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Building a Collaborative Community at BCIS
By Julie Lawton and Sally Richmond 23-Mar-18
Beijing City International School (BCIS) is a school community that is nestled between the old and new within downtown Beijing. Our unique location provides easy access to a wealth of external resources that can only be found in the center of a bustling city, and also offers us the opportunity to collaborate internally within our smaller school community. When people enter our school they inevitably comment on our community feel and the collaborative atmosphere. They say they “sense it.” They see and hear evidence of it throughout our campus, such as seeing teachers working together and hearing the positive communication between adults and students. It is something we are immensely proud of and certainly don’t take for granted. The interesting part is that we have yet to articulate how exactly we have found such success. Articulating what makes this collaborative community thrive will be key to ensuring its sustainability. Over the past 12 years, I have witnessed firsthand a culture and practice of collaboration at BCIS that has been nurtured and developed. This was not a decision that was made one day and miraculously occurred overnight. It has taken deliberation, decisions with clear consequences, flexibility, compromise, as well as staffing and scheduling choices, among other things, to allow it to flourish. Most crucially of all, it has taken finding “the right people onboard the BCIS bus” for it to actually take off. The people on board make up what we call our “BCIS DNA.” We know that people are the most valuable resource in any school and the power of these people working together to plan for, reflect on, and optimize student learning is what we believe in. At BCIS, there is a sense of shared responsibility for student learning. The elementary homeroom teacher is not the person “in charge” of directing students’ learning. All of the BCIS teaching staff come together with common goals and aims to promote inspired student learning. Within this culture, there is a clear link to the BCIS Mission “to challenge and empower students to be compassionate and inspired people, who act for the good of all and for the sustainable development of the world.” Our community is committed to “acting for the good of all” when ensuring that student learning is being planned in a collaborative manner. Our teachers feel “empowered” and “inspired” when they work together, plan together, observe one another’s good practices, and then take this to grow professionally and personally. Collaboration is “the action of working with someone to produce something,” and BCIS ensures that this is a key feature within our professional community. We look forward to new members hopping on board and further strengthening our BCIS DNA. Only a strong and welcoming community can produce the type of results that we see in our students and teachers at BCIS. Julie Lawton is Elementary School Principal and Sally Richmond is Deputy Elementary School Principal and PYP Coordinator at BCIS.
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