ISY Elementary School Faculty Blog

A proud and humble school

Mike Simpson

2 October 2020

Next week, we have a committee from WASC working with us online. WASC works with many top international schools as part of their continuous improvement efforts.

We have spent the last two years involved in a very detailed self-study that focused on all parts of our school – from curriculum to traffic control, from ASAs to the business office. The WASC committee is working with us next week to help us to reflect on what we have studied and to confirm our action plan for the future. Students, families, staff, and faculty all played a role in our self-study. Our new ISY Learner Outcomes and Attributes is one product of our collaborative efforts as outlined below.

As I have prepared documents, schedules, and meetings in preparation for this online visit, I could not help but reflect on how we have evolved as a school since we adopted our compassionate Mission and Vision. I am not sure I have worked (or ever will work) in a school and for a community that lives its Mission and Vision as much as ISY does. This commitment to our Mission and Vision really shines through in our self-study. 

As a community, we are positive and proud of what we do for our students and what they in turn are able to achieve. But we also know we can improve. It is this humility that will always enable us to keep improving for the sake of our students and the world which is crying out for compassionate global citizens, lifelong learners, and agents for positive change.

You may have some WASC representatives join some of your classes or collaborative meetings next week or you might be scheduled to meet with the WASC committee. Just be yourselves – positive, proud, and humble.

Cheers,

Mike

WHY DID WE MOVE TO AN INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH TO LEARNING?

This video from Curriculum Redesign, an organization that inspired some of our self-study work around the ISY Learner Attributes, is definitely worth a watch if you need to explain to anyone why we are investing in interdisciplinary learning. This video has also been shared with families.

ASSESSMENT,  REPORTING & ATTENDANCE

Reporting

We are at the end of Week 5 which is half way through the Quarter.

We will be providing a report card at the end of Quarter 1 which will be supported by a parent-teacher conference. This report card will be very light on text (probably just a common blurb about what has been covered in each subject) but we will need to indicate where students are on a 1-4 scale in English Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies.

Large specialist groups make this too difficult to use a 1-4 scale at this stage in specialist subjects.

The team leaders will meet soon to confirm our timeline and format but I just wanted to give a heads up to homeroom teachers that we will be reporting grades at the end of Quarter 1.

As we are halfway through the Quarter, this is the time that you will need to start thinking about which families you might need to check in with so there are no surprises when we report grades. The team leaders will meet with Patty and I to confirm the best way to do this. 

Assessment

Assessing what a student can do online is challenging. Just before school started, I sat in on some webinars that provided some really sound and practical advice on this. Here are some key ideas that I thought would be useful:

  • Use the data that you trust the most – it doesn’t matter if it is summative (a test or final project) or formative (observations, discussion).
  • All assessment is formative and it all counts!
  • If you are unsure as to whether a student has mastered a skill or understands a concept, ask them to explain it to you. Generally, if a student can explain it, they know it.

That last point is I think important in any context, but especially online. It might mean that you do not have a lot of completed assessment tasks but you can take notes at any time with any discussion you have with a child and if you trust your assessment then those notes are valid evidence of learning – possibly even more so than a finished project or test. 

It is important to have a system to record your notes. Our Early Elementary teachers are masters of this if you need any ideas.

Attendance

Esther will keep sending attendance reminders out at 9:30am so she can check in with families early. But don’t worry if you haven’t had the chance to do it by then. The aim to have your attendance completed in the morning as soon as you can. 

We don’t want to introduce a formal Powerschool post-specialist attendance check in. However, if you have a student who is consistently not returning after a specialist class (or missing other classes) and, please reach out to parents with a friendly email…’We missed Milly in the afternoon today…’ Please blind copy Patty and I on those emails just so we know if we need to follow anything up. Parents will often be struggling to keep up with what their children are up to but is important that parents know if their children are missing classes when it comes to reporting on and explaining progress. 

9 WAYS ONLINE TEACHING SHOULD BE DIFFERENT FROM FACE-TO-FACE

This post was shared with me a while ago and comes from an excellent blog: Cult of Pedagogy. You will recognize a lot of these ‘best practices’ in what you are doing in your practice and it is nice to remind ourselves that we are doing a great job.

WASC ONLINE ACCREDITATION VISIT: OCTOBER 5-9

WASC is here next week. In this online set up we will be relying mainly on department and grade level leaders for scheduled meetings with the WASC committee. If you are involved in a scheduled meeting you will have already been sent a meeting invite.
WASC Committee Members Visiting Classes:
We have provided the WASC committee with Zoom links to your classes. Throughout the week, they will be dropping in on classes as their schedule allows. Their video will be on with their name followed by WASC. You don’t need to welcome them but if students are wondering, feel free to explain who they are and that they are helping us improve as a school.
There are four WASC Committee members:
  • Marilyn George
  • Madeleine Bystrom
  • Jennifer Sylvester
  • Molly Burger
Quarter 1 Standards
I think we have all done this but if you haven’t please use the documents linked below to indicate what standards you have covered in the first Quarter. Just put an ‘x’ in the first column:

INCLUSIVE PRACTICES AUDIT with Dr. Belinda Karge

Dr. Belinda Karge is an inclusion specialist who has worked with us for the last three years as part of our transition to an inclusive school. 

Over the last few weeks she has met with team and department leaders, our learning services team, and students to provide us with some feedback on where we are at and where we need to go.

Belinda is very impressed with the progress we have made in three years. In the Elementary School, Darla, Patty, Thet Thet, and Diana can take a lot of credit for the progress we have made in such a short space of time. Belinda was also struck by the willingness and expertise that our teachers have in differentiating for our students. Our team leaders were able to give clear examples of specific differentiaton strategies that we are using in our classes and Belinda really felt that we believe in doing all that we can to meet the needs of each and every student. This is obvious to me too and I know it is appreciated by our families.

Our team leaders were also able to provide some insights as to next steps and how to use the expertise we have among us to make even more of a difference. These insights will help guide our work this year.

PLANNING FOR QUARTER 2: PROSPERITY

We are off to a very good start in planning these units. Please continue to plan for synchronous learning and we will adapt for Chinthe Learning Online. We will no longer use Moodle for Chinthe Learning Online so that makes it easier for our planning to be adapted. We will meet on Monday at these times to check in as to where everyone is at and to make sure we are still making connections:

  • Monday, 2:00-2:40pm: Grades 2 & 3
  • Monday, 2:40-3:20pm: Grades 4 & 5
  • Monday, 3:15-4:15pm: Grades PK, K, & 1

ES CLO SPECIAL GUESTS: Please sign up

Thank you for signing up to be a ‘Special Guest’ in our Chinthe Learning Online student meetings. You are providing a really important connection to the school for these students that they really need at the moment. You can sign up using this ES CLO Meeting ‘Special Guests’ Schedule.

The need for regular communication and connection between students, teachers and other students remains the biggest need expressed by families. This is more of an issue in our Chinthe Learning Online program. Our families realise that this is an issue with time zones as much as anything. 

We cannot include our CLO students into our synchronous classrooms but we do need to think of ways to meet the need for connection. Meeting this need will keep everyone positive which makes it easy for us to meet other needs and will also help our students transition into synchronous or, dare I say it, real classrooms when they get back into our time zone.

Our CLO students meet throughout the week and they would love it if teachers here in Yangon would drop in from time to time to say hi. This would not require any planning on your part and you can check in with Jordan (PK-1), Ian (2-3), or Kalu (4-5) to see if they would like you to read a book or play a game or even explain something that you had already taught in your synchronous class.

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