The power of Passion

November 18, 2020

One of the things I really enjoy is to work with people younger than me. Not just 2 or 3 years younger, but from a different generation – I have great friends who were my interns or trainees in the past that have become amazing professionals. Apart from the fact that I loved to learn and to hear their fresh ideas, I found it rewarding to push them to take risks, to make them feel confident to discover their passions.

I believe passion is a game changer. When you feel good about someone (no matter if it’s a Lower School crush, a High School sweetheart, or the love of your life), you want to make a good impression, say the right words, make the right moves. If it’s a passion for what you do, time seems to fly. There’s this strange energy, this fuel that keeps you moving and gets nothing but the best out of you.

Passion is not something you bump into everyday, though. You need to feel inspired, to be open, to “practice new”. Practice builds confidence and also helps you learn that although you will not thrive everytime, it is worth taking the risk.

So a few days ago I received the cutest video from the Lower School team, with kids trying new things like doing pirouettes, surfing, skaterolling. They were taking risks, experimenting things they never did before, feeling the rush. It was part of their exploration of the PYP Learner Profile Attributes. At some point, they would explain why they considered themselves risk takers, feeling proud about themselves no matter if they went well or not. They were proud because they tried. They were feeling the grounds of a new activity that could lead or not to a new passion. Most importantly, they were developing their confidence.

At EARJ, students are inspired to take risks, to try new activities in sports, arts, social responsibility, leadership, and so many other things. They may or may not quickly connect with some of these activities, but what will echo in the future, either in their personal or their professional lives, is that they developed their confidence and were always inspired in trying something new.

Inspiration ignites passion. Passion leads to purpose. Purpose defines the path. It’s no surprise that at EARJ, we are passionate about our purpose to help our students find their path.

Cristina Conforto
Director of Advancement

The value of educating our children in a social work environment

November 3, 2020

As Director of Human Resources here at EARJ, I spend a lot of time thinking about people. If you Google “making the company more human” you will find over 4 million results of your search.

Perhaps due to the pandemic, companies the world over have woken up to the critical importance of social and interpersonal skills in the workplace. This is something that we maybe take for granted at EARJ. Ours is a school where people come first. We understand that a critical element of being a successful adult is your ability to work collaboratively and empathetically with other people. This is why it is so important that our school values social skills in our programs and in how we support the growth of our students.

Actively listening is vitally important to success in our globally connected lives. They say: “Listening is not the absence of talking, but the presence of attention; is not simply hearing, it is understanding.” The world is increasingly growing smaller when one considers the rapid forms of communication and travel available and the businesses utilizing each. We are learning exponentially more about our world, universe, and selves. Living in a community where each individual is heard – being a student, a parent, or an employee matters. As a mom, knowing that each child is recognized as having unique needs at EARJ is a blessing.

Just as “the whole is greater than the sum of parts”, we achieve more by working together than through individual efforts. In my experience at EARJ, senior graduation is a perfect example of the benefits of long-term collaboration efforts. Each young adult carries with them the work of many people who cared for and educated them over the years. They are impacted by the experiences and learnings they had with colleagues, parents, and with the newest and the experienced global network of educators from Brazil, the United States, Canada, and the UK, to name a few places in the world.

No professional life thrives without healthy connections. Making EARJ a safe place for our students and employees is paramount. Our academic and non-academic staff are highly trained and know that their individual contribution and attitude impact us all in this area. Last July, Dr. Doug Walker, a family psychologist and specialist in childhood trauma, worked with our employees. He emphasized that vigilant safeguarding and support of our people pays off. Even in a chaotic context such as the pandemic, the EARJ employees and parents’ daily routines to stay present, centered, and grounded – presently or virtually – kept us connected. And for that, we all should be very proud.

Communicating, actively listening to each other, collaborating, and staying connected – These are nothing short of making history, and I count myself and my family lucky and honored for being part of our community.

Ana Paula Stadelmann
Director of Human Resources

On Perspective from Preschoolers

October 20, 2020

It’s been just over two weeks since our students have transitioned back to campus in two new models of learning at EARJ. In the weeks, days and hours up to our return, the adults in the EARJ community had a lot on their minds.

The teaching teams worked furiously to finalize lesson planning, new classroom arrangements, and technology set-up to be sure that students at home and school would feel part of the classroom family. The physical spaces were ready, desks neatly spaced and materials separated and organized.

EARJ parents coordinated transportation, work schedules and set up home learning routines in alignment with a new kind of school day. They carefully talked to their kids about what school would look like: masks, hand washing and social distancing.

I’m certain every adult in our community worried about how the children would respond and adapt to this new school life, with such a different kind of day with so many protocols and procedures. I know I wasn’t the only one with anxious late night questions running through my mind: Will the kids be alright? Will they understand why their teachers can’t hug them? Will they be scared with all the rules and empty space? Will they be able to learn in the same way?

On the first day of school, I knew we were ready. The amount of work and preparation for that first moment is difficult to put into words, but I can honestly say that it was all worth it the minute the gates opened and the school was once again filled with children. Every member of our community knew that this was the product of months of preparation, waiting, uncertainty, and a great deal of perseverance through challenge.

I held my breath as the first students opened their car doors to temperature checks and masked adults. I was met by each student with a different form of expression: smiles from behind the masks, cheers, dancing, jumping, and elbow bumps! Their joy was contagious!

I looked over as a new Preschool student was walking up, ready to meet her teacher in person for the very first time. She had a bright backpack on and a huge bow in her hair. She was the perfect picture of many years of back to school first days in my memory.  She looked small, but full of confidence, as she walked carefully past masked adults, through the temperature check, and sanitized her hands; she looked like every excited three-year-old on the first day of school.

She was ready to say good-bye to her mom and head off to her classroom for the very first time. The minute she saw Ms. Angela in the waiting area, she stopped and exclaimed, “I know you!”. Her eyes were wide and a huge smile beamed as she looked up at her new teacher.

“I know you, too, Valentina! I’m so happy to see you here at school!” Ms. Angela replied.

Valentina was staring up at her teacher with a face full of excitement, promise, and hope. “I know you! You’re my teacher… from the TV!”

The adults could not contain their smiles and laughs; all those days of teaching through a screen were worth it – they were recognized and meaningful, even for the youngest in our school. It took Valentina’s perspective to remind us of that!

And that’s exactly how the first week went; the adults worried about a million little things and waited to see how the students would respond to change. The children… they just came back to school with renewed excitement and energy, filled with happiness. They danced behind their desks during music class and discussed books over webcams with their classmates. They learned to walk the hallways socially distanced, using games and songs and pumped hand sanitizer as they entered the classroom.

The children have been incredible in their resilience, their ability to adapt, their understanding of change, and their joy in learning together.

As we look ahead to what will undoubtedly be a school year unlike any other, we know that the EARJ community will need to continue to work together as educators, families, and students to navigate the opportunities and challenges of online and in-person learning.  When things get difficult, I’ll keep looking for perspective from our preschoolers.

Kirstin White
Barra Lower School Principal