Dear KES Family:
It looks like the official sod (or perhaps sand would be a better word?) turning ceremony for King’s-Edgehill School Abu Dhabi will take place next month. Although King’s-Edgehill is not providing the capital to construct the new campus, we are responsible for everything from overseeing the design to the day-to-day operations. All the necessary permits and license have been procured and we anticipate a September, 2020 opening. As we will open with our Primary and Pre-Primary school, I have been touring recently constructed and furnished primary schools to see in person what the latest trends are in early childhood education.
I have been fascinated to see desks and windows that are used as scribble spaces and chalk boards (using markers not chalk of course). Little chairs and desks and SmartBoards that are set 8 inches off the ground are normal, as are washrooms without heavy doors and with toilets that are ankle height. I have seen six year olds doing science on iPads and Grade One students having ‘story-time’ on a big screen with the students all clustered around on the floor as they might a teacher.
What is curious to me is how few men there are in primary schools, and I realize now why so many students in our Junior School say that their first male teacher was here at KES (Mr. Kershaw or Mr. LePoidevin or Mr. Campbell or Mr. Kevin and Christian Lakes or Mr. Hollett or Mr. Rochon or Mr. Smith or Mr. Dietrich…half of our faculty are male). I asked three principals about their hiring practices and all of them exclaimed that it was very difficult hiring men to teach the younger grades. There were different theories as to why but the reality is that male teachers stay away from the younger grades and thus there are very few male teachers available to hire.
I love teaching high school students. I love the challenge of the challenging mind and the joy of seeing children become adults. However, if I want an emotional pick-me-up, all I need to do is spend two minutes with our youngest students in Grade Seven and life becomes instantly brighter and happier. Last week, I was in an empty Grade One classroom talking with the homeroom teacher. She was wonderful and her classroom was spotless and warm and inviting. Her students started to enter and all of them happily went about getting settled. Each one of them greeted their teacher warmly. One little boy walked by and, seeing me, he instantly turned and gave me a full body hug, burying his head in my tummy. He then did the same with his teacher. It was the sweetest and most spontaneously innocent thing ever. His actions said a lot about how emotionally safe he felt in his classroom (big shout out to his teacher!) but also about how precious this time of his life is. Men need to be a part of our young children’s lives. They need to see, to nurture, to teach and to protect this stage of life. Without getting too political about things, it would be good for all of us if men did so. If I were starting my career all over again, I would look very closely at specializing in the primary years.
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