COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT Stepping out of the ‘bubble’ - The Importance of Creating Meaningful and Sustainable Community Partnerships
By Laura Davies, Athletic Director & Sadie Hollins, Head of Sixth Form, Lanna International School, Thailand
Many international schools pride themselves on their extra-curricular programmes. Go to most school websites, and they will loudly and proudly tell you about the extensive number of activities they offer; sports, drama, music, MUN, IA, leadership, debate team, community service – the list goes on. They proclaim that these will prepare students for entrance into universities, employment, and transform young people into truly ‘global’ citizens. Whilst schools are to be rightly admired for creating such amazing opportunities for students, we must also ask ourselves - what is the true purpose of all of this? In a setting where business and education are so closely intertwined, it can sometimes feel as though we have forgotten to include programmes that truly place the holistic development of students at the heart of them – and that also consider the wider communities in which international schools are situated.
The importance of interacting with, and embracing the local community, is stressed by Keith Allen (2000), who states that ‘one of the most important roles of an international school is to encourage its privileged students to develop an appreciation of, a respect for, and an empathy towards their world’. Whilst many international schools pride themselves on creating globallyminded young people, this should not be at the expense of their knowledge and understanding of local issues. We would argue that this should in fact take precedence, and the way in which schools manage this interaction is essential. Whilst many schools do make efforts to engage with local communities, the intention behind this must be considered. The communities in which international schools are situated are rich in culture, language and history, and students must be given the opportunity to explore and engage with these in a way that goes beyond simple awareness or charity.
At our school, we have developed a relationship with an organisation called Playonside. Playonside work with the Burmese migrant community in Mae Sot on the Thai/ Myanmar border, and use football as a way of bringing together and empowering young people from this community. They aim to spread awareness of the issues facing these young people, and are particularly keen to promote equal opportunities and improve relationships between the different ethnic groups that exist within the community.
Our collaboration with this organisation has been carefully fostered and built up over a period of time, and has involved a range of mutually coordinated activities, involving many different parts of the school body. As part of our Sports Leadership Level 3 course we have taken students to Mae Sot, where they have organised and lead games and activities as part of the seasonal football festivals run regularly by Playonside. These festivals bring together teams from the many migrant schools in the local area, and include participants of a wide range of ethnicities, gender, ages and abilities. The focus of these events is social inclusion, and points are awarded to teams not merely for winning, but also for displaying teamwork, fair play and mutual respect for one another. Along with the benefit of offering our students the opportunity to put into practice, and evaluate, their coaching skills in a different and unfamiliar environment, it also pushes them outside of their comfort zone, helps to break down social-barriers, and encourages them to communicate and build connections with the young people they meet.
Additionally, we have both taken a group of female students to Mae Sot to participate in a football tournament hosted by Playonside, and invited women and girls teams from the organisation to visit us in Chiang Mai to take part in (what we hope will become) an annual ‘friendship’ tournament, alongside teams from both our school and other local international schools. This has not only allowed us to foster and strengthen the relationship between students, but also provided additional opportunities for female students to participate in sports, thereby challenging gender stereotypes – one of the core aims of Playonside.
Finally, we have involved our entire school community in fundraising efforts, both financial and to provide specific resources as needed – for example we recently hosted a drive to collect donations of stationery, as Playonside worked to support the teachers at the migrant schools they work with to do home visits and provide socially-distanced classes during the pandemic.
This ongoing collaboration has been meaningful to our school and our students in many ways, but what we feel has been most special about this project is the genuine relationships that have formed as a result. Our students, whilst not without problems of their own, do possess an amount of privilege and entitlement that is not afforded to everyone. During our trips, we not only take part in sports events, but also visit the border crossing so students can see firsthand what happens there, and attend presentations delivered by Playonside coaches, many of them migrants themselves, that provide them with information about the political and economic issues that contribute to some of the difficulties experienced by these communities. Our students are invited to visit homes and schools, and see for themselves the stark contrast between their lives and the lives of the people they are now meeting and interacting with, determined by little other than a birthplace lottery. Most importantly, students from completely different backgrounds connect with each other. They become friends, discover the similarities that bind them, develop a better understanding and appreciation of their differences, and build relationships that last beyond school-arranged events.
So our final message would be this; collaborations with local organisations are wonderful and important. As international educators, we should be pursuing opportunities such as these for our students and attempting to create genuine, long-term relationships with those that inhabit the wider communities in which our schools are situated – relationships that serve the best interests of these communities, and not merely those of our schools and our students. Our hope is that long after they leave school, students will continue to remember these experiences and the relationships they formed, and that it will shape their future actions in a way that is beneficial to those they live alongside - particularly those that may not share their privilege.
References: Allen, K. (2000) The international school and its community: think globally, interact locally, in Hayden, M. & Thompson, J. (Eds) International Schools & International Education, Kogan Page: London, UK.
STUDENT WRITING Strangers
By Anna Schier, Busan Foreign School
“Might you be able to help me?”
The security guard grunted, ignoring the request, and shifted sluggishly in his chair. His feet were resting on the counter in front of him, and the portly man was absorbed in a boorish cartoon concealed in yesterday’s paper. The guard’s forehead, drenched in sweat beneath his linen cap, puckered as he read. An insistent tapping against the thick plastic divider went unnoticed as the guard skimmed the crass caricatures and it was only after another minute did he look up. A man stood behind the glass, evidently the source of the insistent knocking. He was a curious figure. He held himself in a strangely polite but uncertain way, with his spine straight but his shoulder rolled forwards, his chin held high but his eyes darting warily from side to side beneath the rim of his dark hat. The guard’s grip on the paper loosened, and it fell against his stomach with a gentle smack.
