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THE AISJ JOURNEY - WAYFINDING
“Wayfinding is the ancient art of figuring out where you are going when you don’t actually know your destination. For wayfinding, you need a compass and you need a direction. Not a map—a direction… Wayfinding your life is similar. Since there’s no one destination in life, you can’t put your goal into your GPS and get the turn-by-turn directions for how to get there.” - Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
w l k a i w t h a e k u a
Page INTRODUCTION WHY ARE WE HERE? WHAT DO WE BELIEVE? WHAT IS LEARNING? WHO ARE WE? WHO ARE WE BECOMING? WHERE ARE WE GOING? HOW WILL WE GET THERE? WHAT ARE WE GUIDED BY? CLOSING
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THE AISJ JOURNEY - INTRODUCTION
The purpose of the ‘AISJ Journey’ is to provide colleagues, students, families, and friends with an understanding of the identity and beliefs of the American International School of Johannesburg, and to share the distinct path of our organization, our strategic direction, and the core foundations that guide our way forward. Numerous values and principles that we hold dear are articulated and explained as we create common language and illustrate our culture and priorities. The philosophies and approaches herein did not appear overnight; this document is a reflection of conversations that have been occurring at AISJ for an extended period of time, evolving as we grow, and it is a catalyst for encouraging further dialogue and deliberate action to continuously advance our organization. We are here to inspire learning and build our better world. It is our aim to foster a rich culture of learning, develop a common language for learning, and reach a high level of clarity and connectivity in all of our efforts as we make the world a better place. We make the path behind us better as we learn and find our way.
The AISJ Journey is a compass that shows us where we are going, provides direction and clarity, and helps us move forward with unity. At the American International School of Johannesburg, we walk together on this journey. There are times of celebration and harmony, viewing serene vistas and enjoying beautiful moments. There are also stormy days and rocky roads, and we support each other through hard times along the path. There are special people who walk with us for a while and then they need to go on to other adventures. We keep going and we are grateful they were with us for a while as they play an integral role in helping us improve and move farther down our path. Each person brings unique talents as they join in our purpose and help us shape our way.We depend on each other, we are better when we act together, and we share a common bond as we continuously join in community. Life at AISJ is a journey, not a destination, and we hope you join us as we explore, learn and grow. Ubuntu, Dr. Jeremy A. Moore School Director
Why are we here?
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHY ARE WE HERE?
The answer to this question is an expression of the heart and soul of our school and an articulation of our mission and purpose. Our statement of purpose provides the foundation for our school’s focus and direction, creates connectedness and shared aspiration. When we come together in concert toward a common goal that is greater than ourselves, there is a heightened sense of energy, creativity, collaboration, pride and ownership in the work we do together. Organizations that have a collective purpose, shared vision, and common values outperform those that do not. When we know our purpose, it becomes easier to focus on where we are going, what matters the most, and which decisions are aligned with our priorities. No matter our role (bus driver, teacher, secretary, parent, coach, gardener, etc.), all are an active part of our school’s collective purpose as we support each other every day, inspire learning, and build our better world. AISJ is uniquely positioned to bring together children, educators and families from nearly one hundred nations, learning in harmony and developing global citizens who embrace diverse perspectives, brightening the future of this world. AISJ students, staff and parents were asked to share their perspectives on the purpose of our school, and we summarized it in this way:
AND BUILD OUR BETTER WORLD The purpose of AISJ is to provide exceptional educational experiences in a diverse and nurturing environment. We cultivate an inclusive community of learners and empower global citizens to fulfill their future purpose.
What do we believe?
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHAT DO WE BELIEVE?
Fundamental ‘Community Principles’ are cultural lighthouses and core values that our school embraces, and they serve as crucial guardrails for the behavior of every member of our school community. At AISJ, our school community shared our thoughts and beliefs in a process called, ‘Voices to Vision’. We engaged in numerous listening sessions (small and large groups, individual interviews, zoom meetings, etc.) that culminated with a large stakeholder event, facilitated by the Notosh group (notosh.com). Listening to students, faculty, staff, and parents, Notosh analyzed over 5000 lines of data, 526 survey responses, 149 digital boards of information, 43 listening sessions, along with digital and physical sticky notes to begin a draft of our community beliefs. In our culminating weekend stakeholder session, we collectively refined the drafts and we co-created a set of community principles that reflect the cultural ethos to which we aspire. These guiding statements began establishing a new, more inclusive ethos, setting expectations for how we treat one another, and they acted as a catalyst for a culture shift. To move our school toward our preferred future, we needed to think about, talk about, and ultimately come together to create community principles we want to work toward and fight for. It is a never-ending process as we strive to live our community principles, representing our fundamental beliefs, and demonstrate how we want to be together as a community.
