by Janet Hale, MEd - For those of you who may be thinking traditionally regarding the title’s equation, it may not appear to make sense. First, let me share my role in this equation: I am delighted to have been selected as the Foreign-School Partnership Project and Curriculum Coordinator for a joint venture between The Dewey Schools and Mount Vernon School.
Two Schools in Two Countries
The Dewey Schools (TDS) Grades 1-12, based in Hanoi, Vietnam, exemplify a positive attitude and desire to ignite an excitement for learning in each of their students. The fundamental mission of TDS is to cultivate a student’s character development and serve his or her community with commitment. Mount Vernon School (MVS), located in Georgia (USA), is an independent K-12 school that is ranked as one of the ten most innovative schools in the United States.
Currently, TDS curriculum consists mainly of Vietnamese courses, shaped and influenced by the national curriculum, with several English program courses infused into the school week to provide English as a second language learning opportunities, and project-based learning application. The MVS is recognized for its innovative design-thinking learning model that is applied to the vast majority of its courses based on the necessity for collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication with authentic audiences. In addition, MVS practices growth mindsets and allows its students to follow their passions and contribute purposefully to their local, regional, or worldwide communities.
One Innovative School Design
TDS has determined to develop an approved foreign-school partnership that provides the Vietnam-based school latitude to offer a greater quantity of English-medium courses, while meeting necessary Vietnamese requirements for courses. With this in mind, I have worked closely with TDS to design one innovative school that has three bilingual programs within its brick-and-mortar school buildings: Bilingual Program, International Adventure Program, International Journey Program (see image).
As you can imagine, it is no small feat to make a one-school-design vision embracing three bilingual school programs become a reality! Therefore, an amazing collaborative effort is currently underway across the globe to “make it happen.” Our international Year One Implementation Team is comprised of Laurie Whiston as TDS Project Leader, who spearheads a team of approximately TDS fifteen academic leaders; Alex Blumencranz, Mount Vernon School Ventures’ Director, who works closely with her Heads of Learning and Innovation team; and myself. Together, we are in the process of completing six phases to ensure our Year One Implementation Plans come to fruition for the 2021-2022 academic school year for each bilingual program.
Given design thinking and iteration is at the forefront of our One Innovative School Design model, there will never be an actual end point to this project concerning curriculum design, instruction, and assessment, which is purposeful. For example, one of our phases includes a Train the Trainer Cohort to aid in TDS’ initial understanding of the “MVS way” and learning how to best maintain and encourage current and future faculty and staff who consistently keep innovative students and student-centered learning in mind.
As Tony Wagner shares in his book Creating Innovators, “Where innovation comes in is figuring out the right problem to solve, the right question to ask, and then figuring out the better way to solve the problem” (p. 11). I am excited to be a part of a team of international innovators. May we all embrace an equation that does not follow tradition, embraces passion and meaningful purpose, and promotes a world of learning for students who will be responsible for our planet and its population in the coming years.