“I would like to buy a ticket.” The man behind the glass spoke clearly and deliberately, as though he was considering every word before he uttered it. Sounded posh. The guard let his feet slide off the counter.
“Did you try the ticket machine?”
The man’s eyes flickered towards the two ticket machines in the far corner of the station. Both screens were cracked and the machine on the right was dented across the middle; it had the appearance of being hunched over as though it might suddenly be sick.
“I don’t believe the machine is working.”
The guard clicked his tongue thoughtfully. People didn’t usually stop by his window. He usually confined himself to the happenings of his cartoons, purposefully oblivious to whatever took place beyond the plastic dividers of his box. But then again, this wasn’t an ordinary man, rather a stranger to this part of town. He was glancing around uncertainly- out of curiosity or fear, the guard couldn’t tell- and kept shuffling closer to the window as though the mere presence of the stout guard was in some way comforting. The man wore a dark hat that, coupled with the harsh overhead lighting, sent an ominous shadow over his face. The guard, studying him dubiously, could make out a purpling patch along his cheekbone and a red scratch along his lip. The guard shifted forwards in his chair.
“Where else might I be able to purchase a ticket?” The man shuffled even closer as he spoke.
“Have you tried the ticket office?” The guard glanced across the row of turnstiles at the empty ticket box that sat along the far wall. Though the words ‘Ticket Office’ had once hung over the booth, the office was now indistinguishable from the rest of the desolate station. Nothing and no one could be seen in the office’s interior; only the guard’s own face stared back at him from across the space, reflected in the cracked glass. Between the guard and his own stout reflection, a younger boy ducked under the turnstile carelessly, letting his chewed up gum fall out of his mouth and onto the tiled floor as he did so. The guard turned back to the man with a shrug.
“I guess that’ll be two dollars fifty, then.”
The man nodded and fished a handful of coins out of the bottom of his pocket. The guard watched as he cradled the coins in a bandaged palm, pushing the big coins aside from the smaller ones. It was clear he hadn’t done this too many times before.
“Thank you.” The man decided on the bigger coins, emptying them through the shallow slot in the window.
“Yeah, of course.” The guard pushed a ticket back and the man, with a pained smile, approached the turnstiles cautiously. The guard, dismissing the oddity from his mind, lifted his paper back up and once more allowed himself to disconnect from his surroundings.
The man exited the jolting train as it reached the city’s outskirts. Cigarette stubs were smashed into the floor, tacked into place by blackening pieces of gum and there was a distinct scurrying noise coming from the tracks. The man, adjusting his hat anxiously, lingered for a moment, unsure where to go next. He definitely wasn’t supposed to be here, that was for sure, but the thought of braving the train again made his hair stand on end and his heart pound painfully. So, he gingerly ascended the stairs, wincing in the underground station’s stale shadows before emerging into the dimming light. He’d have to find somewhere to lay low, just for tonight, and then he could return to the city. The centre and outskirts of town were manageable, it was what laid between, as he had just learned, that presented a challenge.
The street was empty at first glance. A rubbled road was the sole divider between stumps of cracked concrete. Fading neon ‘Welcome! We’re Open!’ signs, each a dying shade of magenta, lime or chartreuse, sat in the corner of shop windows, quickly blinking off when passersby glanced in their direction, as if hoping to go unnoticed. Pigeons sat in the gutters of the stained buildings, cooing sluggishly. An alleyway across the street was filled with peach-coloured milk crates that were stacked as high as the buildings themselves. It was only as the man cautiously surveyed the streets that he noticed the people inhabiting it. As his eyes adjusted to the deepening sky, figures seemed to materialise out of the concrete, emerging from the doorsteps, appear on building roofs. A woman came into view from behind the nearest shop, a heavy basket of fruit clutched to her chest. A pair of feet could be seen protruding from between the milk crates. The silhouettes of old men were visible in the above windows as they flicked their cigarette butts onto the street below. The people were like wisps of smoke, apparent one moment and gone the next, barely indistinguishable from the muted street, each of them dressed in the same fading colours and all eager to avoid eye contact. Surrounded by such meek uniformity, the man felt increasingly aware of his figure. He felt, as he stood outside the station, leaning against the sticky railing, a streaky blotch of ink against an otherwise dull canvas, that his presence wasn’t a welcome one.
‘He sticks out like a sore thumb, actually.’ The woman spoke to no one in particular. Perhaps she was addressing the fruit. The basket had been
carefully tucked underneath the table, just in case, but she liked to think the bruised apples could hear her, anyway. The street was a lonely one, with everyone so intent on keeping their noses down and staying out of trouble. This man, with his battered face and poorly disguised injuries hadn’t been so guarded. The woman watched him through a gap in the curtains. He wasn’t from this part of town, that much was clear. His coat, his shoes, although they were freshly scuffed- he had no doubt been running away from trouble- they were too new, too stiff. The shoes they wore had aged with them, the lines surfacing on their foreheads mirrored in the cheap imitation leather. Despite this, the woman almost pitied him as she gazed through the glass and watched the unfortunate man begin his stumbling journey through the street. He’d try to ask for help, but she knew her neighbours, and she knew he’d be lucky to get so much as a glance out of them. Being a maternal person- God knew that had gotten her into some serious trouble before- the woman had half a mind to open the door and tend to his injuries. He seemed genuine, didn’t he? Her hand lingered on the door handle, but her mind drifted back to the fruit concealed beneath the patched tablecloth, the small handful of banknotes in her pillowcase, the coins at the bottom of the vase that sat on the broken dresser, and with a final stab of remorse, she drew the curtains, locked the door, and retreated into the midst of her home.
