Transitioning from Grade 5 to Middle School

The move from Grade 5 to Grade 6 is a big deal.  Having said that, witnessing this transition for students for the past 20 years it is also fairly predictable.  It is exciting and challenging for the average student.  It is extremely difficult for kids who struggle with organization.  It is a joy ride for students who thrive on multiple notebooks, organized pencil cases,and  multi-colored highlighters. By and large, it is an opportunity that most kids embrace to experience growing privileges, added responsibilities, multiple workloads to balance, and a fast paced collage of social interactions that include complex friendship groups, online exposure and interactions, “by the lockers” gossip. Make no mistake, the social world of a Grade 6 student is a not so subtle challenge.

Add social challenges to the academic workload to the new found freedom to moving between classes to exposure to older students and older ideas and you have a stew that brews for weeks and months and leads to a myriad of challenges along the way.  It is not easy being a grade 6 student.

But…..all is not lost!  Good teachers who are sensitive to the needs of this age group, structured opportunities to interact, ongoing and specific attention to challenged students, and a general openness of grade 6 students to discuss and consider right and wrong choices  provides a mix for supporting, guiding, and teaching.

I’ve always considered Grade 6 students as the “morality police”.  They really do insist upon “fairness”.  As they move through grade 6 at different paces, they are Continue reading

Taking the Student’s Pulse!

A school climate survey was conducted in March through a survey of students. 287 of our 350 students responded to the survey.  How are we doing?

Below is the table of some of the results from the survey.  The results in the columns represent the percentage of students who agree or strongly agree in one column and the percentage of students who disagree or strongly disagree in the other column.

Here’s an example of how to read the survey.  Take a look at statement #3 “Teachers Respect Students”.  89 % of students agree or strongly agree while Continue reading

The Student Survey….Here’s Your Voice:

In Mid-March, approximately 70% of the LCS students participated in an online student survey.  I haven’t posted all the results but here is what students said about certain items.   The goal of the survey was to gather student feedback on the culture of the school.  In addition, it is an opportunity to gather student feedback on the vision of the school.

Let me start with a few bottom lines for me.  I consider a school to be successful if students and faculty are engaged in learning, are eager to come to school daily, are setting and responding to high expectations and challenge, and are engaged with a variety of interests and activities.  I believe students must feel safe, supported, connected and cared about.  School should be fun.  Finally, school should help build resilience in students in overcoming obstacles and challenges.

Continue reading

Who Inspires You?

Given the unique wiring of an adolescent, how do kids make decisions about who they want to really be?  How do they learn their values?  Who influences them?  Who do they look up to who can provide guidance?

In the post below there are some links to interesting young people doing interesting things.  Who shapes you?  Who influences you?

Clearly, parents, extended family, teacher mentors, and other role models have a huge part in shaping young kids.  Having said that, I believe young people can find tremendous role models within their peer group and through their social networks.  We can find really positive role models who are teenagers who have posted their accomplishments on youtube or personal websites or blogs or through presentations at organizations like TEDxTeen.  We have alumni from LCS who are excellent potential role models, and close in age to our current students.  If kids are willing to explore these networks, there are inspiring young people out there.

Adolescence is challenging.  Knowing that there are young people out there who are working hard to figure their own paths and are willing to share their thoughts and challenges with one another through social media.  It holds really very powerful potential.

Here’s an inspiring role model!!   Recently, 14 of our students returned from the Global Issues Service Summit in Nairobi.  One of the speakers was Cassandra Lin. She’s a teenager from Rhode Island.  Talk about a role model!

Here’s a link to her presenting at a recent TED talk conference.

She’s awesome.  She was also a huge inspiration to all of our students who attended the GISS in Nairobi.

Here’s another role model!!!

Below is a great Ted Talk given by a 15 year old. Here’s the description off the web site.  She’s good fun to listen to and an inspiration to 15 year old females!

“Fifteen-year-old Tavi Gevinson had a hard time finding strong female, teenage role models — so she built a space where they could find each other. At TEDxTeen, she illustrates how the conversations on sites like Rookie, her wildly popular web magazine for and by teen girls, are putting a new, unapologetically uncertain and richly complex face on modern feminism. (Filmed atTEDxTeen.)”   

Here’s her Ted Talk at TEDxTeen

 

Here is another interesting individual.  I heard him speak at a conference a few years ago.  It is worth hearing the story of

Ryan Hreljac of Ryan’s Well.

 

One reason I am interested in this topic is that our teens are challenged daily.  Take the entertainment industry for example.  Chris Brown, the music artist, recently performed a concert in Ghana.  We had many students flock to the concert.  It’s not often that a big name in the entertainment industry holds a concert in Accra, Ghana.  I can see the lure.  Having said that, Chris Brown is known as a convicted felon, a history of violence and drug use, someone who physically assaulted his girlfriend and yet he is a celebrity who draws a huge crowd.  How can this be?  What type of role model is this man to our students.   Why expose our kids to this individual?  How come our students were so eager to see this concert?

I think our kids need powerful role models.  They must have powerful role models if, in fact, they are lured to concerts and entertainment like a Chris Brown.

