Thank you NEASC for helping me become the best that I can be! (Two Minute elevator speech where the elevator broke down!)
This letter is published with permission of the NEASC community member who was kind enough to share their thoughts with us. We are very grateful for their insights, contributions, and obvious passion for learning!
Every time I hear the NEASC ACE Learning introductory video, I inwardly digest it from start to finish. I just love hearing…”Gone are mountains of paper documentation; gone are large visiting teams combing through piles of policy documentation; gone is one size fits all accreditation cycles; gone are tons of standards that only focus on the status quo” but that NEASC focuses on its core business… learning!
I can almost physically feel the freedom, the shoulders slackening, the head rising... I can breathe again.
For those of us who have endured grueling inspections, it means:
Gone are all those thumping headaches,
Gone is the fear of being criticized, misunderstood, and fired as a failure,
Gone is someone pulling to pieces all you have built up and all your beliefs,
Gone is a procedure that leaves you demoralized, deflated, and wanting to change your career! With immediate effect!
I always wondered why you were taught and tested as a teacher to nurture and encourage children, to bring out the best in them, giving positive criticism in such a way that the child could continue to grow and move forward, whilst teachers themselves were subjected to the complete opposite of giving three stars and a wish! If the teachers thought it was bad, it was even worse for the Head, trying to fit a round peg school into their square peg template. It simply did not fit, and as the Head that was all my fault!
Then I was introduced to NEASC and read that they were looking for project schools to try out their new model of accreditation called ACE Learning. I read the blurb and felt instantly that I could have written it myself. It resonated with everything I believed in, everything I thought education should be and everything I believed in for our school… a learning community at every level, learning together every step of the way. There was no hesitation, we had to be one of these project schools! We were delighted when both NEASC and our own Board said YES!
But old habits and suspicions die hard, so when the time came for our Foundations visit, I volunteered to be the one to go to the airport to collect this inspector, or this so called “visitor” for the Foundation Stage. My new tactic was that I was determined to get to know and be liked by the person before I would be “grilled” the next day! That was my plan! But, through the airport arrivals came a smiling, warm friendly person who chatted away. I was so grateful from the instant I was connected with NEASC. Here was an organization as it is meant to be… where everyone at all levels is striving to be the best they can be in a learning community with a learning culture in a learning environment… all positive, all moving forward to the next step.
As a school, we have never looked back and were one of the first to be an accredited ACE Learning school. On a personal level, several of my peers who were inspectors in England had told me over a number of years that I should train to be an inspector, that it was the best Professional Development one could gain. But I always had the dilemma, “How can I promote something I don’t believe in?” So, I never did. At the end of the workshop of the Learning Principles visit, one of our visitors was moved to tears as she explained why she was a visitor, wanting above all to encourage all those who had answered the high calling to be a teacher in the best profession in the world, preparing the children of today for the world of tomorrow. It was at that moment that I realized how much she inspired the whole staff and how much that resonated with my own ideals and vision.
Now here was the opportunity to become a visitor for NEASC; just the word “visitor” filled my soul with joy and light. Gone was that dreaded word “inspector.” A “detective looking for learning” was much more engaging. Having had an enjoyable day of training with a room full of like-minded educators, I was ready.
In becoming a visitor, NEASC was offering me a new string to my bow, a new challenge, a new way of working, a new opportunity to work to be my best self, to take the next step in my learning, to be able to say to the children in my care that we are all life-long learners and that this was the next stage in my learning. I might be the Head, but I could also learn a new skill! It was refreshing to engage in something different, to look in depth at how another school worked.
It was reassuring to see many of the same elements that we were working towards, and interesting to learn how we could adapt something new. It brought me back onto the world stage, looking at education from a philosophical and global point of view, thinking about the fundamentals once more:
What IS learning? How CAN we prepare children for the future?
The Ten Principles of ACE Learning are an excellent template to follow… and we are now part of a worldwide organization that keeps growing as others discover self-evaluation as a tool for growth at every level; whether as a school community or as an individual and will help the world to grow to be a better place due to all the individuals in it, all learning, all developing, all growing.
I have proved mainly to myself, with copious help and encouragement from my fellow colleagues at NEASC, that I can go out in confidence and in strength armed with my new skills to complete the task. Being a visitor for the first time, in a large prestigious international school, is a little like running a marathon, or tackling a black slope in skiing, that you would only ever attempt with a coach closely by your side who believes in your abilities and believes you can succeed! You finish the week exhausted but elated. We did it! We made it and hopefully left a school better for our visit, encouraged to continue to do their best for the children in their care… for that’s what our noble profession is all about…building each other up, practicing new skills with encouragement from all… for mistakes are how we learn.
Thank you NEASC for helping me to accomplish far more than I ever could have imagined. I recently had the opportunity to be invited to take part in a NEASC Virtual Global Forum with over 1500 listeners from over 70 countries. Never in my imagination could I have envisaged myself rising to such a challenge. But I knew I was among friends and colleagues and, therefore, could have a go in the safety of the NEASC family. We really are a NEASC global family. Because of all the boundaries and cultures that you are forging, the world has to be a better place already!