativity. I am 100% sure that everyone present has “thinking skills” as a top priority. I specifically recall Meenakshi (Modern School, Delhi) bringing up the topic. This is one of those “simple, but not easy” areas because teachers are broadly accountable for the answers students give, but not the “thinking” route that led to the answer. At this point, I believe everyone jumped in to wonder whether teachers need to join this discussion. For my YCISL contribution, I offered the recommendation to visit Jef Raskin’s article “Holes in the Histories” to find a list of ways people mis-lead themselves as well as others with information that is mis-understood or mis-interpreted.

I would also like to acknowledge Kai (British School Muscat), Dominic (Liger Leadership Academy), and Gerald (North Jakarta Intercultural School) for their shared insights as well; my note-taking just wasn’t quick enough. Regardless, the international scope of the present challenge is clear.

Thoughts: Science & Facts

Saturday, February 6th, 2021

A dilemma of sorts has arisen for one of the students in my NIFTI-SEWSS program. She is looking into the benefits of houseplants in indoor spaces. Could a houseplant make your bedroom space healthier? There was a study ca. 1989 called the “NASA Clean Air Study” which reported quantitative data on the removal of certain airborne chemicals in the presence of certain plants. There is also a TED2009 Talk titled “How to Grow Fresh Air” by Kamal Meattle. But there are also thoughts that plants may be chemically harmful indoors because they stop producing oxygen in the dark and actually net consume oxygen in the absence of photosynthesis. Further, there is competing literature (scientific and non-scientific) on whether plants have air purification abilities. Sorting through this controversy is a great experience for any student…especially a YCISL student. Believe it or not, this type of controversy is woven into science. The prime examples are climate science and currently virus science (this term is intended to include virology and all other connected sciences).

There are three YCISL skills to remember in such a context:

  1. Remember Jef Raskin’s article “Holes in the Histories” where we have to trust our own instincts and interpretations and not ride the wave. We look for evidence of “sloppy scholarship”, “mis-representation” and “the halo effect.” In science, we have to trust original sources and understand that the “facts” can get distorted the farther away and as the volume gets turned up.
  2. Recognize that there are knowledge gaps everywhere (remember Salman Khan’s TEDTalk?) and that science is about interpreting data and phenomena…with a hint of well-intentioned speculation. There may be gaps in the original study; we just have to consider them when deciding how to use that information. Subsequent interpretations or even studies probably have gaps as well. This does not make the original study fully false. Bottom line here is whether NASA would trust the original study enough to include certain plants in the payload for the trip to and settlement on Mars.
  3. There is an element of “glass half-full vs glass-half empty” here. Refresh your understanding on the benefits of positivity from Alison Ledgerwood’s TEDxUCDavis talk “A Simple Trick to Improve Positive Thinking” from which we learn to avoid loss frames. Stick with gain frames. That is to say to interpret the available information in a gain frame – what can we do with the information? “Nothing” is not an acceptable answer.