Today’s article ‘From The Principal’s Desk’ has been guest-written by Andrew Mitchell, Head of Primary.
We are coming up to a point in the year where we start to look ahead and plan our classroom groupings for the next school year. As always, we will be wishing farewell to a number of families who will be moving on from Dubai this summer to new countries and preparing to welcome new families into our community. This transition of students is a natural part of life for every international school in the world and something that we at GCS have become very experienced with over the last 10 years.
At the start of each year in the Primary School we mix up and reshuffle each class group so that students move into a new social group with their next teacher. We often get questions about why and how we undertake this reorganisation process.
The biggest reason we reorder the groups is that we want to make it as easy as possible for students to make new friends and experience learning alongside different people. It is an important skill to be able to interact, communicate and develop relationships, and one that we have the opportunity to make happen for our students. It also makes it easier for newly arriving students to join a new social group because essentially it is everyone’s first day as well. With higher levels of turnover in international schools it is also a way to keep the classes balanced and ensure the groups have a diverse composition for learning. While we want to rearrange the classes, many of our returning students would like to maintain one or two important friends in their next class. To facilitate this we ask for students – and their families – to nominate three individuals who they would like to be with in the following year. From these three nominations we will do our best to guarantee that there will be one important friend in the group.
Some of the other important factors that we consider when deciding on the groupings are as follows:
- Gender and cultural balance – ideally we aim for an even balance between the number of boys and girls, and to have an international mix in each classroom.
- Mixed ability – all of our homeroom classes are mixed ability. We do not stream or create higher/lower ability groups.
- English as additional language (EAL) students – an immersive language environment supports our language learners so we look to spread EAL students across all the classes in the Grade level.
- Students with special educational needs – some of our teachers have particular training to support particular needs so in some cases we will match those talents to student need; however, as with EAL and academic ability we would want to create distributed and mixed groups
- Teacher recommendations on social grouping – as well as parents, we also ask our teachers which students work well together and which students might be such good friends that they might get more work done if they were placed in different classes
As a school, we do our best to accommodate student friendship requests and we work with families to make this happen; the assignment of teachers, however, is the responsibility and at the discretion of the school leadership; we do not take requests for students to be placed with particular teachers.
I hope this article gives you some information about how we allocate and decide on our class groups and it is always worthwhile to remember that all our students enjoy break and lunch time together, will have activities as a full Grade Level group and will be mixed again for language classes so there will always be opportunities to be with meet up with old friends as well.