We are talking about values and mindful behaviors.  We are talking about smart choices and principled actions.

Learning principled actions, treating others with respect, honoring respectful and caring behaviors is essential during formative years of adolescence. Positive role models support such learning. Finding them through sports, entertainment, one’s family, at school, or through other resources is the challenge.  There are many positive role models out there. Helping guide kids towards those role models is a collective responsibility.

 

Parents Building Community at LCS

On Wednesday, Feb 20, over 30 Grade 6 parents (approximately half of our Grade 6 population) attended an evening parent gathering hosted in a private home.  The purpose of the evening was to get together to talk about social media and the challenges of parents and educators.  Facebook usage dominated the conversation as did the topic of challenges associated with extensive online interest, involvement, and obsession!!  Kids are plugged in.  It’s a challenge for parents to make decisions around family rules and expectations.  Every parent handles things differently.  Over the years I have found it incredibly valuable to communicate with as many parents as I can to help shape my decisions as a parent and as a school leader.  Schools have a responsibility to support, educate, and provide information to both students and parents around this important topic.  This evening meeting was a great example of parents collectively tackling the challenges of parenting.

I was very impressed with the turnout of parents.  The community is naturally very

Grade 6 Parents Gather for a Lively Discussion and a Meal on Feb 20 2013

interested in this topic. I would urge parents to rally around one another, exchange ideas, tips, and suggestions.  It is not easy to parent in the digital age.  We all share the same concerns, hopes, and fears as parents.  Moreover, we are all  in uncharted territory when it comes to technology and share similar questions.

Below is a link to the presentation.  Feel free to view it.  In addition, I’ve added  a link to an excellent Ted Talk that is worth listening to. It’s about our  “plugged in” world we have become!

This is the presentation to Grade 6 parents.  This is the powerpoint presentation.

This is the same presentation to Grade 6 parents as a movie. It’s a larger file for downloading (28 mb) but plays fine.

With Kids Away, Do Teachers Play?

Last Monday, students didn’t come to school, but teachers did!  What were we doing at school on Monday?  What happens on those “Professional Development” days?  What happens at those weekly meetings that teachers have every Wednesday afternoon?

The answer is alot of learning, planning, reflecting, dialogue and professional growth.    Check out the link below (in blue) to a short collection of images:

SS Faculty: An Inquiring Bunch!

 

We are a learning organization.  On days like Monday or on weekly Wednesday afternoons, faculty spend time preparing classes, lessons, unit plans, assessments, and engaging activities.

LCS faculty are professionals, interested in their own personal learning and professional growth and, most importantly, improving the experience for students. This is the mission we, as faculty, are on.  We strive to ensure that students have  high quality learning experiences at LCS.  I salute the LCS faculty for their commitment and effort.  Faculty are working hard on behalf of students and families.

 

 

 

LCS Alumni – Role Models for Current Students!

In a recent professional development morning with faculty, we watched a presentation given by Mr Lance King (www.taolearning.org)  Mr King talked at length about developing students as self-regulated learners.  His focus upon students as self-directed lifelong learners touched on many areas.  One in particular struck a chord.  In order for students to become confident in their abilities moving forward, it’s helpful to have strong role models that they can relate to.  It’s great to hold up people like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Mother Theresa as role models but these exceptional people are, just that, exceptional. They are not particularly accessible to our students.  Mr King talked about the valuable role alumni could have as role models for current students.  Identifying alumni as role models and celebrating the successes of alumni could be valuable in helping current students understand options, develop confidence, and instill a sense of self-efficacy moving forward.

I was recently in London recruiting new teachers.  While in London I had the

an impressive collection of LCS alumni in London, Jan 2013

pleasure of attending the first international LCS alumni reunion, organized by Khushboo Moolchandani (class of 2005) and Stan Osei-Bonsu (Class of 2005)   Here is a list of some of the impressive young alumni who attended.

  • Fritz Riha  – class of 2005, spent a couple of years at Lincoln, currently works at Barclays as a Digital Designer in their Customer Experience team)Guendalina Gianfranchi- class of 2005, left LCS in grade 6, currently studying in the UK for her masters.
  • Nathalie Wilson-  class of 2005, left LCS in grade 6 as well, studied and works in the UK as an Online Marketer
  • Gun Ming Chung- class of 2007, he is a lawyer Continue reading

Creativity, Action, and Service….Why CAS?

When I was a high school kid…..(hang in there, I won’t bore you with my HS history!)  But, when I was a high school student I was pretty much focused upon sports and (in my last 18 months some drama).  As well I was pretty responsible

Is your passion sports?

with the academic game.  I thought I was well balanced because I did a couple of sports and I did a couple of plays in high school.  Later in life, as a 21 year old, I learned to play the guitar, something I always wanted to do.  As a 40 year old I started singing in an acapella vocal group.  In my 40’s I finally  began satisfying a long-standing interest in service projects.   I didn’t have the opportunity as a teenager, during formative years, to fully explore and develop my interests in music and service.  It wasn’t part of my school experience.  I don’t know how a CAS requrirement would have impacted me.  I’m not sure.  I know it would have forced me to consider ideas and activities that I never came close to exploring as a high school student.  As a parent, I appreciated the CAS requirement for my kids given that it required various experiences.  For some students CAS experiences have great potential to truly shape values, ideas, and lives.CAS is part of being an IB student.  It is a requirement and a pillar of the program.   Why is it required?  What is the goal of the CAS requirement?  Why do educators believe CAS is vital in the educational experience of students?

