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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

The International School Yangon – Living Adaptive Schools

Authored By:

Carolee Hayes


January 23, 2024

To start the New Year, STJ is taking a new focus. Moving away from research and theory, instead each month will focus on a school or system making impact through Cognitive Coaching and Adaptive Schools practices. If you would like to nominate a school or organization to be featured, please contact Carolee Hayes at

This month I am excited to share the work at the International School Yangon in Myanmar. It was my pleasure to spend an hour via Google with Greg Hedger, the director, and Mike Simpson, the secondary principal. They are celebrating becoming AS trainers, mentored by Jim Roussin and Bob Garmston. Bob had recently visited their school. Greg previously applied the work in Qatar and in Venezuela, and Mike, also in Venezuela. They have been working in Yangon for 8 and 6 years, respectively.

It was inspiring to hear Greg and Mike take great pride in celebrating how Adaptive Schools had become the culture of their school. They credit the AS skills throughout their staff as facilitating the ability of the school to weather the crises created during Covid and during the 2021 government coup. There is shared language among the staff and parents as well as skills for listening. The structures of AS provide safety for all members of their community. The training that was done in 2019 was put to immediate use in authentic conflict situations in 2020 and 21. Dialogue was essential on a daily basis. As a result of those successes, it took little time for the principles and practices of AS to become the norm.

When asked about impact on student achievement, they spoke to seeing the norms, microskills, and strategies visible in most classrooms. The norms of paraphrasing and pausing were emphasized as truly impacting instruction. The whole process has become an anchor for all they do and has connections to their work with inclusion and genuine psychological safety for students.

The staff at ISY has used the work of AS in their classroom observations, leading to a total redesign of their professional growth model. AS provided the skill set to do the challenging work of using data and looking at hard things collaboratively.

Greg and Mike were asked to offer advice to others just beginning this work. They offered their use of John Kotter’s model of change in first engaging a small group of diverse people who could come back and create urgency before involving everyone. Today they have trained the entire staff including clinic staff, business staff, secretaries, etc. Those staff members can be observed using the strategies in trainings and meetings they have with staff.

Greg was quite clear that this was not his legacy, but that he brought leadership to this work because it is what the school needed when he arrived. It is having impact and the teachers will continue to use it, even when he is gone. When asked about how Thinking Collaborative might support their journey, both said they needed a critical friends community where they could engage with other schools doing the work.

My take-aways from this delightful interview are:

  • Leaders should approach AS as culture building and commit to long term work. Building culture focuses on shared values.

  • The leaders must live the AS work and model it daily as well as label what they are doing and intending. Applying it to difficult work gives it authenticity and meaning.

  • Leaders must connect the AS work to other initiatives.

  • The entire community must be included and engaged.

  • Continued reiteration of the what, why, and how matters.

  • The leader should know when it’s time to move on and allow for new leadership.

  • Communities need other communities to share learning and help them find new ways of thinking.

Thank you, Greg Hedger and Mike Simpson.

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