WE ARE BETTER WHEN WE ACT TOGETHER. When each of us does well, we all do well, and that’s how we make a better world for one another.
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHAT DO WE BELIEVE - COMMUNITY PRINCIPLES
OUR DIFFERENCES MAKE US STRONGER. We don’t just bring our own backpacks and laptops to school. We bring our own culture, our own traditions and our own values. We bring our ideas. The more we celebrate our diversity, the stronger we make our community. Wherever you come from, whatever your background, or beliefs, you enrich our school just by being part of it.
EVERY VOICE COUNTS. EVERY VOICE MATTERS.
EVERY TEAM NEEDS INDIVIDUALS. EVERY INDIVIDUAL NEEDS A TEAM. We want every individual in this school to be their best. But you can’t be a star performer without support from the people around you. We work together. We create together. We’re curious together. We don’t just sit next to each other, we’ve got each other’s backs. When one of us shines, we all celebrate. When one of us struggles, we all give support.
When we feel safe, respected and included, then we’re inspired to do our best. When someone speaks, we don’t just pay lip-service to their ideas. We discuss their opinions, respect their feelings and when something needs to change, we change it. We step up without waiting to be told.
What is learning?
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHAT IS LEARNING?
It sounds like a simple, straightforward question, especially if you are asking this to an educator. But the truth is, most schools do not have a definition of learning, and very few have a common language that everyone in the school community uses to talk about what learning is and how it is best realized. With insight and guidance from colleagues, Will Richardson and Homa Tavangar, at the Big Questions Institute (BQI), faculty at AISJ came together to develop a definition of learning for our school. BQI writes, “Sharing an understanding of exactly what learning is across a school community is not only an imperative to sustainable change, for it is that from which all pedagogy must flow. But it’s equally necessary if we are to achieve the goal which most all schools say they share: creating lifelong learners. How can we do that if we haven’t a clear, coherent sense of what exactly that means?” At AISJ we have developed a clear definition of learning, and we have further shared our beliefs about how learning happens best by creating our Learning Principles. These principles articulate our school’s central beliefs and understandings regarding the fundamental tenets of teaching and learning. Articulating our definition and our beliefs is a beginning; we know that these will only have impact when we put these principles into practice.
LEARNING IS THE DEVELOPMENT
OF KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND
CHARACTER THROUGH EXPERIENCE
AND REFLECTION THAT CHANGES
WHO WE ARE.
KNOW SKI CHARA
DEF INITION OF LEARNING
HEAD HANDS HEART
WLEDGE ILLS ACTER KNOW DO BE
Learning happens best when....
CHALLENGE Learners are challenged with ambitious expectations and appropriate, personalized goals.
RELATIONSHIP Learners engage in positive relationships that enhance their sense of safety, well-being and belonging.
Learners engage in processes of inquiry, investigation, deep thinking, feedback, and reflection to apply and transfer ideas in multiple contexts.
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHAT IS LEARNING - LEARNING PRINCIPLES
RELEVANCE Learners find purpose and meaning as they make authentic connections among concepts and across disciplines.
ENGAGEMENT Learners are active and collaborative, engaging with diverse viewpoints to develop empathy and character.
OWNERSHIP Learners own their learning and know how to learn, empowering them to be self-directed, creative and explore their curiosities and individual passions.
Who are we?
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE?
A school’s identity is the unique product of its history, culture, purpose and philosophy. Most schools share some basic characteristics and universal commonalities, but each and every school is different or special in some way. Identity is not something that can be copied from others; identity is unique and authentic. It serves as the anchor that grounds a school and a filter through which it screens its actions. Just as an individual has an identity, so too does a school. That identity defines who the school is, contributes to a sense of community, and shapes how students, staff and families treat one another. It is a key aspect of success and is central to the experience of everyone in the school community. Ultimately, the identity of a school is based in its actions. Who you truly are, and what you believe about yourself at the core, is defined by what you do. Every member of the AISJ community was asked, Who are we? This dialogue was part of the Voices to Vision process that also included questions such as, What is great about AISJ? and, What is our vision for improvement and growth? The dialogue from numerous conversations and community inputs comes together to articulate aspects of AISJ’s identity and paint a picture of our amazing organization.
