Dear CIS Community,

Somethings to Ponder

“Children today are cosseted and pressured in equal measure. Without the freedom to play they will never grow up.” - Peter Gray

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room.” - Socrates (roughly 400 BC)

Being a parent is difficult, and so is being a child. As I become older and wiser (not really wiser - probably older and wider is more accurate), I am becoming more convinced that we as parents inadvertently make our children’s lives more difficult because we may not be involved enough or often more accurately in recent years - too involved. Parents often know what their child is doing each waking moment. Children may be over-scheduled with adult-lead activities. Adults are quick to jump in to attempt to solve issues for their children. There is a fast-growing body of evidence that the above, all with good intentions, are doing a disservice to our children. Indeed, young students today (whether in kindergarten or university) as a whole, demonstrate less independence, then say, we did when we were younger, and certainly our parents and grandparents. Some researchers attribute this to the notion of Play Deficit Disorder. Children in developed countries today play less than children of previous generations. At play, many important life lessons tend to be learnt in an authentic setting through trial and error, taking initiative, creating, having time to reflect and solve things by oneself or with peers rather than having an adult step in (arguably too quickly). Indeed, at play, people develop emotionally, physically and intellectually and socially.

While the western world may have coined the term Play Deficit Disorder. Some parts of the eastern world have coined the phrase, “High Scores Low Ability,” referring to long term results of children spending most of their time studying to attain high scores on tests - that in the grand scheme of things have limited relevance to “real-life.” The result being that children have less time to be independent, creative and to find ways to solve complex social issues on their own or with their peers.

The life lessons of play help young people (and older people for that matter) grapple with important life skills of honesty, humility, bravery, empathy and respect. These important lessons can be learnt in a class or adult-organized setting, however, they can be truly experienced and internalized in the setting of play. For example; long term studies over the past 60 years in the USA show that accompanying the decline in play, there has been a steady decline in empathy, as well as a steady rise in anxiety disorders and narcissism in students.

It is worrisome that Play Deficit Disorder or High Scores Low Ability may be influencing generation(s) of potentially anxiety ridden narcissists who lack empathy. If play helps galvanize lessons of empathy, humility, honesty, bravery and respect, then perhaps playing outdoors without electronics is something that should be further cultivated or re-cultivated by us, as parents.

 

In partnership,

 

Jim

 

Jim Urquhart

Director - Cayman International School

 

Professional Feedback Survey - Please click HERE to provide feedback to Jim

 

 

 

 

 

  Vol 1 Ed 4 2020-2021 SY 11 September 2020 JU

 

Dear CIS Community,

Something to Ponder

“Yelling at living things does tend to kill the spirit in them. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts.” – Robert Fulghum

Feedback

Last Sunday while walking on the beach I overheard what sounded like an older brother shout at a younger brother, “You are doing it wrong - leave me alone - I will do it myself - you don’t know how to do anything!” To be sure, I heard many wonderful sounds of people and the environment too, such as friends cheering on each other on skimboards. It is interesting how words of encouragement or discouragement vary between activities and people. For example; the audience at a symphony is different from a football/soccer game, a grandparent talking with a grandchild is different from two siblings talking, parents watching their child in a school performance is different from watching a movie at home, the audience in a classroom is different from a music lesson, and the list goes on.

Do such differences make sense? Does the behaviour of an audience help or hinder the people being watched? Does shouting things when watching young people make sense? What if your child was playing an instrument in a theatrical or music performance? Would you shout things like…Come on! Speed it up! Slow down! Great song! For crying out loud put your fingers on the right note! Hey, conductor, change the music! Similarly, would you do things like go to every rehearsal and shout and cheer while your child is practicing their music… or would you talk to the conductor after the rehearsal and tell them your child should be playing percussion instead of strings. Would doing all or some of the above make sense?

What if you were observing your child in the classroom? Would you cheer things like…Read faster! Write slower! Look what the other person is doing, why don’t you do that! Come on, keep your head up, and be ready for the next question! Turn the page or I will strangle you! Would you... Booo! Start clapping slowly and build to a crescendo of fast clapping! Would doing all or some of the above improve a child’s learning in class or during work at home?

What if your child was playing a sport, yet we cheered as if it were a theater or musical performance? Would we do things like…Wait and clap and cheer very loudly at the end of the game - so loudly that the players come back on to play another half of football...Bring flowers to the athletes after the game…Thank the coaches…Remain silent while the game is being played. Would doing all or some of the above help our children?

