Growing a Global Community of Practice: AISA Invitational Conference

POSTED: May 3, 2019Category: AISA ArticlesBY: Barnabas Suva

The Inaugural AISA Invitational Conference, hosted by American International School, Lagos (AISL)

By Kim Rayl, Director of Teaching and Learning


Over the weekend of March 30-31, 2019, AISL hosted the inaugural AISA Invitational Conference (AIC) for West Africa. Targeted to school leaders and teachers from across Nigeria and West Africa, the AIC was designed to share best practices in international education, while highlighting the benefit of pursuing international accreditation to attending schools. Over 109 registrants representing forty-six schools from four countries were joined by representatives of AISL’s accrediting bodies- the International Baccalaureate and the Council of International Schools, as well as representatives from AdvancEd, and GL Assessment. Graham Watts, Director of Professional Learning for the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) was on-hand with the AISA team from Nairobi.

The conference theme, “Developing Globally Competent Students” was highlighted during the opening plenary session as five high school students shared their AISL experience during a moderated panel, answering: When you think about the future, what do you see as the greatest challenge facing your generation, and what are the skills and competencies you will need to face those challenges? Challenges such as global warming, environmental degradation and the changing landscape of work due to AI were noted, while the concept of empathy was seen as a particularly relevant and critical competency. The students also reflected on the value of an international education not only for themselves, but also for the world, sharing their thoughts on,  What makes AISL an international school? While a student population of over 55 nationalities as acknowledged as contributing to AISL’s internationalism, the students dug deeper, speaking to the duality of feeling belonging and acceptance when joining AISL as they simultaneously felt empowered to maintain their individuality and pride in their diversity. Specific examples of how AISL teachers design Project-Based Learning (PBL) units that challenge students to become increasingly self-directed and intrinsically motivated learners, while building their global competence, helped the audience of inspired educators draw a connection between theory and practice. The AISL competency, effective communicators, was demonstrated by all five high school students as they confidently shared their perspective with conference participants.

The opening plenary was attended by AISL’s Board of Trustees Chairperson, Mr. Ali Safieddine and US Ambassador Representative to the Board of Trustees, Ms. Carole Cox. AISL was also honored to host representatives from the Lagos Teaching Services Commission; Director, Mr. Aina Adewale and Deputy Director, Ms. Osu Adenike who expressed their appreciation for the outreach efforts made on the part of AISL. Introduced by Superintendent Greg Rayl, the AISL expanded Arts program was highlighted during the opening ceremony with performances by elementary, middle and high school students who didn’t mind coming to school on a Saturday for the chance to perform!

Participants attended four deep-dive workshops in total- two per day- from a selection of twenty offerings, the majority of which were led by AISL teachers and administrators. The offerings were varied and designed to address the specific interests of teachers, administrators and school owners. The feedback before and after the event has been very positive. Mrs. CJ Okoye, a Chemistry Teacher and Head of Department for Science from Essence International School in Kaduna shared her thoughts on the opportunity the AIC presented: “I was excited about the opportunity to attend the conference and to be enriched academically and in management skills. I cannot wait to go back to my school and share my experiences. It’s been an adventure and AISA is that point of call we’ve been waiting for to move up the academic ladder.” Likewise, Kevin Donnelly from Brookstone School in Port Harcourt found the conference theme and networking opportunities of most value: “I’m looking forward to listening to new ideas, meeting new people and seeing how we can adapt education practices for the 21st century.”

The AISL teachers and administrators that presented workshops expressed how professionally fulfilling it was to participate, noting that participants were highly enaged and eager to learn. After two days of presenting, networking and sharing, AISL teachers and Administrators that presented, and volunteers, were understandably exhausted! But in any worthwhile endeavor, the end justifies the means. The inaugural AIC was just that; the first in a series of annual conferences that AISL will host with AISA each March. Why? Because as a learning organization, when we give back to our host country, our region, and our educational association, we have the opportunity not only to highlight the AISL curricular program, but we are in turn inspired to grow and to learn. The questions we ask and the manner in which we spend our time defines us. Continuous growth, learning and sharing; these are the values that define AISL.

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