Research from the Boston Consulting Group and The Network show employees around the world most need to know their work is valued and appreciated. Appreciation is ranked even higher than salary or benefits. Therefore most schools have programs geared to recognizing individuals who work at an institution, they are well established and known by the community.
CMS hosts an entire week of staff appreciation in the month of April. This week brings the entire community together to celebrate and show gratitude to whose who work hard in every corner of our school.
Fortunately in a community conducive of excellence and innovation our appreciation neither beings nor ends on appreciation week. On the contrary a year-round calendar of activities covers different groups of people working at school. Staff dinner parties at the beginning and end of the year are followed by monthly birthday/events celebrations. Faculty meetings always start or end with appreciation for one another and sharing good news that happen inside or outside school. Maintenance staff receives generous gifts and baskets before the December holidays and faculty and staff (including maintenance and clerks) gather at a Holiday Gala. Lunches for faculty are organized once a month for our professional development afternoon. Snacks are provided at teacher forums and a luncheon is organized by the PTO on Thanksgiving. Tokens and small gifts are always given to faculty and staff by the different Student Organizations.
I could go on and on and it becomes an endless list of activities and events that are organized throughout the year to appreciate and celebrate one another. Each division, organization and group strives to show gratitude and make people feel appreciated at work, not because research says so but because we can feel it in the hallways, the gardens, the workshops and the classrooms; when people are appreciated and cared for they are happy and their happiness is contagious to our students, colleagues, parents and everyone who is part of our school community.
UBUNTU a Philosophy Used to Develop Character and Citizenship at School
What is Ubuntu?
Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu term roughly translating to "human kindness." It is an idea from the Southern African region which means literally "human-ness," and is often translated as "humanity toward others." It is mostly used in a philosophical sense to mean "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”*.
Ubuntu – From theory to practice
Every school generally has a period/s allocated in the schedule to build character, citizenship and support student needs beyond academics. They are generally referred as Advisory, Home base, Homeroom, Tutoring, Mentoring etc. Below you will find the avenues I have implemented to build practical programs at school based on the Ubuntu philosophy.
Advisory Community – You have an advocate at school.
In an effort to have small groups with one advisor it is important to schedule all teachers, specialist and sometimes even non-teaching staff with advisory groups. Advisors are properly trained and are grouped by professional communities. They have a community team leader and they meet regularly to discuss, preview and enhance the life of students at school using a whole child approach. Team leaders also meet regularly with the principal and counselor and serve as liaisons between Advisors and Administration in matters of communication and logistics. Students are assigned to an advisory group based on recommendation from previous advisors, administration and faculty, in an effort to match personalities, fondness and styles between advisor and advisee. After all, the key factor is that students trust their advisor and see him/her as the first person to go to weather they are having difficulties or looking for a word of advice.
Cycle or Weekly Programs
Intramurals – Collaboration & Team Building
The idea behind ‘intramurals’ is that an entire class meets as a grade level to participate in different games and activities on the fields or the gymnasium organized by the Head of PE. These activities foster collaboration and team building across a particular grade level.
Houses – Life Skills in a Diverse Community
Communities are heterogeneous institutions and in order to prepare students to become productive citizens it is important to develop their skills using a systematic and consistent program. Coming out of their comfort zone and learning to work collaborative with different individuals is one of the key skills students need to learn. Unfortunately it doesn't come naturally or in a one off event, we need to create the structure and promote activities where we teach our students how to acquire and develop such skills. The houses system provides this opportunity and allows students from different grade levels to find solutions or extend on ideas that are practical and applicable in our school and our community for the benefit of all, as a group not as individuals, following again the Ubuntu philosophy.
Students spend a lot of time at school and, in an effort to inspire creativity, imagination and ingenuity clubs have been developed based on student interests. Examples of clubs are robotics, engineering, Lego, arts, craft, cooking, chess, environmental, dance, video-games. One of my favorite clubs and a very popular one amongst students at my current is school called “Dominican Games”. In this particular club an advisor teaches students how to play old school games that kids/teens used to play in the streets decades ago when the only technology available was a wooden radio. One more time I must highlight the importance of creating a time and space, a structure and the availability in the schedule for students to experience this kind of learning activities systematically and consistently.