Is your passion organizing service activities?

Being an educated and knowledgeable person is much more than earning grades and “doing school”.  The CAS requirement removes you from the structured expectations of the regular school day.  It places students in the world of different experiences in which students must plan, act upon, observe, and reflect on their involvement in those experiences.

CAS is often associated with service projects.  Service is an essential component, as is Action and Creativity.  You must explore opportunities and learn from experiences with sports, creative endeavors, or service activities.  Finding your interests and passions in life is part of growing and maturing.

Students are often:

  • Too caught up in accomplishments – becoming a human “doing” as opposed to a human “being”.
  • Too caught up in academic demands and the grind of regular school work.
  • Too caught up in social networks and issues and the challenges of being a teenager.
CAS activities allow you to step away from the normal academic challenges and

Is your passion art or drama?

learn through other experiences.

A foundation of the IB program is nurturing the growth of the Learner Profile in students. To support this nurturing, CAS provides opportunities.  Undertaking challenges, planning activities, exercising perseverance and commitment, reflecting upon actions, understanding strengths, are all related to the Learner Profile traits of inquirers, risk takers, communicators, caring, balanced and principled individuals.  Sincere involvement in CAS develops and strengthens the IB Learner Profile trait in each individual.

CAS is a pllar of the IB experience. It is a requirement.  But, more than a requirement, it supports the important development of a well-rounded individual.  Completing the requirement of CAS,which involves serious participation and sincere reflection, will have significant benefits to individuals as they forge their pathways in life.

 

 

 

Cheating……Why do Students Cheat?

I’ve been thinking about this lately.  Cheating has been in the news.  Recently the most famous cheat of all was finally exposed and admitted his cheating.  Lance Armstrong – 7 time winner of the most prestigious bike race in the world , Le Tour de France – admitted cheating every year.  He did illegal things to gain an advantage and broke the rules.  His career is a disaster.  He was motivated by his need to win at all costs and while knowing he could cheat and still win. But he is exposed and his career is a disaster.

Why do people cheat when they know it is wrong?  This is a really difficult question to answer.  There are no easy answers.  People make choices and find ways to justify their actions even when they know they are doing things that are wrong.

Cheating in schools is a significant problem.  Why do students cheat in school?  It could be that:

  • They just don’t know the work/material and copying or plagiarizing is the easiest way out
  • They haven’t spent time on the work and are unprepared
  • They give their work to someone else to be a good friend
  • They want to gain an advantage over others
  • They don’t think their behavior is a big deal and feel it is okay to cheat, after all there are many examples of successful cheaters in the world. Continue reading

To Uniform or Not To Uniform…..

 

ORIGINALLY POSTED in JANUARY 2013, 2 years ago…….

The LCS community is in the midst of a discussion about school uniforms.  Parents, Teachers, and Students are engaging with the debate as to whether we should adopt a uniform for our students.  It is a debate with some passionate representation for both sides of the discussion.

What are the pros and cons?  What do you really think?

Here’s my take on the possible pros and cons.

Pros.  A school uniform could:

  • Support a more focused academic environment
  • Provide an environment that “fits in” to a greater degree with the local Ghanaian context because wearing a uniform to school is normal in Ghana.
  • Eliminate some dress code violation decisions.
  • Limit the issues that students have in choosing and buying a range of clothing choices.  This could eliminate some possible social issues around choice of dress.
  • Support the building of a school identity, associated with a new logo and a new uniform
  • Support parents in their discussions about the choice of clothing

Cons.  A school uniform could:

  • Conflict with the IB philosophy of developing independent, critical, and responsible thinkers who make appropriate decisions.
  • Limit individuality and the opportunity to be an individual based upon your clothes.
  • Result in an atmosphere that is too “uniform”.
  • Eliminate an attractive element of LCS (in the eyes of some, not having a uniform is an attractive aspect of LCS).

There are no guarantees that these pro or con arguments would be completely true.   The only guarantee is that in a large community, diverse opinions exist.  Therefore, the range of arguments will be true for some people.

Here are a few images of potential uniforms from other international schools.  This gives you some idea of the suggestions that have been made.

     

 

(Reminder – this was posted in January, 2013) Thus far only Grade 11 and 10 students have had the chance to submit a vote on the topic of uniforms.  In the coming weeks, other grade levels in the secondary school will have a chance to express their opinion.  While in both grade levels a majority of students are not interested in a uniform, it is important to note that there are many students who do support a uniform. It’s essential to acknowledge and respect the views of both sides with this discussion.

I invite you to leave a comment on this blog with respect to the uniform discussion.