The man wandered aimlessly past the first building, then the second, and then the third. People seemed determined to ignore his presence as he inched down the street, possibilities of salvation trickling away as he passed one building after another. Their eyes would glaze over whenever he passed through their line of sight. His hand ached. It was an intense throb that shot up his arms. His head pounded. His stomach churned uncomfortably. He felt like the bearer of a deadly disease, a bringer of the Plague, a literal embodiment of the Black Death only made worse by his dark coat and shoes. The man, looking at the emptying street and the sinking sun, stepped into the crate-filled alleyway.
Slumped between the crates, seemingly at ease as he sat on the greasy sidewalk was an older man. His hair grew unevenly in clumps over his head, and his eyes had a milky sheen.
“Can you see me?” The old man heard a faint voice in the distance- or was it a memory, resurfacing after all these years? He could hear footsteps approaching. He picked at the cracks in the sidewalk hurriedly, his nails chipped and caked with dried blood. A pair of dark shoes appeared in the corner of his cloudy view.
“Can you help me?” The voice came again, low and impatient. The man flung a mangled hand over his stomach protectively.
“I don’t see.” The old man scraped away at nothing in particular, his fingers reddening as he did so. “No one sees. I saw nothing.”
The dark shoes wouldn’t leave. They moved a step forward, then a step back. The old man’s stomach constricted. He began to wail, a deep, mournful wail. Terror pounded in his chest.
“I don’t know anything about anything. I didn’t see- I won’t say anything, please-”
The man backed away from the figure lying helplessly on the floor. The man felt inclined to help him, but he smelt like cheap liquor and shuddered whenever the man drew near. And so, regretfully, he turned, leaving the older man to wail at the pigeons and crates. Alone. ters that hung loosely over the buildings’ front windows were now well and truly closed, though slivers of fiery orange shone out from between the slats. If the man strained his ears, the vague echo of chatter could be heard throughout the street. Pulling off his hat, the man walked to the corner of the street and the alleyway and resignedly lowered himself onto the curb.
An old woman spotted the man next, from above, as she went to water the pots of brown twigs on her balcony with her murky dishwater. The sight of the miserable figure, sagged against her doorstep, brought an amused smile to her lips. The street had an odd habit of attracting wandering souls and the street’s inhabitants had a habit of disregarding them.
She squinted at him, then dared to spill some of the dishwater down over the chipped railing. It sloshed down the man’s arm and he scrambled to his feet.
“Will you please help me?”
Not the reaction she’d been expecting. The old woman squinted even harder. Through her weak vision, she could see a scrawny figure in a tattered shirt, wearing pants that were surely too long on his legs. Certainly not a threat to her or anyone else on the street. She waved him in.
Downstairs, the man sat rigidly at her chipped kitchen island. The old woman examined him seriously.
“Why did you come here? ” The woman kept an eye on the man as she opened her fridge. She was greeted by almost empty shelves. A thin slab of butter sat next to a pot of clotted milk.
“I didn’t mean to. I- there was an accident. On the train. I didn’t have the courage to take the next line and head back to safety- real safety.”
“So you come here and eat my food.” The woman smeared the butter against a rough piece of bread. She slyly looked up at the man’s apologetic face, and smiled.
“I’ll try to buy more tomorrow.” She slid the bread across the counter. “Eat.”
The man winced as the bread brushed against his cut lip. The woman shook her head at the hopelessly pitiful sight before her. They sat in silence for a moment. From her window, the woman could see the drunk in the alleyway, resting his head against the milk crates, his hands now lying gently in his lap. In the house opposite, a young child with grazed knees sat out on the balcony, lips moving as she concentrated on her battered book. Broken fairy lights hung sadly on the balcony railing. She knew the family that had lived in the opposite house before the young child had come along, and she knew the family that had lived there even before them. The people on the street were kindred spirits, the poor outcasts of society, defensive, anxious. They lived simple lives. They didn’t ask for much. Only peace.
The woman’s old heart panged.
“Thank you for the bread.” The man hastily wiped the crumbs off the bench. “My wallet was taken, but I’d like to repay you, somehow.
“Don’t come here again.” Her voice was quiet but stern. “That can be my repayment. You’re sweet, I’m sure. But this street wasn’t made for people like you.”
STUDENT WRITING Who We Are
By Ananya (Annu) Shukla, Grade 3 Wells International School Bang Na Campus Edited by Tracy Hawkes, Teacher
Before Covid, me and my friends could come and play together – it was one of my favorite things to do. We would go to sleepovers and play, and play in swimming pools. We would play tag and hug each other, we would share food. I loved it. We could stand close to each other, whisper in ears, and we could go everywhere.
But then a virus came and everything stopped.
I was still in India when I heard about the virus. We heard there was a person in Thailand with the virus and I was so scared and worried that I would never get back to my friends. But then it started in India, and we found out Covid was spreading there too. My parents were really frightened, and that made me worried too. Adults are usually so brave! A few days later, I had to go back to Thailand and I was nervous. You know why. My mom told me that I would be fine, but I could tell she was worried.
