ISY Elementary Blog
A complex and welcome challenge
Mike Simpson, Elementary School Principal
December 11, 2020

Having children on campus this week has given us a real lift as we head into the holidays. 

Secondary school students have been coming and going on campus to use some facilities for a couple of weeks now. But having Elementary students running and laughing on the playground in the afternoons has brought back memories of what school was like before we were forced online. It has been particularly fun to watch students, teachers, and parents who know each other online meet in person for the first time.

While we are unsure as to when we can welcome all of our students back to school for classes, having students on campus has sharpened our focus on preparing for that day. Reintegrating students back into classroom learning is a puzzle that we have been waiting to put together since we went online back in March. 

As a school, we are prepared. Our campus is safe and our units of study are mapped out to be adapted for the return of students. As I am sure you will appreciate, there are many other factors that are beyond our control that need to fall into place for us to welcome all students back into classrooms. These factors will also dictate to us how we are able to re-open and add a degree of complexity to the puzzle. 

We are no strangers to complexity! Schools are used to dealing with complex problems and there have been more of those this year than ever before. Complex problems are different to complicated problems.

Complicated problems are hard to solve, but they can be solved with rules, processes and systems in a very hierarchical structure. Landing a person on the moon is an example of a complicated problem. 

The rigid structures designed to solve complicated problems do not work well for complex problems. Complex problems involve too many unknowns and interrelated factors to be able to reduce any solution to rules, processes and systems. Teaching and learning throws up many complex challenges which require an adaptive approach to problem solving. We can prepare and plan for complex challenges but we always must be prepared to adapt our plans to account for circumstances that are beyond our control.

In dealing with complex challenges, our school will always revert back to ‘What? Why? How?’ thinking.

What do we want to do? We want to welcome students back onto a safe, compassionate, and connected campus.

Why do we want to do it? It is clear from what has been going in the playground this week, our students love being together at school. This week, a Grade 2 class provided me with their arguments for opening school. Every single student mentioned that they want to be with their friends. 

How can we do it? As for any complex challenge, this will always depend on the circumstances that we need to adapt to. We need to adapt the innovative thinking and practices that were developed online for use in the classroom and put aside some online practices that will no longer be effective in a classroom environment. And, as always, we will need to balance an academic focus with a focus on the physical and social-emotional wellbeing of each student.

Reopening our campus is a complex challenge that is welcomed by all of us – we have been waiting since March and already have multiple plans that we are ready to adapt. We want our students with us and seeing some of them back on campus gives us the energy and motivation to adapt yet again to circumstances and constraints that we will need to work within to make that happen.

Kinni, Theodore. “The Critical Difference Between Complex and Complicated.” MIT Sloan Management Review, 21 June 2017,

UWS-ISY Sports-A-Thon

Join us THIS SATURDAY, December 12th for the 3rd annual UWS-ISY Sports-A-Thon!  This fun active event raises funds for the UWS-ISY Wan Kaung School partnership, allows children in Northern Myanmar to attend school with appropriate supplies and resources.  If you are interested in learning more about this amazing program, check out the ISY website.

This year’s event will be held virtually, through Zoom, THIS SATURDAY, December 12 from 9:00-11:00 AM.

How can you participate?

  1. Set a personal challenge or two.  Gather sponsors that will donate when you complete your challenge.  Join a zoom meeting on December 12th to complete your challenge. Finally, donate for completing your challenge.

  2. Make a Flipgrid video of your family member(s) completing their physical challenge prior to December 12th and make a donation! Don’t know how to use Flipgrid? Watch this video.

Donations will be collected through the ISY Online Ordering System found through your Powerschool account. Here is a video to help explain how to donate!

We appreciate your support and participation!


Virtual Recess is still running from 1:00-1:30 PM.  Students should use the All Grade Specialist Link to join on their assigned day.  All activities will be student driven but will include fun and games.

Grades 4 & 5: Tuesday
Grade 3: Wednesday
Grade 2: Thursday
Grade 1: Friday

Just a reminder that we finish school for the holidays next Friday, December 18, 2020 and return in the new year on Monday, January 11, 2021. Goodbye 2020!


Did you know that Mr. Zar Li, our head security officer, was a former Mr. Myanmar! He is very fit and knows 100s of different exercises to stay fit.

Mr. Zar Li has kindly offered to run 15 minute work outs for our students that will start at 8:10am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. These work outs will start next Monday. The Zoom link for the workouts will be on the Friday Family Report email that you receive from your child(ren)’s teacher. All ages are welcome and parents are welcome to join in too.

The workouts will finish at 8:25am to give students time to get a drink and get organized before joining their classes at 8:30am.

These workouts do not replace regular P.E. classese during the school day. 

Physical Activity Ideas for ES Students To Do At Home from Mr. Wyatt

Here is a link to some great ideas to keep our students active at home. They are fun and require little or no equipment or preparation.

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