I have just had the privilege of attending at Advanced Leadership Program at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge (link). The experience was incredible and I cannot recall having ever learnt so much, and been challenged and stretched in my thinking in such an intense way. The course itself spanned 17 days, 130 hours of teaching, 40 speakers delivering 38 topics which included an expanse of topics. I have listed some of these topics to paint a picture of what some of the key areas that a contemporary leader needs to be aware of and considering;
The role of a leader is complex and multifaceted. People and communities need leaders and perhaps one of the greatest needs a community or organisation needs from its leader(s) is to deal with the unforeseen.
Big change happens slowly and humans want safety. They need to feel safe and secure within their community of belonging. Change is disruption. Change is expected, but we don't necessarily know what to expect. The future is always determined by the unexpected. As a leader, when you think about the future, you must consider how is it going to be different?
The quality of leadership is found in these things;
At Cambridge one of the speakers said that you also need to have “a sense of your timing.” In other words, a leader needs to understand that s/he is positioned ‘right here’ and ‘right now’ with the conviction that God has placed you where you are, with the people you do life and work with, for a purpose. They need you to be confidently doing your very best, seeking to be your very best, strong in the knowledge that God is with you in this – even with the change that is relentlessly knocking on your office door.
In my role as an educator I cannot stress enough my belief and conviction that when it comes to kids with special needs, we have been doing some things terribly wrong.
If a child can’t read at the pace of others, or if a child is struggling with their learning, perhaps they have a physical, behavioural or intellectual disability, what do we do? Generally, thinking that we can better cater for their needs, we remove them from their classroom and from their friends, and teach them somewhere else. The stigma can be painful. At times this is fair enough because maybe there are better resources, a better or more specific program with access to skilled, specialist staff. However, most of the time we have got this so very wrong.
Keeping students who have disabilities with their friends, peers and other learners is what they need. Inclusion is not discriminatory and it is equitable. We must rethink school and classroom design to cater for the vast array of needs that all students bring. To take things further, in India where we are working, it’s wonderful just to get them out of their house. Here's what I mean;
A couple of years ago, I visited one of our small school projects in Kotdwara. At a community meeting I asked;
“Where are the kids with special needs?”
“What do you mean?” was the reply.
“Well, where are the kids who might have a disability” I asked.
“A disability? What do you mean?
“Like a child who is blind, or a boy or girl who can’t learn like the other children”
“Oh yes, we have lots of kids like that”, was the reply.
“Well where are they?” I asked.
“They are at home”
“Why aren’t they here at school?”
“They can’t go to school because they have a disability” was the standard reply.
The conversation would have gone in circles until I realised that the common place mindset was that school and a children with a disability were seen as being mutually exclusive. I have since learnt that many children with disabilities in India (and also in other third world communities) live at home for their entire life. These children whose families live in poverty really are the “poorest of the poor”. These kids are never educated because their parents have no money and no one has have ever offered them a vision for how a school might cater for their needs, and how learning might actually change the course and trajectory of their life. So often these parents live in shame for having such a child, rather than being helped, equipped and supported in the challenges they face. To have a child with a disability is a significant liability.
Last week I visited a remarkable place, the Gem Foundation in Kampala. Rowena and I were incredibly inspired. Children with ‘significant’ needs were loved, cared for, and given a quality education, not to mention meeting their developmental needs through individual health plans. Kids with Downs Syndrome for example, were seen as being valuable and important individuals.
I’m proud that in June we started a small project at Kotdwara. Naomi, who is one of our amazing teachers holds a class 3 mornings a week, for three children, each with a disability. These kids are from families who live in terrible poverty. Their parents would otherwise never imagine that their children could be educated in any way - let alone loved, valued and embraced by others. The children are given a healthy snack, they play with toys that they never see at home, have stories read to them, and an educational program is being implemented as we determine how we can best meet their individual needs.
It’s early days and we love these remarkable kids as if they were our own. Each has their own beautiful personality and we are enjoying getting to know them better. They make our lives brighter and richer simply by knowing and doing life with them.
Rabiya is from a Muslim family. He was impacted by neonatal drug taking, was born premature and although “he understands everything” (not sure what this means) he cannot speak or walk. He loves coming to our centre where he is learning to read. His smile lights up the place when he arrives.
