“We are much, much stronger together where our collective expertise and experiences are shared for the betterment of all.” – Kosta Lekanides.
Being mischievous, theatrical, and practical has many advantages in both our personal and professional lives. In fact, playful personalities are more skilled at managing difficult situations in all areas of life, when contrasted to the rest. We would like to introduce you with one such personality, who loves learning with an element of mischief mixed in, Kosta Lekanides, Deputy Head Teacher of Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS, Arabian Ranches). Kosta has been instrumental in bringing the best of an IB education and specifically with regards the Diploma programme to the school. He is an IB author and workshop leader, with over 19 years’ teaching experience in Australia, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates.
A Meant to be Journey
Being passionate about learning, Kosta’s journey started at an early stage. He briefly remembers his inspirational teachers throughout high school in Greece and Australia. However, for him, real confirmation came when he met Professor Vrasidas Karalis at the University of Sydney. He was a tour de force of academic learning and had an infectious appetite for learning and teaching. Marching on this path, three degrees later (Bachelor of Arts with a triple major in English, History and Modern Greek and a minor in Politics, a Masters in Teaching with English/History specialization and a Masters in Arts – Historiography), Kosta was well on his way. For his second Masters, he was awarded Australia’s highest scholarship- the Australian Post-Graduate Award– for achieving a score of 98 percent. Subsequently, it aided him to pursue a Ph.D. in the field of Australian Literature. But, at that time, his father’s declining health put an abrupt end to his work.
Later on, Kosta went on to showcase his craft overseas and was selected by the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET), where he taught English in a technical college in Hamamatsu, Japan. Working there, he grew his contact with exceptional educators and he distinctively remembers one librarian, with whom he shared discussions regarding literature, history, and culture. Recalling the period in question, Kosta asserts, “It was a very formative period of growth for me and taught me the value of broadening one’s mind to differences in approach when faced with similar problems or situations. Understanding why people often do things the way they do or think the way they do is instrumental in solving problems we share”. After that, as an avid reader of Middle Eastern literature and history, he made his way to the UAE, which he has been calling it home for over a decade now.
The core features of the IB schools in UAE was the right fit for Kosta as it presented an extended writing piece, a critical course, and a creative service programme called CAS. He is most proud of the establishment of the UAE Association of IB schools – a volunteer group -which he set up to bring schools together in a collegial and collaborative manner. ‘Since those early days, I have been quite invested in all things IB’.
About Jumeirah English Speaking School (Arabian Ranches)
The school prides itself on its mixed ability cohort and highly aspirational techniques in its approach to teaching and learning. The students at JESS do exceptionally well in exams, with its IB average sitting well clear of 35 points now. The school promotes the use of disruptive technologies in the classroom and behind the scenes in educational administration including pioneering VR initiatives and STEM projects. Its mission is encapsulated in three short words “Making a Difference”, which the school aspires for all its students.
To date, the school has offered numerous CPD opportunities, shared resources, created networks of UAE school staff to work together on common issues across all IB programmes and shared its expertise in terms of tech initiatives. It has organised and hosted the IB Higher Education Forum and has worked closely with the IB itself to bring the Global Conference to its part of the world. The school is also working closely with the UAE Ministry of Education whose team has been of invaluable assistance in supporting the schools and ensuring consistency of standards.
When discussing the Association Kosta says, “I believe fervently that all things are done better when done together. No school or teacher is an island. We are much, much stronger together where our collective expertise and experiences are shared for the betterment of all. It is obvious really but often people do not have time to invest in things beyond their immediate roles even if they sorely want to. This is where I have stepped in to address some of these issues. I am also quite a firm believer in openness and transparency and so have tried to keep all resources freely accessible and the support provisions offered by the Association totally free of cost”.
On a personal level, Kosta has authored the Extended Essay Course Companion and co-authored the Theory of Knowledge Skills and Practice Book (both with Oxford University Press) and spoken at numerous events on topics ranging from restoring a sense of wonder to teaching and ways to engage in critical thinking. Kosta is also an IB workshop leader for TOK, EE, and International-Mindedness. For his efforts, Whichschooladvisor nominated him as one of their Key Influencers for 2017.
Appropriate Teaching Methodologies
Kosta is a voracious reader of things which he feels it what helps him find ways to motivate and inspire his students through the breadth of his learning. He likes to read everything, ranging from scientific discoveries, ethical debates in education, tech innovations, to the latest in video games developments. Kosta keeps himself in line with all type of developments. Consequently, he aspires to see students want to be more than people on the receiving end of information that has been prepared for them. He wants them to question, challenge, self-learn, and reframe the modes of thought that have governed his generation. He encourages them to think and not get nervous by failures or doubts. In addition, he firmly believes that the teachers need a bit of theatre in their teaching and an opportunity to play mischievously with the curriculum should be taken as students learn best when they are happy and presented with unorthodox approaches to learning.
A Career Guide for the Students
Kosta acknowledges the significance of technology and points out that it is obvious to suggest careers in the same. However, he has one strong counterpoint. He points out the tech is all well and good, but creativity is the needed solution to problems. This creativity and the ability to think imaginatively, whether it may be solving problems in theater class, or solving a national debt crisis, or epidemic, does tend to allow the solutions to become more evident. With a practical mindset, he says, “Creative subjects are generally fun, life-affirming experiences and thus of invaluable benefit to our ongoing development. You’re never too old for the Arts I’d argue”.
Industry Trends and Future
While talking about the current state of education in UAE, Kosta describes it to be aspirational in its goals. The UAE wants to be on the top of the educational league table (TIMSS and PISA). It wants its youth to gain tertiary qualifications and gain access to top tier educational institutes globally and it is committed to this mission. Further, it wants to keep a sense of local, social, and moral identity intact, which it is achieving through the Social Studies and Moral Education curriculums that schools now deliver.
And talking about his future in his hallmark self-effacing manner, Kosta asserts, “I want to see the school in hands more capable than mine hopefully. We are all here to be replaced after all. As for me, I would like to retire high in a mountain or near the sea with a couple of cats and time to re-read War & Peace”.