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What Are International School Principals Talking About?

By Bambi Betts
What Are International School Principals Talking About?

In every country of the world today, international school leaders will arise and once again remind themselves of their weighty responsibility and extraordinary privilege of shaping lives.  

Duly reminded, with lightning speed, thoughts turn to the practical. In our role as leaders, what do we do to address the five core questions at the heart of the daily endeavors in a school:  

1. What do we want our students to learn? 
2. How do we know they are learning? 
3. How will we facilitate their learning? 
4. What will we do for those who are not learning?
5. What do we do when students have already learned or reach mastery before expected?

Through PTCnet, an email forum that is a feature of membership in the Principals’ Training Center (PTC), over 1,000 principals, assistant principals, and leaders of teaching and learning, and curriculum “talk”  to each other just about every day to share practices, challenges, successes, and queries around these core questions.

Here’s the extensive range of such explorations during the first two months of 2023. It’s worth noting that leading with diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging (DEIJB) principles, student wellbeing, and the influence of artificial intelligence (AI) were often the “frame” for most specific questions.

What do we want our students to learn? 

  • Structure of high school science courses.
  • WIDA English Language Development Standards in curriculum and reporting for elementary.
  • Non-International Baccalaureate math syllabi. 
  • Health and sex education curriculum.
  • Changing reading and phonics programs.

How do we know they are learning? 

  • How do we best use recent AI developments to improve assessment (most talked about topic)?
  • Standards-based grading across all grade levels.
  • Conditional acceptance and promotion to next division policies (using our internal assessment evidence).

How will we facilitate their learning? 

  • How can AI tools (ChatGPT, etc.) be leveraged for learning?
  • Cell phone policies: does their presence/use facilitate/hinder learning?
  • Ways to get feedback to teachers from elementary students and how might our teaching be influenced by their feedback?
  • The role of standards for international school counselors.
  • Will multi-year elementary classes amplify learning?

What will we do for those who are not learning? 

  • Student well-being and its relationship to decelerating or obstructing learning.

What do we do when students have already learned or reach mastery before expected?

While there was no specific query or discourse on this question during this time period, multiple references and connections were made through the assessment and content of curriculum questions.

Looking ahead, there is growing interest in the issue of educational leadership and wellbeing, as well as buzz around the expanding number of “pathways” for post-secondary.  

To be part of these conversations, join as a PTC member school. Separate conversation groups for counselors, teacher leaders, governance members, and admission personnel are also available with a PTC membership.

Answer these questions, share your knowledge and experience, or expand the discussion by submitting an article to TIE!


Bambi Betts has been working in the international education world for over three decades. She is the director of the Principals’ Training Center for International School Leadership (PTC). She has served as director, principal, and teacher in international schools for over 30 years and been a consultant in over 150 international schools, conducting professional development sessions on a wide range of topics related to the effective international school, including assessment, curriculum leadership, teacher leader strategies, instructional strategies, faculty evaluation, and governance.

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