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Worldwide, the prolific nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has caught most of us unprepared. The leadership and governance of international schools is no exception. Crisis management plans and risk management procedures likely never anticipated anything like this.
However, what is heartening is the wealth of online information and resources that everyone is putting out there. There exists an unwavering willingness to collaborate and overcome.
“When the pandemic hit, I observed a blurring of lines between leadership and governance,” says Teresa Arpin, the internationally-respected President of Transformation Systems. “I think that collaboration and really strong communication are imperative. Heads of Schools may feel that everything is on their shoulders. Now, more than ever, roles and responsibilities must be clearly understood.”
All major decisions must be carefully considered and informed by governance and school leadership’s commitment to the school’s purpose, mission, values, etc. When viewed through this lens, Heads and Boards can make difficult decisions
“Despite the massive disruption, I believe that this pandemic presents an opportunity,” says Teresa. “Schools are traditionally habitual organisations. By design, they find making change challenging. In a few short weeks, it’s been amazing how, on a dime, learning has gone virtual. Before COVID-19, this would have taken much longer. Because schools are now using new approaches, there’s an opportunity to ask… what do we want to look like going forward? This is tremendously exciting.” including staffing, programmes and virtual learning approaches in ways that are in line with the school’s purpose and ethos; in ways that move the school’s mission forward.
Teresa points out that students have been given greater ‘voice and choice’. The lockdown has given students a bigger role in managing their own learning. Leaders are considering carefully how they’re going to honour that experience when schools reopen physically.
“Given the greater parental involvement in virtual learning and the ‘voice and choice’ experience of their children, I’m hoping that schools consider what they want to bring forward in an evolution of learning structures,” says Teresa. “There’s a real opportunity for teachers to become more flexible facilitators of learning experiences.”
Teresa believes that given this new virtual learning reality and parental involvement, communication between teachers and parents is more robust than ever before. Parents have a growing understanding what goes on in the classroom and the everyday challenges teachers deal with.
“Online learning is here to stay as an important part of a students’ learning experience,” says Teresa. “The idea that in-classroom school learning has a corner on the market has to shift because the opportunities for learning outside traditional structures are growing so prolifically. I believe that in the not too distant future, virtual learning will be to education what pencils and paper are now—common tools for learning. The challenge is to create a system that allows for lots of different experiences and learning opportunities.”
The question for international school governance and leadership is, when we see our way clear of the virus, will schools regroup and simply go back to what they had; or will schools be open to fundamental shifts that will really serve learning and their students in much more powerful ways?
It is not an enviable time to be a school leader. The chances are that the wellbeing – emotional, physical and financial – of the people you lead presses more heavily on your shoulders than ever before. Whether you are weighing up the critical balance of when, how or if, to safely re-open your school in the face of COVID-19 with the gaps in learning that may result from not doing so; or making financial decisions such as temporary or permanent layoffs in the face of reduced enrolments; or wellbeing decisions as you try to guide and counsel your community without being able to offer any guarantees; or having to figure out how to simultaneously ensure your school’s financial health while prioritising the health and continued education of students, the sustained employment, wellbeing and motivation of teachers and the support of parents and communities. Not an enviable position by any means.
It is in times such as these, with high levels of ambiguity, while also tasked with impactful decision making, that previous experience, learned skills, collaborations and partnerships prove their worth. Schools that have invested in the professional development of their Leadership and Governing Boards are no doubt seeing the benefits. Previous advice received from expert consultants, specialising in effective leadership and good governance, is now showing its value. The resources, support, guidance and networking made accessible and available through strategic relationships, can be the lifeline a school needs in times of crisis.
Having started in 1969, the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) has had occasions before COVID-19, to demonstrate its fortitude, agility and resourcefulness in times of crisis. Many of our schools shut down temporarily as a result of the September 11th attacks. AISA had to relocate our annual conference almost overnight. Some may recall the US Embbasy attacks in Tanzania and Kenya that once again sent our school communities into a heightened state of alert. Our West African schools encountered many of the same issues during the Ebola virus epidemic, with schools in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone having to close to safeguard children and staff. Schools in southern Africa had to adapt to severe water shortages in recent years that threatened to force some to close. Almost all our schools have experienced the uncertainty and security issues associated with terrorist threats, the social and political unrest that takes place in our respective host countries and we have survived it all. However, there has been nothing as far-reaching and as disruptive to international education as COVID-19, a crisis experienced by all AISA member schools and their communities. Nothing has called on our ability to innovate and transform our way of doing things as this global pandemic. As a result, the crucial role of good governance and effective leadership has once again come to the fore.
