Hyperlink. A Personal Professional Statement
I fell into teaching and education as a would-be engineering student turned Modern Languages major who landed one of the best summer jobs ever as a language camp counselor with the Concordia International Language Villages (MN). I lived the life of Lac du Bois (the French Camp) over the course of ten summers, performed daily costumed skits, put on Sound and Light shows of Lancelot du Lac, instructed and played rugby, played guitar, sang campfire songs, instructing French in all venues. That ten-summer stint culminated in the Director's role where I hired and managed staff from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, and the U.S.
Rewinding the reel, the springboard to Lac du Bois was a year as an AFS exchange student, living with a family in France. I went to school, made lifelong friends, and shared family life with my intensely French host parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
That year led to those seminal language camp summers, overlapping with my first steps into formal teaching in schools. I also had the exceptional fortune to study the Rassias Method with the legend himself, Dr. John Rassias, working with him, his daughter and Rassias Programs at Dartmouth College and in France. My training undergirded a bold teaching move I risked in my teaching demo at interview stage to join John Burroughs School on the heels of my Master's study of French Literature in St. Louis. Besides using the language drilling method, I made clear the different use of “être” (to be) in the past for verbs like “tomber” (to fall), falling myself to the floor.
Eleven years at JBS provided me with professional experiences of a near lifetime, including a summer as a Klingenstein Fellow on the Columbia University campus, and a grant to travel to Cambodia to explore vestiges of French, post-Pol Pot. I jumped in with both feet and became the youngest Department Chair to date. JBS and my subsequent three years as preK-12 Principal in another independent school in St. Louis yielded to my wanderlust's pursuit of the wide world of international schools. I landed at two of the “circuit's” best—Singapore American School and Tanglin Trust School--both in Singapore, one US-oriented, the other UK-oriented.
Cut to the present-- I love Panama, having met and married my Spanish-speaking Colombian wife here and having now worked in two schools in what is fertile international school ground in and around the Canal. My schools here have provided me valuable under-the-hood perspective on the bones that constitute the skeleton of a quality institution. And at Boston School International we have pursued our ambitions with success to date, and much more to come!
I am undertaking two specific efforts that illustrate how I am engaging with forward-thinking educational practice and research.
One: imagine a room full of workshop participants whose day job is teaching. A powerpoint slide at the front of the room changes from the title of the workshop, “A New Lens,” to: “Julio will now organize and carry-out the group recitation (aloud) of this CREDO:
'I am here to learn for myself by tying information and new ideas to my own ideas and experience and context. I am not limited by the limited tasks I'm given. I will exercise my innate power of initiative! I can make any learning task infinite!'
I, the workshop leader sitting incognito on the side with my PowerPoint clicker, have just made Julio and everyone else uncomfortable. Though they are teachers by day, they sit as “workshop participants,” which is to say, they expect themselves to be in “receiving mode” of a workshop, defaulting to “student” expectations. They expect the workshop leader (me) to bring the assemblage to order, introduce and start the workshop. However, I have shifted the “center” of the workshop away from myself.
People associate “teaching” with lecturing, presenting, and generally orchestrating what happens in the classroom. School “achievement” is too often high level conformity to institutional instruction—doing (learning) as one is told, when, and how. I aim to free students and teachers from scripted socialization and to develop dynamic, engaged learners. The workshop is about teachers experiencing a different “student” experience and how it feels to be independent and group drivers of learning instead of the “receivers,” in order that they shift the center of their “teaching,” too.
Two: I began an EdD part-time four years ago to study what I term 'self-entrepreneurial learning' because of a baffling experience. I had assembled middle and high school students to prep for the World Scholars Cup. Scheduling common prep time had been nearly impossible, so I began by having them read an article online about the Swedish Kunskapsskolan's independent learning methods, because prep for the competition would require significant independent learning. The article happened to have one hyperlink that led to the curriculum, which should have been of interest to all. After ample time to read, I said, “before we discuss the article, I have a one question, pass-or-fail quiz: who clicked the link?” Of 30 students, only one had clicked it! I wanted to know why more of these motivated students had seemingly done the minimum of the task and, importantly, I wanted to understand how to nurture learners so that more would initiate learning beyond mere assigned tasks.
I bring this experience and approach to the BSI Secondary School, to my TOK class, and to the World Scholars Cup CCA I lead. This school is taking strides in the right directions so that students are the creators of their own infinite learning.