By Jeff Trudeau, Director of American International School of Monrovia
In 2006, I took my first director post at Escuela Las Morochas in the oil fields of Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. During my first year, I introduced the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment to help the school identify the needs of the students we were supporting. The returning teachers at the school were not pleased with this development, as MAP was a new tool in International Schools some 14 years ago. At a staff meeting in early September of that school year, I recall one teacher bluntly stating, “Why are we doing MAP testing again? Do you think you have all the answers?”
To which I paused, as there was an awkward silence in the room. After a few seconds, I responded: “I do not have the answers, and I am not looking for them. I believe finding the right questions, will serve us better … and MAP will help us do that.”
This year, my eighth and final year as Director of the American International School of Monrovia, I will be transitioning to the International School of Ouagadougou (ISO). I am very pleased that AISA provided support to assist with this transition (I have not done one since 2012!) through a school-to-school exchange program that brought my future colleague from ISO, Ms. Jalisa Mixon (Elementary Administrator), to our campus here in Monrovia.
This gave us the chance to start our collaboration early in realising some of our key transition objectives:
Peer-to-Peer Transition Plan Objectives
1. For Ms. Jalisa Mixon to observe and evaluate which AISM programmes and practices might be good matches for the ISO community. This was done through a purposeful series of visits, observations, and discussions with key stakeholder (teachers, students, parents).
2. Those conversations took place both on campus and in social settings. The mix of environments allowed Ms. Mixon to generatively discuss the practices at the American International School of Monrovia that could be beneficial to support student learning at the International School of Ouagadougou.
3. To ensure inclusive, open, and transparent communication among the future leadership team of the International School of Ouagadougou, with myself serving the community as Director and Ms. Jalisa Mixon serving as the Elementary Administrator in August.
4. Building an understanding that we are peers and with a positive collaboration and relationship, we will be able, together, to fully ensure what is needed to help ISO succeed and move forward to its next chapter in the school’s (as of next year) 45th year of operations.
5. To ensure a successful transition for the remainder of this year through proactive actions that engage both communities. With stakeholders’ support, from ISO and AISM, we can ensure a positive and constructive experience as we both transition to the future ISO leadership team at the start of the next school year.
During the school-to-school exchange, Ms. Jalisa Mixon was able to see how we conduct a joint three-year-old and four-year-old class here at AISM. ISO is planning to have such a class in August 2020. This visit allowed her to see firsthand how we administer this class. She was able to observe the class, see our schedule, and gain an understanding of how learning centres and “purposeful play” assist our youngest students here at AISM.
Ms. Mixon was also able to observe how AISM has recently adopted a program based on ‘The Responsive Classroom.’ Our teachers regularly hold Morning Meetings to make sure we recognize student voices. Our faculty are supported by an external advisor who assists our team with professional development in holding effective Morning Meetings. We have discovered, here in Monrovia, that student achievement can be better realised if we ensure students feel safe, respected, and know their opinions and voices are heard. Ms. Jalisa Mixon had the opportunity to see how this type of programme could be adapted to serve the needs of the students at ISO.
Finally, an unexpected outcome from this visit: providing my future colleague with inclusive, open and transparent communication with all stakeholders, actually helped with community support for my transition. After eight years of service to this great school, students and families, it is time for the Trudeau’s to move forward. The community, after her visit, can see what a great fit ISO will be for our family. Even my daughter is excited to know that she is going to “Ouagadougou.” (She, like me, will learn the correct pronunciation … most likely she will learn it faster!)
Furthermore, our community and I learned that Ms. Jalisa Mixon clearly understands the importance of building community, making sure each student is heard, and above all is passionate about teaching and learning, all of which are fantastic qualities that will assist in our transition to the ISO leadership team.
I am very pleased to know, after my site visit to the International School of Ouagadougou, and in working with Ms. Jalisa Mixon during this school-to-school exchange program, that MAP testing is firmly in place at ISO. Jalisa even attended an AISA-sponsored NWEA MAP PD in Dakar this year. MAP testing is one topic that we will not need to worry about during this transition.
After this successful school-to-school exchange, it is clear that I do not have all the answers, and the needs of the community at ISO are not the same as those in Monrovia. However, the stage is now set for us to effectively work together to identify the question of “how best to continue to support student learning at the International School of Ouagadougou.”
The Association of International Schools in Africa is dedicated to serving its members throughout Africa during this challenging time. Please let us know if you require additional or specific information, resources and or support, and we will endeavour to assist you as soon as possible.