Home, I miss you.

It’s been eighteen months since the pandemic began and two years since I was home… 

Home, I miss you.

Even though my home now is where my wife is, where my job is, and where my dogs are causing havoc, my other home is where I started to build towards all of the things that I am now.

This home is where all of the people that made me are.

I miss my family (even though the annual summer holiday visits are always quite busy and intense!) I miss my friends (even though many of us have lost touch, I still think of you often), I miss the noise of being home and everyone talking over each other, I miss my Nan’s mash potato (it really must have been a long-time!), and I miss watching my siblings grow up and spending time with my parents… I see photos of you on social media and I can see that you look different, that you’ve experienced a bit more of life in all of its different forms.

I know that I too probably look different from when you last saw me. I definitely feel like I’ve changed since we were last together. 

It feels awfully quiet these days, and what I would give to have you all talking over me and not giving me a chance to chime in! Maybe I can even show you how I’ve changed if I have the chance to get a word in – which maybe, you might just let me now. 

It is undeniable that our work forms a part of who we are, but the other part is a beautiful constellation of our memories, experiences and relationships. I have been searching for you all, but I haven’t been able to find you for some time. The weather keeps changing, keeping you from my view.

We’re coming into the third academic year in which the pandemic has affected our day to day lives, and our day to day teaching.

It’s also affected our sense of control and autonomy. Are we going to go back to school or are we not? Will we be able to do activities or will we not? Will exams go ahead or will they not? Will we lose our holidays or will we not?

In a lot of ways these things feel pretty trivial, but if I was being completely honest, I think the question that people grapple with (and then squash back down) the most is; will I get to see you again, or will I not? 

Breathe.

As we come back to the start of a new school year, expectations and pressures are already mounting. It feels different this time. In the world of international schools, schools are businesses, and businesses pay our salaries… not that businesses are bad or good, they just are. But right now, the businesses that many of us have chosen to be a part of, are struggling, and teachers are under greater pressure than ever to help alleviate this. Whilst I understand all of this, I can’t help but feel what a burden it is knowing that my professional responsibility is one of the things that keeps me from you. From my home, and my family. 

Parents at schools are understandably upset, after all, international schooling in a pandemic is not what they signed their children up (or paid) for.

Schools are dealing with a lot.

But when they get squeezed, we get squeezed too… and our students get squeezed the most. Many of them also have people they love living far away, that they miss, and wonder whether they will see again.

We all miss someone.

I don’t really have much more to give right now. I will turn up and work to the best of my ability because I am a ‘professional’, and that’s what we are taught to do. I will put on a brave face and deliver because ‘we’ as a profession, always will. 

But… please be kind to us.

Please let us stop and breathe once in a while, because when I stop and breathe, I can think of that beautiful constellation and I can almost be home.

WISEducation Podcast – Episode 10 is OUT NOW!

In this episode I had the privilege of speaking with Nunana Nyomi, Associate Director of Higher Education Services, Council of International Schools. In this episode we discuss how Higher Education has had to respond to the challenges of the pandemic by finding ways to holistically assess students, and not rely on traditional mass assessment methods. We discuss the context that led to Nunana’s article on how international education perpetuates structural racism and how anti-racism is the solution, and we also talk about the context that led up to the refreshingly honest conversation between Nunana and Jane Larsson, Executive Director of CIS, that followed this. The views shared in this interview reflect Nunana’s own and are not representative of CIS. Thanks for listening and enjoy the podcast. Also, please check out WISEducationblog.com for more information about WISEducation.

Some of the resources that we discussed:

International education perpetuates structural racism and anti-racism is the solution – https://www.cois.org/about-cis/news/post/~board/perspectives-blog/post/international-education-perpetuates-structural-racism-and-anti-racism-is-the-solution

A conversation on anti-racism and international education – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlpQOBUbG8Es

Eradicating System Bias: How to Indentify and Counter International School Blind-Spots – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-xOhdlURj0&t=1662s

Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC) – http://aieloc.org

WISEducation Podcast – Episode 9 is OUT NOW!