When I got back to Thailand, I saw a lot of people wearing masks. I went back to school and there were lots of students wearing masks there too. We tried to get on as normal, initially.
But soon it turned into a nightmare. School closed and we started online classes. When I found myself in a lockdown, it was terrifying because it was just me and my family in a small room with nothing to do. I couldn’t see my friends, I couldn’t go out. I was scared I might die.
And even though we were scared, we still had to do online classes. My feelings were out of control. Sometimes I felt happy, sometimes I felt sad. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t understand anything at all. Not because the online class was too hard, but because my mind was too busy. Sometimes it was just hard to learn online when I was scared about the virus.
But lockdown didn’t last forever.
In the new normal, school reopened. I was still sad that I couldn’t travel to India or go on holiday, but it was great to be back at school with my friends. It feels safer being in a happy place like school. It feels normal, even if lots of things have changed.
There is no hugging or touching anymore. We can’t play together and see our friends in other grade levels because we have to have play time and lunch in our classes and at different times. I mean, it’s not that fun, and I miss the little kids. But I guess it is better than nothing. And at least I feel safe again.
REFLECTION A Zoom Call with Epictetus
During a Zoom call last week, the stoic philosopher Epictetus and I were comparing our experiences with communal bathing. Since moving to Japan, I’ve learned to relax in the onsen without being self-conscious, but to hear Epictetus tell it, ancient Roman baths were a much rowdier scene. He offered this advice: “If you are going to bathe, place before yourself what happens in the bath: some splashing the water, other pushing against one another, others abusing one another, and some stealing.” Right. Where am I supposed to leave my towel again?
I really wanted to know if he had helpful advice for teaching middle school in the middle of a pandemic, but Epictetus kept banging on about the bath. “Thus with more safety will you undertake the matter, if you say to yourself, I now intend to bathe, and to maintain my will in a manner conformable to nature.” Hm, I realized, this could be solid advice for middle school teachers, as well. If I intend to teach middle school, I should remember what happens in a middle school: noisy classrooms, sleepy students, pranks, cheating, plagiarism, pointless meetings, angry emails, lockdowns, top down decisions, forgotten assignments. Young people will be trying on new identities (sometimes daily), making questionable choices, dealing with lust, love, and heartbreak for the first time. I began to see the point: if you’re headed to the bath, know what you’re getting into. Go in eyes open and don’t get riled up if your tunic gets nicked.
Since I’m now teaching in the middle of a pandemic, I can add on to the list: school closures, zoom meetings, poor wi-fi connections, and all the rest. I let out a noise, somewhere between groan and a whimper. “Of things some are in our power,” Epictetus observed, “some are not.” This was a key distinction for him. “Not in our power: the body…” Really? The first item on his list of uncontrollable things was the body, which seemed at odds with our contemporary view that, with the help of filters, yoga, supplements, and/or plastic surgery, we can be forever young, or perhaps, forever twenty-one. Yet, the middle school years are a time, as all will recall, when the body has a will of its own. But, is adulthood really all that different? The pandemic has made me realize how fragile our bodies are. “Take away then aversion from all things which are not in our power, and transfer it to the things… which are in our power.” I still have some power during the pandemic: I can wash my hands, mask up, and encourage my students to do the same. Extra worrying isn’t doing anything to stop the virus.
I was catching on, slowly, but I was still troubled when Epictetus said, “Seek not that the things that happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things that happen to be as they are.” The received wisdom, which I hold to, is that a teacher should have high expectations. The best middle school teachers recognize the bodily changes, social struggles, and identity crises and still find a way to inspire, teach and challenge. Did he want me to be complacent? No, it wasn’t that. “Men are disturbed not by the things which happen,” he told me, “but by the opinions about the things.” The point is to keep our purpose in front of us and not to be perturbed or upset by circumstances we can’t control. When I first started teaching, I imagined that if I just had the right class, everything would go smoothly. “Everything has two handles, the one by which it may be borne, the other by which it may not,” explained Epictetus. Every class is the right class; I have to be the right teacher.
(Note: Sadly, Epictetus lived in the first century AD and is not available for video conferencing. The quotations from Epictetus are taken from The Enchiridion, translated by George Long.)
CURRICULUM MTSS: A Research-based System to Ensure Equity and Access for Learning
By Joan Schumann, Ph.D. , Tessie Rose, Ph.D. , Keith Collins, Ed.D. , and Kristen Koehler, M.Ed
Source: Center on Multi-tiered System of Supports at American Institutes for Research
How will we know if our educational program meets the needs of learners we have within our school community? What evidence do we collect to support that it does? What do we do when it doesn’t? In an era of welcoming a more diverse student population into international schools, it is our professional responsibility to ensure our curriculum, instruction, and learning environments effectively support students regardless of nationality, academic standing, language proficiency level, or other learner variables. However, without access to relevant data, collaborative teaming, and framework to guide a process of reflection, schools run the risk of systematically creating and widening learning gaps within subgroups of their population. As a result, schools must be responsive to student needs by increasing their ability to support diverse learners. Many international schools are beginning to adopt a Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework to guide this effort (Kusuma-Powell, 2020).