The way we communicate with our children, family members and friends varies greatly in light of the situation, our own experiences, and our cultural perspectives. It also varies greatly in tone, body language and timing. If there was an absolute perfect way to provide feedback to people, then schools, parents and coaches would be doing close to exactly the same thing around the world. The challenge is that there is no perfect way. Fortunately, there are some guidelines to providing feedback that do transcend school, sport, art, activities, teaching and parenting, namely ensuring the feedback is Kind, Specific and Useful. In our support of people regardless of the endeavor, Kind, Specific and Useful feedback over time tends to help people learn – whether it be at play, at work, at home or at school.

In partnership,

Jim

 

Jim Urquhart

Director - Cayman International School

 

Professional Feedback Survey - Please click HERE to provide feedback to Jim

 


                                                                                                        Vol 1 Ed 3 2020-2021 SY 11 September 2020 JU

Dear CIS Community,

Something to Ponder

“Experience is what you get when you do not get what you want.” - attributed to many

When watching the news, it does not take much time to feel very fortunate that we live in the Cayman Islands. A cross section of news from around the world includes; the International Criminal Court opening a case to examine crimes against the Rohingya, wildfires in the west coast of the USA, world-wide the gap between wealthy and poor is expanding more rapidly than before, each day there are examples of racism in most every country on earth (including our wonderful island), and it is estimated in the coming week the world will surpass a million deaths due to Covid-19.

Many of us in the CIS community travel from a comfortable home to a lovely school to a preferred grocery store then to beautiful locations for recreation - it is important for us to be cognizant that despite of this, our island is not void from issues, far from it.  Yet, in the grand scheme of things we are very fortunate to call The Cayman Islands home. It is important that we do not rest on the fact that we are fortunate, and in many ways life seems “normal” on island, though we still need to have measures in place to manage risks. The Cayman Islands are in the top 50% for Covid-19 cases per capita in the world. I wonder if we are becoming too comfortable with the notion that we may have weathered the Covid-19 storm. Indeed, we have three active Covid-19 cases on island and in the coming weeks the island has a soft opening. It may sound like I have been reading too many “Chicken Little” stories and that the “sky is falling.” Nonetheless, it is important not to let our collective guard down too early, especially when it comes to health.

As a reminder, it is important or members of our community to wash your hands well with soap, avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, get plenty of sleep and exercise, and eat healthily, and cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze (or cough or sneeze into your elbow). It is important to stay home if you are sick,  it does not hurt to have your masks handy just in case, and it is helpful to stay wise with interactions inside and outside our circle of family and friends. Finally, “Those who think they have no time for exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” - Edward Stanley

Wishing you a good weekend and may you have the opportunity to have healthy meals, do some exercise and continue to appreciate that we get to call The Cayman Islands our home.

 

In partnership,

Jim

 

Jim Urquhart

Director - Cayman International School

 

Professional Feedback Survey - Please click HERE to provide feedback to Jim

 

    


                                                                                               Vol 1 Ed 2 2020-2021 SY 4 September 2020 JU

Dear CIS Community,

 Something to Ponder

“Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.” -  Bob Talber 

The notion of teaching them what counts resonates deeply with me on a professional level, and is heightened this time of year on a personal level. My wife and I now live roughly 3300 kilometres from our son and 3200 kilometres from our daughter as the crow flies from The Cayman Islands or roughly 11 hours of travel via airplane and car. In referencing the above quotation, the good news is that our children  can count very well, are  attending excellent universities and have the good fortune of scholarships. This is all fine, however, as I write this (secretly hoping my children might call)  I can assure you academic performance is the furthest from my mind. What is going through my mind, as well as the minds of the other empty nesters I have met along the way, are all the things related to what counts and what matters in life. I, like the other parents, know the academic part of learning will fall into place - and naturally we all want our children to do as well as they can in their studies. What actually is on the collective parental minds though are concepts related to independence, good decision-making, self-advocacy, safety and health. And of course, not having our children at home - it means two less chairs at the supper table each evening. This is  life I suppose - yet I am sure that at this time of year in the northern hemisphere there are thousands of parents (and siblings for that matter) wishing that chairs at the dinner table were not empty and hoping very hard that their children (young adults) are making wise decisions, having fun, being kind to others, and being healthy.

Parent Involvement

Teaching children what counts is a team effort. A team requires many people, a lot of effort, and involves hard work. It inherently encompasses mistakes along the way too. Thus helping our children understand, appreciate and act on what counts requires a strong school / parent partnership. To be sure, success in school is measured not just by academic standing, but also via social-emotional health, engagement in the arts, athletics and service and much more. Arguably these are the realms where our children practice, first hand, skills like, managing independence, coping when things don’t go one’s way, developing decision-making skills and doing the right thing when no one is looking - the things that count.

