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Where Learners Become Model Citizens

by Dubai Forum
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Admissions Open for September 2022-2023

Kephren Sherry, Head of Primary at Citizens School, talks to Education UAE about such important and fascinating subjects as the 21st-century approach to engaging children, driving and improving teaching teams through collaborative learning, mentoring and coaching, and why teachers at Citizens School will be known as ‘mentors’ and students as ‘learners’.

EDUAE: Offering young people a more interactive, modern and engaging way to learn. sounds like an exciting way forwards, but what will this look like on an average day in the classroom?

Kephren: Children must be central to their own learning and consideration should be given to the individuality of learners. This is done through providing opportunities in the learning environments that enable learners to investigate, self-direct and also have access to mentor-guided activities. Children in the Early Years Foundation Stage have access to an enabling environment that exposes them to the Tapestry threads throughout the day and for the primary aged children, learning is based on a thematic approach, where the strands are explored in more depth and for longer periods of time. Learners are empowered to develop their ideas and reflect on their learning, making adaptations where necessary. We also deliver the core and regional subjects, so all learners have access to a full and robust curriculum.

EDUAE: The Citizens School approach has six key threads – Mindset; Entrepreneur; Health & Wellbeing; Sustainable Leadership; Global; and Digital Literacy. How different an approach is this in relation to other schools you have been at?

Kephren: The key threads of Tapestry have been carefully designed, based on current research, with consideration given to the Sustainable Development Goals. At Citizens, we focus on the skills that will enable students to become successful lifelong learners, whatever their chosen pathway. Rather than being an add-on to an existing curriculum, the Tapestry is central to all learning, and this is a key difference to my previous experience. The bespoke approach is a refreshing update on existing systems and offers learners a purposeful experience to fully equip them for their future life choices.

EDUAE: Dr Adil Alzarooni said, “We believe in learning rather than educating.” How would you explain this concept to parents?

Students will very much be central to their own learning. Instead of a didactic approach, with teachers lecturing at students, we adopt a collaborative learning approach, with mentors guiding and supporting learning. Mentors observe learning and encourage questioning asked by and of the students to ascertain what they already know, what they need to know, and what they would like to know. That way, the mentor knows how to plan for learning in a meaningful and contextual way

EDUAE: You have stated that you hold a keen interest in driving and improving teaching teams through collaborative learning, mentoring and coaching. Am I right in saying that this will be a totally new experience for teachers (mentors) too? What is the biggest difference they will experience do you think?

Kephren: Effective teams learn from each other, and our mentors bring a wide range of skills with them. It’s important that mentors are given opportunities to share their best practice to enable effective change, and that they are given time to carry out research to inform their own learning. Mentors will be supported in their professional development in many ways at Citizens School, and our Wellbeing Centre will offer professional learning to the community too.

EDUAE: How involved will parents be with the education of their children? How will the school communicate with them?

Kephren: Parent partnerships are vital and we firmly believe in clear and transparent communication with all our families. Parents will have regular communication with the school through newsletters, the parent portal, telephone calls, and conversations. In the future, we will have parent groups to get involved in school life on all levels. There will be many opportunities for parents to fully participate in school life and thus be central to their child’s learning journey.

EDUAE: Discovering local cultures, visiting bookshops, hiking nature trails and spending time at home with your cat sounds pretty idyllic. Is this a glimpse of what Citizen School’s children can look forward to – not only learning for the future but being happy, no doubt the biggest life success of all?

Kephren: My own interests make me happy and that’s why it’s so important that we make ourselves aware of what the students’ interests are and what makes them happy. The wellbeing care of students is central to their happiness and the Wellbeing and Mindset threads of the Tapestry focus on this aspect. Other Tapestry threads may open new interests for the students, so it’s important to offer them a wide range and utilise the variety of learning experiences that living in Dubai offers.


Children must be central to their own learning and consideration should be given to the individuality of learners


EDUAE: Teachers at Citizens School will be known as ‘mentors’ and students as ‘learners’ – do you think on a subtle level calling young people ‘learners’ will affect their approach? What benefits do you see in changing these designations?

Kephren: I do think how we use language can have a profound effect on us. Calling students ‘learners’ shifts focus onto them being involved in their own learning journey and similarly, teachers becoming ‘mentors’ enables a mindset of supporting and guiding the learning journey. Children have so many creative ideas and an innate curiosity that should be harnessed and not overlooked. The benefit of the change in designation means children will be allowed to explore learning in a meaningful and tangible way, and that mentors understand their roles in the process.

EDUAE: What were your initial thoughts when you were approached to become Head of Primary – did it seem like a completely different type of opportunity straightaway?

Kephren: I was thrilled to become the Head of Primary at Citizens School as I knew from the outset that this was going to be something special. The school has an ethos of children being central to everything it does and the Tapestry is based on renowned research by education giants such as Professor Carol Dweck, Sir Ken Robinson, and Matthew Syed. The building creates spaces that consider the way in which children learn and the furniture has been thoughtfully curated. Every decision has been made to benefit learning which really resonates with me. It’s such a privilege to be part of this incredible journey.

EDUAE: How would you describe the school to parents in 20 words or less?

Kephren: An innovative school that considers learner happiness and uniqueness, to provide children with the skills needed for their future.


DF

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