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APPRECIATION ALL 'ROUND

Appreciation All 'Round
 

Today was the last day in a week of wonderful acts of kindness. Teacher appreciation week ended with a marvelous display of heartfelt gratitude from parents and students. This has touched each and every one of us at school and left us glowing. Thank you for the flowers, the food, the songs and stories, notes and art that show your gratitude to us. 

The best part of this week was seeing the children’s involvement in the process. I know it was not the parents’ intention for this to be a way to support their own children but some recent research shows that teaching children to be grateful has a huge impact on their success in life. (See my article earlier this year).

This weeks’ events wisely included the children at every stage, and they took a big role in preparing and presenting the appreciation with style and grace. As parents, you took advantage of the opportunity of teacher appreciation week and we as teachers are incredible glad you did.

A study of 14 year olds proved that gratitude coincides with school success for most students.  The Journal of Happiness Studies (2010) published the study proving that the children who had the highest levels of gradtitude… “for instance thankfulness for the beauty of nature and strong appreciation of other people” had higher GPAs, less depression and a were more positive than other students their ages.

Other recent studies have provent that of the virtues studied, gratitude had the strongest relationship to life satisfaction.

According to University of California, Davis psychology  professor, Robert Emmons, "The old adage that virtues are caught, not taught, applies here. Parents need to model this behavior to build their children's gratitude muscle.”  Our ISR parents certainly accompplished this over the last few days!

So, please allow me to express my gratitude, on behalf of the teachers and staff of ISR to our parents for a lovely week which was full of surprises and kindness.  And for more information about the link between gratitude and success for kids, please have a look at the following articles. 


http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/seven_ways_to_foster_gratitude_in_kids

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303773704579270293660965768

End of the Year Already?

posted May 17, 2015, 7:53 AM by Gena Engelfried   [ updated May 17, 2015, 8:03 AM ]


It is hard to believe the 2014-15 year is almost finished. And what a year it has been!


This year we welcomed  10 new families (including mine).  The teachers worked hard to do a lot of in-house collaboration and in addition to their amazing classroom work they completed documentation of all of the standards for every grade. Thanks to the teachers help we relicensed our schools and got our new report card figured out. 

 

In addition to these accomplishments…

We had our first ever Curriculum nights, with valuable Q&A from parents. Student are safer than ever with students learning how to deal with fire emergencies and many parents participating in first aid and CPR training. Fine and Performing Arts collaborations across campuses has led to increased examples of student creativity inlcuding two outstanding productions which were well attended and supported by parents. The library has been open and busy on the last Sunday of each month with families coming to pick out books and read together. We have two, beautiful buildings that are open and allow our students to appreciate school in the context of  nature. We have had great parent involvement for extra curricular activities and especially After School Activities.  Student Led Conferences were amazing. And we believe that our centralized blog is going well and gives students a chance to reflect upon and showcase their work (you really should see it!)

All of these latter accomplishments have something in commmon, PARENTS. Our partnership with parents makes learning complete. Parent involvement connects the circle between an educational institution and the most important institution of all, the family. Thank you all for a great year. 

CURRICULUM DAYS

posted Feb 6, 2015, 1:53 AM by Gena Engelfried   [ updated Feb 6, 2015, 3:29 AM by Barry Johnson ISR ]


What do those teachers do when they go to Duri? Why do they call this long weekend "Curriculum Days?"
(Yes, we DID load the golf clubs on the bus, but golfing was only a small slice of this trip's pie.)  So, what went on in Duri during the rest of our time there??

In addition to nuts and bolts planning, we invested hours making final plans for switching to STANDARDS BASED reporting. This is a huge mindshift (not to mention software and formatting issues as we revamp our existing system.) Our school has been using new COMMON CORE standards for Math and Language Arts for several terms now, but our assessments and reporting model were based on the old system. We are nearly ready to move toward assessing each student's progress using the standards as the lens of achievement. In addition to these objective standards, the schoolwide learning results, which reflect our values and mission, will also be assessed and reported upon. Each parent (and student) will be able to chart their individual progress as they work toward their own unique goals under the guidance of teachers who know their individual talents, skills needs and strengths.

In addition to this work, the teachers took on the huge task of reviewing each academic discipline and assessing the effectiveness of the standards, resources and instructional materials that we use to help children explore and discover the relevant knowledge and skills. Colleagues from both campuses worked together to discuss outcomes of our current methods. Reviewing the data collected in October, teacher committees went on to make suggestions and proposals that will be reviewed and, for the most part, implemented with the approval of our next budget and goal planning document. This process helps us keep current with the most recent research in education. Each curricular group researched and wrote a proposal and then presented their findings. This information will help us to decide curricular priorities and areas of focus for the coming year. 

And oh yes, I heard there was some golf on Thursday evening as well ....


