April 21, 2017--Sometimes in the drive to become an even better school we focus closely on how we can improve and miss the positive things that happen every day.
So rather than sharing graphs of student achievement or pictures of architectural drawings, as I have in the past, I would like to tell you a story…three stories in fact. In each case, they show the magic that can happen when students have great teachers who believe in them.
These are stories of successful students who, along with their teachers, embody our vision of Challenge Create Change.
Student number one is a first grader. This is her second year at ISD after attending a local bilingual school for PK. In Kindergarten, she was very quiet, reluctant to speak to teachers, and often seemed uncertain during the school day. She was afraid to participate either one on one or in a group setting. This student was very sensitive and often cried when she made a mistake or was uncertain of the task at hand. She had difficulty with friendships and often felt left out. Her teachers provided on-going encouragement and she began participating in a weekly small intervention group to boost her confidence.
During grade 1, she continued to participate in a small "Happy To Be Me" lunch group with the counselor where she learned to identify and appreciate her strengths and positive qualities and the skills to use when things didn't go well. Each week we could see her applying these SEL skills in the classroom and on the playground. Her teacher and teaching assistant provided daily encouragement, as did her parents.
A member of our learning support team also gave this student additional help with phonics and spelling.
She participated in BIG (Big Brother/Big Sister) an after school program, where her BIG Secondary School sister cultivated a loving and supportive friendship with her.
This student has blossomed. She is confident and comfortable in class; eager to learn. She is diligent and uses time and resources to finish her work neatly and with creative flair. She has become more interactive in class and can be seen raising her hand frequently, unafraid to share her point of view. Although She continues to learn the mechanics of phonics and spelling, she enjoys writing and her words flow effortlessly. When she makes a mistake she can laugh at herself and work to correct it. She is friends with everyone in class and her classmates recognize her as being very kind to everyone.
Student number two was a new 7th grader last year. It was his first time living outside of his home country. He came from a school system that didn't require a lot of critical thinking nor did it encourage student-teacher interaction outside of the allotted class time. Students were given information. They recorded the information and then repeated it back to teachers on exams. The education system was almost completely the opposite of ours. When this student arrived, he did not have strong learning behaviors and his academic skill foundation was weak.
He entered ISD with a large learning curve ahead, but he came to school each day with a smile on his face and a positive attitude. In the beginning, his homework was rarely completed and he would remain passive in the classroom. The work he was assigned was extremely challenging for him. Understandably, his usual approach was to avoid it as often as he could.
Ms. Kate, the 7th-grade teachers, and this student’s parents worked as a team to support him. For the first year, it appeared that this student’s goal was to do just enough to pass, just enough to keep the adults in his life from being disappointed. However, this year, things changed. He decided that he needed and wanted to make real changes and the hard work began. This student began actively participating in his classes, coming after school or at lunch to see his teachers for extra help, and genuinely trying to learn for learning sake.
It has been such a pleasure to watch him thrive in this school system in which students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning, to think critically and apply that thinking in new ways, and to develop a love of learning. This student is still improving his academic foundation and still developing positive learning behaviors. In many ways, he has become a learner with a growth mindset and he is a model for his classmates. He has truly transformed before our eyes.
Student number three joined us in Grade 10. It was her first time living overseas and she had a tough adjustment. She had always struggled in school and had a negative attitude towards work, teachers, and criticism. Teachers would comment on her low skill level, low reading level, and poor attitude. This student was a bit of a challenge in the beginning and it was mostly due to not believing in herself.
In grade 11, she decided to give the IB program a shot. She was unsure if she wanted to enroll in the IB Diploma Program but decided to try it. This student took classes that were challenging for her and based on her interests. This was the best decision she could have made. Fast forward to grade 12 and 2 months until graduation. I have rarely seen a student work as hard as her. She has learned how to work with her weaknesses gracefully and now does not hesitate to ask for help or go to extra tutoring sessions when needed. She maintains a positive attitude and focus. She has positive relationships with her teachers and has pulled herself outside of her box. If I had to identify only one student who has not been afraid to take risks, it is her. Due to her experience facing her own challenges, this student has decided to go into a helping profession working with children who have physical or learning disabilities to help give them the tools to move forward and achieve their goals.
I would like to finish with a quote from Josh Shipp
“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.”