as presented in IPSEF, Dubai, on September 2016
Middle East is a fast growing area in all aspects and IPSEF brings together powerful school people. We are a well-established play-based pre-school, currently evaluating the potential for international expansion of our concept.
UAE is a region we are mostly interested, so I thought speaking in IPSEF would be a great opportunity to present our education philosophy education in a broad audience and meet interesting people that could be potentially turned into valued partners.
Why did you get involved in Education?
I‘m a business guy and have spent almost 20 years working in top financial management positions of Greek enterprises. Five years ago I decided to exclusively work on developing our family preschool into a world class education business, mainly for two reasons:
a) education is an industry adding so much value in a society. It’s so much more self-fulfilling to assist in raising strong children, than to merely achieve some financial objectives for a bunch of private business shareholders.
b) business-wise, I understand education as an industry lacks entrepreneurship. Most school owners and directors have strong education background but rather weak business sense and strive to innovate, which prevents them from achieving the most out of their efforts. I believe I can assist into transforming our unique and very successful free education model into a world class leader, maintaining at the same time its exceptional educational aspects.
What are you currently working on?
The last five years we strengthened the position of our Dorothy Snot pre-school in Greece and developed a strong and exceptionally working education philosophy.
Beginning Fall 2016 and for the next five years, our effort will be to transform our Life-derived Learning concept on play based education, into a top class model for pre-schools & kindergartens and manage to expand our international presence.
What project would you have liked to work on?
I would have loved having been actively involved somehow into redesigning the education system of my country, Greece. I believe we have been doing it all wrong for the last decades and I’m sure I could be of great help. Of course, that means to be involved in politics, which is not either a short or a long term goal for me!
Who is your inspiration?
Out of the several people I could mention, both from business and education world, I will stick to my good friend and mentor Tom Hobson, the famous “Teacher Tom” from Seattle. He has been a constant source of inspiration to me, both on his writings and sayings on how to respect the will and enforce the freedom of very young children, in early education. I just love him!
What is the greatest challenge within your role?
My greatest daily challenge is to make sure that our school keeps progressing and innovating, without leaving behind our main goal: making sure that children are the real owners of their school life!
What 1 thing would improve your working life?
Having more human resources with a deep understanding of our philosophy and vision and thus being able to undertake serious parts of my daily administrative and business developing role. But, I’m working on that!
What 3 things do you see as being the focus of Middle East education over the next five years?
1. The effort of developing an education philosophy of its own, in all levels. A more tailor-made approach to the special needs and challenges of this fast growing area, maintaining at the same time a high quality level of services.
2. To remain capable of integrating effectively the constantly growing numbers of young population, both expats and locals, without being affected by any geopolitical uncertainties.
3. The effort of moving towards more joyful and free education models, compared to the rather disciplined and rigid philosophy we mainly see today (especially in early education)
How do you relax?
Running, reading, hiking, travelling. Being a happy school owner however, makes it some times difficult to separate completely private life from school’s active community!
Which 3 industry people would you like to invite to dinner?
Apart from my good friend Teacher Tom, whom I have the chance to dine with pretty often (!!):
1. Dr. Peter Gray, a man I greatly respect and admire
2. Sir Ken Robinson, because his famous 2006 TED speech on “school killing creativity” triggered millions of people around the world to start thinking what is wrong with our established education system
3. Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, Head of KHDA, in order to have the chance to discuss in detail his vision and plans regarding Dubai’s education future
Come and hear John’s talk at
IPSEF Middle East on September 28, 2016
You can read John’s career biography here
visit our website
IPSEF Middle East
We spent the whole week preparing our fairy tea party which took place on Thursday and Friday in the woods. After reading in school the legend of the rainbow fairies, we decided to help these little fairies make a rainbow.
In school, we put on the wings we made out of hangers and rope and practiced how to use the fairy dust and learnt a few spells! We mixed paints, just to find out that we only need three colors to make so many more.
We even tried to make our colors shine by sprinkling some fairy dust on them.
On Thursday and Friday, we had a wonderful day in the woods!
We looked around for some fairy signs and while looking we found some acorns instead and a little tortoise wandering around.
We built our fairy welcome houses in the trees and decorated them the way we wanted.
And used what we found to make a rainbow.
(by Claire Hadjinikolaou, English teacher in Dorothy Snot, Athens)
Learning occurring through play based on real life situations, is in the core of life-derived learning. Here is a perfect example:
Kindergarten kids visited a fashion house specializing in wedding gowns! They were excited (ok, it goes more for the girls!) and coming back in school decided to perform a wedding!
Teacher Chryssa was convinced to be the bride, so play started! (FYI, they took it up to the end!! 🙂 )
Our friend playworker Meynell visits our Athens school!
Playing with water is babies’ favorite thing to do, especially during their first days in school…
To make it even better, we tried to add liquid soap into the water. Babies loved it!
They made waves in the water with their hands and suddenly, lots of bubbles popped up!
(by Anastasia Kouroubali, teacher in babies’ class in Athens)
Τeachers in toddlers’ class created a heaven, with hangin’ birds and then piled up boxes for kids, to be able to reach them.
But children had an other idea: they got sticks and bottles and touched the birds this way!
Respecting children is the key, no matter what their age is!
(video by Evangelia Nteka, teacher in toddlers’ class)