Student Led

Posted by on March 30, 2011

The Bridge Between

I’ve had the opportunity over the past several weeks to spend several visits at the kids school, Beijing City International School.  I had the chance to meet twice with an education consultant, John Littleford,  the school had hired to do an assessment.  He conducted a series of interviews I’ve already written about.  I also had a chance to review the results of those assessments and to listen to him speak about his experience as an educator and a consultant to international schools.

John has a fascinating story that I found quite compelling and inspiring, perhaps because some of it reminded me of my own journey albeit on a much smaller scale.  I’d really enjoy reading a history of John’s experience and I hope he writes it down someday.   I was particularly impressed with his discussion about how schools that create a need in students, inspire them to great achievements.  Stac has written a little bit about how an international school is an environment where kids have greater opportunities to bond together.  A new kid in a new school is the odd man out, but when everyone is new they are drawn together faster and with a stronger need.  I’ve been amazed at how Sofi and Miles have both progressed.

I also had the opportunity to go to coffee with the Middle School principal, meet a couple of other mothers of children in Sofi’s grade and tour around the classrooms. I still don’t really feel I’ve had as much opportunity to connect with Sofi’s teachers, but its mostly a factor of Miles having a single class and Sofi having many.

Today Stac and I had the opportunity to both attend the Student Led Conference sessions at BCIS.  This is a time when the students get to show their parents their academic work over the course of the past year. This is collected into a portfolio and students walk their parents through their accomplishments, projects and around to their various classrooms.

Sun JianSofi presented us with an overview of her social studies, where she has been learning about stereotypes of child soldiers in Africa and her English assignment where they are reading the book Holes.  We went and met her Chinese teacher and chatted for a few moments. Sofi has come along quite quickly in her Chinese, given how short of a time we’ve been here; she really has a desire to learn and is not afraid to make an effort to try and speak. She is soon going to be out speaking me.

Miles MonetMiles was completely and totally bored with Sofi’s presentation, but was so excited to share with us the work he’d done. He pushed us (literally) through the school from the Middle School section to his 1st grade class.  We were early so we waited outside until our specified time. Miles walked us through his written school work, then we went over his inquiry based sessions which focused on light and finally we reviewed his math work.  Diba Kader and MilesMiles really loves math and is quite good at it (Sofi too).  This sometimes baffles me since I’ve always been so math averse, but I am glad they enjoy it and are good at it.  Afterwords Miles wanted us to walk around to each of the different specialty classrooms : Chinese, music, PE and swimming. We were really bummed that we forgot his swimming suit and missed out on a swimming demonstration.

Once again I was impressed by how BCIS provided an opportunity and environment where the students could shine and direct their parents through their educational achievements; another fine example of encouraging the kids to become self sufficient and educated citizens of the world.

16 Responses to Student Led

  1. Stacey

    great write up about our first SLC and I like the photo’s you posted. Miles was so excited about showing us his work. I was amazed in his Chinese classroom that he was able to read me two books using pinyin and his tones were spot on. They are both going to outshine us any day now. They were very proud of their work and I loved seeing how happy and excited they were to show us around.

  2. Robyn

    What a great opportunity for your kids! How funny, I remember you as being really good at math. Maybe you just didn’t like it…. 🙂

    • mbg

      Sis I do remember liking math as a kid when it was “easy”, which I think was all the way up through geometry. After that things got “hard” and abstract with algebra and I didn’t like it as much.

  3. Phil Clark, BCIS Middle School Principal

    Thanks for sharing, Mark.
    I love Student Led Conferences – it’s an opportunity for the students to really shine, to take ownership of the conversations with their parents and talk at length about what and how they learn at school.
    It is a real privilege for me to observe the interactions between the students and their parents and to see the faces of adults and children light up with pride.
    It was a great day!

    • mbg

      I think its got to be the pinnacle of the kids education, or maybe a better phrase is the iceberg. There is so much that goes on everyday with a child’s education that parents don’t see (below the water) and SLC is like the best brightest part where a student gets to show off (above the water).