MTSS: Guiding Principles and General Overview
MTSS is grounded in decades of research and is being implemented in schools across the world. Numerous studies have found that MTSS, when implemented as a schoolwide model, can result in sustained high academic performance (Burns, Appleton, & Stenhouwer, 2005; Hattie, 2017), positive effects of students’ behavior and social-emotional functioning (Bradshaw, Waasorp, & Leaf, 2012), and reduction in the need for learning support (Burns et al., 2005; Dexter, Hughes, & Farmer, 2008). MTSS is an intentional integration of assessment, core programming and instruction, and intervention support within a multi-level prevention system to maximize student achievement and support students’ social, emotional, and behavior needs (MTSS Center, 2020). MTSS depends on early identification of struggling learners followed by the delivery of quality intervention support, with a goal to improve outcomes for all students. It is based on three guiding principles.
MTSS Guiding Principle: Using Assessment to Guide Decision-Making
For maximum benefit of MTSS, educators regularly use data to guide decisions about instruction, allocation of resources, and identification of students in need of additional learning support. School teams use multiple types of data, many already available to educators, to inform MTSS implementation and decision making. Screening data which are collected at least three times a year using brief, reliable measures help educators effectively and efficiently evaluate the overall efficacy of their core programming as well as quickly identify students who may need additional learning support.
For students who are identified as needing additional support, educators may use informal diagnostic data to better understand the unique needs of the students. These data help educators be more intentional in their design and delivery of intervention; and may reduce the duration of interventions. Monitoring progress is considered essential for ensuring students identified as needing learning supports are benefiting from these additional services. Jung, McMaster, Kunkel, Shin, & Stecker (2018) found that when teachers used progress monitoring data to guide MTSS instructional decision making for students with the most intensive learning needs (below the 10th percentile), students made more than 1.5 years growth in reading and math per year. In addition to improving student performance, using MTSS assessment to inform decision-making can lead to better use of staffing and instructional resources and allow for increased teacher planning and instructional time (McIntosh & Goodman, 2016).
MTSS Guiding Principle: Using Evidence-based Practices and Resources
In order for MTSS to benefit schools, educators, and students, it must be built on teachers’ ongoing access and use of evidence-based practices and resources. Evidence-based practices and resources are those educational strategies and tools that have been shown through research to be effective in improving student outcomes. Using evidence-based practices as designed can significantly increase teachers’ confidence that what they are doing is likely to result in student learning. It is important to remember that there is no single practice or resource that has been shown to work for all students. Thus, educators use their knowledge of their students’ learning needs gained from MTSS assessments in tandem with available research evidence to select or design the most appropriate learning supports for their students.
Instruction or Intervention Approach Tier I Comprehensive, research-based curriculum Tier II Standardized, targeted smallgroup instruction Tier III Individualized, based on student data
Assessment Population Served Class-wide (with some smallgroup instruction) Screening, 3 times yearly All students
Sample Tiered Continuum of Academic Support MTSS Guiding Principle: Offering a Continuum of Support Services
MTSS offers all students access to a continuum of support based on their learning needs. These supports are commonly grouped into three levels, or tiers, of supports: 1) Tier 1: Core Programming for All Students, 2) Tier 2: Supplemental Intervention for Some Students, and 3) Tier 3: Intensive Interventions for Very Few Students. The tiers of support will look different from school to school because the resources, student needs, and staffing will vary. However, the tiers of support are built on the following components.
Tier 1: Ensuring effective instructional environments for all learners. A successful MTSS Framework starts with effective instruction for all students. Many international schools have adopted the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) to assess learning improvement each year and share this information within their school community. Using an MTSS framework, schools can use these data to identify discrepancies within student subgroups and allocate resources or rethink aspects of the educational program in order to address these gaps. By calculating the percentage of students who are exceeding, meeting or performing below grade level proficiency, school teams maximize their efforts by either focusing on programmatic adjustments within Tier 1, or through the delivery of interventions within Tier 2.
Tier 2: Providing efficient and effective support to students with short-term learning needs. Prior to the implementation of MTSS, students are often ineligible for additional support until a significant learning gap occurs, often identified through testing performed by a psychologist. This is often referred to as the “Wait to Fail” method. When schools engage in a formalized evaluation process and await a possible diagnosis before taking action, they waste valuable learning time that could be used to begin academic and/or social-emotional support. Within the international school system, schools and families often become dependent on external and expensive consultation versus leveraging the expertise within the building. Fortunately, evidence-based instructional practices are likely to be effective regardless of diagnosis provided and can be used at any time with any student by any qualified staff member.
Effective Tier 2 systems allow for rapid entry and exit from supplemental support in targeted areas of concern. For example, at Stamford American International School in Singapore, MAP scores along with follow-up Curriculum-based Measures (CBM) assessments are used to identify students who would benefit from reading and/or math intervention. Within a matter of days parents are contacted using a template email to confirm agreement and intervention begins soon afterwards in place of their world languages block. Interventions take place during this time so as to prevent students from missing out on core instruction. By supplementing the students’ access to quality instruction in the targeted 3–7 students
At least biweekly or monthly Students identified as at risk (~15%–20%) No more than 3 students
Weekly Significant and persistent learning needs, non-responders (3%–5%)
area of concern, schools can effectively close critical gaps in learning before heading into the next grade level. In the Stamford example, providing access to just three 40-minute weekly sessions with evidence-based intervention materials, and weekly progress monitoring tools, more than 75% of students met or exceeded projected growth targets on their end of year MAP assessment. Using this approach, schools are able to immediately enter and exit students from support each year; thus, increasing the amount of students receiving access to services.