Stay tuned for the new curricular updates and know that the teachers and I  are working very hard to insure that the children of ISR have access to the quality education that will help them reach their full potentials.

Welcome Back

posted Jan 11, 2015, 6:31 AM by Gena Engelfried


NEW YEARS GREETINGS – I was so thrilled to get back to school last week.  I know it’s quite a transition to come back to the rhythm and routine of daily life at school. I hope this week provided order and security for our students  (and a return to comfortable daily norms for their hardworking parents). 

I spent the first part of the week off campus at an ISS teacher-recruiting event.  Following my return over the past few days I have been asked the question, “What is ISS and what does it do for our school.” 

ISS is International School Services and our schools’ expat faculty and I are all ISS recruits. Although we are employees of our school’s board, the faculty and I work under the auspices of International School Services. Based in Princeton and founded in 1955, ISS is the “contractor” for our school and works with our school board to provide educational services for our students and our school. ISS sustains our school in many ways by providing curriculum support, HR and benefits coordination, updates and training for administration and support for school policy, and help with shipping and ordering ordering materials.    Our ISS “Contract Executive” guides and advises Alasdair and me. Those of you who met Charles Gregory at the last board meeting got a glimpse of our connection with ISS.   You may have also met Laura Benson, curriculum specialist, who is an ISS employee and was sent by ISS at my request to review our curriculum goals and practices this year. NEW YEARS GREETINGS – I was so thrilled to get back to school last week.  I know it’s quite a transition to come back to the rhythm and routine of daily life at school. I hope this week provided order and security for our students  (and a return to comfortable daily norms for their hardworking parents).

I spent the first part of the week off campus at an ISS teacher-recruiting event.  Following my return over the past few days I have been asked the question, “What is ISS and what does it do for our school.”

ISS is International School Services and our schools’ expat faculty and I are all ISS recruits. Although we are employees of our school’s board, the faculty and I work under the auspices of International School Services. Based in Princeton and founded in 1955, ISS is the “contractor” for our school and works with our school board to provide educational services for our students and our school. ISS sustains our school in many ways by providing curriculum support, HR and benefits coordination, updates and training for administration and support for school policy, and help with shipping and ordering ordering materials.    Our ISS “Contract Executive” guides and advises Alasdair and me. Those of you who met Charles Gregory at the last board meeting got a glimpse of our connection with ISS.   You may have also met Laura Benson, curriculum specialist, who is an ISS employee and was sent by ISS at my request to review our curriculum goals and practices this year. 

On January 4, Alasdair and I arrived at the ISS recruiting fair in Bangkok to spend four days searching for the best teachers in South East Asia to fill our open teaching positions. During that time we also had an opportunity to meet with other directors and principals, discuss best practices and pending changes, talk about the things that make our schools great and brainstorm ways to make them even better.  I learned a lot about ISS and other schools like ours during my time in Bangkok. If you would like to know more, check out the ISS website at www.iss.edu.

Those of you with children who will spend their childhoods in International Schools might be interested in the founding of ISS.  Arthur Sweetser was the author, educator, and entrepreneur who founded ISS.  He was a journalist during WWII and eventually who began his career by promoting global communication through education. In 1924 he had founded the International School of Geneva and in 1947 the United Nations International School in New York.  Sweetser hoped to create global understanding and communication through education. ISS is the non-profit result of his efforts. It is an institution that serves the needs of the international educational community. ISS helps schools like ours find high-quality faculty, sustainable practices, and access to materials and provides guidance and support for us as we guide and support your children. Meeting new teachers and affirming my commitment to International Education was a great way to start a New Year. Welcome back.

Gratitude

posted Nov 24, 2014, 12:15 AM by Gena Engelfried

Gratitude…Here it is, American Thanksgiving again and it is so easy for me to list the many things I am grateful for.  These include four healthy daughters, (one of whom gave us quite a scare this year).  I am also very grateful for this gracious community and for the hard work that has been done by so many others in the past to make our school work so well now.  At ISR we have an excellent faculty and staff members who inspire children to learn every day and who also share the burden of leadership and take responsibility for the world outside their classrooms.  Prior administrations have implemented excellent programs and ongoing assessments to insure that children are making progress (or to alert us if progress slows).  Safety at school is insured with our diligent health and safety team, which includes a real doctor, a fitness guru and the resources of a multinational company.  Our highly educated and dedicated parent community is committed to partnering with the school.  We have 100% participation in conferences, and almost every other school event – a number that is unheard of at most schools in the U.S.  Our governing board is provides smart, supportive leadership and includes the voices of all stakeholders. Yes, there is a lot for me to be thankful for at ISR.

The Thanksgiving holiday gives us an opportunity to introduce the habit of gratitude and reflection in our children’s lives. Studies have shown that gratitude and reflection are key elements to mental health and happiness. A daily dose of counting one’s blessings is a great habit to start early with children. We have so much to be thankful for! 

