Letter from the Director
14-Nov-17 | Dr. Mitch Elswick
Dear AIS Community,
This letter is the second in a series of letters that will go out every month or so. Each of the divisional administrators, including myself, will write such a letter to convey the tone of their respective divisions at that particular moment in the school year. We hope that by doing so, parents and others in the AIS community will get a sense of the students’ experiences from the unique perspectives of administration.
As for me, I recently finished SCUBA certification with some secondary students and other staff members at AIS. I’m very proud and impressed with the secondary students involved, including Sungji, Tibou, Jack and Mickey. The process of SCUBA certification is more scary than difficult. There’s nothing natural about breathing underwater, and there are certain skills one must master underwater to ensure safety, such as clearing goggles filled with water; removing a respirator, throwing it behind you, and then searching for it; taking off the SCUBA equipment underwater and putting it back on; etc. It’s scary to do these things! Most people who start the process of certification quickly consider bailing out.
But since I was certified previously—also when I was in high school—I knew the kids could do it. I also knew that once they finished, they would feel a significant sense of accomplishment.
The process of getting SCUBA certified is a condensed, and intense, version of what our students at school go through repeatedly in the classroom. Our students, throughout the year, should be pushed beyond their comfort zone, academically speaking. The result is pressure, stress, and anxiety. However, the pressure is controlled because, as with SCUBA, we know the students can succeed. In the classroom we know this because we work hard to place students appropriately.
If you are a parent of a student at AIS, your child should feel academic pressure. It’s evidence that we’re pushing your child outside of his/her comfort zone. But at the same time, your child should feel supported by the teacher. The message received by your child should be, “I know this is hard, but I’m certain you can do it. And I’ll help you along the way.” It’s the difference between feeling pressure and feeling panic.
So, at this point in the school year, I hope parents see evidence of academic pressure…kids worrying about upcoming tests, projects, etc. But at the same time, I hope you also see evidence of your kids enjoying school. As an administrator, I feel successful when I see evidence of both.
Almaty International School
Letter from the Secondary Director of Instruction
14-Nov-17 | Dr. Sam Thomas
For almost all my years as an educator (more than I want to count!), I have worked primarily in “high school’ (what we in QSI call “Secondary”) – as a history teacher, counselor, and now as an administrator. I was reflecting a bit today on what we do in Secondary. What is unique about us? One way to think about it might be, “What is “secondary” about Secondary?” For one thing, Secondary builds on Elementary, which is the first step in our educational model. Children learn foundational educational skills and knowledge in the elementary (or primary) grades. They develop their skills and knowledge more fully in Middle School and then arrive on the doorstep of Secondary with solid educational skills and foundational knowledge in place. During the next four years of Secondary, we polish up those skills and develop more complex levels of knowledge, all in preparation for the end goal – which is…graduation, enrollment in university, and, hopefully, life-long learning, responsible citizenship, and a happy productive life.
Secondary is, then, the final educational step that our children take before they leave our family nests and move out to live more independent lives. For our students at AIS, that next step is almost always university. Nearly 100% of our students go on to university someplace – USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Korea, Kazakhstan, etc. So, we in secondary can easily characterize ourselves as the “college prep” step! We are preparing our students to think critically and analytically, to write in more sophisticated fashion, and to generally prepare themselves for the rigors of a university curriculum and the independent learning and self-discipline that will be necessary in that environment. A tall order!
The coming transition to university looms very large in the minds of many of our students at this time of the school year. Over the past few days, many of our students have taken the SAT exam, a key factor for acceptance in many universities. Admissions personnel and recruiters from several universities have visited our campus, most recently Amy Jarich from University California, Berkeley, who gave a series of presentations to all secondary students, parents, and teachers.
Our seniors in particular are caught up in the midst of asking teachers for recommendations, writing admissions essays, and filling out college applications. Mr. Lewis, our guidance counselor, is becoming one of their best friends! His office is a revolving door for seniors asking for help with the admissions process. For seniors, this is a stressful time as they come face-to-face with the reality that they will soon be leaving family, AIS, Almaty, home! What had been a pleasant, but distant goal has now become a chasm of change lying at their feet.
Are they ready to take that step? How can they possibly cope with SAT’s, college applications, future planning, do well in their coursework, and have some time left to sleep?! We are confident that our students are ready for the challenge. That said, it’s a great time for us – teachers, parents, peers, all – to give them lots of encouragement, support, and reassurance. Very soon, this too will pass and our seniors will have their university acceptance letters in hand, ready to take a deep breath, leave “Secondary behind, and move on into the next important step in their lives!
Letter from the Elementary Director of Instruction
14-Nov-17 | Scott Roley
My life has changed dramatically in the last 4 months, as my wife and I became grandparents for the first time. We are excited, thrilled, and have a new outlook on life. I remember the great anticipation we felt before he was born, and now the excitement over every little thing that he does like discovering his toes or his fingers, or when when he laughs aloud. It is amazing how much he has grown in these last few months. He just keeps learning.
As we are heading into November, I see some similarities here in the elementary department. Chaperoning with the 9 & 10 year teams on their hiking field trips showed me some great insight. I realized some of the students had never hiked before, and they were making comments like, “How much farther?” “This is hard!” “I’m tired!” Through the encouragement of teachers, other students, and chaperones these same students were encouraged to keep going, see the beautiful surroundings, and enjoy their journey. By the time we had all come down the hiking trail most students were running and laughing. They were proud that they had made it and that hard work produced a great reward. Since then, families have shared with me their child was so excited about the hiking experience that they were planning a trip back up the mountain in the near future.
One of my primary goals as the elementary DI is to keep the love of learning alive. Everyday our elementary team chooses activities and lessons to keep students’ love of learning alive. I personally get to see this everyday as I go into the their classrooms. Teachers mentoring, coaching, encouraging, helping, and nurturing students. In a way, I wish my grandson was old enough to attend our school so he too could experience this.
I look forward to see the AIS elementary students continuing to grow in their academics, friendships, and life skills throughout this school year.