August 31 is a special day in the ASM calendar. It’s the first time that our hallways and classrooms echo with children’s voices and laughter after a quiet summer. On this day, ASM’s student ambassadors lead tours for new students and their families at New Family Orientation. Our ambassadors show their counterparts the classrooms, the library, cafeteria, their lockers or cubbies, introduce them to their new teachers and share the fun places to hang out at recess.
What makes ASM students act with such poise and hospitality? Certainly our commitment to our values informs the learning experiences we design. In elementary school, The Responsive Classroom program is a cornerstone of our social curriculum. Every day, our teachers intentionally build learning communities during morning meetings so that students feel not only safe, but also develop a sense of belonging and self-confidence. Through ASM’s academic and social curricula, elementary students learn empathy, perseverance, and personal responsibility. In our upper school, programs such as Advisory have similar goals. In addition, we integrate the teaching and practice of Student Success Indicators such as cooperation, self-management and becoming “self-knowers” which cut across subject areas to build life-long learning skills. For example, the academic content students explore, as varied as Wonder by R.J Palacio in grade 6 and Se Questo E’ Un Uomo (If this is a Man) by Primo Levi in grade 12 Italian, challenges our students to ask questions of the characters, of the context in which these stories are set and to reflect critically on the presentation of values such as respect, courage, integrity, curiosity and kindness. Our student ambassadors are a testimony to ASM’s adherence to our values.
Last year, after an extensive process consulting with over two hundred stakeholders in our community including parents, students and teachers, we unveiled our new mission statement. It reads,
ASM inspires students to discover their unique potential and to be curious learners and critical thinkers and global citizens who positively impact our world.
This mission statement is our promise to students and families. First, we promise to inspire students to discover their unique potential. Through offering a wide range of electives from forensic science to rock band to contemporary world issues in the upper school, students can explore a range of interests. We provide expert learning support across the school to assist students in areas where they struggle so they can be successful. Accelerated math classes stretch those students who demonstrate particular strengths in this subject in order to challenge them, and give them access to the higher level IBDP mathematics courses beginning in Grade 11. Our after school activities (ASA) program led by Ms. Braga gives students the chance to explore a broad range of interests, from game design, knitting, gardening, Model United Nations, team sports, to participating in the performing arts. Through these experiences, students learn about themselves and find their passions.
Second, we promise to develop curious learners and critical thinkers. Students are encouraged to ask questions, starting in early childhood, and continuing through their preparation for the IB diploma. As our students grow older, they are taught and expected to design research questions to investigate while understanding the importance of academic integrity. Our teachers, in turn, are curious about their students and ask questions which require more than just one word answers. With the rise of social media, political instability and environmental challenges it has never been more important to be able to evaluate others’ positions, examine the evidence for alternative points of view, and reflect on issues before drawing conclusions. This is critical thinking. ASM teachers are currently engaged in school-wide professional development to enhance our approach to nurturing independent and strategic thinkers. As Vygotsky says, ‘Children grow into the intellectual life of those around them,” and ASM is a powerful ecosystem of learning and growth for all. Students are used to seeing teachers observing each other in their classrooms, or pairs of educators running lessons together in a continuous research to develop our own art of teaching.
Third, our mission statement promises to develop global citizens. By this we mean not only to foster graduates who leave ASM fluent in at least one language in addition to their mother tongue, but who are open minded, and who see diversity as enriching rather than as something to be avoided. Finally, a global citizen is an individual who is willing and able to take action to improve themselves, help others, and to make a difference to their community. Therefore, our students discuss the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in grade 5 and carry out debates. Our Kindergarten students give talks about their areas of expertise at the age of 5 and all of our students from grades 9-12 are engaged in service projects. These are only a few examples of the invitations we extend to our students to empower them to take action and give back to their communities.
ASM’s teachers model all of these aspects of our mission statement. Not only are they highly qualified and experienced, but they undertake their duty of care for our students’ social and emotional development with the utmost commitment. Our students are learning from the very best educators in terms of academics, but of equal importance, ASM teachers’ model humanity and good character. Welcome to the school year 2022-23, as we continue our journey of developing responsible, respectful and kind human beings, endeavoring to reach their potential.
By Jane Segre