Learn In Community – In Action

Last week I wrote about how impressive our students proved to be as representatives of our community during the CAISSA volleyball tournament.  The honor of hosting a tournament like that brings tremendous responsibility as well.  Many families at our school hosted visiting students from other schools at their homes and teachers hosted coaches as well.  Our host families gave more than just a bed to these guests; picking them up and dropping them at the airport at all hours of the night, preparing meals, doing laundry, and making them feel welcome in their homes.  In eight years of international school experience this was the first time I’ve been a part of the homestay culture and I couldn’t have been more impressed with the outcome!  

Sometimes when you’re in a place or at a school for a while, be it 3 months or 3 years, you tend to overlook some of the amazing things that are happening all around you.  I, for one, have finally stopped looking around in the morning and saying “look at those mountains!” It’s hard not to appreciate the absolute natural beauty that surrounds me as I look out the windows and make my way to school, but having been here just over three months I have my moments where I take these things for granted.  The weather is gorgeous and looking out at mountains will never get old for me, I need to keep appreciating that view!  As a number of the visiting coaches mentioned, this is perfect weather and it doesn’t get any better than this.  A lot of visitors commented about how lucky we were to have such a beautiful setting for our school and they’re right, it’s gorgeous.

Beyond the weather and the natural beauty of Ecuador, I spoke at length with a number of coaches about a variety of topics having to do with living and working internationally; every time we came back to how good we have it here in Quito!  During CAISSA we had visitors from Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago.  I promise that I’m not exaggerating when I say, everyone that I spoke to was jealous of different aspects of our school and lifestyles!  We’re all very lucky to have found ourselves in such a beautiful place with a school community as positive and supportive as ours.

I could go on for days about all the positive comments I heard about our sports facilities, the views of the mountains (we had a very clear night and could see Cayambe from the north side of Campo Alegre), the ability to go to a grocery store and buy pretty much anything we wanted, the adopt-a-team initiative, the housing options we are afforded here in Quito, our wonderful pep-band and much more.  Our community shined bright last weekend and I want to share just one brief story about how we are living our message, #LearnInCommunity.

We invited the visiting coaches to join us for our full faculty social and they couldn’t have felt more welcome.  All day on Saturday I had coaches coming up to comment about how it only took a few minutes before our community was inviting them into conversations, games, and just making them feel a part of the group.  One guest in particular told me that he was now at his fourth international school and he had never seen a community that was as warm and open as ours, he was simply astonished at how he felt welcomed by every single person he met.  This is something that I’ve come to take for granted in my short time here at AC, it’s become such a part of our culture that I don’t even realize it any more…we are a family and everyone is part of the group, it’s awesome!!!  We truly are living the message – Learn In Community!

Thank you everybody for the amazing community that has been established here at AC.  Every single one of you is a part of the awesomeness and as a new member of this community I am honored to have been welcomed so warmly.  Our guests last weekend reminded me of just how lucky we are to be here at Academia Cotopaxi surrounded by such a tremendous group of people and a beautiful country.

What a Great Community!!

Recently I’ve been struck by just how much of a community our school truly has become for our students.  I know ‘Community’ is part of the name of our school and we most certainly do a lot of ‘big ticket’ community things.  Our PAFA events from the International Food Fair, to the back to school picnic, to market days all bring our community together.  However, I’ve noticed a lot of things that are much more subtle indicators of the community we’ve become.

It’s obvious that our school is from all over the map, literally!  We have students from over 50 countries speaking well over a dozen different languages.  Yet that mix of students doesn’t result in clashes or arguments relating to culture, language, or other misunderstandings.  Our kids get along, they’re friends with everyone and they’re open to new experiences.  This may be something that we think is obvious and perhaps it should be.  It’s not unusual to find students who’ve grouped themselves together by home culture.  However, as an example of how kids are building community, I frequently find one of our newest sixth grade boys (who is Korean) on the field playing with a group of almost all non-Koreans.  It’s awesome to see kids out of their comfort zones and taking risks.  Culture is not a barrier to community at SCIS.

Each morning as I wait for the kids to come off the buses I get to observe a whole variety of what I’ll call “proof of community”.  The other day I asked a high school student if the little second grade girl she walks and talks with every morning was her sister.  I was shocked when she said, “No, she’s just a girl that rides my bus.”  This very social high schooler walks in chatting away with a tiny little second grade student as though they’re best friends…and she’s not the only one, this happens quite frequently between students of all ages at our school.  I can’t imagine the confidence and feelings of safety that our younger students must feel because of these relationships.  Age is not a barrier to community at SCIS.

The culture we’ve created at SCIS fosters these community bonds.  Activities and events create relationships between students who would otherwise not engage each other.  House games in the Middle School bring our kids together across grade levels for friendly competitions.  The swim team brings kids from all grades together to train, compete, and grow together.  The bonds I’ve witnessed between high school and middle school swimmers created because of the team are very positive bonds and fortunately they happen frequently.  As the Upper School production comes to production night (go see Midsummer Night’s Dream tonight or tomorrow!!!) it’s wonderful to see the bonds and relationships that have grown between high school and middle school students, kids who normally would have no reason to interact with each other.  We build community at SCIS.

Shanghai COMMUNITY International School truly is a community.  Our students are happy when they come to school.  They feel safe, confident, and they feel welcome.  The community that we’ve become is thanks to all that you give back to our students.  Without your efforts our students get on the bus and go home but thanks to you we have a bustling after school activities program and our kids are engaged.  We are a community at SCIS!