According to Newton’s First Law of Motion, an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force. This perhaps explains why a leader so often gets stuck behind his or her desk. This missive challenges you to develop strategies to get you out from behind your desk, and preferably out of the office altogether, through the creation of an unoffice.
Start with something simple yet effective: get rid of your desk altogether. We’ve seen many teachers eschew their classroom desk for a stool and an easel—apply the same technique to your space. Consider replacing your clunky desk with a standing desk. (A recent study equates sitting for long periods of time with smoking cigarettes.) A trip to IKEA and some quick assembly will produce an economical and functional standing workstation.
As some visitors will want to sit, add some comfy chairs to your space. This creates a more intimate setting, putting guests at ease for what often are tricky or sensitive conversations. Put your favorite books on the coffee table that divides the arrangement.
The rest of your unoffice can be tailored to your whims and fancies, much of which can serve as conversation starters. I’ve got my loose tea collection on display, as well as a framed “Map that changed the world”. I’ve got a clock with the phrase “Now” pasted on its face (a mindfulness hack). Other hacks include the Noguchi Yukio filing system, which organizes your paper files by frequency of use rather than by alphabet or subject. And while you’re at it, get rid of your desktop phone, computer, and printer; instead, visit the area printer, and take your laptop to the library and interact with students. Go mobile. Literally.
 Lack TV Bench + Idasen Table Top + 4 Olav Adjustable Table Legs
The teacher crisis—a shortage of qualified and capable teachers—is real and serious, but it is not the biggest threat to international schools today. There exists a crisis of relevance. Schools have a moral imperative to prepare young people for their future, and not our past, yet we have done little to disturb the centuries-old schooling model.
In a competitive market like Dubai, there is no guarantee that families will continue to send their children to your school. In fact, there is no guarantee that Dubai families will continue sending their children to any brick and mortar schools. They can now piece together a suitable education for their children through online platforms, experiential learning opportunities, and targeted tutoring. When we ask for tens of thousands of dollars of tuition, education often becomes a value proposition. Schools like the American School of Dubai may be fighting not only to preserve its market share of mission-appropriate students, but it may be fighting for its very existence. Are we remotely aware of this crisis?
We must disrupt the Victorian model of schooling by promoting flexible spaces, groupings and timetables, by putting homework in its proper place, and most importantly, by changing the role of the teacher from benevolent dictator and czar of content to coach and facilitator of learning. We must assess the hard-to-measure skills and knowledge, and not just the easily quantifiable stuff. Putting social and emotional learning on equal par with the “academics” will build school cultures of respect and compassionate action, and promote cultural competency for our youngest global citizens. When we will have the courage to be bold, break free from our cautiously progressive mindset, and do what we know is right and proper for our children?
Dr. Paul Richards
Superintendent, the American School of Dubai
The mission of the American School of Dubai is to challenge and inspire each student to achieve their dreams and to become a passionate learner prepared to adapt and contribute in a rapidly changing world.