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AAIE International Innovative Leader of the Year: Craig Johnson
By Tiffani Razavi, TIE Staff Writer 23-Feb-16
The International Innovative Leader of the Year address at the AAIE conference this year was given by Craig Johnson, Superintendent of the American School of Bombay. Johnson's spirited presentation acknowledged that innovations stand on the shoulders of giants who have been in the field of international education for more than twenty years, many of whom started schools all over the world, and who continue to work for change. Drawing attention to the book Good to Great, which was the focus of his AAIE presentation in 2004, Johnson challenged the audience to question why international schools still don't seem to be able to change exponentially in the same was as companies in the business and other sectors. Such change means confronting brutal facts, responding, and evolving according. The military is the number one example of this pattern of rapid response and change. Centuries of horses and swords gave way to tanks and artillery, then to helicopters, and most recently drones—not faster horses or sharper swords, but entirely new innovations intended to respond to the brutal facts of the new reality facing the military. "What," Johnson demanded, "is needed to take us from good to great?" The brutal fact is that we still use basically the same school schedule as in 1912. And most of us are not happy about it. Johnson reported that his own recent survey of international school heads showed that about 60 percent are either dissatisfied or highly dissatisfied with the current state of international education. The number one challenge, as Johnson sees it, is independence versus interdependence. When it comes to schools, college is the tail that wags the dog, he said. Schools are the middle link in the chain, between where the student came from and where he or she is going. "The challenge for international school educators," he asserted, "is the fine balance between being as relevant as possible to the students wherever we are without making ourselves irrelevant to the larger ecosystem in which they live. No international school can evolve on its own. Only coalitions and collaboratives will allow us to evolve." The brutal facts that face international education are easily identified, and Johnson shared a number collected from responses to his survey, then called on the audience to think about what would happen if international educators started responding. "What if we really listened to student voices? What if we really started sharing resources? What if we took a real passionate and global stand together?" he asked, "What issue would actually bring us together?" But even identifying the issue and taking the action don't guarantee success, because nowhere else do competitive entities rely and depend on each other as in the international school sector. Not one school can make change alone. So it is as a community that the brutal facts must be confronted. "Let's agree on three big ones, identify the ‘what ifs,’ put coalitions together, build a global culture, and collectively go from good to great."
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