Farah is 18 years old. Both of her parents have polio and they cannot walk. Farah loves coming to our centre and she cries when she has to go home.
Ayush is ten years old and he is from a Hindu family. He has never been to school. When at age 5, his parents realised that he had a mental disability, relatives advised his parents to “throw him out or send him to an orphanage”. Ayush’s mother was determined to keep him and now she is finally receiving some help and support from Project Help.
So what’s the vision? Perhaps you can help? We would love of course, to receive your generous donation but even more valuable than this, we are reaching out to ask for specialist help and guidance. Some of the questions we are asking include;
The need is great, our resource is minimal. Our love is huge and we are confident that we have friends and networks who would like to share their love too.
Our starting point is to gather some like-minded, passionate educators or people involved in helping children with disabilities to meet with me to get things rolling, and to help me get a clearer sense of direction. Perhaps you can’t help, but maybe you know someone who might be interested, if so please forward this email to them.
As with all things we have experienced with Project Help, we know this to be true;
Thanks as always,
Love Doug :-)
Roadside living in the city is harsh. We are helping to make things better.
Just this week I was sent a very distressing photo of a baby girl found dead by the side of the road. The photo is very upsetting and reminds me of the harsh realities of a life of poverty. If this was Australia, the news would make national headlines. Similarly, in Kotdwara, people are saddened by this news, but many are not surprised.
Why? Because when you are very poor, you may have the mindset that you can’t afford to have a girl. Girl’s are expensive to have, especially the cost of a dowry at wedding time when the parents of the bride are expected to pay a dowry to the parents of the groom. Also, girls are regarded as not being as employable and they certainly do not bring in the income to the family as much as young men.
This is why we are working with women in Kotdwara. Our programs seek to place value on women and to empower them in all aspects of life.
Kotdwara Women’s Shine Conference in April
My wife and I are excited to be bringing a team from Australia with www.kotdwarahelp.org to Kotdwara this April, for our first ever Women’s Conference. Kotdwara has never seen anything like this. We are developing this idea from scratch and it certainly is unchartered territory for the Conference hosts -Daisy Samuel and Rowena Thomas.
We anticipate that more than 250 women will attend our one-day Shine Conference. Delegates will include women from Kotdwara and many others who will travel from neighbouring towns and cities. Women from the slums that we help will attend. Also, women from the local police, lawyers, social workers, media and wives of politicians have been invited.
Our sessions will be motivational with talks focussing on raising awareness of human trafficking, sexual health, the value of education, parenting, and careers. Women will share their stories and they will be pampered and blessed with nice food for the day.
Imagine the power and impact this will have! Our prayer is that women will be equipped in such a way that perhaps, just perhaps, a poor young mother will have many other options available to her, so that she will not be forced to leave her precious baby to die on the side of the road.
Our conference will cost a minimum of $2500. Might you consider making a donation towards this? Contact me please if you can help.
Other Fantastic January News – a new school
It’s very simple but our seventh small education centre has opened in the town of Bijnour, (about 2 hours drive from Kotdwara). Thirty children attend 6 days a week and they love it. At the moment these kids receive basic English, Hindi and Maths lessons. Most importantly, they come and experience love, care and belonging. Most of these kids would not be going to school otherwise. We have had the demand to take another 30 students but we can’t.
As you start to get into the swing of the routines and rhythms of the new year. I pray that you consider partnering with us, knowing that your support is making a significant impact in the lives of others AND knowing that your story is connecting powerfully with the www.kotdwarahelp.org story and the stories of others.
Love and thanks
Happy 2018. If you are like me, you are contemplating the year ahead and setting some goals for all that you hope to achieve over the next 12 months. Just yesterday I tweeted a great NY Times article* (click here) which summarised some great research on self control. The article shows that self control based on ‘willpower’ wanes over time, and thus 90% of us tend to very quickly give up on the new year’s resolutions. Willpower alone, can actually be detrimental to our health, due to the added stress that we place on ourselves… it’s easy to give up and not persevere when we just focus on a large goal.
The research suggests that when your goal is correlated with a long term future focussed outcome, and linked with gratitude, compassion, and empathy, people significantly increase their perseverance and have a 30% greater chance of achieving their resolution. As we value the future more, we are less needy of instant gratification, we persevere and we are more patient.