Building on a strong culture of using data to screen for students who would benefit from supplemental support, the International School Bangkok (ISB) is revisiting the delivery of its Tier 2 interventions. To support this work, ISB has supplemented data in Kindergarten and Grade 1 by adding a Reading-CBM universal screener. Furthermore, they are introducing a new data system that allows for efficient triangulation of data to quickly identify students who are not meeting expected growth during, and across, multiple assessment windows. Recognizing the flexibility within an MTSS framework while maintaining the fundamentals of Tier 2 interventions, ISB teaching teams are responding by providing interventions during different opportunities in the schedule. While some grade levels have arranged for Homeroom, EAL, or Learning Support teachers to deliver interventions during independent reading time; other grade levels capitalize on the natural breaks before, during or after school to minimize disruption to core instruction. With the enhancement of Tier 2 screening identification and intervention scheduling, ISB continues to explore new ways to be more efficient in the delivery of services to systematically support students.
Tier 3: Reserving special resources and programming for students with more intensive needs. Currently, international schools are looking for ways to accommodate students with more significant needs (NFI ref). In the absence of providing a continuum of support services, schools are inclined to offer all students similar frequency and intensity of support; thus, failing to individualize for learner needs. On the other hand, some schools might be spending too much time and resources towards an individualized goal setting process when a standardized Tier 2 intervention would sufficiently remedy the academic and/or behavioral concerns. In order to adjust the support delivery model for students who have more longterm and intensive needs, schools can reserve Tier 3 programs and resources for a fewer number of students (approximately 1-5% of total student population).
The International MTSS Summit (IMS): Building Capacity for School Implementation
So, how can we build capacity at the Tier 1 level? How might we distinguish between Tier 2 and 3 intervention? What can leadership do to provide the infrastructure required for MTSS implementation? These are impor-
tant questions being asked within the international school community and the solutions require time, resources, and collective understanding. Hence, there is a growing international movement to help support the implementation of MTSS.
The International MTSS Summit [www.internationalmtss.com] is a unique opportunity for schools to engage in focused professional learning on the topic of MTSS. Inquiring into this systems-level work alongside leading experts and colleagues from across the globe, school teams can deepen their collective understanding and gain assistance throughout a multi-year process of implementation. In its second year of existence, this event has attracted more than 200 participants annually from nearly 50 schools across the world. Not only are schools interested in providing a better-quality service to students who require support; leaders recognize MTSS serves as a school-wide framework for ensuring an equitable and accessible educational program for all learners.
At Shanghai Community International School, members of the senior leadership team participated in MTSS training resulting in coordinated academic interventions at the Tier 2 level. Effective implementation of MTSS requires a balance between organizational change and recognizing the capacity for change. Strong connections between the vision of the school and a tiered approach are reinforced by school leadership and aligned with the goal to close learning gaps for students. Additional considerations include the selection of intervention programs, allocation of personnel resources, management of student data, scheduling intervention time and planning for instructional spaces on campus. Rather than leaving implementation efforts to Student Support Departments alone, successful MTSS systems are established collaboratively by representative school-wide leadership teams.
It is important to remember that MTSS is not a one size fits all program or package. Instead, it is a research-based framework that allows schools to maximize its current resources and supports to ensure that all students have equitable opportunity to benefit from the school’s educational program. While the guiding principles for MTSS remain the same for all schools, how it looks when implemented will be unique to each school’s context, resources, and desired outcomes.
About the Authors Joan Schumann, Ph.D. is the Director of Professional Learning and Instruction at the International School of Beijing (ISB) and the Executive Director of the ISLES Collaborative, official organizer of the International MTSS Summit (IMS). Prior to joining ISB, she served as the Director of Student Support Services for Stamford American International School in Singapore.
Tessie Rose, Ph.D. is a Principal Technical Assistance Consultant at American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the Director of the PROGRESS Center: Promoting Progress for Students with Disabilities and Center on Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS Center) at AIR. She also supports U.S. states and school districts with the implementation of MTSS/RTI through several other national centers--National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) and National Center on Intensive Interventions (NCII).
Keith Collins, Ed.D. is the Director of Student Services at International School Bangkok and the Director of Education Research for the ISLES Collaborative. He has been a school leader in the United States, China, and Thailand. Keith also supports education through workshops, keynotes, and supporting schools with their service delivery models.
Kristen Koehler, M.Ed is the Director of Student Support at Shanghai Community International School and the Executive Vice-Chair of the ISLES Collaborative. Kristen has spent her career working in special education as a teacher, school psychologist and educational leader in the United States, Denmark, and China.
References Bradshaw, C. P., Waasorp, T. E., & Leaf, P., J. (2012). Effects of School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on Child Behavior Problems. Pediatrics, 130(5), 1136 - 1145.
Burns, M. K., Appleton, J. J., & Stenhouwer, J. D. (2005). Meta-analytic review of responsiveness-to-intervention research: Examining field-based and research-implemented models. Educational Psychology, 23(4), 381 - 394.
Dexter, D. D., Hughes, C. A., & Farmer, T. (2008). Responsiveness to Intervention: A Review of Field Studies and Implications for Rural Special Education. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 27(4), 3-9.
Hattie, J. (2017). Hattie Ranking: 252 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement. Retrieved from https://visible-learning.org/hattieranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/
Jung, P. G., McMaster, K. L., Kunkel, A. K., Shin, J., & Stecker, P. M. (2018). Effects of data based individualization for students with intensive learning needs: A meta analysis. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 33(3), 144–155.
MTSS Center. (2020). Essential components of MTSS. Retrieved from https://mtss4success.org/essential-components.