  4. Sun Jian

    It’s great you enjoyed the SLC. Great to see Sofi and Miles enjoying their lives here. Hope you have found the books you need.

  5. btezra

    “fine example of encouraging the kids to become self sufficient and educated citizens of the world”

    I wish that were contagious w/ no apparent remedy

    • mbg

      Craig I’ve thought a lot about why BCIS is so special and the attitude is so focused on educating the kids. First and foremost its the quality of the teachers. How do they gets such great teachers? Maybe its the revenue the receive from tuition (they are private schools after all), which allows them to attract the very best teachers, and I hope compensate them well. Or maybe its the fact that the experience and opportunity of teaching in a foreign land attracts great teachers. I also think its the help each teacher has; the fact that China has a labor economy enables them to have an assistant in every classroom. And lastly the class size makes a big difference as well, the tuition rate affords that also.

      But whatever reason across the board they seem to care more and focus more on education than I’ve ever seen and for that I am grateful. This is not to say I haven’t seen teachers care in the US, but not as holistically or to such a degree.

  6. Sylvia Hunter

    It’s nice to read about your view on Sofie and Miles’ international school and also how much the both of them are enjoying themselves. I have thought a lot about having Sadie in the international school here in Maastricht but decided to place her in a good school “around the corner” from where we live. Being married to a travel/move crazy man I know that Maastricht will not be our final destination. I will consider having her attend an international school once we do move abroad again. What worries me is that she will never make “friends for live” if we move to often. I am guessing you will move back to the US and potentially Seattle when you do move? Maybe I am overthinking this and underestimate the flexibility of kids….

  7. Richard Todd

    Sylvia; I hear your comments totally but would like to share an observation. I worried that my own kids would not have that special bond to place and people that is encouraged by living where your family history is. In the end, I realised that what I was giving my kids was the opportunity for them to bond through ideas and commonalities. It’s true that International Schools have transient populations, but I have found also that friendships do survive distance, leaving and the associated trauma.
    I think that the atmosphere created by a school that Mark talks about is crucial in this regard; we are in loco parentis for sure.
    Best of luck with your decision making, the open mind that kids nurture by actually living in a culture that is not their own is a real gift.

    • Sylvia Hunter

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience, Richard. You are right. Giving your kids the opportunity to experience a different culture and learning a new language is something not everyone can offer. It’s fantastic when you can.
      I found living in Seattle extremely challenging during my first year and I was an adult. Perhaps the worries I have is more about my own adaptability, I start to think. 🙂 Maastricht (NL) is my home town. I know that when the right opportunity comes along we will pack up and go. Our kids will do fine but they will attend an international school when that time comes…

      • mbg


        In our journey here its been my experience that the children have adapted the fastest. Mind you none of them were teenagers, which might have been a different story all together. I do agree the children don’t have the “deep roots” experiences of being in one place their entire childhood, but those grounding experiences can also be binding. They provide comfort but can also be limiting. The big fancy word in English is parochialism, which in this sense I mean narrow minded. Travel broadens their horizons and expands their world view; the realization that everything doesn’t have to be the way your used to for it to be ok or to be “normal”. There are many kinds of normal. Or as another parent said (and Stac has quoted elsewhere) our children become citizens of the world instead of citizens of a community. Most important of all is I know you are not narrow minded, you love your children and you’ll always care for them. 🙂

        • Sylvia Hunter

          Thanks Mark 🙂 I do believe our kids are citizens of the world too. That’s a great way to name it.

          Enjoy yourselves!
          Keep on writing, I enjoy reading your blog.

  8. Nancy Keaster

    As parents moving to Beijing, the Griffiths website has been a fascinating read on what is to come…My husband and I have just enrolled our two children at Beijing City International School, and are gratified to read that it is indeed a warm and inspiring school. We too realize that the difficulty for a preteen and teen in moving away from all they have known, will one day be understood by them as a small sacrifice for what was indeed gained…

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