Add to this, a degree of reflectiveness where you break your achievements into short term successes and celebrate and take pride in your efforts, your resolution is more likely to be achieved.
So what’s the key to a successful resolution, and what does this have to do with www.kotdwarahelp.org? I suppose I just want you to consider how you might link one of your New Year’s resolutions to a worthy cause that is future focussed and gives you plenty of authentic opportunities to show compassion, grow empathy and in doing so, be mindful and grateful for your personal life circumstances. Each one of us is already ‘better off’ than someone else, so why not start 2018, being thankful for all you have. Through a stance and mindset of being grateful and optimistic for all that your future promises, commit to making a difference in someone else’s life.
Just in December our supporters contributed to making all of the following possible because of the hard work of Amit and Daisy Samuel and our staff team in Kotdwara;
- We distributed warm winter clothes to the 220 children who come to our 6 small schools
- We blessed our teachers with Christmas gifts (a warm blanket each)
- We had a Christmas pizza party with the girls who attend our Technology Centre
- We blessed a number of homeless people, mostly elderly, disabled and/or suffering mental health problems, by talking with them, and giving them warm clothes, blankets and food hampers.
- We worked with the police to present community anti-trafficking and anti-drug awareness programs.
In December we also received some wonderful accolades;
- We received an award from the Senior Superintendent of Police recognising and thanking us for the help we give them with the anti-human trafficking and anti-drug programs. This fantastic achievement was highlighted on the news of local television.
- One of the Hindi newspapers commended our work in a feature article on 25th December.
Back to the NY Times article which also goes on to show that people who focus on dispositions that enhance self control also combat another problem of modern life: loneliness.
“Today, more than half of all Americans report feeling lonely …But study after study has shown that those who are seen as grateful, warm and justifiably confident draw others to them. Because these emotions automatically make us less selfish, they help ensure that we can form relationships with people who will be there to support us, when we need it.”
As you start this new year, we would be delighted if you set yourself a resolution to align your goals with our goals. We really need our friends to commit to setting a financial goal across 2018. At www.kotdwarahelp.org we have big plans for 2018, and we cannot do this without the help, support and ongoing generosity.
A final quote from the NY Times, which I love…
“So as 2018 commences, take more time to cultivate these emotions. Reflect on what you are grateful to have been given. Allow your mind to step into the shoes of those in need and feel for them. Take pride in the small achievements on the path to your goals. Doing so will ensure that every future New Year’s Eve will have more to celebrate than regret.”
Thank you for being a part of our story, and for making a difference in the lives of people who really are some of the world’s poorest of the poor.
Happy New Year. May your hopes and resolutions for 2018 be blessed and with no regrets. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to know more about how you can connect with our people and projects.
* David DeSteno – New York Times Dec 29, 2017. David is the author of the forthcoming book “Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion and Pride.”
Winners of the Learning Environments (Australasia) NSW Chapter Awards - Refurbishment (project less than $2 million) Award 2017.
So excited that my school has just won a significant award for the design of our Kindergarten and Year 1 learning spaces. Thanks Terrior Architects for your brilliance - what a pleasure it is working with you guys.
These Kindy kids and their teachers are blessed beyond measure.
Innovation in Education - Are Principals & School Leaders Ready for the Future? 10 Questions for you to answer.
I am a Principal. I love my job and often I don't. It’s satisfying, challenging, confronting, demanding, fabulous, exhausting and rewarding …and that’s all in just one day. No one day is ever the same. I am called to be at my very best for each and every task and interaction. I expect my staff to ‘be the school culture’. I have very high expectations of them and of myself. I must also model and ‘be the culture’ myself, modelling personal and professional integrity 24/7.
I must challenge assumptions and be prepared to anticipate the needs of my learners, my school and community. I must articulate fresh vision. I have to be a disrupter, a leader who is prepared to ruffle feathers if I am to shape a school community that is characterised by tolerance, egalitarianism, equity and inclusiveness. I must also be a thought leader as I work towards creating and shaping a school that serves the needs of all stake-holders within my school community …today, tomorrow and much further into the future.
