Let's Talk About Education

All Together, We Are a Learning Community

August 17, 2021 - By Doreen Garrigan - Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

One of my favorite moments as a school Principal is when I have the opportunity to get into a classroom and TEACH. Yes, I still teach! This may challenge some of you who think Administrators leave behind textbooks and whiteboard markers but it is still present in many of us. Last week I had a teaching opportunity with a G5 class that reminded me of how important it is to be a part of the Learning Community, as a teacher too. I’ll tell you more about this “chocolate”  moment and five ambitious  Grade 5 students a bit later. Let me first set the stage as to ‘why’ we are all part of a Learning Community.

This year the Primary Years Programme (PYP) at EARJ  moves into its second year of candidacy and in Upper School, the Middle Years Programme (MYP) will begin its first year of candidacy. The pursuit to become an IB World Continuum School remains the goal and the stepping stones to achieve this goal will be paved with an emphasis on our Learning Community. The Learning Community, according to the PYP, is inclusive of everyone involved in the life of the school. Together the learning community:

  • Lives peacefully together
  • Prioritizes people and relationships
  • Assumes shared responsibility for learning, health, and well-being


Living Peacefully Together

In the Lower School, teachers and students used the opening weeks to build classroom communities. They developed essential agreements around how they will treat each other. They shared details about who they are and how much they have in common with each other and also how they are different. They started the journey to forming a new community of learners while making new friendships in the process… In the Upper School, students reunited with cohorts of friends and study groups and welcomed a new year back on campus. As part of their MYP candidacy, students will also learn more about the IB Learner Profile and the attributes of international mindedness. These opening weeks laid an important foundation to live and learn together peacefully.

Prioritizing People and Relationships

Extending the EARJ Learning Community to include families and other important members connected to the school is important as these partnerships are key to the work ahead. Through these partnerships, members of the community come together to develop and support a shared vision, mission, beliefs, and values. We can remember from last year how the EARJ community kept the momentum going during the pandemic. These relationships continue to provide a necessary glue to who we are as a Learning Community. They add richness to the community by being actively involved in the life of the school to exchange ideas, build on experiences and provide support where needed.


Sharing responsibility for learning, health, and well-being

So, back to the story of teaching. Last week I was fortunate to grab about 20 minutes in a G5 classroom and introduce one of my favorite challenges to students, “Who can make a $100 word?” I raised the stakes with Ms. Caitlin’s class and said there was a bar of chocolate for the student(s) who found FIVE words equallying $100. Using the value of $1 for the letter A and $26 for the letter Z (you do the math in the middle, LOL) students got to work. To make the opportunity a translanguaging one, I said they could find words in English and/or Portuguese but that the words had to equal $100, not $99, not $101. By lunchtime, two groups of students came to my office with answers. Obviously, the opportunity to collaborate and pull together ideas was worth a single bar of chocolate. I sent both groups back for the evening to clean up and organize their thinking and to make sure they had triple-checked their words for mathematical accuracy. I am proud to share that both groups found 5 separate words that equaled $100!

What was amazing in the end, when I came by to deliver the two bars of chocolate, was how the other students celebrated the accomplishment of their classmates. It was evident they supported each other in their learning and created a culture in the classroom of celebrating achievements quite quickly. Getting to know these five students was a joy last week and I look forward to offering up more challenges to more students in the future. A big thank you to Filipa, Teresa, Lara, Francisco, and Miguel from Ms. Caitlin’s G5 class for putting a big smile on my face last week and allowing me to be a teacher once again!

It is these moments with children we are reminded there is hope in this future generation. To live and learn peacefully, respectfully, and with enthusiasm is the by-product of our Learning Community coming together in the best interest of children. As we continue the journey toward IB World Continuum School status, we will continue to check in with the Learning Community to ensure we are living and working together peacefully, prioritizing relationships and sharing the responsibility of learning, health, and well-being. I look forward to this journey with all of you!

Doreen Garrigan
Gávea Lower School Principal

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