Mr. Kevin Meklin provides small-group support to IB mathematics students.
“How, exactly, will you provide individual support to my daughter?”
It was a simple question asked by the parent of an eighth-grade student about to enter high school. Unfortunately, this “simple question” caught me off guard, and I did not have a good answer. To make matters worse, I had just been highlighting the central catchphrase of the High School of EAB: We are a high-expectations, high-support school.
And yet, I couldn’t explain to this gentleman how we would support his daughter.
When I arrived in Brasilia a decade ago, it quickly became evident that students could take two very different paths to an EAB diploma. On the one hand, those who chose to become candidates for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program received an intense, college-preparatory education. On the other, students could choose to avoid the IB altogether and take classes that were significantly less rigorous. Due to this discrepancy, we were graduating students with very different skill sets and levels of preparedness for the next phase of their lives. It was a problematic structure.
Using the IB as a tool, over the years, my colleagues and I began to increase academic expectations. Today, all EAB graduates will have taken at least four IB classes, including English and Math, by the time they walk across the stage at the commencement ceremony. To earn the Brazilian diploma, they must take five. Our “high expectations” in the high school ensure that graduates leave campus able to think critically, work independently, and communicate effectively. They will be ready to take on the world.
As we increased expectations, it was important that we also increased support. An op-ed in the New York Times, entitled “Schools That Work” by David Leonhardt, reinforced this idea and gave us the “high expectations, high support” catchphrase to better frame our work.
Mr. Andy Jones and Ms. Katie Leishear provide small-group college essay support to Grade 11 students
We are fortunate in the high school to have excellent counselors and an outstanding learning support team. Kids in crisis or with diagnosed learning needs receive tremendous support. We also have great teachers who organically assist learners during lunch, study halls, and after school. What we didn’t have, and why the parent’s question challenged me, was a formalized support structure for all learners.
Enter the Wednesday Session.
The Wednesday Session was envisioned at the end of last school year and brought to life at the beginning of this one. Its purpose is to provide students 45 minutes each week of additional time with teachers to receive targeted intervention in an area of need.
To do so, time in HS Division meetings is given for teachers to use various types of data and their professional judgment to create sessions to best address student needs. Examples of recent Wednesday Sessions include, “Grade 10 MAP Reading Support”, “Math AA HL Paper Three Support”, and “History Thesis and Essay Support.”
Once the sessions are created, teachers collaborate to place students in the session they believe will be most beneficial. It is an inspiring process that clearly demonstrates how well the teachers in the high school know their students and how much they care about their learning. In the last two iterations of the Wednesday Session, students have given students voice in the process by providing surveys for them to indicate the areas in which they feel they need support.
A specific session runs for three consecutive Wednesdays. On the fourth Wednesday, all students take part in a House Cup Activity in order to determine which House will be crowned the inaugural House Cup Champion. During the week of the House Cup, the process of creating a new series of Wednesday Sessions begins anew.
The entire EAB High School takes part in the House Cup activity of capture the flag.
The EAB Mission Statements mandates that we are “inquisitive in life” and “bold in vision.” The development of the Wednesday Session brings the Mission to life, and, though not yet perfect, it has proven to be a very positive step in our effort to ensure every learner in the high school has the support they need to meet the high expectations we have set.
I am tremendously grateful for how the High School Faculty of EAB has embraced the Wednesday Session. Their determination to provide a “high support” environment for our kids is inspiring.
It is a great time to be at EAB.