Futurists tell us that this present generation of children is “entering a world of unprecedented complexity”. Our world will experience more ‘change’ over the next 15 years, in comparison to what collectively has happened over the entire course of human history. Therefore, what this world might look like in ten or twenty years’ time, is very much anyone’s guess. What might things look like as the children of generations to come walk through the school gates?
School leaders cannot afford to wait until the future happens. The future starts with tomorrow.
If I aim to be an outstanding leader, I must be prepared to answer some challenging questions;
1. What do my learners need for their present school experience to be the very best? (right now!)Every day is a step towards the future. Therefore, every learner deserves to have a good day, a happy day, one that is safe, nurturing, positive and filled with rich, meaningful, challenging individualised learning opportunities.
2. What do my learners need to be workplace ready, success in their future learning and in life in general?
3. How do I care for my teachers and wider staff team? How do I support them to flourish in their work, to find satisfaction and purpose, to be equipped to be at their professional best and aligned to the vision and core values of my school?
4. Am I ‘comfortable in my own shoes’? Do I value the strengths and expertise of others? What if a graduate teacher knows some things more than me? …of course he or she will! Do I embrace this or create a hierarchical structure that hides my flaws and weaknesses? Therefore, do I promote distributive leadership within my staff team.
5. Do I consult and engage with all stake-holders, prepared to listen to their voices, their needs and the feedback they give? When opinions are diverse, you can stick to your convictions whatever they may be, but we must respect and appreciate the differences of others – both are not mutually exclusive.
6. Am I open to data, or am I defensive to what the data is telling me? Do I then act on the data?
7. Am I open to explore and engage with new learning ideas and technologies? How do I react to new pedagogies; project based learning, personalised learning platforms, coding, robotics, artificial intelligence?
8. Am I committed to creating continuous improvement and willing to carefully consider, manage and evaluate change?
9. Do I formulate growth goals for myself? Am I striving to be my best each and every day, or am cruising towards retirement?
10. Do I care for myself and find opportunities to refresh, reflect, recalibrate and realign to all that is important?
There are many more questions that fill my head but these are a starting point. As I reflect on my past 10 years of being a Principal, perhaps those dispositions that best describe me are;
What should we be doing to prepare our schools for the future? I believe that innovation is key.
“Educational innovation emerges most often when new circumstances or contexts mean that the things that worked before no longer work (and) we must focus on creating a culture of high expectations for our students …it’s all about preparing students for the future.”
(Christine Cawsey, Principal of Rooty Hill High School; Sydney Morning Herald, Nov 18-19, 2017).
The future is uncertain with unprecedented societal complexity, automation and new technology, the impact of increasing natural disasters, humanitarian crises, social demands, population explosion, an uncertain workforce and employment prospects mean that we must so all the more I believe that leaders must value and build the solid foundations of hope, purpose, redemption, unity, tolerance and love. These foundations have existed across human history. Our day to day work must focus on building the stuff that people will need no matter what the future looks like.
Time flies, and before we know it another generation will be walking through the school gates. I don't want my school to look the same in 2037, as what it looks like today. Sadly, so many schools and classrooms are mirror images of years gone by.
If you are a Principal or school leader, the future is in your hands. If you believe that you have been called to do the work that you do …innovate, embrace and enjoy what lies ahead.
Working with these kids in Northern India is a pleasure and a joy. They love school. This chap is so proud of his medal which he received for attendance and application to his learning. These boys would not go to school if it wasn't for the work of www.kotdwarahelp.org. Leaders must develop a compelling vision to give these kids hope and every opportunity to thrive and achieve.
This is the second in a series of three blogs. Futurists tell us that this present generation of children is “entering a world of unprecedented complexity”. Our world will experience more ‘change’ over the next 15 years*, in comparison to what collectively has happened over the entire course of human history. Therefore, what this world might look like in ten or twenty years’ time, is very much anyone’s guess. What are the skillsets, mindsets, and dispositions that us teachers must have, if we are to equip children and young people for workplace readiness and success in their learning and for life in general?
If you regard yourself as a 21st Century Professional Teacher, it is important to challenge many assumptions to ensure that your students are given the opportunity to learn all that they really need to learn, if they are to be prepared for the future.
