Last week I had the opportunity to host a Learning Journey for a couple of school leaders to visit Atlanta International School in Atlanta, Georgia. Kevin Glass, Headmaster for four years, was a gracious host who shared with us about the distinguishing features of the school and his plans for the next few years. What stood out most from our conversation was:
- Bi-lingual classrooms: primary grade students choose a second language track (Spanish, French, or German) and the entire school day is taught in that language on alternating days. The students learn through the language rather than of the language. This instructional strategy has several advantages for brain development.
- The AIS curriculum is built on the International Baccalaureate program, featuring inquiry-based learning K3-12 with instructors serving as primarily cognitive coaches.
- AIS is a recruiting machine! For 2012-2013, they received 2,250 applications for 12 open positions. All jobs were filled by the end of February 2012, well in advance of when other private and public schools were just starting to recruit for the fall. Teaching teams are actively involved in the hiring and training process.
- They use a strategic process for on-boarding new faculty that includes a social mentor, a professional mentor, one week of summer training, one week of orientation, and other training materials.
- Classroom teachers are assigned 5 teaching blocks out of 9, with the goal of having an equal balance between classroom teaching time and planning/preparation/collaboration time.
- The academic leadership team plans professional development up to 24 months in advance to maximize the value for teachers.
- Student-led academic exhibitions and conferences provide the best evidence of student product. One example: A student performed Chinese gymnastics using silk ropes attached to the ceiling in the gym and reported on the research conducted in learning and honing this discipline.
“The best teacher doesn’t answer student questions, but instead challenges them to explore and learn. They know how to divorce their ego from the teaching process.”
--Kevin Glass, Headmaster of AIS
Kevin shared with us about his world travels and theatrical background. He is an unusually talented school leader who maintains a very healthy relationship with his administators, faculty, and staff. From our tour of the school, it is obvious that design thinking is a primary feature for teachers and students, and this starts at the top.