ISY Elementary School Faculty Blog

A Connected School

Mike Simpson

9 October 2020

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. Up until this time 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:

  1. All students will be able to apply their knowledge and skills to adapt and contribute to an uncertain or unknown future.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 areas in which we need to 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 shared 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 crisis at some point in the future. 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.

Cheers,

Mike

SHOULD WE BE TEACHING PHILOSOPHY TO OUR CHILDREN?

Yes! Jenny, Neetika and I are experimenting with teaching philosophy to our elementary school students as part of our After School Activities program. I know Hannah and Petra are also interested in this as I am sure others are. 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.

ASSESSMENT,  REPORTING & ATTENDANCE

Reporting

After meeting with team leaders, the following is a summary of how we will report for Quarter 1 in Grades 1 to 5. Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten will get together early next week to confirm how this will happen for their students.

Timeline:

  • October 23: Specialist teachers advise Homeroom Teachers if they would like to add to a student’s personalized ISY Learner Attribute comment.
  • November 6: Reports completed on Powerschool
  • November 13: Reports sent to families on Powerschool
  • November 19; Parent Teacher Conferences (No Classes)

Process:

How we do this (templates, etc) needs to be confirmed next week but here are our responsibilities to start thinking about:

Homeroom Teachers:

  • Provide a 1-4 grade for each student in Mathematics, Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Science, and Social Studies. This will be accompanied by a common grade level blurb (300 character maximum) for each of these subjects. No personalized comments.
  • Provide a personalized ISY Learner Attributes comment (500 character maximum) for each student in relation to their online learning behaviors using the language of the ISY Learner Attributes. This comment will address the following:
    • How has the child shown an understanding of compassion?
    • How has the student supported their own learning and the learning of others by using the ISY Learner Attributes. No need to mention every attribute but use the language of the attributes: collaboration, communication, courage, creativity, critical thinking, reflection. If the student needs support to develop any of these attributes, this should also be addressed in this comment.

Specialist Teachers:

  • Provide a common grade level blurb (300 character maximum) for their subject. No personalized comments.
  • By October 23, advise homeroom teachers that they would like to contribute to an individual student’s ISY Learner Attributes comment.

Running Records:

We are using online Reading A-Z / RAZ Kids Running Records this year. Please use this Elementary Reading Levels (2020-2021) spreadsheet to enter the levels of each student. You may need to add your new students to your class. Linked to this spreadsheet is the ISY Benchmark Reading Levels that you can use as a guide in assessing and reporting on your students. 

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. If you have been advised by a family that their child will be absent, please mark them as absent and leave a note on Powerschool to say you have heard from the parents so Esther will not call them. I am not sure how to do this so check in with someone on your team if you are not sure.

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.

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. A reminder – 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, 2:40-3:15pm: Grades 4 & 5
  • Tuesday, 2:30-3:15pm: Grades PK, K, & 1

HALLOWEEN: October 23

Grade levels can get together to plan what will work for them but here are some general guidelines:

  • Halloween will be celebrated after specialist classes.
  • Students will be given time to change into their costumes after specialist classes
  • In the lead up to the day, teachers are invited to add Halloween activities that we can all use to this Halloween Folder.
  • Think of ways for students in different grade levels to connect.

CHINTHE SPIRIT FRIDAYS!

To get everyone through the week we will introduce a fun theme for each Friday. We will think of some ideas that are fun but not too distracting as we know learning time is precious. We will start next Friday with Chinthe Colors Friday – students can wear yellow and black, ISY shirts, anything that represents ISY. 

Previous Elementary School Posts

Elementary School Faculty Blog – May 21, 2021

ISY Elementary School Faculty Blog Something else to think about for next year… Mike Simpson May 21, 2021 We still might not know what next year will look like yet but I found this blog post useful in helping me think about what it could look like…"No More Easy...