When did you start teaching at AISM and why did you decide to become a teacher?
I began teaching at AISM in September 2005. At that time, I was a ‘casual teacher’ who would come into school to cover classes when teachers were absent through illness. I quickly discovered what a special community AISM was and was made extremely welcome by both the staff and students.
I come from a teaching family, and this heavily influenced my decision to become a teacher myself. Both of my parents were international schoolteachers, and we first came to Malaysia back in 1984. Even though we eventually left Malaysia, and my parents continued their careers in other countries including Holland, I had very fond memories of my time in Malaysia and was keen to return.
With AISM celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, what have been the most memorable moments during your career here so far?
For me, the most memorable moments at AISM have been those when the school comes together. I love Team Building Day and International Day, where the older and younger students come together and interact. The strength of our school has always been in its community and so when our older students have the opportunity to lead and when our younger students have the chance to learn from them – this is when our school is at its best.
The Year 10 Careers Research Project has also helped to generate many memorable moments. I created programme over 10 years ago as an opportunity to give our students some much needed work experience to help them with their career planning. It’s always very rewarding to visit our students during the work experience week to see how their placements are going, especially on those occasions where you see a student who has had such a profoundly positive experience that it inspires them to pursue a particular career. When I meet former students, they almost always speak about how much they learnt from the Careers Research Project.
What would you tell potential parents to convince them that AISM is the best option for their child?
Firstly, I would say that our school community is truly special. International schools are often welcoming environments, but AISM is the warmest and most welcoming community I have ever been a part of. We are a wonderful blend of the best of Malaysia and the best of Australia. As a parent of two children in our Junior School, I could not think of a better environment for them to be a part of. I am proud of what we have all worked together to build. It is an exceptional place.
Secondly, the Australian education system and our Visible Learning approach sets us apart from other international schools. As someone who grew up with the UK system, I was trained to pass exams. Despite the merits of the UK education system, I do not think that it is as successful as the Australian system’s emphasis on providing students with a broad range of skills across a wide range of subjects. Our approach is based on holistic education and our students are confident, creative, multi-talented individuals as a result. This is combined with our school’s Visible Learning philosophy. Teachers see learning through the eyes of the students and in turn, we help them become their own teachers. Our students are assessment capable, know what they are learning, how they are doing and what their next learning steps are. They have strategies and learning routines that help them develop a growth mindset.
When I take AISM students to compete at World Scholar’s Cup events around the world, it is clear how exceptional they are. Our students are always prepared to get involved, achieve their personal best, make friends and help others.
How was teaching during the MCO period?
Obviously teaching and learning during the MCO period was a challenge; however, I think AISM has risen to this challenge extremely well.
It is important to point out that we already had much of the IT infrastructure firmly in place at the school. Many of our resources are digital and we have been increasingly moving towards a more paperless environment over the last few years. When we commenced our Continuity of Learning programme, much of the essential components were already in place. It is a credit to our planning in conjunction with the IT department that the transition was so smooth.
Our students in the Middle Senior School have been heavily participating in their classes, and I think that the impact of COVID-19 on learning at AISM has really been kept to a minimum. However, one of the biggest challenges we had was having to cancel the Mid Year Examinations for Years 6-11 and replace them with alternative assessment tasks. In the end, it gave the teachers an excellent opportunity to reflect on our learning outcomes and develop new assessment tools. This has enabled our students to demonstrate their learning in different ways.
I don’t think that the pandemic and the MCO have necessarily changed the way AISM educates, but it has shown how creative the teaching staff are at AISM in the ways in which they have continued to develop their teaching practice during this difficult time.
What advice would you give the graduating class of 2020?
As the Careers and Pathways Coordinator, I always tell our students that every decision they will ever make closes some doors and opens others. It is important for them to make decisions that will open as many doors and create as many opportunities as possible. Some decisions will close doors and steer them down a particular path, and when this happens, they need to own the decision made, be responsible and make the most of their opportunities for growth.