Perhaps a starting point is to ask yourself the following questions:
Do I believe in, and work towards respect, tolerance, equality and inclusion?
Do I speak words of hope, forgiveness, belief and possibility?
Is my work ‘child and learner centred’? When my work is tough, am I prepared to be the one who cares for my students, who shares a sandwich, makes breakfast for the child whose life is tough, make time to listen, be patient, coach, model high standards and personal dispositions and qualities, be kind and do what I can to ensure that my students have a happy childhood, thrive …and smile.
Why am I a teacher?
Sometimes we have to answer some difficult questions. It’s a tough job, and a high calling, but don’t children deserve the very best in this very uncertain world that they are growing up in.
Most of us have a very clear recollection of the impact that significant teachers had on their lives. Sadly, most of us remember the bad teachers as well as the best ones.
How will your students remember and speak of you?
* Gus Schmedlen, Vice President, Worldwide Education Industry Organisation Solutions, hp.com
The gadgets our students are using - where are the pencil cases, rulers and erasers?
Futurists tell us that this present generation of children is “entering a world of unprecedented complexity”. Our world will experience more ‘change’ over the next 15 years*, in comparison to what collectively has happened over the entire course of human history. Therefore, what this world might look like in ten or twenty years’ time is very much anyone’s guess.
What do children and young people need to be equipped for workplace readiness and success in their learning and for life in general? There has been much discussion on this matter, but I would like to summarise some of the key thoughts that presently challenge me as an educator and school leader. My direct experience working alongside children at two extremes of the spectrum, from kids in poverty, living in slums in India and kids living in the affluence and wealth of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, has shown me that 21st Century learners, despite their context, have much in common.
Let’s consider the following skills, dispositions and qualities that we need to grow and nurture in our students, in order for them to be ‘future ready’. Our students need to be given opportunities/supported/enabled to:
Educators must understand that innovation in education is found at the heart of all we do. We must innovate if our learners are given opportunities to flourish in each of the above areas.
As we design opportunities for quality learning, develop curriculum, write policies, design classrooms, campuses and schools of the future, and as connect globally with other educators, we must keep our perspective firmly fixed on children and their learning. It takes courage and conviction for us to challenge old paradigms and assumptions, especially when we have stakeholders who essentially do not have ‘children and their learning’ as their first and foremost priority.
If you work directly or indirectly with children, is their future one of your priorities?
* Gus Schmedlen, Vice President, Worldwide Education Industry Organisation Solutions, hp.com
Last week (early November) I spent four days in Singapore, attending the EduTECH South East Asia Conference. This conference experience was valuable and challenging in a number of ways. I was invited to speak on ‘Hallmarks of Outstanding 21st Century K-12 Educational Leadership’ and another on ‘School Design, Claremont’s Learning Spaces and Change Management’. Also, together with one of my amazing colleagues, we delivered a 2 hour workshop on ‘Co-Teaching’. In this workshop we presented research evidence (much generated by our school’s research project) on how to implement school improvement initiatives and how to ensure for effective and sustained change. It was a privilege to share the story of my school’s recent transformation, both in designing our learning spaces, and even more importantly, articulating and implementing powerful pedagogical approaches within our co-teaching model.
I was very much inspired by the talks and themes of the conference which focussed on anticipating the needs of learners in the future. In my role as Principal it is important that I have the opportunity to learn, formulate vision, be equipped to empower others, and to anticipate the needs of students over the years to come. These needs continue to change as our world changes and I have been challenged to think about how my school can be positioned to lead in the area of educational excellence, to innovate, implement strategic improvement initiatives and be resourced to equip all children for workplace readiness and success in their learning and lives.
As the name suggests, the EduTECH Conference provides a strong emphasis on emerging trends in technology. Here are some of the key themes that I was personally challenged by;
- analysis of competencies of the contemporary 21st Century ‘professional teacher’
- designing a ‘campus of the future’
- the importance of innovation, creativity and problem solving, as essential skills for children to be equipped for success in workplaces of the future.
- the power and importance of quality early education
- multidisciplinary problem solving
- a workplace trend that values collaboration and teamwork over individual knowledge and achievement
- understanding and anticipating trends in technology in schools of the future, which will most certainly include coding, robotics and artificial intelligence
- designing classrooms that are virtual spaces
- creating learning spaces that provide the facility for design centres or ‘maker-spaces’, where students can explore their personal talents and passions, and be able to tinker, create, design and collaborate in group research tasks and entrepreneurial projects.
