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A Letter to My Colleagues

By Michael D. Popinchalk
A Letter to My Colleagues

Dear Colleagues,
Greetings from the NEASC Commission on International Education. I am happy to be home this weekend in Norway following my first scheduled tour of schools. These visits included time with learning communities in London, Sao Paulo, and Montevideo, so I thought this was an appropriate time to check in with all of you.
This is my fifth and final year in this role as a global representative for NEASC. It has been a personal and professional honor to witness firsthand the efforts of school Heads and their colleagues, on five different continents, to promote institutional development through the peer review process.
My work with CIE has been a learning journey which has allowed me to acknowledge the development of a new generation of international schools while also engaging national educational authorities in China, Thailand, South Korea, and the Middle East. I have been humbled by visits to NEASC accredited schools that are challenging CIE on what it means it be "international" and taking genuine risks to be authentic models of 21st-century learning.
The rapidly expanding global network of English-medium schools (the majority privately owned) is being tracked by International Schools Consultancy. ISC has identified that less than 10 percent are engaged with a peer review process. Here are some other observations that seem to represent a "new normal":
• host nation education standards and cultural expectations are now either integrated or mandated,
• recruiting, training, and retaining quality teachers has never been harder or more competitive,
• privately owned groups of schools are introducing greater student competition and different governance structures for school leaders, and
• a generational shift of international teachers and leaders is well under way and their professional perspectives and personal interests are very different.
I wanted to share these thoughts with you since AISH and my work with NEASC aims to support and reduce the natural isolation that often comes with being the Head of a diverse or complex learning community.
I recently met two new AISH members who have yet to check in, as they are still finding their way in the schools they serve. That is understandable, but I hope we will all take time this year to encourage others to join us, mentor potential leaders, and always be ready to act as "critical friends" to one another.
I salute Bambi for her legacy of service to AISH and look forward to the professional leadership of Deb Welch as she takes responsibility to make this special network of learning leaders even stronger.
Finally, if you wonder what I do for CIE and want to learn more, please contact me. All good things as you continue to model servant leadership in your respective school communities.
Michael D. Popinchalk, Associate Director
Commission on International Education
New England Association of Schools and Colleges
European Office - Stavanger Norway
[email protected]

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