OUR DIVERSITY One of the key identifying characteristics of AISJ is our international diversity; the families who join our school community bring with them the cultures and characteristics of nearly one hundred different nationalities. Both within and beyond the school curriculum, AISJ embraces the opportunity for our students and members of our community to become globally minded and culturally competent. We are developing the skills that organizations want and the future needs. Few schools on the planet are as internationally diverse as we are, and we are uniquely positioned to be a catalyst for deep levels of empathy, tolerance, acceptance, and peace that empower those who join us and have a positive impact beyond our campuses. The more we celebrate our diversity, the stronger we make our community. Wherever you come from, whatever your background, or culture, you enrich our school just by being part of it. We recognize that diversity contributes to the school’s learning environment, thereby enriching our community and improving opportunities for human understanding. AISJ caters largely to expatriate families coming from a range of international businesses and Diplomatic backgrounds. The American student population is typically 30%, with approximately 20% South African families joining the school, and 50% of families from all over the world. AISJ operates under a northern hemisphere school year and calendar, despite being in the southern hemisphere. This is designed to meet most of our families’ needs as they transition around the world. Nationality and heritage only scratch the surface of the meaning of diversity at AISJ. We are committed to equity and respect for all individuals, and we seek to create a culture of inclusion that actively supports all students and members of our community. While the term ‘diversity’ is often used to refer to differences, our intentions and our actions come together to provide a safe environment of belonging for all, an inclusiveness of individuals who are diverse in language, culture, religion, beliefs, orientation and neurodiversity. In seeking to create a culture of inclusion, we are engaged in a continual process of reflection, change, and ongoing development of pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment. Learning programs across the school align to ensure access and pathways for all students.
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE - OUR DIVERSITY
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE - OUR SETTING
OUR SETTING World class facilities are a trademark of AISJ. Our beautiful, well-resourced, outdoor campuses are the envy of many. Notable capital investments have been employed to develop high-quality environments, and our intentional strategic maintenance plan ensures a high level of attention and sustainability to our buildings and grounds. Our facilities master planning process ensures that we have a long-range plan in place as well as a continual concentration on creating spaces that inspire future-focused learning. Beyond the superficiality of concrete and mortar, within our facilities we maintain a low student-teacher ratio and ensure every child benefits from personal attention. Our programs are intentional in facilitating social-emotional learning as well as a deliberate focus on well being. At AISJ, every voice counts, every voice matters, and a child is never just a number. With great admiration and respect for our magnificent host nation, we are continually seeking ways to honor this country, integrate South African culture into our school experiences and make it tangible for our community. Beyond simple celebrations of South African holidays, one of our greatest assets is our local employees who bring with them insights and ways of being that help to enlighten us and teach us the important cultural aspects of South Africa.
OUR STORY At a July 4th picnic celebrating American Independence Day in 1982, a group of interested Americans set up a table with a poster advertising the opening of a new “American” school in Johannesburg. A few short months later, the American International School of Johannesburg opened its doors to its first students on September 6th. Founder Ed Norman, together with American Embassy personnel and multinational businesses in South Africa saw the need for an American-style curriculum and international education for expatriates living in Johannesburg. Accredited by the State of Tennessee (USA), the school’s first home was a residence in the northern suburb of Rivonia and the school opened its doors to 72 students. By 1984 the school was bursting at the seams and the search for a larger facility was initiated. Two hundred and sixty acres were acquired from the Oppenheimer family. The only building on the campus was a crescent shaped stable for horses. The building was soon converted into 18 classrooms, and the school campus moved to its present location during the 1985-86 school year under the leadership of Director Dick Apple. As South Africa went through the dark days of apartheid, the school’s population dwindled through the late 80’s and early 90’s. But 1994 ushered in a new era of democracy for South Africa and since then the country has seen an influx of global interest and investment. Director Everett Gould saw the opportunities of a new free South Africa and how that would impact on the growth of the school, which in 1995 had 395 students. He served as director from 1992-1998 and during that period AISJ saw first and continued development of its campus beyond the horse stables building. The High School wing was added, as was a new swimming pool, cafeteria, library, gym, Fine Arts Center and boarding houses. The Elementary School wing was added in 1995-96. By the year 2000, our student population stood at 530 students. Today’s AISJ would be almost unrecognizable to those who remember the 1985 campus. The crescent - shaped horse stables still exist, making up the administrative core of AISJ, but there have been many more additions. Leo Ruberto, the school’s director from 1999 - 2003, was instrumental in seeing the need for a satellite campus in Pretoria, the nation’s capital, having the second-highest number of high commissions and embassies in the world.
