ISY Elementary Blog
A Connected School
Mike Simpson, Elementary School Principal
9 October 2020
I write this with a great deal of pride. As I mentioned in this blog last Friday, this week we have hosted a four person team from The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). During the week, they met with students, parents, teachers, and our leadership team to confirm the findings of our two year self-study. This visit and self-study is part of our continuous improvement work which is also a condition of our re-accreditation as a leading international school.
As expected, we have retained our fully accredited status as a WASC school and this extends to our ISY Nay Pyi Taw campus. We now begin another six year cycle of self-improvement that will culminate in another two year self-study and WASC re-accreditation visit. In the meantime we will provide annual updates to WASC on our progress towards the goals that we have set ourselves as part of our completed self-study:
- All students will be able to apply their knowledge and skills to adapt and contribute to an uncertain or unknown future.
- All students will develop the self-efficacy and agency necessary to drive their own learning, control their own lives and positively influence the lives of others.
- The ISY teaching faculty will feel connected and collectively capable in meeting the needs of ISY students.
We do not take our accreditation status for granted but as a leading international school, our re-accreditation was not in doubt. For us, as a proud but humble school, the re-accreditation self-study process will always be more of an opportunity to reflect on our strengths and on areas in which we can grow.
Our visiting WASC team were impressed and excited by what they saw and heard during their visit. They will provide us with a full written report in the next few weeks that outlines their findings but share with our faculty a summary of this report this afternoon.
The self-study and the WASC visit covered every part of the school. There are a lot of parts to our school and the WASC team was impressed by what they found in all of them. But what excited the WASC team, and what might really set us apart from other leading international schools, was how connected all of these parts are. The WASC team felt this connection as they read our 235 page self-study report and in every meeting and class visit during their week with us.
It was clear to them that we are all connected through our Mission and Vision and those connections are further strengthened by our Strategic Themes and our ISY Learner Outcomes and Attributes.
Everything we do, whether it be how we manage our finances, how we teach our children, how we develop our facilities, how we engage our community, is done to ensure that all of students graduate ISY as lifelong learners, agents for positive change, and compassionate global citizens. This in turn connects our students to their communities and the world in which they live now and will need to adapt to in the future.
It was also clear to the WASC team that we have been able to adapt to the challenges of COVID because we are so connected in all that we do – on an institutional and personal level. These connections have become stronger as we have adapted to the COVID crisis and we will be a better school because of it.
COVID is obviously not over and we need to continue to adapt to whatever it throws at us. However, it is a tremendous source of pride for me and I hope for all of us that our school is able to not just survive but really thrive in such an uncertain time.
COVID will eventually pass but it will inevitably be replaced by another unknown future crisis. Our self-study has committed us to prepare our students for an uncertain or unknown future. Our response to COVID continues to prove that our school is prepared and able to do just that.
SHOULD WE BE TEACHING PHILOSOPHY TO OUR CHILDREN?
Yes! We have some teachers experimenting with teaching philosophy to our elementary school students as part of our After School Activities program. It is a lot of fun to have students tackle big questions. This short video explains how teaching philosophy to children develops critical thinking – a key ISY Learner Attribute.
ONLINE LEARNING TIP: How was school today?
It can be difficult at the best of times to get our children to talk about their school day. But it is important to understand how they are experiencing learning online so we can support and motivate them. Each Friday for the next few weeks, we will post five different questions that might help your child open up about their experience online. Here are this week’s questions:
- Who inspired you today?
- What was the peak and the pit?
- What is something you heard that surprised you?
- What is something you saw that made you think?
- Tell me something you know today that you didn’t know yesterday.
COUNSELOR'S CORNER with Ms. Patty
Over the past few weeks, I have been working with several grade levels around the skill of empathy. Empathy is a skill that needs to be practiced and developed. Here are a few ways you can help your child develop this skill.
- Model emotions. Having a large Emotion Vocabulary helps people better understand their feelings. Verbalize your feelings to your children. These examples will encourage their ability to label feelings for themselves.
- Validate Feeling. Encourage your child to share their feelings. When a child feels heard and understood, they are better able to make positive choices to deal with those emotions.
