Community with a Capital “C”

So this week I will begin to break down, and go deeper into the four facets of our new C.O.A.R. Initiative. Last week I introduced and outlined the overall sentiment and philosophy behind it, and over the next four weeks I will talk specifically about each aspect so we all have a collective and shared understanding of what it’s trying to accomplish……let me begin with COMMUNITY . One of the challenges facing a school like ours, (which has gone through a period of tremendous growth over the past four or five years) is the daunting task of trying to overcome the loss of, or to put it another way, trying to keep a firm grasp on that “small school” feel, where community is at the center and heart of everything that we do. As we explode into a school of over 1500 students ranging from Toddler through to 12th Grade, and into a faculty of almost 200 educators, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay connected and in tune with the needs of our shared school community. It’s even more important for us here at Shanghai Community International School because Community is in our name, and very much part of our mission. The C.O.A.R initiative has its sights set on restoring this small school feeling at SCIS, and energizing our school by putting a capital ‘C’ back into community.

At the end of last year, when the relatively small group of us began to discuss this initiative, we identified a few specific and targeted areas where we thought improvement was needed. We came up with a charter of sorts, which outlined what we wanted to focus on regarding the recommitment to our community, and some of the ideas that might bring it all to life………..this is what we thought of and put down on paper……

Community: We will………
·       Celebrate each other’s contributions to our school (our personal and professional accomplishments)
·       Support one another (commit to making everyone feel valued through nurturing and caring relationships)
·       Communicate effectively (presuming positive intent with all we do, critical friends protocol workshops, hard conversation role play workshops, book studies)
·       Learn from each other (share our collective expertise through faculty Professional Development workshops, peer classroom observations, shared videotaped lessons)
·       Celebrate our “brand” (faculty shirt and fleeces, faculty shirt days, once a month spirit day stand up meetings used for faculty celebrations)
·       Be transparent about who we are as a school and where we’re going (our story and fairytale)

Obviously, community is not just about us as a faculty, as there are other stakeholder groups who contribute immeasurably to the success of our institution. Groups like our wonderful and supportive parent community, our beautiful students (who I believe will be the most positively impacted by this initiative), our support and facilities staff, and the surrounding local neighborhood community who we hope to have support us at every turn. All of these groups need to be embraced, celebrated, and infused into this endeavor if our goal is to be accomplished. We need to look at ways of getting these groups on board and involved, and here are a few ideas for you to wrestle with……

  • Using the expertise of our parent community (How about inviting our poets and authors into a Language Arts class? Maybe our computer programmers into a digital technology class ? What about our engineers, our mathematicians, our business owners, our musicians, our historians, our meteorologists, our professional athletes, or any other professionals that would connect the classroom to the world outside our walls? These connections will not only foster wonderful relationships within our community, it will give our students a chance to learn in a more authentic way)
  • Having appreciation days for our facilities and support staff. These incredibly hard working men and women are often underappreciated and undervalued, which is crazy considering all that they do to allow us to focus on the learning of our students.
  • Inviting the local neighborhood community leaders to our student performances, our graduations, and getting them involved in a much bigger way through our service learning initiatives. We are guests in their country and we should show our appreciation by building a mutually strong partnership.
  • Celebrating our students and all they accomplish in every possible way…….assemblies, honor societies, award nights, social functions, and all the rest…….truly make them the focus of everything we do!

Anyway, I think you get the idea. My challenge to you all this week is to look at your specific programs, your role in after school activity and sport, and to look at what you are willing to share of yourself at an upcoming PD day……With a specific and concerted effort by everyone, we can enhance our community in a profound way……like the quote below states……we all have to be ready to take the helm. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and great for each other.

Quote of the Week……..
A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.
– Henrik Ibsen

Attached Article – Creating a School Community Creating a School Community

Coalition for Community Schools Website
http://www.communityschools.org/ScalingUp/

Where the Hell is Matt? (Need a VPN in China….great video about our Global Community)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pwe-pA6TaZk

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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