In this episode I had the privilege of speaking with Tricia Friedman, Creative Content Director with Shifting Schools and creator of the Be A Better Ally podcast. We discuss the often unasked question of ‘what is it like to be a queer educator?’ and Tricia candidly shares some of her experiences. We also talk about the need to have ongoing difficult conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion, and the ‘call for candidness’ within education. Thanks for listening and enjoy the podcast.


Some of the awesome work that Tricia is involved in:

Shifting Schools: https://www.shiftingschools.com (check out the free guide for Pride month)

AllyEd – https://allyed.org

Other helpful resources that we discussed:

‘Filling the space’, Tricia Friedman talk – https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=HxX2AT3Cpjs

‘Beware of equity traps and tropes’, Jamila Dugan article – http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar21/vol78/num06/Beware-of-Equity-Traps-and-Tropes.aspx

Gender Studies podcast with a particular shoutout to the episode on ‘the tragedy of heterosexuality’ – https://podcasts.apple.com/es/podcast/jane-ward-the-tragedy-of-heterosexuality-nyu-press-2020/id425400236?i=1000526371186

Gender-Inclusive Biology, Sam Long – https://www.genderinclusivebiology.com

WNBA Social Justice work – https://www.wnba.com/socialjustice/

WISEducation Podcast – Episode 8 is OUT NOW!

In this episode I had the privilege of speaking with Daniel Wickner, founder of Identity-Centered Learning and Elementary Teacher at Hong Kong International School. In this episode we discuss the importance of placing identity at the centre of our students’ learning, not by planting seeds for our students, but rather allowing them to plant their own seeds, and Daniel discusses ideas for how we can do this. We also talk about the vulnerability that we experience as educators in sharing parts of our identity at school. Thanks for listening and enjoy the podcast.

Putting pen to paper, or words to a Google Doc: 5 tips on getting started with blog writing

I’m definitely by no means an expert but writing blogs is something that I’ve come to really enjoy over the past year… funny the effect lockdown has on you! There are many, many different blogs out there with tips on how to write a blog (I’d probably go ahead and read them instead ha!) but I just wanted to share my thoughts as a new blog writer and what has helped me put pen to paper, or words to a Google Doc, over this past year. Here are my five top tips:

  1. Write about something that genuinely interests you. A trap that I have fallen into quite a few times is writing about something that I think other people will find interesting, and as I write I tend to hit a wall. When I’ve given myself the freedom to write about something that I feel really excited about, whether that be a book I’ve just read, a podcast I’ve just listened to, a conversation I’ve just been a part of, or an experience that I’ve just had, writing off the back of this is always more fun and enjoyable, and they always end up being better articles. 
  2. You don’t have to be an expert. A blog is not an academic paper and there is a 99.9999% chance that you won’t be paid for the article that you’ve written, and it won’t make you famous. Let that give you freedom. An article will not be perfect, the same way that a conversation that you’ve had won’t be perfect. And chances are that if you wrote the same article on a different day, it would turn out completely differently… and that’s ok. For me, the comedians that I find the funniest are the ones that can articulate the everyday stuff, the everyday stuff is what resonates with people. It’s the same with blogs. Not all blogs have to entail a worldly message, not unless you feel like it on that day that is!
  3. Jot down ideas of things that you might like to write about as they pop into your head. Writing them down on paper and then thinking about them does magical things. Much like it seems to be that clarity dawns upon us when we’re on the toilet or having a shower… weird how that happens! Ideas need room to breathe and to formulate. Sometimes you’ll have days where you can just sit and spill it all out in a Word document, and sometimes you need time to connect the dots in your mind. You can always leave an article and come back to it and not every idea will be a good article. Make mistakes with your writing and make them often, it takes away the paralysing fear of perfectionism.
  4. If you are tying yourself up in knots just to understand what you are trying to say then ask yourself ‘what is the message that I want to share’. Blogs can be how we communicate our thoughts, but also it can help us process and make sense of what we really feel about a topic. Keep bringing it back to this question when you’re getting in a muddle. Simple is better. Remember you don’t have to write every single thought that you’ve ever had in one article and chances are, if you can’t follow your train of thought then no one else will be able to either. Perhaps jot some bullet points down before you start writing so you can start to visualise what you want to say and delete anything that doesn’t quite fit.
  5. Make your opening and closing paragraph strong. The opening paragraph will determine if the reader is going to invest their time scrolling through your article, and your closing paragraph(s) is where you give your reader your take home message. Much like when you watch a movie, these parts are the attention grabbers. For me, I have found that stories are powerful (we live in a world of data but stories slow things down for a moment) and I ask myself if there is a story that I can tell that illustrates what I’m trying to say. This allows me to bring myself to the article. I’m not a robot, I’m a real person and I want to bring that to what I write.

