ISY Elementary School Faculty Blog

Purpose over Perfection

Mike Simpson

February 5, 2021

This has been a challenging and unsettling week that has added another level of uncertainty to an already uncertain time. 

In times of uncertainty, more is asked of schools and of teachers. The more uncertain the times, the more is asked of us. This is because communities and families see us as being able to provide their children with the sense of certainty that children need to feel safe and happy. 

As I am sure that you have all realized long before this week, providing a sense of certainty in uncertain times is exhausting. I have no doubt at all that we are all capable of continuing to provide the sense of certainty that our children need. But we do need to make sure that we do not exhaust ourselves in the process. I have been thinking about this a lot this week and I believe that a clear focus on our own purposes for teaching will sustain us and give us the energy to keep going.

Earlier in the year, I met with many of you and asked you to use this survey and reading to reflect on what your educational belief system was. This is an exercise that I did as a principal to get to know you better as professionals and get an insight into what motivates you. 

The first time I did this survey was as a teacher in Caracas, Venezuela. I did it as part of a book study and posted the graph by the whiteboard in my classroom. I would like to say that this was all part of some amazingly insightful motivational daily meditative practice. The reality was that I was not sure what to do with it so I stuck it on my classroom wall. And when I became Elementary Assistant Principal I still did not know what to do with it so I stuck it on my office wall. 

It was not until my last few days in Caracas, as I was writing thank you emails to people while cleaning out my office, that I realized just how important my purpose for teaching was in sustaining me through some very uncertain times. In between protests and power cuts and all the other inconveniences and tragedies that none of us at school could control, I still felt I was able to fulfil my purpose as a teacher. That didn’t mean I was not affected by what I could not control. But in retrospect, I think these uncontrollable things sharpened my focus on my purpose for teaching more in Caracas than in Christchurch where my focus was on the perfect unit or lesson. I had not dropped my standards but I had learned that a focus on perfection in times of uncertainty is a recipe for disappointment and fatigue whereas the satisfaction of fulfilling my purpose when times are tough is energizing. Since that realization, I have always valued purpose over perfection and I would strongly encourage all teachers to do the same – whether they be in Caracas or Christchurch.

To bring it back to us at ISY, I had another look at which of the five educational beliefs systems represented in the survey were most common amongst us. We all call on each belief system in different contexts but it seems that we all identify most strongly as Self-Actualizers, Cognitive Processors, Social Recontructionists or a combination of these. This actually makes a lot of sense given our school’s Mission and Vision. I have copied the definitions of these profiles from the reading:


If your preferred educational belief system is that of a self-actualizer, you have an orientation toward Gestalt and humanistic psychology. You perceive the purpose of education as the nurturing of each child’s unique individual potential. Each child needs to be encouraged to develop personal integrity, a love for learning, creativity and sensitivity, and self-fulfillment.

Cognitive Processor

If you have a preference for the orientation of the cognitive processor, you believe that the primary functions of education are to develop clarity of thought in students, to use intellectual reasoning – particularly higher-level thinking skills – to solve complex problems and make rational decisions. For you, the goal of education is to assist students to learn how to learn.

Social Reconstructionist

As a social reconstructionist, you are motivated by a belief that education can make the world a better place. You agree with H. G. Wells when he wrote, ‘Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.’ You are orientated toward social justice and environmental protection. You care profoundly about social issues such as equal opportunity for minority groups and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. You believe that education can assist young people achieve a future condition of peace, a new world order based on equality of race, ethnicity, and gender. 

There are a lot of uncontrollable factors that are distracting and preventing us from teaching how we would like to at the moment. But that does not mean that you are not fulfilling your purpose as a teacher. You all most certainly are and it is important that you do not lose sight of that fact.

Looking back on this week, I hope that you are energized by the fact that, in spite of all of the things that are beyond your control, you made a child feel good about themselves, what they can do, and what they are capable of doing (Self-Actualizer), that you helped a child think for themselves (Cognitive Processor), and that you helped a child believe that they can make the world a better place (Social Reconstructionist). 


While you are in the middle of reimagining teaching and learning, I was wondering if you would like to share your thoughts or experiences. No pressure but if you have any videos or articles that have caught your attention, I’d love to include them in this faculty blog. And if any of you like to write or want to give it a go, I’d love to help you get your ideas out to people who would appreciate them. Just let me know if you would like to share anything.

Here is an article asking Has the Pandemic Ushered in New Norms in Education?


Each teacher has a blend of students within each of their classes who require different accommodations to meet their learning needs. There are students who require more explanation, hands-on activities, modeling in a variety of ways for one specific outcome, etc. There are other students who thirst for more in-depth learning, enrichment, curriculum compacting, etc. to maximize their learning.

