March 17-20  was the Central and Eastern European Schools Association annual teachers’ conference – this year hosted by IICS. This event is a gathering of international teachers from the schools in the CEESA region. Twenty schools were represented and treated to a curated line up of thought leaders in education from as far afield as Beijing, Washington DC, and Toronto. Teachers from IICS were also invited to provide seminars and workshops.

IICS Grade 10 student Cholpon E. opened the conference with an impressive speech, which, with insight and humor, challenged the assembled 400 educators to change their thinking about schooling.

“Be honest, would any of you really want to go back to high school?” she asked of the assembled 400 educators, to which there was a sheepish silence…

She went on to present a compelling argument for creating more space and time for exploring interests and diverse experiences: “Finding what you are passionate about can bring out a whole new person and a whole new way of fitting in to the world.”

Thus, inspired to continue the work of changing schools into places where students want to be, the participants embarked on two intense days of discussion, learning, sharing ideas, and developing networks for change.

Key themes emerging were the importance of creating a balance in the increasingly overwrought lives of young people – mindfulness, understanding of the teen brain (one of the world’s greatest mysteries!), and how to develop resilience.

New learning was shared about how to enable young people meaningfully in the organization of schools and in the process of their learning. Observations on the changing world and needs for the future added a sense of urgency to this work and highlighted the imperative of having capable, creative young people grappling with the problems of the world, being invested enough to care and balanced enough to sustain the journey.

The tragic event that occurred on the Saturday undoubtedly unnerved the CEESA community but also strengthened the collective commitment to the power of education to combat ignorance and renewed the determination to maintain joy and appreciation of what we still have.

Parents would have been inspired by the passion and commitment demonstrated by the teachers and the evidence of their absolute dedication to exploring how to enable our children to be the best they can be.