I’m not sure if that’s helpful but I hope at least it wasn’t painful to read! Take the things that work for you and discard what doesn’t – build your own toolbox and swap out things when they get rusty!

Most of all enjoy the process – your articles will always be so much better when you do!

WISEducation Podcast – Episode 7 is OUT NOW!

In this episode I had the privilege of speaking with Matthew Savage, consultant, trainer and coach, founder of #themonalisaeffect, and former International School Principal. This was a really special conversation where Matthew shared his son Jack’s journey, and what his transgender son has taught him about inclusion. We also talk about the importance of placing identity as central to work around wellbeing, and Matthew shares his thoughts on what might be helpful for schools to think about when starting their LGBTQ+ inclusion and allyship journey. Thanks for listening and enjoy the podcast.

Call for articles for the new Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine!

I’m very excited to share the news that I have partnered with Independent Schools Management Plus and have signed an exclusive distribution arrangement which will see the WISEducation Magazine relaunched and re-branded as the ‘Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine’ by WISEducation. It is also very exciting that it will be a sister magazine to the well-renowned International School Magazine!

See announcement here – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/school-management-plus-partners-wellbeing-schools-magazine-elias/

I would like to put out a call for articles for the new Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine which will be launching towards the end of August.

It would be great to grow the conversation around wellbeing in international schools and to include more voices within this, so if you are interested in contributing an article (or if you know of anyone who may be interested) please email me at Sadie.wiseducation@gmail.com

I’m really excited about this next step and hope to connect with you as a contributor to the Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine very soon!

Sadie

WISEducation Podcast – Episode 6 is OUT NOW!

In this episode I had the privilege of speaking with Kathy Wallace, Head of IB Language and Literature at UWC, Singapore. We explore an interesting and wide range of topics, including Kathy’s research on ‘Out Of The Local And Into The Global: Parental Perspectives Of International Education In Singapore’, parentocracy and elitism in international education, the potential impact of de-regulated international school markets on local education systems, and student identity and the importance of students learning about the local context in which they are being educated in. Thanks for listening and enjoy the podcast.

[Guest blog] We Need To Talk More About Periods. Period.

Guest blog by Anna Zyla (original source: WomenEd Thailand)

I used to teach at a school that had 55 minute blocks. My prep periods were bundled together in the morning leaving me with an afternoon of four back-to-back classes. Any woman around 13-55 can likely spot the potential issue here. Forget about peeing. When was I supposed to change my tampon? I taught seventh grade so while many of the students knew about periods I definitely didn’t want them knowing anything about mine! The thought alone was horrifying. So I did what any healthy, sane, (menstruating) woman would do. I schemed up ways to sneak my tampon out of my purse, through the bustling classroom, down the packed hall and into the bathroom. I was so careful you would think I was carrying around a loaded gun rather than a tiny, plastic applicator for my vagina.

I found that life was easier during winter because I could tuck said object up my sweater sleeve or into the sides of my boots.  Other times I slid it into the waistband of my pants or skirt and consequently learned how to walk like a penguin. I eventually got savvy enough to pre-plan. I would go to the bathroom before school and tuck a few tampons into the corner of that metallic “sanitation” box to use throughout the day. Now I could walk confidently down the hall without the threat of a tampon falling out of my skirt. Lift up my arm and wave wildly at students; nothing was bouncing out of these sleeves! This, really, was a brilliant plan … until it wasn’t. One day I went to retrieve my sneaky tampon and realized it was gone. Someone had stolen it.

I spent the next 3.6 hours in pure agony and anxiety that blood was leaking through my pants in front of my students and yet, there I stood teaching every lesson (differentiation included!) I choose to be miserable rather than grabbing my purse, yanking out a tampon, waving it in the air and saying, “ I’ll be right back, alright?”

I was a coward. But I wasn’t alone.

