The Alliance Cultural Foundation (ACF) Chair Stanley Yen recognized that although new teachers, majority of whom are young, have a strong passion to teach, a considerable level of support is necessary to overcome challenges, anxiety, and loneliness particularly for ones who are allocated to schools in the remote, leaving their hometowns with limited teaching and life competency skills, often tasked to handle additional administrative matters due to inadequate resources in the area. In recognition of the recurring need, Chair Yen introduced the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) forum as part of Taiwan’s annual induction training for new teachers. After four consecutive years of heading the induction training and the forum with the National Changhua University’s Center for Teacher Education, the forum, an idea transferred from business to education where teachers now have the platform to co-learn and grow has become its key feature.
The heart of the YPO experience revolves around a monthly meeting with a group of eight to twelve people. YPO calls these meetings “forums,” and carefully creates a confidential and supportive environment where members bounce their most difficult challenges off other leaders. Forums adhere to a strict set of principles of respect and support and is a place where peers can have candid conversations and exchange ideas.
YPO was founded in 1950 after the Second World War by a young American business owner named, Raymond P. Hickok, who’s business flourished during the global economic expansion at the young age of 30. Because of his own early struggles in business, he wanted to help other businesspeople by founding the YPO. Between the young leaders, they were able to share problems, experiences and find answers among each other.
“Better leaders through lifelong learning and idea exchange.” – Raymond P. Hickok
As the organization grew in population, members were divided into smaller groups of eight to ten, dubbed the forum, to maintain the quality of the meetings. From 1986 to 1987, Chair Yen took on the role as YPO’s Vice President in Asia; it was then that the forum was introduced into Asia. Chair Yen was not only a member of Taiwan’s forum, but also a member of the global cross-border forum, dubbed First International Forum (FIFO). Each month, members openly discussed a variety of issues covering business, life, relationships, and are guided by the founding principles of trust and confidentiality. They gain from each other’s experiences to help solve their own issues. The meetings continue lifelong, with members still diligently meeting even after the age of 70.
Introducing the Forum into Education
ACF first introduced the forum into the education sector in 2015. It was initiated with school Principals and department heads in the Huatung region, then with education organizations such as Sharestart. In its course, ACF developed a forum procedure suitable for educators. In 2017 when ACF was invited to head the annual induction training for new teachers alongside National Changhua University’s Center for Teacher Education by Taiwan’s Ministry of Education (MOE), the forum was introduced as part of the training.
ACF recruited senior teachers as forum moderators. With eight to ten new teachers in a forum, moderators are tasked to guide and support them throughout their first teaching year. 2020 marks ACF’s fourth consecutive year in heading the induction training. In the last three years, over 500 senior teachers have attended the moderator training; 80% of which have committed to the role accompanying approximately 2,500 new teachers each year.
This year, ACF took one step further and created an online advanced moderator training program. The program, directed by Chair Yen and ACF Consultant Shiping Fan, passes the knowhow to experienced moderators to have the ability to train future moderators. The 2020 new moderator training in July was led by the 40 selected experienced moderators; they took the lead in the planning of the training curriculum which were conducted in the northern, central, southern, and eastern parts of Taiwan.
The Impact of the Forum
July 2020, teachers were asked to complete an assessment form on the impact of the forum. Over 90% of new teachers disclosed that the greatest value of the forum was its emotional support. Having a trusted space to share problems, new teachers found they gained strength, confidence, and answers. Through experience sharing, they also learned different teaching methods. New teachers also felt supported by the advice of moderators; they learned that moderators too endured many challenges in their teaching journey. Being able to openly discuss and co-discover solutions built strength in each of the members which prepared them to face future challenges.
Characteristics of the Moderator
The forum has three roles – the moderator, the administrator, and members. In the three roles, the moderator holds the key to the success of the forum. Their role is to ensure that discussions remain positive without criticism or debate, and that what they contribute is part of solving the problem. Moderators have leadership, belief, creativity, they are open-minded, lifelong learners and have the ability to communicate well with young teachers avoiding downward communication and ensures that members abide by the use of the “I” statement in discussions. Moderators reflect that they too grow from leading the forum.
Key Principles of the Forum
Confidentiality & the “I” Statement
The lasting success of the forum is due to each member upholding confidentiality as well as the use of the “I” statement. The two founding principles preserve trust and sustains a positive discussion space.
One teacher, who had recently received her teaching certificate but had been teaching for several years prior, benefited greatly from the support of the forum. Due to her former experience, she found it difficult to ask for help at the new school when faced with challenges but was able to seek advice from forum members, all from different schools, without judgement. She was able to gain new perspective and relieve her stress.
Leading a Forum
Each forum meet-up begins with a “feelings thermometer” exercise, an exercise that provides an immediate check on the overall mood of each forum member. Each member then updates the group, focusing on four areas – teaching, relationships with students, parents, and peers, followed by discussion of issues. When discussing issues, moderators guide members into co-discovering solutions allowing new teachers to in the process discover their own education approaches.
The Moderator Commitment
Pairing moderators with new teachers is a challenging task; new teachers are allocated to various cities and teach different subjects. Those allocated to Taiwan’s offshore islands have an added obstacle to attend forums. In effort to ensure the wellbeing of new teachers in their inaugural year, moderators are creative in their commitment and leadership to overcome hurdles.
One moderator who was paired with teachers allocated to several cities, she hosted online forums, and conducted cross-subject discussions. Another moderator, when recognizing an urgent need, contacted the school and visited the teacher.
Three years on, the forum continues to support new teachers to become better teachers. Chair Yen encourages all members to share their gained experiences to help create greater impact in Taiwan’s path towards education revolution.
Parlee, B. (2017). YPO Forum Services. Retrieved from: bertparlee.com/ypo-forum-services