McIntosh, K. & Goodman, S. (2016). Integrated Multi-Tiered Systems of Support: Blending RTI and PBIS. New York, NY: The Gilford Press.
Kusuma-Powell, O. (2020). Inclusion in International Schools. UK: ISC Research.
Welcome New Lower School Principal
LARA MANASFI Lower School Principal / Director of Special Projects and Strategic Initiatives
Ms. Lara Manasfi has been hired as the inaugural Lower School Principal at International School of Myanmar (ISM). Lara previously held the position of Director of Special Projects and Strategic Initiatives and will continue to serve in both roles with the School.
REFLECTION A Personal Account of Returning to China During the Ongoing Pandemic
By Kevin Baker, Director American International School in Guangzhou China Quarantine Survivor
199 days. That is how long it took me to be able to return to Guangzhou. Little did I know when I departed China prior to Chinese New Year for teacher recruiting, did I realize that I would be displaced outside of our new home in China for so long. Welcome to the COVID-19 pandemic era, our next normal.
What follows is my personal account of returning to Guangzhou, China to be able to lead the American International School of Guangzhou from ground zero. A few kudos and one caveat are in order before I begin. First, I would like to thank all of the amazing staff at AISG that worked tirelessly to advocate and toil for not only my return but the return of all of our displaced leadership and faculty. Additionally, I would like to thank Ms. Zoe Timms, former Director of Advancement and Communications at AISG, for sharing her and her partner’s return experiences from last spring. My humble efforts are built upon her insightful and authentic description of their experience. An important caveat: first, this is only one person’s experience of returning to China, specifically Guangzhou and the quarantine experience in the government hotel I was assigned to. Your experiences may be different. Please look at this account just as another data point and not the only potential experience you might have. I hope you will find my sharing a meaningful learning opportunity for those yet to make the journey.
Preparations for your return First and foremost, the most important items you can pack for your return is a positive attitude and a warehouse of patience. The special visa and flight arrangement process takes an enormous amount of time and will have many unanticipated and potentially frustrating delays. I encourage everyone to keep their eyes on the ultimate prize – getting back to China and your school. If you keep a long-term vision in mind, along with positive self-talk, I believe it will be helpful to you, your loved ones, your school and your emotional health in the long run.
Logistics You will likely be required to produce a negative COVID test result 72 hours prior to departure. I would encourage you to identify several potential places where you might get your test or tests completed in time. As I was coming from the United States and I was uncertain if the test results would be completed in time, I underwent separate tests at two different testing clinics to increase my chances of getting the required results in time.
You will need to set up your WeChat for arrival in China. This is a foundational aspect of the virus reporting and tracking system in China. Specifically, you will need to download and set up the Sui Kang mini program as well as the China Customs Pocket Declaration mini program which will require you to complete the Health Declaration ID form prior to departure and then upon arrival. I strongly suggest you take a picture of the entry QR code once you have completed both mini program processes. Packing Considerations As you will most likely be heading straight to your government quarantine hotel directly after landing and completing the various COVID-19 virus prevention testing protocols, it is wise to consider what you might need to successfully complete a 14 day quarantine in a hotel room by yourself. While your personal needs and preferences will dictate what you will pack, here are some suggestions: • Clothes (enough for 14 days as there is no laundry available) • Large beach type towel (to use an a exercise or yoga mat in the room) • Laptop, headphones, power converter and cord • Small portable Bluetooth speaker (it really helps to play music in your room) • HDMI cable (in case you can connect your laptop to the TV) • Books and a notepad • Podcasts and Videos (TV series... movies… exercise videos… download before you fly!) • Prescriptions, Medication and Vitamins (ibuprofen, etc…) • Non-perishable food items (crackers, jar of peanut butter, nuts, tea and coffee sachets, muesli bars, power bars, granola, instant oatmeal, ramen, soy sauce, salt and pepper, etc…) • Treats (hard candy, gum, mints – something that will not melt) • Reusable mug/cup • Plastic container (it also doubled as a plate) and a plastic bowl for oatmeal and ramen • Cutlery • Extra toilet paper (if you have a special preference) • Laundry, dish soap and a sponge (in case you want to hand wash clothes or your cutlery) • Personal toiletries (enough for 14 days) • Alcohol or special beverages (quarantine is a dry experience)
The Flights My flying experience, while feeling surreal, was fairly straight forward. Pack plenty of masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. Some food and basic drinks were provided on the flights. I would still encourage you to pack some snacks. Masks will have to be worn the entire flight (expect when eating and drinking), so make sure your mask is comfortable to wear for the long journey.
Arrival in China I landed at Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou. About two hours before landing, the flight attendants took the temperatures of all passengers which was reported to the health team at the arriving airport before we landed.
Upon landing, our flight was directed to a restricted area of the tarmac, to a special gate, for us to disembark into their special quarantine and testing area inside the airport. Everyone was instructed to stay seated until instructed to depart the airplane. We were dismissed by seat numbers. You will be greeting by medical professionals and airport employees all in hazmat suits. Do not be alarmed, they are just being careful. They will take your temperature as you come off the plane and direct
you to a seating area in the terminal quarantine area. Again, I encourage people to be patient with the landing process as it takes at least several hours or more to complete. Have your passport and mobile phone handy with WeChat ready. I also strongly encourage you to ensure your phone battery is fully charged! As you disembark, a member of the medical team (in a hazmat suit) will place a red sticker on the back of your passport. The red sticker will have a number on it. This number will be the order in which you are processed.
