What Do I Want For My Students in Their New School Year?

By Barry Cooper.


That’s the starting point, that’s the hygiene factor for any school principal, it’s not even a conversation. We want our students to get great results that reflect their work and go on to do the things they want to do. But that’s a short-term goal. What do we really want our students to get from their time with us?


We want our students to be brave, to take on new challenges, to see an insurmountable problem and have a crack at it anyway. We want them to move beyond resilience and to actively seek out the big dragons. We want them to attack sustainability, period poverty, language deficit, poverty; and we want them to fall over, get back up and go again with heart and verve and a new idea every time. We want to give them opportunity after opportunity to see the world in different ways and try and change it for the better. 


We need them to be kind. We want them to see the reality of themselves and each other and to pick up those who cannot pick themselves up. Every student should be the person who welcomes a stranger, who asks the right questions because they have been asked the right questions by their teachers and their peers and they understand how to make someone new feel like a friend.

Real Self-awareness

They need to know their strengths and where they come from. They need to understand where they might be weak and how to deal with that. They need to have gone through years of challenge with teachers who care about them and want to see them tempered by that fire of challenge. They need not be afraid of what they might find when they look in the mirror and to realise that they are enough, they are special. Every student is an irreplaceable part of an infinitely complex world: if they can hear that and believe it, they have a good head start.

To See the World for What it is

We want our students to understand that the game is rigged. It might be rigged for them, or against them, but just knowing that will help them play the game better. They need to understand that there is cruelty in the world that must be fought and beauty in the world that must be preserved, they get to make the call about what that means, it is their world to inherit: we can only hope they will do a better job than we did.

Citizens of the World

Cultural education is a pathway to greater understanding, bringing together perspectives from across the planet, from across nations, religions, ethnicities, social and economic groups, politics and philosophies. Cultural education gives us the lens through which they can examine the world with clarity while creating a society with a greater sense of their humanity. AI and the technological revolution in education is not a renaissance, but rather the spur to a new renaissance in human thinking, human skills and human understanding. Our new technology cannot see the beauty in the Todaji Temple at Nara, cannot codify the spirituality of the Hajj, cannot see the cultural nuance in the works of James Joyce: that is for the future to ensure.


Above all, every teacher wants their students to have agency. We want them to be able to take control of their learning, direct their progress, create new ideas and ways of seeing. Agency and the ability to organise can be taught through flipped learning, challenge, project-based learning, presentations, team work and preparation. We give our students nothing if we spoon-feed them exam answers.  We want them to do well on their examinations, but what kind of future are we preparing them for if we set them up without the skills to deal with a world in constant flux.

The Future 

I want every student who passes through the college to be better for it. Our responsibility as teachers is an immense one. We have the chance to help them understand themselves and the world and what we do in the classroom can change their trajectory. The words we say can change lives. So, I want my students to spend their time with teachers who recognise that responsibility and that power. Teaching is the best job in the world and in every classroom are potential mothers, fathers, teachers, doctors, engineers, designers, mechanics, soldiers, nurses; a million different combinations of our collective future. As a good friend of mine is fond of saying, school is a place for becoming.

Barry Cooper is Principal at The Global College Madrid. He is also the host of our ‘Starting Your International School’ Webinar.

To connect with him on LinkedIn click HERE

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2 thoughts on “<strong>What Do I Want For My Students in Their New School Year?</strong>”

  1. Thank you Barry for this week’s blog. The call for cultural understanding, critical thinking and student agency underscores the transformative role of education in shaping global citizens equipped for a dynamic future. A truly inspiring perspective on the purpose of education.

  2. How enjoyable to read such a lovely article from a passionate principal! I knew Barry from LYIS’s first webinar, he was a great host and knowledgeable educator. Today I saw a different but impressive Barry here through the lines. Students can be whoever they want to be with the support and guidance of those who are responsible educators! I love how Barry listed the good qualities he wants for his students, and id I were a parent in Madrid, I would have no hesitation to send my kids to his school! Great read, thank you for sharing, look forward to seeing more updates from you.

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