A Community Effort

posted Nov 2, 2014, 6:33 AM by Barry Johnson ISR

This weekend’s festivities illustrated how our community is strong and more than able and willing to create an amazing experience for our children in spite of minimal resources and diverse opinions and points of view. Many thanks are due to everyone who participated starting with Friday’s assembly. The talent of our children was showcased by staff and faculty who provided examples of the children’s artistic, academic and creative abilities. 

Saturday was filled with a flurry of activity on the part of parents who transformed the school, problem-solved logistical and facility problems and showed creativity beyond measure. The festivities were fun; family centered and provided something for everyone. The middle school activities gave the adolescents a chance to bond through adversity and prove their courage while raising questions of loyalty and belief. The ideas and conversations raised by the Zombie disco will provide material for discussions both at home and at school for weeks to come and will soon become ISR legend. Thanks to all who engineered this event and especially Suzie Nileshwar and Joanie Sullivan who provided leadership for these endeavors.

ACCOUNTABILITY and ASSESSMENT

posted Oct 24, 2014, 1:54 AM by Barry Johnson ISR

The following is the official ISR statement regarding assessment. I welcome all feedback regarding assessment at our school and would like to foster a lively dialogue about how we help each child reach their full potential at our school. Our standards-based assessment team is still working to decide on a format for a new report card and needs our patience while they pilot a second option.  I am looking forward to hosting an evening meeting to discuss assessment next month.

 

What is assessment?

 

Assessment is the collection of information about the learning and teaching process using a variety of strategies and tools.

 

We use assessment to…

 

·      improve student learning outcomes by providing meaningful and timely feedback

·      provide students with information to reflect on their own learning

·      give students opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills

·      ensure students understand what has been taught

·      assist teachers in adjusting teaching and planning according to student needs

·      provide data to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of our programs

·      assist in communicating accurate and accountable evidence about student learning to parents, community and board members

 

Philosophy of Assessment at ISR

 

At ISR we believe that students have a right to

·      worthwhile (engaging, educative and authentic) intellectual tasks that are validated against real world problems, roles and situations

·      clear, published and consistently applied teacher criteria in grading work and published models of excellent work that exemplifies standards

·      ample opportunities to produce work that they can be proud of and thus ample opportunity in the curriculum and instruction to monitor, self assess and self correct their work

·      genuine feedback: usable information on their strengths and weaknesses and an accurate assessment of their long-term progress towards a set of exit level standards

·      the freedom, climate and oversight policies necessary to question grades and test practices without fear of retribution

ISR Students are Responsible Individuals

posted Oct 4, 2014, 12:37 AM by Barry Johnson ISR   [ updated Oct 4, 2014, 12:39 AM ]

Being a responsible individual has so many connotations that it is difficult to discuss this in a paragraph. The expectation that our students will take responsibility for themselves (and thus become an asset to the community) is large and broad and encompasses so many aspects of character. For instance, taking responsibility might include admitting to having done something that was wrong or detrimental to others or to property (“Yes, I broke the I-pad”, “Yes, I pushed my friend out of the way so that I could have the good seat.”). This type of responsibility is difficult to take when there are consequences that involve shame or no obvious way to fix the situation. Of course, natural or logical consequences should follow all such actions (“I am sorry that you broke the I-pod, you will not have one for the next few weeks.” “Looks like in your rush to get on the bus, you chose to push your friend, you will be getting on the bus last for the rest of the week.”). Making sure that the consequences are immediate, natural or logical and appropriate and not do not demean the child’s sense of self will lead to a much better outcome than unrelated punishments. 

 It is essential, if we want the children to be able to take responsibility, that we also demonstrate our adult willingness to “own” our mistakes, pointing out when we make mistakes and how we address them. In addition it is important that we provide “shame-free” opportunities for the kids to take responsibility, ask for pardon and then fix the problem. Being able to say, “I screwed up, and this is how I fixed it.” is a life skill that will help our children to become better citizens, and more responsible students, individuals and family members as they grow up. 

On a personal note, I would like to thank all of this community, from the bottom of my heart, for the care and comfort you have offered as my family and I have struggled through our challenge with the illness of our daughter, Madeline. Her radiation is complete (for the next six months) and her last scan came back “clear” on Wednesday. My husband, Bruce, will be coming to Indonesia this weekend to join me at last. Your invitations to talk, eat, share rides to town and just listen have gotten me through this last two months. In spite of adversity, this has been an abundant fall and I feel that I have received a bountiful harvest of friendship and goodwill from wonderful people who have been so generous with their time and spirit. Thank you.

Assessment and Reporting

posted Sep 21, 2014, 5:01 AM by Barry Johnson ISR

Thank you all for coming to our parent “tea” on Friday. We had a chance to discuss a few different things of interest, but the focus was on Progress Reports and Assessment at ISR (Independent Schools of Riau).