The first stage in the landing process after all passengers disembarked into the special quarantine area in the terminal, was for the medical professionals to confirm that you have an active Sui Kang account and that you have completed a revised online Health Declaration ID form in WeChat. After this is completed you will be directed to an intake area where a medical worker (in a hazmat suit), will scan your QR code from the Health Declaration ID form and print a QR code that will be attached to the back of your passport. This will be used to log your process through all other stages of the arrival health screening process. You will also be asked to sign a number of forms including a “Notification for Centralized Quarantine and Medical Observation” form. Our AISG HR staff were on call to provide virtual translation support through this entire process as most of the workers spoke minimal English. One helpful strategy for communication through this process was the creation of a “Welcome Back to China” special WeChat channel by HR for those of us returning to use at any time.
After set up of health registration, you will be directed to the COVID testing room. You will be asked to take your passport with you for scanning (leave your carry on luggage outside the examination room). In the exam room, a medical professional will can your QR code, register your temperature again and then will efficiently administer two thorough nasal swabs, one for each nostril. You will then be dismissed to pick up your luggage and proceed to immigration.
Immigration was a very traditional process only with preventive health measures in place. After Immigration, you will proceed to the baggage claim area. At baggage claim, the airport staff (in hazmat suits) will remove all luggage from the carousel as a safety precaution. Once your baggage arrives, you can proceed individually through customs. After customs you are directed to the quarantine bus loading area. It was very strange entering the airport after customs to see no one out in the receiving area. The entire area is closed off with hoarding that displayed directional arrows to follow to go to the next station. When in doubt, follow the arrows.
Once you arrive to the bus loading area, you will be asked to provide your apartment address. The specific question I was asked was, “Where do you want to go after the quarantine hotel?”. It is helpful to have your apartment address printed out in Chinese (or a digital picture of the address) to show the medical team workers. If you have a doubt, we recommend for our staff to use our ErSha Campus school address. Based on your location in the city, you are assigned a number (I was assigned #1 and a huge number one sticker was put on my left shoulder). All of the same group was then directed to a bus which took us directly to our quarantine hotel. At no point was there any opportunity for anyone outside of the quarantine area at the airport to meet me or to hand anything off to. It was very comforting knowing that I had AISG HR staff on call to support at any time.
Quarantine Hotel Once we arrived to our quarantine hotel (I am staying at the Vienna International Hotel in Guangzhou, a hotel I would rate as a Chinese three star hotel), our passports were collected from us by a medical staff member (so they could check us into the hotel) and we were instructed to wait on the bus . All of our luggage was removed from the bus, lined up outside of the hotel and sprayed with a disinfectant. We then disembarked the bus and met the medical team and checked into the hotel, all outside of the hotel building. After my temperature was checked again and I completed signed several more forms including a form to check on my psychological health, an insomnia assessment, an anxiety detection form, a QR code to contact counselors if needed, a centralized quarantine notice informing me of how long I would be in quarantine, reminders about when food would be delivered, whether I wanted two or three meals a day, what time outside deliveries could arrive at the hotel, the timing of the two additional COVID-19 tests at the hotel, what time garbage would be cleared each day from the front door of our room. After receiving my passport back and my hotel room card, and a welcome gift bag from the government (ramen and some cookies), a medical team member escorted me to my room and gave me his personal WeChat in case I had any further questions. The process from landing to getting into my quarantine hotel room took me less than five hours. Welcome to your new home for two weeks!
My hotel room is comfortable but not luxurious. I have some room pictures I can make available if you would like. The most important feature is that the Air Conditioning works and we are allowed to use it! It is not a big room (almost 30 feet long by almost 15 feet wide). The shower has hot water, the room comes with a water kettle (which is very important as I have used it a lot during my stay), the bed is serviceable, and there is a desk to work at. The room does not have a refrigerator. You can request fresh linens and towels during your stay but they will be delivered outside of your door and you will have to change them yourself. Just place the used linens outside your door to be picked up. The internet in the hotel is very weak. AISG anticipated this and had an immediate care package sent to my room within an hour of arrival that included additional drinking water, some snacks and treats and most importantly a MiFi router which enables me to set up my own wireless internet network in my hotel room. This has been a life saver. Highly recommended!
The daily routine in quarantine is very predictable. Food deliveries (Chinese box meals in delivery bags) occur around the same time each day: breakfast at 7:30am, lunch at 12 noon and dinner at 5:30. They are either hung on the doorknob of the room or set outside the door on the floor. I also have some pictures of the meals if you would like to see examples. Please communicate any special dietary needs you have upon arrival (ie: allergies vegetarian, etc.). The medical staff knock on my door twice each day, once at 11am and then at 4pm, to take my temperature. You are expected to wear a mask whenever you come to your door and open it. Otherwise, you can be mask free in your room. I am not allowed to step beyond the doorway of my room. Garbage is taken away at 8pm each evening after it is set outside the door. Over the night, a new trach bag is placed outside my door along with two small bottles of drinking water. If you order any items delivered to your room, they will be delivered around mealtimes only.
I have been told that I will have one more COVID-19 test the day before I am released from quarantine. When I am officially released, I will be expected to pay for the room and the meals before I depart.
My understanding is that most quarantine hotels are one person to a room unless you have children, in which case children can stay with one of the parents. I am traveling by myself at this time as dependents were not eligible for special visas when I came back.