Sebastian Paredes is a science/math teacher who is always ready when a student has a particular need.  Recently, a student had completed his activity and was ready for more. Seba knows his students and had planned in advance that this particular student would be ready and want to dive deeper into his learning. He quickly opened a break out room, met with the student, and then carried on with the rest of the class who were still completing their activity. Seba’s planning allowed this student to reach his highest potential. 

This is an example of a teacher knowing their student and what that particular student would need to keep their engagement and learning at a level needed for their personal growth and success. 

Please contact Lynn Shoemaker at to “share out” your inclusive practices. 


We will start next week online as we assess when we are able to resume our Transition Day schedule.

Below are links to the Quarter 3 schedules and guidelines that we are using to guide us. These are all available on the Elementary Faculty Pages.


Q3 Feb 1 – Mar 5: ES Specialists Schedule (including Transitional Days)

  • We have made some changes to the schedule from last week. If these changes affect you directly, you should know this already but anyone can reach to me if you have any questions.
  • At this stage, all specialist classes will continue to be online except for Patty’s Life Skills classes. Classes are not yet able to visit the library.


Q3 Transitional Day Recess Schedule (Feb 1 – Mar 5)

  • Now that the students are in the swing of things, we have settled on a recess schedule. We need to be tight with our supervision and students must be supervised wherever they are playing (including on the four square courts) to ensure masks are being worn and students are playing safely. Students should not be playing tag. Four square and football is ok if the players wash their hands before and after and the ball is washed at the end of recess.
  • Only one grade level is to be on recess at a time, with the exception of KG and PK who can play together.

No Longer Offering Chromebooks

As new students join our classes, our existing students arrive back into the country, we will no longer be offering Chromebooks as a matter of course. We initially offered Chromebooks to get everyone up and running quickly but it is not our policy to provide laptops or Chromebooks for elementary school students. Patty and I will make this clear to these students as they prepare to join us. This is just a heads up for teachers not to offer them to students. Teachers may still be asked to provide supplies as we have been doing.

MAP Testing Postponed

We have postponed MAP testing in the Elementary School and will reassess the timing of these tests at the end of next week.

Grade 2-5 students will be tested in Reading, Language, and Mathematics.

2021 Winter NWEA MAP Testing Google Site

MAP Testing Schedule (Grades 2-5): February 1-5.

We appreciate that this year does not exactly lend itself to MAP testing and we will provide more details soon about how it will work online. We will not be using Transition Days to MAP test. Students will be able to test online from home. As always, MAP testing will be considered just one data point used to fairly and accurately assess a student’s academic achievement and progress. We will be able to use our professional judgement to decide how much weight we place on the data given the circumstances.



The following message will go out to parents today:

‘With COVID, we needed to adapt our schedule for online learning and we felt we needed to prioritise our core curriculum subjects as we started the year. This meant we needed to combine our World Language and Culture and Communication programs. These classes are related but intended to be taught separately so students can focus on developing specific skills in their chosen language. 

For the first semester (ending today, January 29), we decided upon a Culture and Communication focus with all Grade 2-5 students (French and Mandarin) in the same class. We decided to use the Education Perfect app to provide our students with skills practice in the language of their choice. This is not how we would normally teach languages in the Elementary School at ISY and, while this app is a useful supplementary resource, it is not the basis of our language program.

For our second semester (beginning this Monday, February 1) we will shift our focus from general Culture and Communication classes to specific French and Mandarin classes. We will be separating the students into separate French and Mandarin classes which will allow for smaller groups all focusing on the target language. We will have two teachers assigned to each of our French and Mandarin classes to allow for more specific instruction.’

Our schedule will not change but instead of Grade 2 to 5 students going to the Grade Level Link for Culture and Communication, they will go to separate Mandarin or French Links. These links will be posted in this ES Zoom Links document. These links are also to be posted on Google Classrooms so the students can access them.


New Schedule

Patty will still be offering Online Recess for our students but given the small numbers in each grade, we will consolidate the students into these sessions:

  • Grades 3, 4, & 5: Tuesday at 1pm
  • Grades 1 & 2: Thursday at 1pm


If you have any student (or students) that you would like me to recognise for living the ISY Attributes send me an email with a sentence about why they are to be recognised and a time that I could come on Zoom and say hi. Any time or day is OK – If I have a meeting I’ll suggest another time until we get one that works. I will jump on your Zoom and then I’ll get you to put the student or student(s) into a break out room with me. I’ll have a chat with them and take a screenshot that I will send to their parents.


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 each week.

Please encourage students to join and also post the Zoom link on your Google Classroom (if your class has one)

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.

Instructional Orders

Thank you for getting your orders in on time.

Report Writing

Report Writing Instructions:


January 29: Semester Ends

February 5: Reports Completed for Checking (a spreadsheet will be created for this and shared with you next week).

February 9: All comments and grades posted to Powerschool.

February 11: Reports to Parents

There will be no conferences for this reporting period. As always, if you have any students who are struggling or may be disappointed with their projected mark, please reach out to their families before they receive the report.

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