David Bott

Ep2 960x450

The incredible rate of change and adaptation in schooling around the world, continues to be matched by a level of generosity and willingness to share that is so uplifting.

Last week, I had the privilege of interviewing Steve McLuckie (Executive Principal) and Victoria McLuckie (Director of Learning and Wellbeing) from the Australian International School (AIS) in Sharjah, UAE. This conversation was the second episode of Teaching Remotely, Learning Together, a series that involves interviews with leading educators from around the world as they share key lessons learned from their school’s experience of delivering high-quality education during the pandemic.

Throughout the interview, Steve and Victoria share key lessons learned from their school’s experience of continuing to deliver a world-class wellbeing and academic programme remotely during the pandemic.

You can watch the interview here.

Here are six key takeaways from the conversation that our team has been discussing:

1. The number one focus has been the wellbeing of the community.
Connection and relationships mean everything – they are the foundation of the school community and of learning.

2. Academically, the priority has been on quality over quantity – ‘decluttering’ the curriculum.
AIS has zeroed in on the questions of: What, exactly, does each child need right now and how can we best support those needs? This has led to reduced lesson times, elimination of summative assessment in primary years (lower school), and significantly reduced homework loads in high school.

3. Optional lessons to nurture differentiation!
In primary years (ages 5-12), Maths, English and Arabic are core and compulsory, whereas other learning areas are optional. This, combined with opportunities for live and pre-recorded interaction, enables a flexible approach that is family-friendly and not time-dependent.

4. Supporting community wellbeing is both serious and fun.
Regular check-in structures for teachers, with those living off-campus receiving a weekly check-in phone call from the Principal. Informal online weekly student ‘drop-in sessions’ to hear feedback about successes and challenges. Other opportunities to elevate a sense of fun and connection include: ‘Tissue-Box Challenge’, teacher blooper reel, celebratory teacher ‘shout-outs’.

5. Remote learning has allowed us to challenge our fundamental ways of thinking about education.
Traditional structures and approaches have evolved in recent weeks and although we are looking forward to getting back to ‘normal’ some of the accelerated innovations will remain.

6. AIS’s 2019-2020 overarching theme (launched 6 months prior to the pandemic!) was: ‘Connection before content’.
Whilst remote learning has shined a spotlight on the importance of human connection in schooling ­– and wellbeing more broadly – the best schools have always recognised that schools are, more than anything, about relationships.

We are very grateful that Kellett School (Episode 1and AIS (Episode 2) have been so gracious in sharing some of their remote schooling journey with us. Episode 3 of Teaching Remotely, Learning Together is a ‘home-grown’ interview featuring Geelong Grammar’s Chris McNamara (Vice Principal - Global Learning and Innovation) and Rhiannon McGee (Head of Positive Education). Chris and Rhiannon have helped lead Geelong Grammar’s remote learning response and will share practical strategies, stories, and lessons learned.

David Bott

David Bott is the Associate Director of the Institute of Positive Education. David has been involved in training thousands of teachers from hundreds of schools around the world in designing, implementing and sustaining individual and whole-school approaches to wellbeing.