At the meeting I announced that the progress report we have been using will give way to a new style of report in November. This is important because WASC (our accreditation agency) has asked us to make this change. It is also important because the school truly wants to find a way to communication accurately with you about your child’s progress. The new format will link our reporting to the current standards and will be directly related to your child’s progress through those standards. This “Standards Based” reporting is now the norm in the US. It is designed to let parents know how a child has progressed toward mastery with regard to the educational goals set by the standards. The most common mark we look forward to reporting is a mark that indicates that your child is “developing” with regard to the standards they have encountered in class. If most students are “developing” then our school is doing a good job of challenging students while moving them forward. When students master a standard it is time to move on to a more difficult level.  As students move forward, the target changes to a new and more challenging level.

If most students are “proficient” in their standards, there is a question as to whether they are learning and growing. If most students are emerging or have not been presented with a standard then we need to question “why?” We expect and hope that most students will be significantly challenged and will all have a few areas of mastery and a few areas where they are just starting out. Parents can expect to see the “developing” level reported instead of “proficiency” or “mastery.”

The school will continue to offer the nationally normed “MAP” tests which offer us a look at our children’s progress with regard to other children in the U.S. and in international schools.  We will also have student-led conferences in elementary where students do the most important thing of all, reflect and honestly report their progress.  The combination of these three types of assessment and reporting will give us a more accurate picture of your child’s progress so that you can make the best decisions possible regarding your child for the future.

Right now, Mr. Johnson is working with a team to pilot two possible standards based reporting models. Suzie Nileshwar has also agreed to be on this pilot team to provide a parent perspective. Stay tuned and enjoy your traditional format for Friday’s progress report. We will keep you posted. 

Creative Problem Solvers

posted Sep 14, 2014, 5:22 AM by Barry Johnson ISR

Over the past decade the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has been working to help educators meet the needs of policymakers and industry with the goal of preparing students to be successful in the modern workplace.  Another goal of this movement is to foster creativity and innovation in industry and to equip the next generation with the skills they will need to face the challenges of the 21st century.

One of the top skills identified by the “captains of industry” is the ability to do creative problem solving using collaboration.  ISR’s Expected School wide Learning results list includes the statement, “An ISR student is a CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVER.” You have probably seen the little mouse hovering over the cheese in a poster that graces all of our classrooms.

Children are, by nature, creative problem solvers. Anyone who has ever come into the kitchen and found a preschooler with a chair pulled up to the counter wrist deep in the cookie jar is a witness to this. The question is: what can we do to foster this trait and to help children learn to collaborate with others while they solve problems? Too often we thwart creative problem solving and collaboration by offering easy answers.

 

At home and at school we can foster creative problem solving by answering children’s questions with additional questions that will lead to the child’s own discovery of a solution.  “Why do YOU think it doesn’t get cold here in the winter like it did back home?” When the child comes up with a hypothesis, wrong or right, helping him or her to test and their idea is a great way to respond (although it is much easier to just give an answer).

“Can you build a model of the earth and the sun using this ball and a flashlight to check this out?” Inviting children to research and collaborate (Can you look this up yourself and let me know what you find? Can you ask your sister for help with this?) is also a great. Knowing and using specialized resources in the world (including other people), and being willing to share the discovery process with others is a key component to creative problem solving.  The “how and why” questions won’t stop coming and we don’t want them to. But responding with a thoughtful pause and another questions goes a long way to helping children find their own answers and will keep that curiosity alive while building skills and confidence.

For more information on 21st Century Skills please check out http://www.p21.org.

Nature vs. Nurture

posted Sep 9, 2014, 11:29 PM by Barry Johnson ISR   [ updated Sep 9, 2014, 11:31 PM ]


We have often heard about this conflict: genetics and biology and their influence over our children vs. whatever environmental and behavioral influences we have to offer. Which is more powerful? There is a third option; it is the power of partnership. When parents and educators working together to help each student reach his or her natural potential, we can indeed be a ‘force of nature.’ We can do this by paying special attention to the children’s natural development and the needs and tendencies that go along with each important stage. For instance, the younger children need movement and a chance to use their hands as well as their minds while they learn. The elementary age children have an enormous capacity for imagination and cognitive challenge and delight in stories and heroes. They are also natural builders and enquirers into all things scientific, and are capable great leaps of reasoning. The adolescents are naturally social and can think abstractly, they are creative and innovative. 

Your children’s teachers spend hours of planning time developing experiences that honor the children’s developmental needs while challenging their minds. As parents you generously give your time, talent and resources to supplement the children’s learning, while providing them with the love and security that leads to confidence and growth. This is the partnership that will lead to the success of your own children and of the next generation.

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