Parent involvement in a child’s learning is very important, and certainly varies from age group to age group. It requires a fine balance. Too little and too much parent involvement is detrimental to student growth. The art is in finding the right balance – and, of course,  this too varies from child to child too.

Two forms of parental involvement consistently show a positive effect on student success. One is attending school information sessions such as orientations. When parents attend information sessions, and other similar types of orientation, students tend to have higher rates of school work completion. In fact, when parents participate in predictably come to school events their children tend to have a student work completion rate 15% to 20% higher than students whose parent(s) did not attend such an event. During a pandemic, doing the above is more complex than non-pandemic times because face to face meetings and  larger group meetings are curtailed.

The other form of parent involvement that consistently helps students is having family suppers or meals. Our busy lives often get in the way of the ritual/tradition of eating a meal together. Children who are in an environment in which their family regularly eat meals together (three or more times a week), tend to have stronger academic achievement, lower instances of substance abuse, less behavioural issues, and are more likely to complete high school and / or post-secondary education, and tend to participate in service to others as well as themselves.

On behalf of the CIS team, thank you to our parents for engaging in the school / parent partnership. Below is just a handful of examples I have already observed in the first week of school.

  • Introducing yourself to your child’s teachers, teaching assistants and other staff members

  • Talking with your child and telling stories about your days at school

  • Returning parents introducing themselves to new families to the school

  • Taking the time to understand Google Classroom and Seesaw

  • Asking your child questions about the strengths / dangers of social media

  • Talking with your child about prudent health habits around hygiene, rest, and being Covid astute

  • Listening to our children and not just telling them exactly what to do when a difficult situation arises

Indeed, children's attitudes towards school, their engagement, achievement, attendance, motivation, self-concept, and behaviours are influenced by the attitudes of their parents towards learning and school. CIS is very thankful for the hard work of our parents in support of young people.

Wishing you a good weekend and may you have the opportunity to have a meal together with your child, in partnership,

 

Jim

 

Jim Urquhart

Director - Cayman International School

 

Professional Feedback Survey - Please click HERE to provide feedback to Jim

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Vol 1 Ed 1 2020-2021 SY 28 August 2020

Dear CIS Community,                                                                         

Something to Ponder

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” - Carl Jung

The start of each school year is a gift of renewal – it is an annual revitalization filled with anticipation. From early childhood students cautious to leave parents for the first time…to high school students who are eager to leave their parents to reunite with friends...to staff excited about the new year...to parents experiencing a swirl of pride, excitement and trepidation - the anticipation of the first week of school is one of the many joys of serving in education. Indeed reopening our school during a worldwide pandemic added to the anticipation, excitement and trepidation of our collective community.

Learning at CIS is a Partnership

Earlier this week, many adults and children in our community came to CIS for new family orientation. I also had the pleasure of talking with many parents at two off campus meetings and an online meeting last week. This partnership not only supports the CIS community, it also allows us to celebrate learning, learn from each other, better manage and ideally thrive in a world that may be more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous then we, as parents, experienced when we were in school.

 Committed to Learning at CIS

We often speak of schools being places of learning…this refers to learning for all in the community - students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Additionally, CIS as a learning community continues to grow and evolve. For close to 15 years as CIS and roughly just over 10 years as the Faulkner Academy, our international school has adapted and continually improved to meet the needs of its community, across different time periods, within different buildings and across changing environmental and economic settings. The reverse is true too, in that the CIS community has also adjusted to changes in education and the reality of being a diverse school that is mission driven. We must continue to anticipate what our students today will need for tomorrow’s world. The challenge of course being that the future is the hardest thing to predict.

We also need to make good use of what we know about how students learn; processes and approaches that are often different than those used in the recent past. Some might argue that even more important than learning, is the ability or comfort with “unlearning” and being comfortable with ambiguity. This requires our school (and education in general) to better leverage the learning implications of current brain research, new knowledge in the field of child development, and balancing what may be important to adults with what may be the passions of children. The world’s knowledge now doubles so rapidly that it is not uncommon for things learned in the first year of university to be obsolete by the time a student enters their final year. With the above in mind, schools have become more complex, elements of parenting have changed and the nature of young people’s lives certainly continues to change. Indeed, change has become the default. We do know that our community principles of kindness, partnership, sustainability and good intent are elements that transcend time and help our students to manage change and be strong global citizens.

Wishing you all the best in the new school year, in partnership.

 

Jim Urquhart

Director - Cayman International School


Professional Feedback Survey - Please click HERE to provide feedback to Jim

 

Jim Urquhart

Director, Cayman International School