Futurists tell us that this present generation of children is “entering a world of unprecedented complexity”. We will experience more ‘change’ over the next 10 years, in comparison to what collectively has happened over the entire course of human history. Therefore, what this world might look like in 10 or 20 years time, is very much anyone’s guess. Our children must certainly be equipped to be effective communicators, curious, creative, inventors and innovators. They must be confident and resilient individuals who understand the value of making and reflecting on mistakes, learning from, rather than fearing and avoiding failure, and they must know the importance of grit, determination and persistence. When presented with this challenge, I was very much inspired, and I am excited for how my school will continue to provide the very best opportunities for children to be engaged and challenged in all aspects of their learning and school experience, for many years to come.
It's early days for our start-up classroom in Village Khunibar in Kotdwara
#1 We are shouting out with happiness
#2 We are shouting out for help
As you read this, I hope you are well, snug and warm as the winter days set upon us in Australia. I am writing to tell you some exciting news. I continue to be amazed at the many opportunities that present as we work hard for www.kotdwarahelp.org.
#1 We are shouting out with happiness
Towards the end of May we started our sixth ‘school’ in the Village of Khunibhar, located on the edge of Kotdwara town. This is the place that I wrote to you the story about how in April I spoke one night at a community gathering about domestic violence, the dangers of alcohol and drugs. My message challenged the men to value women and I spoke about how education transforms the lives of children by bringing hope to their future.
Well we have earned the respect of the community and local police who have allowed us to start up this small classroom in a house in Khunibhar. It is not really a school as such. However, the thirty children who have been attending six days a week, call it their school. For 2 hours a day, these kids come to learn and be cared for. They have a wonderful teacher named Hament. He is a warm and gentle Christian man. Hament is passionate about reaching out to these children with kindness and their future is now looking a little brighter.
We are incredibly thankful for our growing base of supporters, who because of their generosity we are able to start this ‘school’, to pay for the teachers’ salary and buy the necessary resources.
#2 We are shouting out for help
Two years ago, we bought a car for Amit to drive up into the jungles where we have three remote school centres. Earlier this year the State Government of Uttrakhand banned diesel fuelled cars older than 15 years. Unfortunately, this has meant that Amit can no longer drive the car. Fortunately, he can sell the car in another state, just a short distance away for a pretty good price.
We need to buy a new car as a matter of urgency. A vehicle is needed for Amit and others to travel up into the mountain foothills to visit our projects and to care for people in these communities. Presently, he uses his motor bike but this is difficult, and it can be dangerous. Earlier this year our sports teacher Amrit, while heading for his lessons with the village children, was attacked on his bike by a wild deer in the jungle. Amrit sustained a broken shoulder bone, and was lucky that his injuries were not worse.
We are going to take a step of faith and commit to buying a jeep. This 4-wheel drive jeep will allow us to visit our projects in all weather conditions, especially in the monsoon season when the roads are a terrible mess.
Might you be able to help us to repay a loan for the jeep? The jeep will cost approximately 9 lac rupees (900 000 rupees=$18 000AUD). This week we are hoping to negotiate a deal to make a 15% deposit. Following this, our monthly repayments across 3 years, will be 25 000 rupees ($500AUD). We have not signed any contracts yet but we are keen. I appreciate that this is a significant sum, but I am shouting out for some help. Would you please consider making a regular monthly donation over 3 years, or making a generous one off donation of $1000? Ultimately, the larger our initial deposit, the less interest our organisation will pay for the loan.
I am sorry that your donation will not be tax deductible but I am working towards this. Hopefully by the end of 2017 I will be successful.
Opportunities abound as we move forward and look to the future. www.kotdwarahelp.org is turning the pages of the story of many people whose lives we are impacting, and we are thankful.
I believe that there is a new chapter ahead for www.kotdwarahelp.org as momentum gathers, and our projects grow and expand. We appreciate the significant part that you play in our story of lives being changed. Hope and love are powerful and make all the hard work and sacrifice so very worthwhile.