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE - OUR STORY
The Pretoria Campus of AISJ opened its doors in 2002 with 14 students in a Kindergarten through Grade 2 setting. The Pretoria campus outgrew its first set of facilities and moved to a new campus in August 2011. The School Board approved the purchase of the new campus, located in the Faerie Glen neighborhood, in November 2010. This new campus now offers classes from Pre-K through Grade 8. The campus experienced significant expansions and improvements to accommodate the current community and a maximum population of 300 students on this campus. There has been no plan to expand the program offered at the Pretoria campus to include a High School, and High School students are transported by bus to the Johannesburg campus to allow students a wide range of courses and programs and facilities - not possible on the smaller campus. During its years of operation, the High School has grown and seen students gaining admission into premier universities and colleges around the world. In 1994, AISJ introduced the International Baccalaureate Diploma program (IBDP) and the majority of our Grade 11 and 12 students have enrolled in this program either in its entirety or choosing individual certificates from within the IBDP. The school has also offered an American International School Diploma for all graduates through the High School Program (HSP) pathway. AISJ was helmed by Dr. Andy Page-Smith for ten years, which were the years that the student enrollment increased and the facilities were expanded and improved. AISJ developed an outstanding international reputation for innovative learning and community outreach – in part due to the creation (in 2010) of its Center for Teaching and Learning and due to the more recent employ of school-wide Learning Support and Service-Learning Coordinators. Service Learning became a graduation requirement for all students, embedded within the programs offered school wide. Similarly, there became an emphasis placed on inclusion to ensure that our international families are supported and with a focus towards differentiating to meet all student needs. Weekend workshops and learning institutes became a regular and expected feature of our calendar and have gained both local and international recognition.
In 2020, Dr. Jeremy Moore became our Head of School and had to immediately respond to COVID restrictions and the impact these had on the school – including the ban on international flights, which kept him and all of our other newly hired teachers from joining us at the school until late October that year. COVID, and likely other international factors, led to a significant reduction in enrollment within a short time period. The Board, Dr. Moore, and the AISJ team found it necessary to develop a “Rightsize & Restructure” process to guide the school back toward a sound, viable model that could be financed, sustained, and maintained over the coming years. These changes and reductions are never easy on a community and AISJ was no different - it was challenging, but adjustments were made, the school worked through natural attrition when possible, and assisted others in finding options. In 2022, at the time of its 40th anniversary, AISJ had a healthy population of approximately 900 students with an eye toward growth. And even more importantly, as COVID waned, the school experienced a catharsis, emerging with optimism, and moving confidently into the next phase in finding new opportunities.
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE - OUR STORY
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE - OUR PILLARS
OUR PILLARS For more than a decade, AISJ has used ‘Four Pillars’ to describe key aspects of the school’s identity. Students, staff and parents repeatedly talked about AISJ’s Four Pillars in the Voices to Vision dialogue sessions, and the community clearly emphasized that AISJ values programming that is well-rounded, with an emphasis on the whole child. During these sessions, one student said, ‘We are not a school that is just about academics and tests. We also have amazing arts programs and great sports teams, and there are many different clubs and activities. The High School goes on trips to other countries, and before COVID we had service trips into townships.’ The Four Pillars of AISJ are:
ACADEMICS ARTS ATHLETICS/ACTIVITES SERVICE LEARNING
ACADEMICS Learning is the development of knowledge, skills and character through experience and reflection that changes who we are. Academics and fundamental disciplines are a key aspect of learning as students develop new understandings of concepts, big important ideas that help them make sense of the world. Developing core foundational skills and developing competencies that will prepare students for their future are integral to the academic experience at AISJ. Beyond knowledge and skills, curricular studies are a catalyst for personal growth and reflection, empowering students to become people of strong character.
ATHLETICS/ACTIVITIES Co-curricular programs occurring outside of the regular school day are incredibly fulfilling and fun for our students, and also for the teachers, coaches and personnel who support them. AISJ hosts three ‘seasons’ of rich, diverse co-curricular activities and programs on our campuses. In addition, we participate in the International Schools of Southern and Eastern Africa (ISSEA) organization. ISSEA was formed in 1998 and includes international schools located in Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. AISJ participates in events at the varsity (U19) level with these schools in athletics, fine and performing arts, technology, and mathematics. Internationally, AISJ is a regular participant in conferences worldwide for ISTA, AMIS, MUN, and other festivals and events targeting middle school and high school populations. Participation in athletics and activities are a key aspect of the development of the whole child and their educational experience.