- Perspective Taking. Provide opportunities for your child to see things from a different perspective. It will expand their world and encourage community.
If you would like to talk further about this or another concern, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Virtual Recess will be offered again this week 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.
ONLINE LEARNING FAMILY FEEDBACK
Thank you again to those families who provided feedback via our online learning surveys. In each of the last three surveys we have heard from 22-25% of elementary families in both synchronous and Chinthe Online Learning.
Overall, the responses were very positive and this reflects the time and hard work that our teachers are putting in to make the most out of the technology that we have available to keep students learning and connected.
As always, we have some areas that we are looking to improve in. One area is providing overviews of what is to be learned in advance. Our Friday family reports will therefore focus more on what is coming up in addition to reviewing the week that has finished. Our teachers are currently designing our Quarter 2 units and we will take this need into account as we confirm how the learning will be previewed to students and families.
Another area for continuous improvement is providing more individualized feedback to students. Comments from families suggest that you are aware that there are obvious challenges to this in an online environment. However, our teachers are committed to meeting the needs of every student and good feedback is a very important part of this.
Comments from families suggest that another area for continuous improvement is providing individualized feedback to students. One major advantage to our synchronous learning program is that teachers are able to teach students face to face throughout the day. This means that they are able to provide immediate feedback to students unlike the end of last when they had to rely mainly on written feedback which was not as immediate. There are still challenges to providing immediate individualized feedback online and our teachers are working to overcome these through conferencing with students individually or in small groups (usually in break out rooms), a combination of written and more immediate oral feedback, and teaching the students how to give each other feedback. Student feedback does not replace teacher feedback but feedback from classmates is often more meaningful to students than hearing the same thing from their teacher. Our teachers are committed to giving the best feedback they can to students and will keep working to find more creative and efficient ways to do this. It is also important that families are aware of their children’s progress and teachers will reach out to families as needed to keep students on track. Teachers also welcome families to contact them directly to be updated on their children’s progress.
We are also conscious of the need to develop ways for students to work offline when possible and practical. This is a difficult balance as it can be more difficult for teachers to track a student’s progress online if they are working offline. However, our teachers are having students work ‘offline’ through the use of notebooks for writing, solving problems and taking notes – especially as they are organizing their thinking. Students are also encouraged to share their offline work with their classmates. Again, teachers will continue to monitor screen time and will look for opportunities for students to work offline that will still enable student understanding to be monitored.
The use of breakout rooms to have students work in small groups has been identified as something that families appreciate. Depending upon social and instructional needs, we are able to use technology to have students meet as whole grade levels, classes, or in small groups.
Chinthe Learning Online
In response to feedback from our Chinthe Learning Online (CLO) families that highlights the importance of feedback and connections between students, teachers, and the school in general, we will be reverting back to more familiar technologies for Quarter 2. Our current Chinthe Learning Online platform is designed to provide a very independent self-paced learning experience. As this COVID crisis has continued, it has become clear that families and students need more of an adaptive approach that allows them to work on their own time zones at their pace but with more connection to others. To do this, we will replace the current CLO platform with technology platforms that are used in our synchronous classes. Depending upon the age of the students, those platforms will be Google Classroom and/or Seesaw. CLO students who were with us last will be familiar with these platforms and we will ensure that those who are new will be supported in this transition.
Previous Elementary School Posts
This week we celebrated Ms. Delphine’s 40+ year connection with ISY. You will know Ms. Delphine from the Elementary School office where she has served our community for 26 years.
The final quarter of any school year is important. This is often the quarter that students make the deepest connections and most progress.
Further to Dr. Hedger’s Tuesday update on the majority of our faculty departing Yangon the weekend before Thingyan, we would like to update you on how you can expect school to operate after Thingyan.
Our children are wonderful models of how effective a beginner’s mindset can be when nothing is certain and every challenge seems new.
Sometimes it is difficult to look on the bright side. But research shows that in difficult times, it is important for our mental health to allow ourselves to acknowledge that times are difficult and to feel rather than suppress negative emotions.
We have long term, yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly plans but our planning and preparation has now taken more of a day by day focus.
The International School Yangon
20 Shwe Taungyar Street
+95 1 512 793 /94 /95