The next day I placed a basket overflowing with tampons and pads into the girl’s bathroom and announced it to all my classes. In order to be less weird about it, I began to research period culture. I soon became incredibly invested and passionate about the importance of destigmatizing periods in our schools, society and culture. (And I immediately invested in the menstrual cup which has a 12 hour turnover time and helps the environment!) 

I now work at an international school in Thailand, but the taboo around periods still exists here — maybe even more severely — making my fight for its normalization that much more prevalent.

A few months ago one of my colleagues asked if I would co-teach a science lesson on menstruation with him. “I’m not going to pretend I know how to use a pad or what cramps feel like,” he said. So together we created and taught an interactive lesson delivering it to both the male and female students together. We dyed some water red and allowed them to “practice” using pads, tampons and menstrual cups. Together, we reiterated the idea that having your period means you’re healthy; you wouldn’t be embarrassed by the fact you worked out or ate an apple. Together, we talked about the different sanitary choices, where to purchase them and how to use them properly. Together, we answered questions and fostered conversations around periods. Not only was it a successful lesson, but I left feeling that we did something really monumental. First, we mutually decided not to separate the girls and boys while teaching this subject. Doing this can set the precedent that periods are something shameful or embarrassing. If we cannot openly talk to all the students about this topic then they’re likely to mirror that behavior outside of the classroom — which is, of course, exactly what we’re working to avoid.

Next, we chose to teach the lesson together — as a male and female — to model how open and casual we could discuss the topic together without any awkwardness. Throughout the lesson we noticed that whenever the boys had questions (and they had a lot!) some of the girls would even step up and answer for us. This created a beautiful, educational and collaborative environment. There was no immature giggling or strange silences. There was a palpable respect within the room among everyone there.


While I was truly fortunate to have done this with such a progressive and open-minded teacher, I know this isn’t the case everywhere. In the fight to destigmatize periods, it is vital that men become our allies. My male colleague keeps tampons and pads on a shelf in his room and tells his students to stop by if they ever need one. This isn’t unusual — many teachers do this — but it is a bit unusual coming from a male teacher. However, he sets a really high standard: offering support to girls regarding their periods should come from all teachers regardless of gender or age. We desperately need to change the narrative in our schools so that every teacher is talking normally and openly about menstruation just as we would about other issues. If we don’t it will always remain a societal taboo. Which, of course, is almost comical considering half of the female population bleeds every month.

We also have a rich opportunity as educators to weave the idea of menstruation into our lessons far beyond science and health classes. As I mentioned earlier, the more we can talk about this topic, the better, as is the case with many topics our society deems “uncomfortable.” It isn’t a surprise that there is a massive socioeconomic divide when it comes to accessing sanitation products. Personally, I think this would make for an excellent research topic. Rather than debating the very overused and dull, “should students have school uniforms?” might we have students debate the “luxury” tax put on sanitation products just a few years ago? In history, english or sociology teachers might discuss the social and religious taboos that women have gone through in the past. In Thailand, there are still signs posted outside temples warning women not to enter if they are menstruating … and this is in 2021! It is a relevant, rich and engaging topic that should absolutely be welcomed into all of our lessons.


It is essential that we normalize the conversation around periods so our girls can feel more comfortable in an already uncomfortable, strange time in their lives and boys can be given an opportunity to become supportive and educated allies. You really cannot go wrong by trying to unify the human race — especially in our world today.

Anna Zyla has worked as an English teacher in Costa Rica, the United States and Thailand. She is incredibly passionate about education and is always looking for new ways to incorporate modern practices into her classroom. She is a member of the National Council of Teachers of English as well as the Wisconsin State Reading Association.

Please check out WomenEd Thailand on Facebook (search WomenEd Thailand to join the group) and/or follow them on Twitter at @WomenEdTh

WISEducation Podcast – Episode 5 is OUT NOW!

In this episode I have the privilege to speak with Kathleen Naglee, Head of School and CEO at the International School of Helsinki. We discuss a range of relevant issues, including the importance of having and showing vulnerability and empathy as a leader to staff, students and especially families, Kathleen’s mission to ensure that international school recruitment organisations do more to protect and support LGBTQ+ staff, and ISH’s world pioneering work on VR and the role of VR in the future of education. Thanks for listening and enjoy the podcast.