"Learn how to learn": Soroth's semester at The Galloway School
By Soroth San, CIEE Internship USA participant, 2017-2018.
This year I am an intern at The Galloway School in Atlanta, Georgia, but at home in Cambodia, I was working as a head of school at the capital city of the country. There, the challenges are different: I was encountering a ton of problems with discipline, assessing teachers and non-teaching staff, supporting staff professional skills, and creating a less stressed, collaborative, and friendly environment. I am excited to have an opportunity to look at other parts of the developed world which have gone through and successfully implemented educational philosophies that form an effective and efficient education system that enhances student’ learning and teachers’ skills. The main goal of my internship program is to be able to run a school in an appropriate way by the time I return to Cambodia.
On the first page of my internship objective I was curious to know about the management team. At The Galloway School, I find that the principals for all the programs are independent and flexible. They always install a supportive and friendly environment when giving the commendations as well as recommendations for improvement. As I have noticed, they usually smile and talk openly, share, discuss and pass information on in a respectful and fun manner. As a result, many problems are quickly fixed. I sense lots of pros in regard to these special working attitudes. In this regard, I want to develop my skills and will take back those working practices to Cambodia and implement them among my staff.
The school philosophy is the upmost guide that shapes the behavior in the working, teaching and learning environment in the school. To illustrate, The Galloway School has its unique philosophy, which is to promote individuality “Figure out who you are and become that person”, “Learn how to learn”, and “The ultimate goal is to help kids become a successful and enlightened individual”. I really love these quotes; they mean so much to me as a school leader. Having said that, I am passionate and committed to fostering these impactful concepts in my school.
One thing that I really find fascinating is that teachers at Galloway set up their own curriculum. They can decide the content of curriculum as long as it advances the goal of improving kids’ education. Then, at some point at the beginning of school year, all teachers at each grade present an overview of the curriculum to the parents, so they will have some ideas as to what is going on within a whole year. Teachers are well-trained about 4D classroom, which is a deliberate, daring, dynamic and discovery leaning and teaching environment. I had never heard of 4D before, and it was always a question for me. Prior to my training about 4D, I would think of 3D or 4D movies. I kept asking myself “What are they going to do with 4D movies in education “, which sounds ridiculous. Only when I had been trained about it, I realized that it is a new methodology of teaching and learning in a very effective way.
I tell myself that I am on the right journey of discovering what I really need to improve education quality in my country. For sure, I have to bring back this critical concept for educators in Cambodia.
Some other areas about The Galloway School that I want to bring back to Cambodia is the role of the school librarian. At Galloway, this is not merely the only person to look after the tiny space, but also acts as a teacher librarian that helps in teaching kids and provokes curiosity and love in reading to kids. I also see the effectiveness of the advisory group model, in which there are some advisees and one advisor (4 years in a roll) whose basic role is to motivate, advise, monitor and follow up students’ learning. The idea of supporting teachers is also noted and essential. There are financial limitations at my school in Cambodia so I don’t know what I can achieve, but I will try.
Another lesson I have learned is the importance of parent education. At The Galloway School, there is close interaction between parents and the school, and parents always want to participate in school events and volunteer a lot to help with school work. They even organize events like parties for parents, book club, and teacher appreciation where teachers are made to feel loved and appreciated. Parents might have some points during the day sitting at a dining room or a table discussing the book that kids have learned in class. Or they might have problem regarding technology, kids might go to ask parents. Nevertheless, I don’t think it will work in Cambodian parents. The culture of education is different, and parents are so busy, and often less educated than their children. I hope that in the future, Cambodian society shifts so that parents can be more involved in their kids’ education.
The Galloway School is not only a school but also a family, and a community for many people who feel a sense of love, respect, care and progress for life. I think I will gradually put some good ideas from this school into use in my school in Cambodia. To sum up, I have learned so many things about my host organization. Meantime, I have to give myself a chance to process all of the information and use it in the real world in order for me to tailor my professional skills as well as experiences in enhancing education quality in my home country.