Looking Back, Looking Ahead

At this the new year, one often takes the time to consider the year that is closing and consider the year we are about to begin. For me, professionally and personally, the past year has been filled with tremendous transition. After 15 years, my family and I moved from Prague to South Africa to work at the American International School of Johannesburg. The opportunity, like so many, has been challenging and overwhelming, exciting and amazing. More than anything it is a chance to grow, both out of necessity and choice.

Many schools today identify growth mindset, risk-taking, self-advocacy and self-direction of learning as central skills we seek to instil in our students. They are key parts of our AISJ Portrait of a Learner. This starts with us. We as educators need to be self-directed learners. We need to take risks. We need to have a growth mindset about the journey of life we walk. Coaching and co-teaching with teachers is a large part of my new role and one that I most enjoy. Asking questions together with other educators and working together to live those questions with our students is the best part of my work here. I am looking forward to growing this work in the years to come.

What I love about working in International School and with International teachers is that life-long learning is a part of who we are in this community that is more open to taking the leap to move to a new country, a new school, a new continent. This move is the first time that I have done that big move in awhile and as a result, I have learned so much. A big take away was that I underestimated how important the history and long-term relationships I had in Prague influenced how well I understood the context of the school, what questions to ask, and what to do next. My mantra these last months has been, “I don’t know, what I don’t know”. Honestly, sometimes I just did not even know what questions to ask and I can’t tell you how many times I got surprised because I made a wrong assumption or didn’t know the right person to ask. I would say that I now have a fuzzy picture and need to spend the time bringing it in to focus. This takes time – time to build trust, time to build relationships, time in the classrooms to understand what things look like on the ground. This is my work in the coming months.

I have so much that I would like to share and continue to process and examine. The overwhelm of these past months has meant that I have not been as committed and consistent in this blogging as I have tried to be in the past. As 2020 and a new decade begins, I am recommitting to this work. I have a long list of ideas for posts – a reflection on our visit and professional learning with Dr. Gini Rojas, a co-teaching cycle in grade 4 focused on co-teaching to develop writing skills, Competency-based Education, an alphabet intervention in kindergarten, strengthening Tier 2 interventions in our intervention system, professional learning about AD/HD, questions and reflections about working with outside providers. This list gives you an idea of the work that I have been involved in and the learning we have been doing as a school. I have no shortage of ideas. I look forward to continuing our conversation in the new year – may it bring you much love and laughter.

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