Learning Landscapes


School Culture

During our Strategic Planning process last school year, we had deep conversations about our school culture. We are a warm and happy school with many special relationships among students, parents, faculty and staff. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see faculty chatting together over lunch, children holding hands as they walk through the school, teenagers playing soccer, parents exchanging ideas, or staff members enjoying a laugh together. We are definitely a school where people care about each other and take pleasure in being together. However, as it turns out, our strategic planning process identified that our community aspires to more. What we have today isn’t fully satisfying to us. We want an even richer school culture. I think this is cool – we aspire to something beyond what we have today!

What is school culture? This is a topic that has been written about in the professional literature for a long time, and various research studies about it. The National School Climate Center explains that “School climate refers to the quality and character of school life as it relates to norms and values, interpersonal relations and social interactions, and organizational processes and structures. School climate sets the tone for all the learning and teaching done in the school environment and, as research proves, it is predictive of students’ ability to learn and develop in healthy ways.”

Did you read that last part? Read it again: school climate and culture is predictive of student’s ability to learn and develop in healthy ways. That statement gives us a lot to think about. How well does our current school climate impact our students’ ability to learn?

We all know what a negative environment feels like, places that are unpleasant. Perhaps public spaces like bus terminals or government offices or poorer areas of town or older shopping centers. In these places, we don’t feel safe or comfortable; the surroundings aren’t attractive or clean; we don’t feel cared for and our needs aren’t adequately met; people seem unhappy, cynical, and distrustful. They aren’t places where we want to linger and enjoy ourselves.

As a school, we want the best possible school climate and culture for our community. More than just a “nice place to be”, our strategic plan nudges us to become a school climate and culture where all members of our community feel healthy, safe, respected, engaged, supported, and challenged. In addition, we specify becoming a culture that is inclusive, respectful and responsive to all. This is a tall order, but one that we care about deeply and are willing to work towards.

Here is my question for you: What would it look like for YOU if our school had this kind of climate and culture? I encourage  you to share your ideas about this in the comment section below so others can read your thoughts.

One last thing: don’t miss a wonderful opportunity to come together as a community tomorrow. Our Parent Teacher Organization has organized a Family Fun Run, Walk, and Breakfast for Saturday October 25th. I can’t wait to see you all, please come and show your school spirit! Click here to see the Video-cast from the Director  that we made to advertise the event! Hope to see you there!

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Welcome to my Blog!

Hello! Yes, this is my first blog and I am excited to begin communicating more broadly!

The last few weeks have been incredibly exciting here at my school in Quito, Ecuador. On August 13th, our new teachers began arriving. They arrived from around the world – Toronto, Basel, Istanbul, Chicago, Shanghai, Seattle, Mumbai, San Francisco, Monterey, Tel Aviv, Orlando, Dalian, Portland, Dubai, Crested Butte, Milwaukee, and Stuttgart. During our Orientation Week, they learned about life in Quito, and about our school culture and practices. They are an enthusiastic group, very pleased to be here and eager to work with our students and I am delighted to welcome them here. Our long-term faculty returned on August 26th, with relaxed smiles from their summers, full of energy and excitement to meet their new colleagues and greet the new school year. All teachers spent the week getting trained in a brand new student information software system (called Skyward) as well as working closely with a literacy specialist, Carrie Ekey to learn how to implement an instructional practice called Writing Workshop in their classrooms.

On Friday, August 29th we welcomed 160 new students to our school. It was a sunny, blue-sky day, the kind that just make you feel happy! New students and parents were oriented to our school, and began to feel at home. Finally, on Monday, Sept 1st, we opened our doors to our first day of the 2014-2015 school year. It was an upbeat and happy week, with many smiling faces throughout the days.

This year promises to be an amazing year. We open our three new divisions this year – Early Childhood (Nursery-Grade 2) Intermediate (Grade 3-8), and High School (Grades 9-12), each one with a new Principal who is a specialist in that developmental age group – Paola Pereira, Dan Kerr, and John Gates who bring so much expertise and enthusiasm to our school. We will begin to implement Year One of our five year strategic plan and I will report to you regularly about our progress. Our Parent Teacher Organization launches their 3 areas of focus this year – parent education, welcoming newcomers, school pride and positive school culture – and has some great activities planned.

Our parents chose this school as the place for their precious children to grow and learn. We are grateful for their trust and we take our commitment to parents very seriously. As the year begins, I want to encourage our parents to get to know us. Research indicates that the children of parents who are active participants in the school are more likely to do well in school, both academically and socially. Their parents are well-informed about school practices and expectations, they demonstrate commitment to their child’s learning, attend school games and events, hold their children accountable for their behavior, and celebrate their successes. I strongly encourage you to get involved in your child’s education in whatever ways are best for you. You will feel good and your child will respond proudly!

Woody Allen said 80% of success in life is showing up. I do hope you show up to our school, because we want to get to know you! Even better, find some ways to participate and get involved. Your child will benefit, and you will definitely find a warm and welcoming community!


Madeleine Maceda Heide