Where do you go when you’re at the top?

Today Kim and I spent the day working with a group of teachers from Korea on their professional inquiry. This is a group of math teachers from one of the top performing countries in the world that have come to Canada to explore different ways of student learning. Kim and I take them through a process of identifying their vision for change and the necessary steps to put that change in place when they return to Korea.


Working with these teachers is a fascinating process. Many of them have a rigorous academic research background and are all exemplary practitioners, selected by their Ministry to co-teach here in Canada. These teachers are coming from a country that routinely achieves in the top 3 in just about every global measure of educational excellence. What could they possibly learn here in Canada?

Well, a lot, as it seems.

I had an opportunity to talk with Sandy for a good part of the day today. She is a high school teacher in a large Korean city. In her school students on a university track, which is all of them, can spend as many as 14 hours in school a day. There is an enormous amount of pressure to excel in the maths and sciences and get into a “good” university. There are all sorts of things to be concerned with here and I’ll spread that over many future blog posts.

What was really interesting in our conversation was how Sandy questioned the system that she grew up in. She has had two teaching placements in our district in the last five months and has seen what a balance of arts education and maths and science can do for a child. She was so impressed by the “well roundedness” of the Canadian students that she said, “When I have a child, I want them to go to a Canadian school”. That’s pretty high praise. Then she said something I was not at all prepared for.

She said, “Don’t you think the Arts should be a basic human right?”

Wow. I can’t wait to continue this conversation when I see Sandy again in two weeks.


2 Comments on “Where do you go when you’re at the top?”

  1. Paul Fuller says:

    That’s real food for thought Colin — thanks so much for sharing this. Whenever I ask parents at the start of the year to nominate their goals for their children, they always mention things like ‘confidence’, ‘social skills’, ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘attitude’. However, these goals (much like success in the Arts) can’t be measured. I often think that, as a system, we value what we measure rather than measuring what we value.

    Keep up the great work.

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