Appreciative Inquiry in Qingdao by Sue James

I began my career over thirty years ago as a teacher.

And it’s no secret to anyone who knows me or to those who follow my own blog, that I am still passionate about education and teaching.

For example in A Passionate Plea, as well as bemoaning the totally inappropriate and archaic practices still taking place in many schools, I also highlighted that:

In many schools there are individual teachers who are inspiring their students. Who are reflecting, dreaming, collaborating, implementing fresh and exciting inititiatives.

And in The More Things Change, I commented:

But now, as then, in spite of that I am still full of hope and optimism.

There is the possiblity of change. I am inspired by the stories I hear of dedicated teachers who do care, who do individualise their approach to suit different students, and who do inspire, support and challenge kids to be the very best they can be.

Here’s to those teachers! May they get all the support they need to hang on to their passion – to keep alight that “fire in the belly” – and continue making a difference in our schools and in the world!

Well, the week before last, thanks to an invitation from the Principal, Chris Vicari, Chris and I had the privilege of working with just such a group of educators at the Qingdao Amerasia International School in China. Taking students from 18 months to 18 years old, the school is the only Montessori and International Baccalaureate candidate school in Shandong Province.

At this school in Qingdao, thirty-four people from all over the world have gathered together, united in their passion and commitment to make a difference for children and young people.

The three planning days we spent with them just before the start of their school year were not really at a convenient time for them! Some had just arrived in China for the first time only a matter of days or a week before, so were still finalising apartments, transport, banking arrangements and all the myriad of things they needed to start living and working in a new country, where most of them do not yet speak or read the language.

And for the Chinese staff or those for whom it was their second or umpteenth year living in China – the ‘old hands’ – other issues were also a priority because the school had just moved to a new location. With only a week to go before students arrived, there were a gazillion things still to be completed – finalising fitting out the building, setting up the rooms, installing whiteboards and computers … the list went on.

Yet in those three days we spent with them, none of this was sufficient to dim their enthusiasm, their creativity, or their passion as educators.

With the assistance of two wonderful staff members who acted as interpreters, we used Appreciative Inquiry to help them co-create a vision and plan various activities for the coming year, focusing on the next three months in particular.

What rich and exciting conversations and ideas emerged! The staff come from a wide range of nationalities – from China, America, Australia, Canda, Trinidad and the UK – bringing with them a huge wealth of experience and knowledge.

It was a great honour to share these three days with them – to be inspired in our turn by their wisdom and to share in the richness and creativity of their conversations. And we are looking forward very much to sharing with them their continuing journey.

While educators and schools such as this exist in the world, our children and young people can look forward to a bright future as they are given the challenges, care and support they need to become the best they can be.

Footnote: Follow up post - Ni Hao and Xie Xie Qingdao

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Comment by chris on September 17, 2012 at 6:48pm

Rituu and Kunchok

We'll try to answer your questions in detail as soon as we can. Thanks for asking.


Comment by Kunchok Tsundue on September 17, 2012 at 12:36pm


Comment by Kunchok Tsundue on September 17, 2012 at 9:15am

Great experience! It is not always the same with us -practioners. We face unmoved clients or participants who had to be inspired and lead ultimately you ran out of information and knowledge that you know of -despite how well your preparation may be. and end up with mundane solutions/plan structure. Our good experience show that conditions has to be ripped enough to have such a great session where ownership, concerns and hope has to placed right in the middle. Would you let us know -what made your session so successful -in given China situation where things are often dictated then grow up.     

Comment by Jan Somers on September 14, 2012 at 2:10am

Great !!

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on September 13, 2012 at 10:35am

Thanks Chris and Sue for this blog. What was the vision of the teachers for the school? I am very eager to know. How did they find AI way of working?


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