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE - OUR PILLARS
ARTS Arts programs at AISJ encourage discovery through experimentation, the taking of risks, and the presentation of ideas to others, resulting in the development of life skills and the building of confidence, creativity, and working collaboratively. Students have the opportunity to be creators, designers, directors, and performers, gaining a richer understanding of themselves, their community, and the world through the study of Theatre. Students are encouraged to follow their personal interests and passions in the creation of meaningful artworks, and a major goal in our visual arts program is to develop a student’s personal voice through their engagement in their chosen medium. Students experience the value of quality commitment and can discover the power of imagination through the study of music (choral, instrumental, and general). Through our high-quality arts programs an increased emphasis is placed on individuality, creation, interpretation and expression while developing the ‘whole’ person.
SERVICE LEARNING Service is a fundamental aspect of learning at AISJ. Service Learning connects positive and meaningful action in the community with academic learning, personal growth, and social responsibility. Service Learning empowers students to develop new skills and knowledge through integrated connections to the curriculum. AISJ’s service learning program enables students to actively engage in, lead, and understand meaningful service by responding to genuine needs of the community. This is achieved through the delivery of an integrated service learning curriculum and the development of sustainable projects.
OUR PARAMETERS In conjunction with core principles, some schools highlight parameters or delineate various demographic thresholds that help to define and explain their identity. Examples from international schools include declaring the primary language of instruction, limiting percentages of student nationalities or other demographics, specifying capacity of student support services, determining proportions of local and overseas staffing, focusing financial commitments to professional learning, identified programs or highlighted priorities, and a host of other defining indicators. Parents often choose schools based on values that align with their own, and a school’s guiding statements help fulfill those expectations. A concrete understanding of the identity of an organization is furthered and made increasingly transparent by an articulation of its parameters. When precedents or transformative decisions need to be made, a school’s parameters and commitment to its identity can provide essential guidance. The AISJ community and Board developed a set of Parameters that have been used for many years, in conjunction with our Strategic Policies, to provide guidance and delimitations for the school. The AISJ Parameters state that AISJ will … · Provide a Pre K-12 education · Use English as the primary language of instruction · Maintain a strong international identity while respecting our host country’s cultures · Maintain a sense of community and attention to individuals · Not tolerate behavior that is detrimental to the safety, integrity, or dignity of any individual · Hire and retain qualified and adaptable staff whose attitudes and actions reflect the school’s Guiding Statements · Ensure that school enrollment, resources, and capacity are aligned · Adhere to a sustainable and transparent financial plan
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE - OUR PARAMETERS
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE - OUR SYMBOLS
OUR SYMBOLS The baobab tree is an enduring symbol of life in Africa. In many African stories and cultures, the baobab is portrayed as an ancestral symbol of wisdom, authority and custom, providing a bond between the past and the present. It is believed that kings and elders would hold meetings under the baobab tree, with the belief that the tree’s spirits would guide them in decision-making. In more modern times, the baobab tree is commonly used as a venue for community meetings or even as a classroom. It is a symbol of life and positivity in a landscape where it is difficult to thrive. For centuries, humanity has considered the eagle as a symbol of bravery, courage, honor, pride, determination, and grace. It is also called the ‘king of the skies’ and ‘messenger of the highest Gods’, and the eagle’s wings are symbols of protection and safety. Eagles are important mythological figures in cultures worldwide and continue to be a source of inspiration or a guiding force; the eagle teaches individuals about the power of rising above negative forces and the unparalleled value of true freedom. During the foundational stages of our school, the AISJ Eagle was established as the symbol and mascot for the organization. The Eagle stands strong as an AISJ symbol, especially in our athletics programs. In addition to the Eagle, AISJ adopted the Baobab tree as a primary icon and image of the school, and both of these symbols are venerated in our organization.
