Annual heads conference

Head of school seminars are always special occasions. It is the moment of the year when we learn about current events at the AEFE (Agency for French Education Abroad) and about the directions it wants to take in areas such as human resources and finance. It is also the moment when we decide on the professional development plan for our schools: it goes without saying that a large part of our role as heads is to ensure that our staff have access to quality ongoing training.  It is important in human and professional terms, and it is also crucial for our students, who deserve to be surrounded by adults who are up-to-date and informed of the latest best practices, both pedagogically and administratively speaking.

Finally, it is one of the rare moments in the school year when we find ourselves in the position of students, by which I mean heads have to sit and listen, raise our hands to speak, take notes (and sometimes – often – we whisper to our friends, not always paying attention to what is being said at the front of the room). We even have to sit an oral “exam” before a “jury” of administrators from the AEFE who don’t waste a second telling us, if we deserve it, that we aren’t doing as well as we could!

I have to be honest with you, despite all of my good intentions, I struggled at various moments during this year’s seminar, I grew weary (the timetable was crammed), frustrated (how difficult it is not to be able to take control of a situation!) and even a little bored (faced with important though not very fascinating subjects). Nothing much can be done about the format these seminars take; there is so much information to transmit that the top-down approach comes naturally.

All the same, it was an enlightening experience, and one that deserves to be looked at more closely – why is it that we feel we have no choice on certain occasions but to do what “what “comes naturally”? We must assume that there are other ways to transmit information and we should transfer that assumption to the educational experience of our students (let’s stop talking about heads of school – they have nothing to complain about!).

Let’s imagine that information and knowledge could be shared before class. Let’s imagine that students could use the precious time they have in class to do more than to listen (no prizes for guessing I am talking about a flipped classroom here). Let’s imagine that students could participate in the creation of class content (a ‘back-to-front class’). Let’s imagine collaborative class work where students are in a position to express themselves and to contribute (working at learning stations). Let’s  imagine a classroom where there isn’t a table and a chair for each child, but that the classroom is furnished with a variety of stimulating learning spaces.

Carine Capel and I have returned from our seminar more determined than ever to encourage and support our teachers in their reimagining of learning spaces – to help them make sure that our students – our teenage students in particular –  experience the best possible conditions for learning while they are at school with us.

Wishing you all an excellent weekend!

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