Like your school, AISA’s strategic focus on school leadership and governance and our related Professional Learning programmes, advisory services, events and resources are undergoing a period of transformation. Thankfully, from the feedback and evidence received, they are proving their worth. In 2016 AISA presented the AISA Code of Governance for all member schools to refer to or incorporate into their own school’s governance policy. The framework set out the fiduciary, strategic and generative responsibilities of an effective school Board. To develop the code, AISA secured the services of Rick Detwiler, Teresa Arpin, and David Chojnacki, each well known and recognised in the field of school governance. Commencing in August 2020, AISA has invited these seasoned consultants back for a series of virtual governance and leadership workshops covering key aspects from our Code of Governance. You can find details of these here. We also look forward to our next annual Heads of School Retreat, which we anticipate will take place in May 2021 and during which there will be much for us to reflect upon.
Perhaps the most valuable of all our initiatives, not just in school leadership and governance, is the support we receive from, and can offer to, our community. In times of crisis, nothing can be more supportive than human connection, empathy, and engagement. It is the sense of community fostered amongst AISA member schools and our network of associates, strategic partners and consultants that I, as a leader myself, most value and I thank you all for that.
Stay Well and Stay Connected.
Dr Peter Bateman
AISA Executive Director
We at Columbia VFA hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.
While we all work to stay safe and socially distance ourselves, we can still find ways to be innovative and creative. Due to COVID-19, we have moved the high school Entrepreneurship and Innovation course online.
In this brochure you can find a schedule with various time and day offerings for the class. When you find a class that fits your schedule, hit the "register" link and it will walk you through the steps to enroll.
Please feel free to circulate this brochure amongst your schools. We want to spread the live synchronous Global Initiative by Columbia VFA to as many schools and students as possible at this time.
Youtube Link: https://youtu.be/XV7y_DXvuQ0
Please feel free to contact me with any questions and concerns. I will be happy to arrange a zoom conference with the founder and director of the program - Dr. Jack McGourty.
For further course information please visit:
Sending you all good energy in these times of uncertainty.
By partnering with the US-based TEACH-NOW Graduate School of Education, AISA enables its member schools' staff to enrol in a US teacher certification at substantially discounted rates.
The TEACH-NOW teacher certification route is a nine month intensive programme that incorporates competencies in all of the fundamentals of educational pedagogy and includes a comprehensive 12 week school-based teaching practicum. TEACH-NOW Graduate School of Education operates out of the District of Columbia and its teacher certification program leads to licensure via the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), or from Arizona through the Arizona Department of Education, or from Hawaii through the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board. A U.S. state-issued teaching license is generally recognized all over the world and is increasingly sought by international schools in the AISA region.
To qualify for a license, candidates must have at least the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s Degree. If your Bachelor’s Degree is from a non-U.S. institution, transcripts must be submitted along with a course-by-course evaluation by a NACES member agency before applying for this programme to ensure eligibility.
Participants can register and start at any point in the year and are responsible for arranging a school in which to complete their 12 week practicum.
TEACH-NOW licensure officers will work with candidates on an individual basis to advise and guide them during the application and online learning phase.
The standard registration price for this programme is US$ 6,000. As AISA members, you benefit from a 10% discount, reducing the cost to $5,400 per person.
For more details email email@example.com
By Dr. Peter Bateman, AISA Executive Director
The end of the academic school year is normally a time of much excitement; classrooms, school halls, sports fields and playgrounds abuzz with enthusiasm; the celebration of achievements and happy anticipation of holidays; which for many include a return to their home country. This year, things are different; there will be no graduation or reward ceremonies at our school campuses, no proms, and end-of-year class parties; no big hugs or high fives. However, the great irony is, that this year, the sense of community, togetherness, support and empathy is greater than ever before!
It is this common challenge that has reinforced the strong connections among AISA school leaders, educators, counsellors, students, parents and communities so effectively. Perhaps it is the absence of physical connections that have heightened our appreciation of human connections. Whatever the reason, this sense of support is increasingly evident amongst the AISA community; members and associates are sharing openly and participating in innovative online initiatives for the collective improvement of international education. This is being done with compassion and empathy for what we as educators and our students are experiencing; sadness about missed opportunities and our usual social experiences at school, and uncertainty about what the future will look like are top of mind. We must be sure that these are not allowed to compromise our wellbeing.
