All Together, We Are a Learning Community

August 17, 2021

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

End of the Year

June 8, 2021

Dear EARJ Community,

On this same day one year ago, we were in full Distance Learning, talking about ending a hectic school year and preparing to start fresh in August. We were hoping that 2020-21 would be more “normal”, and believing that we had learned everything we had to learn about the pandemic.

Little did we know the challenges that awaited us. Challenges that we have overcome together as a community and that have brought us where we are today: finishing another frenetic school year, still in the grip of the pandemic, and ready once again to start fresh in August. Because this is what we do at EARJ. We don’t give up.

At this time last year, we thought we would see the students and teachers back to school in August 2020.  It didn’t happen. We were not able to reopen the campuses until  October, when they returned and we were thrilled to see them on campus. We thought they would come back all together but it had to be on a rotation basis – but they were here! Schools were closed a few times, schools were open, but learning at EARJ never ever stopped.

We thought we would all have been vaccinated by now, children and adults. Not yet, but all education professionals will be vaccinated against Covid-19 next week. Children are starting to be vaccinated in other parts of the world, and we hope that soon they will be vaccinated here. We hoped that there would not be many interruptions to academic life due to Covid-19 cases in our community, but the cases came. Sometimes just a few, sometimes more. We worked hard to balance medical prudence with the desire to minimize disruption, and we tried so hard to get the students impacted back to school in a matter of days, ready to resume their activities. Sadly, we feared there would be tragic losses among our families and loved ones. Despite our fervent hopes and prayers, the past months saw this come true.

Nonetheless, we close the year with heads held high and spirits undimmed. We will be ready to start another school year as we always are. We will work over the break like never before to prepare the school for a brighter future. As writer Arhundati Roy said, “The pandemic is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. And it has left us with a choice: We can choose to walk through the portal, …. dragging our old ideas and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

At EARJ, we believe that we need to be forward-thinking, embrace the things that we love, change the things that we don’t, and accept the fact that our culture as we know it has changed forever. And we are ready. Are you?

#staysafe and enjoy your vacations!

Emilia Ferreira
Business Manager

High Hopes: Celebrating Learning and Student Life

June 1, 2021

As we approach the end of the 2020-21 school year, the collective focus of the school and the school community is quite appropriately where it should be: on celebrating what has been a highly successful school year. And is there ever a lot to celebrate! EARJ’s “can-do” approach to learning and student life that has been on full display throughout the entire school year and reaches its growth in the final weeks of the semester.

We look forward to your participation in a number of events (many of which are this week) that showcase student learning over the course of the year including Upper School arts exhibitions, Lower School arts exhibitions (including a drive-thru exhibition at the Barra campus), virtual talent shows and year-end concerts, and G11 Theory of Knowledge exhibitions. Rites of passage promotion celebrations are coming up shortly for our Grade 5 and Grade 8 students as they enter Middle School and High School respectively and we have designed ceremonies for these events that will allow for the participation of students from home and school and the participation of parents from home.

On the academic front, MAP Growth testing continues in both the Lower Schools and Upper Schools this week as a way of measuring student achievement and academic growth. High School exams are being held from June 7th-11th and will provide an opportunity for High School students to demonstrate their learning and mastery of each subject studied. The results of MAP and year-end student achievement for all students will be shared with the community during the final week of school and will provide an opportunity to celebrate where your children are, what they’ve accomplished academically and any next steps to be taken.

On curriculum-related matters, we are in the process of completing our trial implementation of the IB Primary Years Programme(PYP) on both campuses and our first year of instruction of the IB Diploma Programme(DP) on the Barra Campus. To top it all off, we recently had our application to become an IB Middle Years Programme(MYP) candidate school accepted and we will begin the trial implementation of the MYP next school year. It truly has been a remarkable year and we couldn’t be prouder of what we have achieved together!

Our ability to accomplish so much this school year highlights our determination, innovation, creativity, and ability to see the upside of adversity. In her book, “The Upside of Stress” by Dr. Kelly McGonigal, Dr. Kelly suggests that taking this approach helps to change the way we cope. According to McGonigal, the net benefit of employing a positive mindset and finding opportunities where others only see obstacles is that it leads us to find a greater purpose in life and hope for the future. Our celebration of the 2020-21 school year is proof-positive of this approach and of the optimism and high hopes that we have for our children and for their future.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Scott Little
Barra Upper School Principal