Needless to say…what a year! I was just reading my 2019 Round Up and can only shake my head at how different 2020 turned out to be. My goals, commitments and personal milestones for this year have taken quite a battering but there have also been many highlights, even in the midst of a global pandemic. As we head towards the end of the year, some at break-neck speed, others just putting one foot in front of the other, I am reflecting on all that has been accomplished and to be honest, am feeling incredibly grateful to have made it to this point. Here is Globally Grounded’s 2020 Round Up.
Many of you know that I love learning so for me, the year began in a rewarding way as I completed the course to become certified as a Youth Mental Health First Aider. Little did I know that my newfound skills would be pivotal just two months later as Australia, and many parts of the world, went into lockdown. Schools and families scrambled to adapt, and the world began to realise that mental wellbeing underpins our thinking, learning and actions. The course gave me confidence to come alongside school leaders, educators and parents to help them understand the challenges of mental health and put support mechanisms in place, even virtually. It gave me the courage to help young people struggling with their mental health too. I highly recommend the YMHFA course and believe that every educator should complete it.
You may recall that we were looking forward to continuing our consultancy partnerships with current boarding and local school clients and working with new schools in 2020, building educational and social conditions where students, parents and staff of diverse cultural backgrounds live and learn with each other in an integrative culture, whilst preserving and championing each school’s current strengths. COVID-19 kicked those goals to the sideline as schools went into survival mode, closed their physical gates or restricted adults on campus to teaching staff only. Like so many individuals and organisations, we quickly adapted and have enjoyed providing our expertise to schools as their tried-and-true onsite orientation programs had to become virtual orientations.
PROFESSIONAL LEARNING SEMINARS
Just this last week I presented my first live, in-person seminar for 2020…who’d have thought? In March, I was days away from embarking on an international speaking tour when the Australian Government closed our external border. Instead of boarding an aeroplane, I found myself collaborating with our long-time business partner Danielle Pringle from Student Concierge Connect and the Australian Boarding Schools Association to deliver virtual workshops to schools desperate (and yes, I mean desperate) to be equipped to support their cross-cultural learners across oceans, deserts and state lines. We helped schools support their offshore students and families during school closure, equipped them to prepare their cross-cultural students for return to a very different school scenario, educated schools on all they need to know about expat families in 2020 and beyond and facilitated workshops for new boarder parents to help them prepare their child for the transition to boarding school. The pace was frenetic, yet the work was incredibly fulfilling.
Two years in the making and a real labour of love, I am delighted to report that my research partner, Ellen Mahoney and I launched our report investigating the international school transitions-care landscape in November. Since 2018, Sea Change Mentoring and Globally Grounded have been on a mission to understand what is currently being done in international schools to address cross-cultural transitions-care, the reasons why some transition efforts never get off the ground and others do.
This research is important because it draws on the work from eminent researchers in the global mobility field – research that has been circulating since the mid-1990s, yet not widely known or embedded in the international school transitions-care landscape, even in 2020. For this reason, it was our priority to put this research into the hands of school leaders rather than be overlooked in the catalogues of research papers. By surveying the current landscape in international school transitions-care, school leaders will gain insight into the common practices, challenges and opportunities faced by the international school community and be able to use this to evaluate their own understanding and that of their colleagues and educational institution. We also believe our findings and recommendations provide insight for local schools enrolling learners from diverse cultural backgrounds.
You can read our report and also watch our conversation with colleagues from across the globe as we explored what is happening in schools, what the challenges are and the opportunities for us all to improve the way we support our communities as they navigate transitions. If you or the schools in your network are looking for further support, please contact us.
Speaking of transitions, 2020 has been a year of transition and transformation for Safe Passage Across Networks (SPAN). I have now been a member of the SPAN Board for four years and am currently serving as the Director of Training and Consultancy. Alongside my colleague and fellow board member Valérie Besanceney from Roots with Boots, we have been hard at work developing resources and delivering training to schools and their communities. We look forward to launching a suite of transitions-care resources in 2021, along with our training and consultancy packages. SPAN Trainers and Consultants are experts in education and transitions-care.
COVID-19 threw the world into transition and none more so that international school educators, counsellors, admissions officers and school leaders. It became very apparent that our colleagues were drowning under a sea of transitions – quick exits without homes, belongings and pets, bolstering students and colleagues thrown into learning and working from home, facilitating remote learning for students while managing remote learning for their own children, dealing with the grief and loss of sudden goodbyes and goodbyes that could not be said. To support them, SPAN created a gathering space for transitions support professionals from around the world, called “The Nest.” As the SPAN website attests, “twice a month, we gathered to equip ourselves with information on timely transition themes, connect with other participants virtually in break-out rooms and leave feeling refreshed in this isolating time and work.” Now we continue to meet monthly to discuss a transitions topic with special guests. You can catch up on past episodes and I invite you to join us for our future episodes. Whilst you’re there, why not consider becoming a member or partner!
As we reached the end of the first quarter of this year, I had resigned myself to the fact that the family mentoring arm of Globally Grounded was not going to be required for some time. How wrong I was! You may be as surprised as I was to learn that people are relocating during a global pandemic. For example, my colleagues at Taipei American School tell me they have 316 new families for the 2020-2021 academic year, while the American Embassy School in New Delhi has 136 new families from across the globe. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with families relocating abroad and embraced the challenge of equipping them to transition in the midst of COVID-19 quarantines and restrictions.
In contrast to those moving abroad, many people who call Australia home are struggling to return. Individuals and families are finding themselves without jobs in their host country and the Australian external border closure and lack of flights are making it almost impossible to get home. They need support more than ever before. If you know of people in this situation, please refer them to me. I am here to help.
My 2019 Round Up ended with me looking forward to celebrating some major family milestones in 2020. COVID-19 did its best to curtail these celebrations, but it did not deter us from marking the milestones.
Just this morning, I waved our youngest son and his best friend goodbye as they embarked on a road trip that has been months in the planning…although that is somewhat ironic given that the plan is ‘no plan’, other than to free camp in their swags near surf! Instead of travelling overseas, this is how they have chosen to celebrate their graduation from high school. I know for many #Classof2020 parents, celebrating their child’s school graduation simply did not happen this year or if it did, it occurred virtually. For us, however, we received a last-minute reprieve and were given permission to join our son at his school’s Valedictory Dinner. We had to remain seated and were not permitted to socialise or hug all those parents with whom we’ve been alongside for the last six years on the rugby pitch sidelines, the edge of rivers at rowing regattas, the athletics track grandstands and the drama theatres. We did, however, celebrate our precious #Classsof2020 children and look forward to the positive impact they will have on our world, all the more resilient because of this year’s experience.
Other milestones included celebrating my husbands and my 25th wedding anniversary during lockdown (with our sons, who donned their suits and best manners for the occasion) and both of our 50th birthdays. In fact, I am taking extended leave from tomorrow as we hit the road and head inland to country New South Wales, in honour of our anniversary. We are looking forward to some much-needed rest, recreation, reflection and restoration along with lazy nights looking up at the stars and quiet mornings listening to the bird song…thank you COVID-19 for causing us to stop and appreciate the little things.
Thank you for your support. See you in 2021!