Defining Escola Americana do Rio de Janeiro’s unique identity was the starting point for rethinking our strategy, clarifying our unique purpose, and gaining focus as a community for the years ahead. In late-2021, we partnered with NoTosh, a leading school educational strategic planning company. They helped us to undertake a full community listening exercise with the help of an in-house “Design Team” of students, parents, teachers, staff, leadership and Board members.
This strategy for the school’s future builds on a strong foundation of its recently revised mission. It centers on one pair of contrasting ideas that, together, give a unique position in Rio de Janeiro: EARJ as a learning environment that is both rich in local culture with a truly global perspective.
Today, we’re arguably the school in Rio most closely associated with a global outlook. We have a good starting point for our community to understand and embrace its local roots – some are born here, others drawn here, but we all call Brazil home. And we also understand the importance of extending our global perspective. That’s why we’re a standout global school, rooted in rich local tradition.
To build on this, we need to continue developing learning experiences and relationships that give our students the opportunity to understand and appreciate the similarities and differences between local and global perspectives, cultures and languages. Global citizens, rooted in their local context.
This is more than a few personalized highlights scattered throughout the year. A learner-focused approach to learning needs to be woven throughout everything we do. Every learner needs to have the opportunity to discover and pursue the pathway that’s best for them.
When we see an opportunity to take a learner out of their comfort zone, and push beyond what they think possible: we drive it with them.
One of the best ways to do this is to harness the power of our innate diversity: our students themselves. Our community’s different ways of thinking, seeing the world, our different languages and cultures are a rich tapestry, and sometimes a challenging one. So our learning experiences should be designed in order that students learn, over time, to work well with anyone from anywhere in any context.
Professional learning should also be tailored to the adult learner, identifying strengths and building on those. No ‘one size fits all’ here, for students or our team.
We are a school that begins with the strengths of students, faculty and staff and builds greatness from there.
We’ll create common language around the EARJ Teacher profile which highlights learning & teaching capabilities rooted in a global perspective and aligned with the school’s mission.
We need to protect ourselves against the “OK Plateau”. EARJ is like any school – there are varied approaches to learning and teaching. This isn’t a bad thing as long as the quality is consistent. Arriving teachers need a quick way to know what’s expected, and longer-term teachers need a structured way to continue growing in alignment with the school’s vision for teaching the full IB continuum. This is an opportunity to get really clear about what the learners need from their teachers.
There’s an advantage, too, in creating more sustainability of ideas when, inevitably, teams change. We all need to direct our work towards just a few shared goals, but we need individual teams to have some autonomy on their own shorter-term stretch goals.
So we might design and refine a more agile system for getting things done. This could involve multidisciplinary teams of those with an interest in the area, teams that focus on a goal, working over short periods of time so that they can regularly gauge their success, or change tack.
But this doesn’t just mean better or more emails from the school to home. We will regularly audit the way we communicate, to ensure that everybody gets the right information at the right time, and that includes the schools receiving feedback on how we’re going. We need to see the good stuff that happens so that we can share it wider, and share feedback with each other to make it even better. We can’t rely on chance meetings – so we need a routine or system, and time with colleagues, for structured, constructive, specific and useful feedback.
Key Results are the measurable results that we expect to achieve on the way towards realising our Objectives. It’s a good idea for the leadership team to identify a small number at the highest level. By looking at the OKRs of each senior team leader, you get a picture of what the overarching key results for the whole school might be. Their key results then cascade down from that. Their middle leaders then need to do the same – how can high school teachers’ key results for the year align with those of the senior leader of the high school, for example? And in this way, over time, those working on the delivery of ideas can start to influence and shape the goals of the whole organisation, through their successful projects (and what they’ve learned from those that didn’t work out so well).
OBJECTIVE 1 – RICH IN LOCAL CULTURE, TRULY GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
All learners will understand and appreciate the similarities and differences between local and global perspectives, identities, cultures and languages. Global citizens, rooted in their local context.