Who are we becoming? We are becoming a culture of care and community. In Africa, there is a single word that expresses a deep philosophy of humanity, togetherness, recognition, respect, understanding and empathy. ‘Ubuntu’ (a word of African origin) can be translated to, ‘I am, because we are,’ and we embrace this belief in various ways at AISJ as we seek to build a culture of equity, inclusivity, connectedness and community in our school. It is clear that we have much work to do in order to embody the ideals that we strive toward, but it is also clear that we are committed to bettering ourselves and the world around us as we come together and build community. In a 2022 article, Homa Tavangar and Will Richardson wrote, “The sad reality is that schools and education in general have evolved to be more about personal gain than about the good of the collective or the community. “Good schools” are defined as those where individual students have the best chance of finding individual “success,” usually defined by university acceptances. As former Stanford professor David Labaree notes, today schools are seen “mainly as a private good, producing credentials that allow individuals to get ahead, or stay ahead, in the competition for money and social status.” In other words, while the ideal role of schools was once to nurture and develop a “community of citizens,” the reality turned into something much different. A sense of connection to something much larger and more important than ourselves has been lost. And that has had huge consequences, economically (growing inequity), politically (growing authoritarianism), socially (growing isolation, depression, and mental illness), and environmentally (growing climate impacts.) Schools aren’t the only contributors to this, to be sure. But if we are going to overcome these challenges, we’re going to have to get back to education as a community and connection-building undertaking first and foremost. We’re going to need to emphasize “we” over “me.”
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE BECOMING?
IF YOU WANT TO GO FAST, GO ALONE. IF YOU
WANT TO GO FAR,GO
TOGETHER . - AFRICAN PROVERB
It was an anthropological study…that I shall now describe: A basket of fruit was placed near a tree…and the children of an African tribe were told they needed not only to be fast but also resolute because the one who gets to the basket first…gets to eat all the fruit. When they were told to run, …they didn’t at first…instead like birds of a feather they each took the hand of the child next to them…and then they ran…together. Together they ran to the basket…fast and resolute Together they reached the basket… and together…they ate the fruit. When asked why they chose to run that way…”UBUNTU” said one lad… adding, “How can one of us be happy…if all the other ones are sad? “ In South Africa the word UBUNTU…means ‘I am because we are’ It’s a belief we are defined by our compassion and kindness towards others… and it’s a word that travels far for every culture, every civilization…across the land, the sky, the seas has a word with similar meaning…In America…it’s humanity.
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE BECOMING?
Arabic, French, German and Hindi have similar words like these: (Al Insaniyya, Humanite, Menschlichkeit, Manavata) So do the Spanish, the Italians, the Finnish as well as the Chinese (Humanidad, Umanita, Ihmiskunta (Renlei) It’s a simple word…humanity…that has an allure…a wonderful attraction but it remains only a word…until we put it into action. I’m glad to see so many cultures have this word as part of their folklore… I think, however, the entire world…need to practice this word a little more. We need to spread humanity and let our actions travel far…. We need to teach the world UBUNTU…’I am because we are’.
We need to follow the example of the children…we need to be fast and resolute… We need to join hands as one…together…and together enjoy our fruit. A poem by Jim Yerman
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHO ARE WE BECOMING - PORTRAIT OF A LEARNER
PORTRAIT OF A LEARNER There are skills that transcend academic disciplines; these ‘transdisciplinary’ competencies are attributes that every person, young or old, can reflect upon and refine as we seek to become better versions of ourselves. In 2019, we redeveloped our Profile of a Learner; as a school community, we wanted our profile (transformed to a ‘Portrait’) to encompass all learners, students and adults, and not be limited to young adults in their final years of high school. We also felt as though our Portrait should be able to supplant numerous “cultural documents” that AISJ had developed over the years that were redundant, underutilized, and/or misunderstood. Over multiple PGCT sessions and in our Professional Learning Institute, we explored our documents, beliefs about learning, and what direction we wanted to explore for our students; these sessions were referred to as Revisit, Reimagine, and Repurpose. The final visual of the revised AISJ Portrait of Learner was created using the feedback, ideas, concepts, and themes from AISJ teachers. It is important to emphasize that the Portrait is not intended to be a stand-alone or a separate part of our overall instructional framework; the elements must be woven throughout our units and learning is enhanced through this interaction. For example, there is not an expectation to teach curiosity; we want to leverage academic content to encourage and amplify curiosity, experimenting and exploring possibilities, directing our own learning, enhancing our ability to be innovative, self-directed, and inspired.
CONTRIBUTOR CURIOUS GLOBALLY CONNECTED MINDFUL RESILIENT THINKER
THE AISJ JOURNEY - PORTRAIT OF A LEARNER
CONTRIBUTOR Advocate | Communicator | Collaborator
We learn together purposefully—communicating and advocating with intention and sensitivity.
