4 years ago I decided to spend a day of my vacation hanging at the International School Ho Chi Minh City. That day turned into a week. Since then, I’ve come back three times for the school’s annual 3E conference. True to the conference aims, I’ve been engaged, empowered and energized.
When I first visited ISHCMC in 2014, it seemed that a few mavericks were poking their heads out of classrooms wanting to do school differently. Now the work of ISHCMC, Studio 5 in particular, is well-known in IB circles. The conference has certainly grown since 2015 yet the core elements of the conference remain:
- Seeing learning in action in a school rather than just hearing about it at a conference venue.
- Teachers empowered to show leadership by sharing practice
- Admin there to facilitate awesomeness, but humble enough to acknowledge that don’t have all the answers.
- Connectivity to keep the conversations going after the conference
Something that has noticed is the amount of time given between sessions. No more rushing around from place to place, there were opportunities for presenters to set up their rooms and conversations in the hallways to become more in-depth and less harried. It made me wonder – in our rush to fill our planners and school days with ‘stuff’ do teachers create conditions for shallow learning and stressed students?
One of the joys of returning to ISHCMC 3E conference is seeing a growth in confidence of teachers sharing practice. But the teachers weren’t the only ones doing the talking, parents, classroom assistants and students were also a big part of what makes this conference so different from many of the others I’ve attended.
Sadly, there are a number of staff from my earlier visits ISHCMC that have since moved on to other countries. Such is the life of an international school. Yet ISHCMC has continued to grow a culture innovation rather than things grinding to halt when those with expertise moved on. Let that be a lesson to all of us in education about sustainability. If the work we do is to have a lasting impact, we need to empower others to lead.
The ISHCMC teachers were busy, yes. They hosted workshops during the conference, had visitors poking around, there are learning conferences next week and the teachers still have the day to day demands of teaching and running a school. But the atmosphere in the school was purposeful and calm rather than frantic and rushed. The teachers’ enthusiasm for learning and challenging educational norms was infectious.
On a personal level, this is the first time in I’ve had other members of staff from my school join me at the 3E conference. Having a shared experience with people in your own context helps me
- reflect on my own learning during and after the conference.
- be accountable for implementing ideas I’ve seen.
- offer feedback on the implementation of new ideas.
So there you go, three cheers for 3E!