As mentioned before it is important that every student at a school has at least one advocate. Someone who will take the time and effort to get to know the student better, to know their personal story, to laugh with his/her jokes and have the time and patient to listen to their concerns, fears, ideas and celebrate their accomplishments. Counselors are also part of this group of advocates. The idea is not advisor or counselor, but rather advisors and counselors. We all work together as a village to bring up a child. We understand and live the Ubuntu philosophy. I am because you are, I exist as a person because you are here as a person and we are all connected as a humans enhancing our experience on earth by being kind and caring about each other.
Digital Bytes – Digital Citizenship
Let’s face it, we are not educating our students for the 21st century we are already there! We need to go beyond the first three decades and have the foresight to see what skills will be redeemed the most useful in five or ten years from now. It is no longer enough to be the citizen of one country but rather in an interconnected, interrelated global panorama it is more important than ever to be a world citizen and to learn the skills and competences to be a successful digital citizen. Students are prepared and ready to play with all sorts of gadgets and access all forms of media but, are they ready to learn how to use them safely? Are they aware of the dangers of the digital world? Would they know how to react to cyber bullying? Do they understand the consequences of having a digital print that will follow them for the rest of their life? Digital Bytes is a program by Common Sense Education aimed at answering those questions and teaching students how to be digital citizens.
Even though the Ubuntu Philosophy is spread throughout the entire program, there also needs to be a specific time to work on Ubuntu Projects. Learning and sharing about our humanity makes us grow and create a more fair society. We don’t need to go to Africa to be more kind. We can start by being kind to those around us, at school, at work, in our own community. The Ubuntu projects are spread throughout the year and they focus on learning more about other cultures, religions, traditions and spreading kindness and respect for one another.
An example of a multicultural Ubuntu project can be seen in this video, where students watch ‘the miniature earth project’ where they simplify world statistics in hundreds instead of billions. They then translated those into works of art to form a mural. Each group was in charge of representing a theme or concept such as equality, literacy, natural resources and others and when we collected all paintings, we created a large mural named UBUNTU.
Artist-in-Residence Program at Carol Morgan School
Each school year the Carol Morgan School invites a professional artist or artistic group to our campus as part of our Artist-in-Residence Program engaging our students and community in the arts. We have been delighted by dancers, photographers, authors, poets, theater companies, and conceptual artists coming to our campus and helping expose our students to art forms they may have never experienced before. Some examples from previous year artists include the Missoula Children’s Theatre, Alvin Ailey Dance Company, The Mayhem Poets and the Bradley Sisters (Tap Dancing). This year our preK-12 program features Story Faces by Christopher Agostino who is both a visual and performing artist. He tells stories through painted faces in his signature StoryFaces performances.
The Story Comes to Life on the Faces of the Audience
Christopher Agostino’s StoryFaces is a very different kind of a show, a one-of-a-kind performance to inspire and delight any audience. Audience volunteers are brought on stage and face painted to illustrate the stories as he tells them, fully engaging the audience with a skillful spoken word performance combined with his unique visual art. The amazing face painting captivates the audience while they listen to traditional folktales and original stories — ranging from the comic adventure ofTiddalik the Great to the heroic tale of Punia and the King of the Sharks and an ancient tale asking the timeless question: Is Life Fair?
Several different programs of StoryFaces are available. Christopher’s extensive repertoire of tales allows him to craft performances to fit festival themes and specific curriculum or cultural studies. He can perform successfully for any age: kids, teens and adults — including arts-in-education programs for schools with variable content for any grade level.
The Empty Bowls Project is a movement to raise awareness and fight against hunger. The concept is simple, students handcraft bowls that are later sold at an Ice Cream Social. When you fill your bowl you help others whose bowls are empty. At the end of the event you take an empty bowl home as a reminder that there are still many empty bowls in our world but during the ice-cream social you helped filled the bowls of many children with your donation.