CURIOUS Innovative | Self-directed | Inspired
We ask and imagine—experimenting and exploring possibilities, directing our own learning.
GLOBALLY-CONNECTED Responsible | Inclusive | Culturally-competent
We embrace diversity—navigating our similarities and differences responsibly, respectfully and with appreciation.
MINDFUL Empathetic | Thoughtful | Ethical
We seek to understand— engaging all ethically, thoughtfully and with empathy.
RESILIENT Creative | Critical | Practical
We approach opportunities flexibly—persevering to achieve goals and celebrating growth.
THINKER Open-minded | Perseverant | Agile
We enhance our understanding—reflecting and responding with diverse and divergent thinking.
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHERE ARE WE GOING?
Where are we going? The path that a school intentionally follows is a blueprint that brings action to a vision and a strategic plan. A vision is a picture of what an organization aspires to become in the future and an illustration of its intended direction. By identifying ambitious goals that everyone shares, a school can build a framework for better teaching and learning, organizational improvement and community connectedness. A vision has the power to inspire us, to be uplifting and to encourage experimentation and innovation. This collective energy builds trust, creates unity, promotes collaboration, increases communication, and brings clarity around what needs to get done. As educators, we derive meaning by helping to create something bigger and greater than ourselves, using our creativity to enhance activities that help realize our strategic direction and fulfill our professional and creative aspirations. We are inspired to see our work as more than just a job, but rather a cause that lends purpose to our lives.
OUR VISION CONTROLS
OUR PERCEPTION, AND OUR PERCEPTION BECOMES OUR REALITY. - DEWITT JONES
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHERE ARE WE GOING?
Every AISJ Board member joined with the Leadership Team and spent time together with Ewan McIntosh (from Notosh) to write a story and a vision of AISJ in the future. Each person shared their thoughts on the feel of the community and their ideas regarding education. In addition, there were multiple activities and opportunities for input from every member of our school community. There was a seminal event, the Dream Summit, that brought together students, parents, faculty, staff, leaders and Board members and this was key in developing our strategic direction. We spent a day together, sharing thoughts and ideas that helped us to understand our new guiding statements, build community, dream of the future of education at our school, and contribute to the development of the new AISJ strategic direction. There were opportunities to meet new people and engage in activities that offered a balance of wide-open sharing of our hopes for learning at AISJ, as well as more focused contributions to broad themes that moved us forward in forming our plans for the future. Extending beyond the Principles and values articulated in the community-wide Voices to Vision process, the Leadership Team and Board came together for three collaborative sessions as part of the process of articulating and refining our school’s future strategic priorities. The Strategic Planning Task Force, including high school students, faculty, Board and Leadership Team members, were an integral force in this process as well. In addition, all faculty came together to explore the basic essence of these priorities and provide feedback on these in a whole-school dialogue session. Ultimately, this process led to the development of three strategic priorities that will be the focus at AISJ for years to come.
CULTU CARE COMMU
INFORME PURPOSE LEARNIN
URE, E, & UNITY
ED, EFUL NG
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHERE ARE WE GOING - STRATEGIC PRIORITIES
CCC INTEGRATED, SUSTAINABLE SYSTEMS
SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING
CULTURE, CARE, & COMMUNITY
INTEGR SUSTAI SYST
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHERE ARE WE GOING - STRATEGIC PRIORITIES
EFFECTIVENESS & SYNERGY
RATED, INABLE TEMS
INFORMED, PURPOSEFUL LEARNING
CONNECTIONS & COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN, ASSESSMENT & PEDAGOGY
PERSONALIZED LEARNING & PATHWAYS
How will we get there?
THE AISJ JOURNEY - HOW WILL WE GET THERE?
The success of any school is dependent upon the level of clarity and commitment to its purpose, the extent to which its beliefs are understood and upheld, the development of a shared vision, an effective roadmap for progress, and the capacity of its leaders and members to foster a culture that embodies its ideals. A strategic plan is an indispensable tool that can help turn vision into reality. The process of developing a strategic plan needs to consider all school stakeholder interests, and the involvement of school community members can contribute to its overall success. In fact, it is essentially teachers who do the practical work of implementing action plans. Strategic plans are mechanisms of guidance, which means they must be clear and accessible, and useful for decision making. Great schools are able to maintain focus on the most important things. A good strategy forces a school to be clear about what it wants to achieve as well as outline specifically how it will proceed. Schools must be ready and willing to adapt and revise their strategies, and related action plans, as needed in order to always be effective in real time.