AISA has taken the lead in so many critical areas during this time, but it is the two above that I want to highlight; the unprecedented level of community and support, and the importance of child protection and community wellbeing.
Our AISA COVID-19 Support Portal continues to provide valuable news, information and resources, and we are hosting a large number of webinars and discussion forums on crucial topics. These include many focused on child protection and wellbeing such as our AISA Wellbeing Wednesday Webinar Sessions and related articles, including Chanel Worsteling’s article Child Safety Online – Collaboration, Communication.
We are also very proud to announce that we have launched our Virtual Schools Collaborative, that combines all the resources we can muster to support our schools that may well need to start next year still teaching and learning online. The first webinar to introduce this support takes place on 19 May 2020; Supporting Online Learning into the Next School Year.
The AISA board and team are enthused by the positive feedback received on the initiatives we have put in place and are forever appreciative for the support and collaborative spirit of our school and associates members. As we wind down this academic year, I am reminded of Charles Darwin’s wisdom; “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
Stay Well and Stay Connected.
Uncertainty, anxiety, worry, fear, despair, loss, stress; these are just some of the emotions many of us are experiencing during this challenging time. We encounter an endless stream of bad news and pessimism in the mainstream media, social media and even in our personal conversations daily. Staying positive is difficult!
Thankfully, positivity is a skill that can be learnt, given the right tools, advice and guidance. To this end, the Association of International School in Africa (AISA) has secured the services of the world’s leading positive psychologist, Dr Suzy Green, and is offering all our AISA member schools an opportunity to attend her webinar; Positive Leaderships: Harnessing the Power of Positive Psychology on 25 May 2020. This is the last webinar in the school year. We encourage you to participate, especially if you are in a leadership position or have a counsellor’s role.
Founder and CEO of The Positivity Institute, Dr Green has worked with school leaders around the world on how to lead positive, compassionate learning organisations. In this webinar, she will focus on your wellbeing, resilience and ways to remain positive for your colleagues, students and school community, at a time when you may be feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about the future as you move towards the end of a traumatic school year.
As COVID-19-enforced isolation eases and schools across Africa and the world consider re-opening their campuses, what have the past weeks taught our AISA member schools; what lessons have we learned from each other as we tread the path into an indeterminate future?
Partly due to AISA's Blended Learning Initiative that has been running for almost 10 years, the trend towards blended learning was already underway in AISA member schools BEFORE the COVID-19 pandemic. Since many AISA schools were already blending learning to some extent, the transition to online/distance learning, although not without real challenges, was relatively smooth for these schools.
Examples include the Dar es Salaam International Academy that started working on its distance learning plan at the beginning of the 2019/20 academic year; or the American International School of Cape Town that, due to the water crisis of 2017, had already drafted their plan for potential school closure three years ago; or the International Community Schools in Addis Ababa that had transformed the whole notion of what personalised learning meant well before students would need to undertake this online. Many other AISA schools such as the International School of Kenya and the Al-Rayan International School in Ghana had activated emergency learning plans weeks before their schools were closed.
The challenges experienced by AISA schools' transition to online learning in the past few months are many and varied. Technological tools, online resources, software platforms, staff expertise and learning support in certain schools are plentiful, for others, not. Communication is key. Parental and student understanding and buy-in to this new reality is achieved by schools building seamless support and communication networks. A school's flexibility regarding online learning helps to alleviate student frustration and parents feeling overwhelmed in their new role. Educators adjusting their expectations and providing clear objectives and directions for all assignments/activities support learning outcomes.
Empathy is essential. The 'in-person' educational model we've been used to in our schools cannot simply be replaced by virtual learning – no matter how personalised. An educator's job is extremely social. Teachers gain momentum and perspective by working shoulder-to-shoulder with each other, with their students and their parents. However, virtual learning in a time of lock-down is by nature isolating, and will, therefore, require a shift in the way we think about what successful learning looks like – and how we measure this. Giving everyone permission to not be perfect at all times is essential.
Although the future is hard to predict, one thing is certain; COVID-19 has disrupted class throwing many of us off balance! For us to live, to work, to go to school and to thrive in the future, a new balance is required and with it new and innovative ways of teaching and learning. The message to AISA member schools is clear; even when campuses re-open, blended learning is here to stay.