Students in 4th and 6th grade have participated in this project with students from el Hogar del Niño in La Romana.
El Hogar del Niño is an organization who helps underprivileged children in a rural area of the Dominican Republic. They not only offer them schooling and all their daily meals but they also have a social worker, a pediatric doctor and dentist and a number of after school and weekend activities to keep children healthy and happy. All proceeds from this project will go to Hogar del Niño in la Romana and the Empty Bowls Ice Cream social is kindly sponsored by Haagen Daz.
As part as an ongoing commitment to provide the best educational practices and integrate teh use of technology into our everyday lessons CMS has proudly sponsored an EdTech Teacher Team. The team is composed of teacher from all three school divisions and from different academic and co-curricular areas. The Ed-Tech teacher team meets regularly with the tech coordinators and school administrator to guide the development and implementation of technological programs to our school.
The mission of the EdTech Teacher Team is to ensure effective implementation of technology in the classroom using pedagogically sound methods that delivers:
Six 7TH Graders Traveling to Paris – Choir Festival
CMS has been accepted to participate in an International choir festival in Paris, France from April 8th – 12th, 2015. This festival is hosted by the “Association for Music in International Schools” (AMIS). AMIS’ objectives are to advance the education of school pupils and teachers throughout the world by developing their understanding, knowledge and appreciation of music; to advance the education of young people and their teachers in global issues and cultural diversity through the performance and study of music; to promote high standards of musical performance in school pupils of all ages and abilities throughout the world; to promote furtherance of educationally valuable music repertoire.
There will be international schools from across the globe. Each school will bring 6 female singers with them and the girls will combine to make a mass international girls’ choir. They will spend 3 days participating in choir workshops, seeing the city, and finishing with a joint concert for the community. All students are billeted in groups of 2 and 3 with host families from the International School of Paris. The students will have a chance to make connections with other students from around the globe and collaborate with them to make music.
During the holiday season two groups of students delighted us with their joy and cheer. The MS Choir visited Middle and Elementary School classrooms and offices to spread the holiday cheer singing about Christmas, Hanukkah, Snowflakes and the holiday season. The Carolers were joined by CMS students with great enthusiasm. On the same note the peer helpers sponsored Hot Chocolate during break for students, faculty, parents and school workers. Also in honor of the holiday season the NJHS group organized a toy drive and all proceeds were taken to orphanage. We are all very proud of our CMS students organizing so many wonderful student lead activities.
As you walk through the Middle School hallways you will find several new banners decorating it. A variety of paintings have been selected to promote this initiative. It is important for us as a community to appreciate and recognize our talented artists and we thought the best way to honor their hard work and dedication was to enlarge their pictures and brighten our school with their unique pieces. We encourage all students take Visual Arts courses in the future.
The PBL (Project Based Learning) is a major interdisciplinary project which addresses the overall educational objectives of the middle school in a dynamic, 21st century way. Students approach the project using an extended process of inquiry, critical thinking, and technological skills to develop a clear understanding of real-life and relevant topics. The highlight of the PBL project is the showcase event where students show visitors what they have learned about their topic of interest. This year’s 8th grade class is excited to showcase their learning on November 13 & 14 during “Ubuntu Time”. Parents and students from the rest of the middle school will be invited to the showcases.
Every year Grade Sixth students have the opportunity to visit Las Cuevas de la Maravillas. This year our trip was on Friday, September 20th. This early date provided an opportunity to build inclusion among the students through team building activities as well as re enforcing the academics. Research also have proven that starting with a field trip prior to the class discussions on the specific topic will be more beneficial for the learning that takes place on these trips and the connection to the class is much more successful. Teachers prepared a booklet tied to each curricular area and students were engaged working to complete it during the trip as well as on their return from the caves.
International K12 Leadership & Administration-Father-Sports Aficionado-Focused on Innovation and Excellence-Lifelong Learner-World Citizen