ASIJ doesn’t expect teachers to be perfect. Rather, we recruit experienced, child-centered educators who possess values, dispositions, and skills that align closely to our strategic vision for ASIJ’s future. This includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to reflective practice, the drive to grow professionally and learn, and the desire to be part of something larger than oneself.
Michael Fullan, Joanne Quinn, and Joanne McEachern write in Deep Learning (2018): “If we want learners who can thrive in turbulent, complex times, apply thinking to new situations, and change the world, we must reimagine learning: what’s important to be learned, how learning is fostered, where learning happens, and how we measure success. This means creating environments that challenge, provoke, stimulate, and celebrate learning.” (p. 13).
Professional learning and support systems at ASIJ are designed to help our world-class faculty reflect, learn, and grow professionally, always with the goal of improving the student experience. We endeavor to engage and challenge teachers to be their best selves, offering thoughtful, actionable feedback and rich professional discourse that help even the most experienced teacher grow in their practice.
ASIJ has been The American School in Japan for 120 years, and our ability to remain relevant over time has been grounded in our faculty’s willingness to negotiate the turmoil and challenges of each generation. We recognize that to remain a leader among international schools, ASIJ must continue to learn, evolve, and adapt to the future needs of our current students.
This means providing world-class professional learning opportunities for teachers. In What Works Best in Education (2015), John Hattie conducted a meta-analysis of nearly 150 factors that have the greatest influence on learning. His conclusion was that a construct called Collective Efficacy had the most powerful effect. Hattie (2015) writes, “The greatest influence on student learning is having highly expert, inspired and passionate teachers and school leaders working together to maximize the effect of their teaching on all students in their care” (p. 2). ASIJ is actively recruiting educators who want to be part of something larger than themselves, who are committed to reflective practice, and who wish to learn and grow as professionals.
I have so appreciated and benefited from many valuable and varied PD experiences that I have participated during my time at ASIJ. In addition to learning new teaching strategies and improving current practices, these experiences have enabled me to keep my teaching license current over the years, which is an important personal priority. I have also had the chance to collaborate with some of the best educators on the planet. Through ASIJ's PD program, I have participated in learning cohorts, such as COETAIL (Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy), online courses through Heinemann and various universities, literacy and social studies conferences, and other workshops—offered on campus, in Japan, and around the world. I am especially excited to be able to attend the Columbia University Teachers College Summer Reading Institute in August 2019 with a colleague from my department at ASIJ.
Having the opportunity to attend PD inspires and energizes me to achieve more as a teacher and a learner. As a world language teacher, the OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) training was the most impactful for me; particularly, going through the certification process gave me the practical experience to understand language proficiency as per the ACTFL standards ASIJ adopted for our program. Now, I feel more confident assessing oral skills. Cultures of Thinking with Ron Ritchhart was a cross-disciplinary opportunity where I learned thinking routines to use in the classroom to help students better understand their own metacognition.
The collaboration and research through the Global Responsibility steering committee have also significantly impacted me as a club advisor. As a Habitat advisor, adjustments have been made to guide the students more intentionally towards service learning next year. The IFSEL training introduced me to what social-emotional learning entails, which helped my work as an advisor. This year, I also participated in the ACTFL conference in the US with a further focus on SEL and Social Justice and was able to collaborate with other language teachers as well as the presenters. It was an inspirational experience and one I hope to do again.
In my experience teaching internationally, I've seen different PD models and the strengths and struggle of each. The strength of ASIJ’s PD model is that funds are not wasted; they are used purposefully and connected to professional growth. When I was hired, I was offered the opportunity to join the Math Specialists in International Schools (MSIS) cohort in the first semester. I am very grateful for this opportunity. The course made me look at my own classroom as a fly-on-the-wall and challenged me to do certain things differently in order to make a safer, more challenging and better math class. The MSIS institutes didn’t give me answers, they made me reflect on my own practice and pushed me to try new things to fit my group of learners.
Personally, I’ve been keen on inquiry and concept-based learning and so I applied for two workshops in Tokyo with Kath Murdoch and Lance King. These were completely supported by my administrators and the learning allowed me look beyond curriculum. I was one of the first teachers to put my name in to attend Learning2 at ASIJ. The L2 experience is one that all teachers should experience: It’s like a fresh coat of paint. Effective PD is not always about learning something new, sometimes it’s about seeing teaching and learning from a different perspective.