Education and curriculum

June 14, 2021

Ben Waltz conducts the 2019/20 HS Choir during their Winter Concert pre-pandemic when social distancing and singing restrictions did not apply. Waltz has planned to return to the U.S. at the end of this academic school year to pursue his passion for public education. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Ross)

Different school systems have varying degrees of state guidance regarding curriculum, which Waltz said is a positive aspect of teaching at a private school.

“In the States, your curriculum is guided by government decisions,” he said. “It’s just a little bit differently structured here in some really cool ways.”

Furthermore, Densley said an advantage to teaching at a private school is increased liberty in teaching style and materials.

“Having that freedom to let teachers do their jobs and use our own background and expertise is, I think, a real benefit to the school and our students,” she said.

Yousey said she was accustomed to a different curriculum based primarily on memorization at KIS. She said in the American system, there is a larger focus on understanding and using concepts like conjugations.

When Yousey started teaching at KIS, she said she distributed a list of vocabulary terms to her students and expected to spend the future classes practicing them. However, she said much to her surprise, her students came into the next class with the list fully memorized and ready to apply the words.

“Memorizing was something that those students did really well, just because they were used to that from a lot of their schooling,” Yousey said. “Whereas here, a lot more students are used to more of the American system, where you learn a concept and how to do it and how to apply it.”

Schabel said the student body of her school in Hong Kong was similarly engaged in their learning, but facilitated a judgmental environment and extremes in which students would hire tutors not to catch them up on challenging material, but to “get ahead of the class.”

At ASL, however, Schabel said knowledge and comprehension are priorities in classes, something she prefers to the emphasis her previous school placed on students’ results.

“British systems are very like, grade focused and test score focused and not so focused on the content and really understanding,” she said. “It’s more about, ‘Oh, what am I going to get on this test,’ and that was not something that sat well with me.”

In contrast to the rigidity of GCSEs in the British system, Stillman said a benefit of attending an American school is that he can study a variety of subjects.

“At a British school, you have to commit to a certain few subjects from a younger age, and then you basically just narrow down from there, so it’s nice to be able to take new classes,” he said. “I hadn’t chosen art for my GCSEs, which meant that I was not going to do another art class during my time there.”

While teaching at public schools, Densley said one classroom could contain up to 40 students. In the High School, class sizes are much smaller – Densley said she estimates there is an average of 18 students per class.

Lina Densley instructs her students in an art class at a previous school she worked in. Densley said classes ran differently where she was teaching previously in the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Lina Densley)

Densley said teaching fewer students at one time is an advantage of a private school because more recognition can be given to each student.

“The amount of attention and individualized support that I’m able to give to students here is very different than what I was capable of giving to students of a public school,” she said.

Similarly, Blanks said the relationships between students and teachers at the school are constructive. She said there is more of a focus on these relationships in comparison to her experiences at previous schools.

“ASL definitely prides itself more on student-teacher connections and harnessing those connections, which I think is great,” Blanks said. “My other schools, it happened or it didn’t … It wasn’t something that they really tried to foster.”

Waltz said another enjoyable characteristic of teaching at ASL is the professional development programs offered to faculty.

“I’m grateful for the professional development provided by ASL,” he said. “This is a school that really wants teachers to be doing their best and providing them opportunities to do their best.”

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