THE STRATEGIC DIRECTION OF AISJ IS SUMMARIZED B Y THE F O LLO WI N G I N TRO DUCTI O N S :
CULTURE, CARE, & COMMUNITY Why? Advancing our commitment to foster an open, inclusive learning community is the foundation for equitable opportunities and wellbeing for all.
ACTIONS: JEDI Cultivate an inclusive community that values kindness, empathy, and mutual respect where we serve as advocates for the dignity and worth of everyone. Wellbeing Foster a collective commitment to health, safety, and balance, enabling all to realize mental, physical, and personal growth and develop resiliency. Social-Emotional Learning Empower each to discover a sense of purpose, build positive relationships, achieve goals, make responsible decisions, and contribute to the common good.
THE AISJ JOURNEY - STRATEGIC DIRECTION SUMMARY
INFORMED, PURPOSEFUL LEARNING
Why? Deep learning occurs when experiences are purposeful, collaboratively created, coherent, personalized, and intentionally implemented.
ACTIONS: Competency-Based Education Articulate rigorous expectations for learning that are explicit, transparent, measurable, meaningful, and where progression is based on mastery. Instructional Design, Assessment & Pedagogy Implement learning progressions that amplify high-quality instruction, informed assessment, differentiation, timely feedback, and inquiry. Personalized Learning & Pathways Create relevant, consequential experiences that expand choice and agency, as well as design pathways for each to explore passions and maximize success.
INTEGRATED, SUSTAINABLE SYSTEMS
Why? Aligning people, structures, systems, and processes is essential to effectively advance and support student learning and ensure sustainability.
ACTIONS: Resource Management Develop and improve resources that maximize facilities, finances, human resources, professional development, and learning. Connections & Community Partnerships Expand partnerships in and among the members of the school, local, global, and online communities through meaningful and authentic connections. Effectiveness & Synergy Ensure a one-school systemic approach that is future-orientated, effective, and advances all of our guiding statements. 65
What are we guided by?
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHAT ARE WE GUIDED BY?
AISJ is guided by a set of guiding statements that are actualized and reinforced through policy. Our guiding statements, collectively, are illustrated through a compass. Our AISJ Compass includes our Vision, Purpose, Community Principles, Learning Principles, Portrait of a learner, Pillars and Parameters. Students learn deeply, educators are inspired, and everyone in the school community thrives when we are focused on our purpose, we stay true to our stated beliefs, and our shared vision is realized through thoughtful planning, sound implementation, reflection, and continuous improvement. Without a direction to follow we become less effective and stagnant. Without knowing where to go and how to get there - without a compass - ultimately, we are lost. Fortunately, AISJ has a Compass; our purpose is inherently inspiring, we have articulated our beliefs and we have sound principles to stand on. We have a clear direction and we know how to get there.
INSPIRE LEARNING AND BU
S COMMUNITY PRINCIPLES We’re better when we act together. Our differences make us stronger. Every voice counts, every voice matters. Every team needs individuals. Every individual needs a team.
The purpose of AISJ is to provide exceptional educational experiences in a diverse and nurturing environment. We cultivate an inclusive community of learners and empower global citizens to fulfill their future purpose.
THE AISJ JOURNEY - WHAT ARE WE GUIDED BY - PURPOSE
UILD OUR BETTER WORLD
S LEARNING PRINCIPLES
Relationship Challenge Process Ownership Engagement Relevance
PORTRAIT OF A LEARNER Resilient Contributor Curious Mindful Globally Connected Thinker
Ngiyabonga, Enkosi, Ke a leboga, Dankie, Thank you! An enormous expression of gratitude goes ou Strategic Planning Task Force was a key group that guided the creation of the Compass, AISJ’s guid activities to shape important language. Hundreds of school stakeholders took part in the Voices to V Journey were generated through an extremely inclusive process; ultimately, The AISJ Journey is a cu direction, and it is the foundation of o
- THE AISJ JOURNEY
ut to the students, staff and parents who contributed to the development of the AISJ Journey. The ding statements, and strategic priorities, and the Board and Leadership Team engaged in multiple Vision and Dream Summit events, ensuring that the principles and priorities articulated in the AISJ ulmination of the ideas and aspirations of the school community. It provides clarity of purpose and our work together moving forward.