We thank the AISA member schools who shared how they have adapted to the present and established a pathway towards an innovative future for learning. Read more here: https://bit.ly/3bA45DG
The increased threat to children’s safety posed by the proliferation of online learning is real; prompting UNICEF and supporting partners to distribute, on 15 May 2020, a comprehensive technical note on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its implications for protecting children online. It sets out how to mitigate risks and promote positive online experiences.
“Essentially, the value of this technical note is that it reminds us – as governments, private companies, schools, teachers, parents and caregivers – that our role to protect children is fundamental and has not changed, even though this COVID-19 threatened world we live in has changed rapidly,” says Chanel Worsteling, AISA’s Child Protection and Wellbeing Program Manager.
COVID-19 has heightened the degree of stress we’re all facing. UNICEF’s note points out that communication and collaboration between the various partners is critical. “As educators, we must be vigilant and mindful, always looking out for indications where children might need protection or guidance,” says Chanel. “Reasons are many and varied; online sexual predators, cyberbullies, online risk-taking behaviour, inappropriate content – the list goes on.”
There are many ways of reporting a child protection concern, and these still apply during this time of fluid, dynamic and different online learning. Most countries have a child helpline and global hotlines exist to protect children from online abuse (https://bit.ly/3cuUAXT). Schools will also have a mechanism to support any child at risk of harm, as outlined in each schools child protection policy that is still relevant even though schools are operating virtually.
“Hopefully all schools are educating parents or caregivers on how to support and keep their children safe online; plus what signs to look out for that might indicate that a child is having problems,” says Chanel.
The UNICEF guidance note emphasises that children must be actively encouraged to use their voices. Children must know that whatever the issue, they can come to teachers/parents/caregivers and voice what’s on their minds. They must be aware of the fact that kind and supported interactions are expected, and that cruel, racist or inappropriate contact is never okay.
In this new, online-dominated learning environment, schools are expected to educate both students and parents on rules of online engagement that reflect the new realities.
Chanel says a recent campaign by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that teaches young children about online safety, perfectly captures the key messages we want to give children.
To read the full UNICEF technical note, please go to https://uni.cf/2Z8tyBI
By Chanel Worsteling, AISA Child Protection & Well-being Programme Manager
The global COVID-19 pandemic has had far reaching consequences around the world. For some of our AISA international families one of those consequences has been the forced separation of family members. Work commitments, visa restrictions, travel bans, caring for sick relatives or pets, are just some of the factors that may have made it necessary for families to live apart at this time. This can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety, particularly given the uncertain nature of this pandemic. No one knows how long this pandemic will last, when a vaccine will be readily available or when life will return to normal, let alone what that new normal might look like!
So, how can families stay connected while living apart? It is now not uncommon for couples and families to live apart, even if temporarily. In Britain, about 10% of couples live apart, and in the U.S. the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 3.5million couples are in a long-distance marriage – with that number doubling since 1990 . So how can families continue to feel close and connected while physically apart?
Presented here is not so much a list of what to do, but rather attitudes to adopt that might be helpful in promoting a sense of calm, well-being and connectedness for you and your family:
Be prepared to accept the situation for what it is
So much about COVID-19 is outside of our control and the uncertainty created by the global response to the pandemic can cause considerable stress and anxiety. The very real ramifications of travel restrictions imposed by countries around the world as they work to halt the spread of the disease mean that families living apart may not know when they will be together again. Understandably, feelings of loss, grief and hopelessness are normal responses to this difficult situation.
Accepting such feelings, without judging them, is important to our mental health and well-being. A UC Berkely study found that accepting negative emotions in the moment helps individuals avoid catastrophizing and respond better to stress. This does not mean embracing joyfully the current predicament, but rather accepting any negative emotions or thoughts without trying to change them. Share and validate these feelings with family members, including children where appropriate. Expressing your emotions, even those of sadness and longing, can be a powerful way to model to your children that all feelings are valid and are part of our experience of loving and caring for others. It also sends an important signal to them that they can share their emotions and any tricky thoughts they might be battling.
Be present, stay mindful
Acknowledging our emotions also helps us connect to the present moment and connecting to the present helps us stay in touch with the people and the life we have now. Being in a constant state of worry or longing for the future can make it difficult to stay attuned and connected with our loved ones in the present who may need our support now more than ever.
