The Marginalian is often a source of interesting reading, ideas, or poetry. A piece that opened with the following quote from the American playwright, Tennessee Williams, caught my attention recently: “The world is violent and mercurial — it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love — love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.” Yep as we enter 2022 – the COVID pandemic, climate change, dizzying amounts of disinformation and misinformation sure seem to be our burning building. So how do we save our love from this crazy world? My dad is building a “silver linings file” where he records moments when love or goodness were unexpected. When we talk each Sunday he relays what has gone in the file. He is saving the love and passing it along. Talking with my ancient auntie (93 and still fiercely independent) each week she, without fail, will share how someone was good to her, helped her, how she saw a beautiful bird or a glorious vista at the beach –that life is good….
Learning Will Continue!
The holiday break ended and as we return to our learning environment, we face the challenge of a new wave of anti-epidemic measures, quarantine, and distance learning. Like schools around the world, we have been facing these challenges since the beginning of this pandemic. Students, teachers, parents, and administrators have quickly learned that flexibility and being at ease with uncertainty are key to our mental health and success these past (almost) two years. We also learned that schools and learning are more important than ever. Thankfully, learning continues to flourish at AAS despite the uncertainty of the world around us. We have been fortunate to not have to face the extensive challenges that schools around the world have faced during this time….
Wishing You a Gratitude Filled New Year!
In last week’s Weekly Howl, MS Counselor, Mr. Johnson, wrote about gratitude; earlier this week I was in an elementary classroom as they were discussing gratitude. Gratitude is a noun that means being thankful. I think gratitude should also be a verb and an adjective (perhaps even an adverb), so I will use it however I want in this, the final Weekly Howl of 2021. I know that some English teachers and grammarians may not approve of me making up and/or misusing a word, but I don’t care; I am gratitudy for those people who just let this slide. 2020 was the year of our discontent (nod to Shakespeare and Steinbeck), or so we thought. I recall a year ago kicking 2020 out the door with relief and satisfaction: 2021 had to be better. Well. It is easy to focus on the challenges of any year, and 2020 and 2021 have had more than their fair share. However, there is so much more to be gratitudy for than to lament. …
Talking Through Uncomfortable Emotions
Today is a national day of mourning in Bulgaria for the two tragedies that have happened this week. On behalf of AAS, I send my condolences to the victims (and their families) of the nursing home fire in Royak and the bus fire on the Struma Highway. After the Sandyhook school shooting in December 2012, a young student asked me why we were having a day of mourning for something that happened thousands of kilometers away. It was not an insensitive question: it was a question about what a day of mourning is or why it is important. In that moment, I struggled to answer. To me, it was expected that there would be a day of mourning for something so horrible and troubling, but I was not able to explain to a young student how a day of mourning helped. If I could go back in time and answer the question now, I would say that a day of mourning is important for many reasons….
The Science of Gratitude
Many of us have become used to the uncertainty, but the current state of the world continues to take its toll on our health and well being. So what can we do to help ourselves feel a little better? I emphasize the ‘little’ here, because there is no one thing that can fix things, but rather a collection of little changes that can amount to a noticeable difference in how we feel. Positive Psychology research has demonstrated that focusing our attention on things that we are thankful for – expressing gratitude – leads to greater overall happiness. Gratitude is appreciating what we have and not continually wishing for more or focusing on what we lack. Better yet, it is expressing that gratitude in an intentional way….
With Inquiry-Based Learning Students Do the Heavy Lifting
The approach to learning at AAS is characterized by inquiry, but what does that mean? Inquiry is all about students taking charge of their learning through discovery – they are the ones who do the heavy lifting. To better understand the inquiry approach to learning at AAS, it’s helpful to “see” an example from a recent lesson in upper-elementary: to launch the beginning of a math lesson, students were presented with a picture of goats in a pen on a farm. The teacher explained that a single goat needs a certain amount of space in order to be healthy and that pens could be built to allow for more or less goats, but of course, fencing materials cost money. From there, students worked collaboratively, both with the teacher and with their peers to explore all the different configurations they could think of and how each affected the space allowed for the goats….
A Message from HS Student Council
With the return to on-campus learning, the student council has been able to resume regular meetings and we are working hard to improve the lives of all students. Despite the obstacles that the pandemic has placed in front of us, we have still been able to make effective changes and look forward to the year ahead. One of the first major but necessary changes was the implementation of new roles within the student council. For those unaware, the positions of Prefect, Chief Executive, and DIBE coordinator have all been added in place of the Treasurer and Secretary. The Prefect’s focus is to provide an objective and more direct line of communication between the teachers and student council….
Achieving State of ‘Flow’
I was fortunate to have a college roommate whose family owned a house right under the main gondola in Vail, Colorado, one of the premier mountain resorts in the United States. We spent our summers there, working in restaurants and laying bricks in order to make money for the upcoming school year, and enjoying the spectacular alpine beauty of the area. A fellow our age who we got to know — let’s call him Chris C., so as not to give away too much — was from Chicago but spent his summers in Vail, too, where his father put on a workshop. I went to their condo a couple of times, and the environment within ran counter to the sun-and-fun vibe elsewhere in the valley. Curtains were drawn to block the sunlight and mountain views, and desks and tables were piled high with books and untidy stacks of papers. It was quiet….
Teacher Spotlight: Gary Foster
In this new series we will be introducing AAS teachers with a short interview and some photos. First in line is Mr. Gary, who is currently teaching Kindergarten and has been in Sofia for 9 years….
Students Stepping Out of Comfort Zones
Change happens all the time, whether we notice it or not. It can be challenging to move to another country, take classes in subjects that are new for us, or sort out the ever-unfolding situation with COVID. International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB/DP) students are ready for the world of today and tomorrow because they are experts in change and adapting. They learn to adapt by stepping out of their comfort zones, updating their thinking, and developing their resilience. IB/DP students step out of their comfort zones when they plan and lead Friday Features programs as part of their CAS (Community-Activity-Service) requirements. …
Celebrating Life Every Day
Little kids are the best at saying simple truths. Earlier this week, AAS kindergarten student, Helena, was kind enough to point out the simple truth in the quote above. I have worked in schools for a long time (hence the being very old quotation), and I have enjoyed countless funny comments from kids. Parents, you may not know this, but your kids often say funny things about you at school. For example, most of the teachers in the ES have a pretty good sense of which dads snore. Helena’s comment got me thinking. I don’t feel old. However, I am obviously very old, and I have a birthday coming up, so I’m just getting older. I don’t mind birthdays and getting older: it is a lot better than the alternative. …
Staying Active During Distance Learning
Entering another period of online learning brings back the challenges that go hand in hand with it – more screen time, more time spent sitting, less physical activity, less time spent outdoors, more stress and less opportunities for fun and leisure activities. So what better time than now to remind ourselves of some of the benefits of physical activity. Physical activity is not only essential for healthy growth and development, but also important to learning. Research shows that physical activity of any kind – team sport, biking, hiking, swimming or playground games – has positive effects on the brain and on school performance….