Mindfulness or meditation are simple practices which can help bring your attention back to the present which has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety. Stay focused on what you can do in the present rather than stress about what you can’t control.
Your partner comes home from work and you immediately sense they’ve had a bad day. Sound familiar? When people are physically together we can emotionally attune to our partners and loved ones. Body language, facial expressions and tone of voice provide us with cues into the emotional state of our loved ones which can guide us in our response to them. When we are together physically we can respond to our partners or children with a hug or squeeze of the hand to reassure them that we are there to support and care for them.
When we are separated by distance, it is more difficult, or takes a little more effort to attune to the emotional state of your loved one. This is particularly true if your main form of communication is a text or email, it is easy to make assumptions and feel disconnected. Which is why it’s important to be more intentional in your communication with your loved ones if you are living apart. Being open and curious by asking, “How are you doing today?” “Help me understand” or, “What do you need from me today?” These questions signal to our loved ones that we are interested, we care and want to be supportive.
Prioritising time together is just as important when we live apart as when we are together. This is especially true when we are in different time zones and there is a need to adjust our schedules so as to make that connection meaningful. Be sure that enough time is set aside, preferably when you and your partner, and kids if relevant, are not too exhausted at least a few times a week. Whilst a short text throughout the day helps maintain a sense of connection, avoid texting about anything important.
Victor Borge once wrote, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” We’ve probably all experienced how laughter and joint fun can make us feel connected to people.
There are many ways that couples and families can foster a sense of fun in their online communication. Play and on or offline game together, a crossword puzzle or watch your favourite Netflix or family movies simultaneously. Read the same book, or if you have younger children, read to them over video chat. In essence, think about the things you enjoy doing together and see if you can find ways to continue to do those things together, but online. If going on a walk, share the journey through your camera. Creating shared experiences, even online ones, can make this time more memorable and less burdened by anxiety and sadness.
Living apart, particularly when we feel we don’t have a choice in the matter, can be emotionally draining. But there are some up-sides to time apart. For one, being separated can give us cause to really appreciate those we are separated from. Seeing the positives in others makes us grateful and keeps us positioned toward each other. Don’t forget to communicate with your loved ones all the positives you see in them and your family, this will help keep your communications warm, open and foster connection.
Be planning for the future
Even if we successfully do all the above, we will have days when we really struggle with being apart from those we love. This is especially pronounced where there may be no end date in sight. In these moments, it’s especially important to remind ourselves that eventually, you will be together again. Imagining a future where your family is reunited will keep you hopeful and more positive about your current situation. As a couple or family, plan some things you will do when eventually you can be together. Perhaps even get creative about that and post pictures of places you plan to go or things you want to do together around the house as a reminder that better times lay ahead.
Feeling exhausted and depleted after a busy period of distance teaching and online support? The Association of International Schools of Africa (AISA) and TGR Foundation, A Tiger Woods Charity, want to turn it around, and teach and support YOU this holiday!
AISA invites you to attend TGR Foundation’s VIRTUAL STEM STUDIO between 20 - 22 and 27 - 29 July 2020, and because you are a valued AISA member, we’re paying the registration fee!
This unique professional growth opportunity is open to all subject teachers and will, through two interactive workshop sessions over a video conferencing platform, develop your ability to integrate inquiry, with a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) focus, into your school culture.
Each participant will receive a resource e-book and a one-year license to two of Discovery Education’s digital instructional resources: Discovery Education Experience and STEM Connect.
The exact times of the workshops for the two studio workshop sessions are still to be finalised (based on registrants’ time zones). The proposed schedule will be similar to the below:
Daily sessions of 3-4 hours each:
Day 1: What is inquiry-based learning?
Day 2: Inquiry-Based Learning in Practice
Day 3: Inquiry Integration Plan
By the end of these 3 days, participants will have a plan for how they can bring what they learned about inquiry back to their school and have a schedule of monthly skill building / check-in opportunities with TGR Foundation which they can utilise to enact this plan throughout the 2020 -2021 school year.
Reconnect with like-minded educators outside the pressures of distance-learning teaching timetables and acquire new skills to take with you into the 2021 academic year. Skills that will improve your students’ critical thinking and learning experience!
APPLY TO PARTICPATE HERE BEFORE 27 May 2020
Please note that TGR Foundation has made various digital resources for families, educators and students available at no cost during the COVID-19 pandemic; see list and links below:
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