Jerusalem, Israel Report of what it's like to live there - 03/11/15

Personal Experiences from Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem, Israel 03/11/15

Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?


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2. During what years were you affiliated with this school?

Since 2012.

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3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?

To teach at JAIS!

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4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?

I strongly believe in the mission of the school! "JAIS is a private, secular, coeducational school for international and local students, offering a challenging program from preschool through high school, culminating with an accredited American high school diploma. JAIS fosters a student-centered environment characterized by supportive relationships that inspire students to achieve academic potential, think creatively, show initiative, assume responsibility, develop a passion for life-long learning and contribute actively to society."

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Admissions & Welcome:

1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?

Yes. We share this information both on our school website and our family handbook. We are always happy to answer any questions that parents have and work with families to make sure we are the best fit for each family. We are also open about sharing any questions or concerns that school admissions or administration has in the process of gathering school reports, assessments, learning support plans and tests. We also encourage families to contact us, visit us and come for a tour so they can get a real sense of who we are and what our school is like.

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2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

This is something we are always trying to improve. We have a buddy system to help welcome new families, and our staff are committed to supporting school families not only in a professional manner, but personally as much as possible.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:

My class size is small, so it has a family-like feel. We are a diverse group (from many different countries) yet each person is appreciated, treated with respect and honesty. Individuality is nurtured and honored. We encourage creativity and adaptability and provide a safe environment where all students can contribute equally and engage in the learning environment.

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2. For the following attributes, down to the next blank box, grade your experience at the school on a scale of A (excellent) to F (unacceptable/terrible) and provide comments:<br><br>Overall fair and equitable treatment of all students and families:

Yes. This is the hallmark of our school and a value that is at the heart of the school. We are a close community and all members are valued.

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3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

We welcome and encourage open communication. Teachers have regular office hours and are pleased to work with parents to find mutually agreeable times to meet. We have regular parent conference scheduled in addition to any informal or requested meetings. We provide both classroom and school-wide newsletters which keep parents up to date about what is happening in each class. Parents are welcome to email, call or come in.

We also have a very active and supportive PTA which meets at least once a month, if not more for special activities and events.

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4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:

We have two full-time staff dedicated to supporting students with learning difficulties and for those who are learning English (ELL.) We work together as a team with the administration, learning specialists, classroom teachers and parents to provide individual plans to support to the needs of students who are gifted or have academic challenges. Our learning support teachers work both in the classroom and in pulling kids to work individually, depending on their needs. Some students work alone with support teachers and some work in small groups (the largest is four kids at the same grade level.)

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5. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?

The costs are not hidden, but there are additional costs. If families choose to purchase school lunches or the van service, there are fees involved. The learning support and ELL have additional costs. Middle and high school students need to have their own laptops. All students need to have the JAIS logo on their clothing. There is an additional charge to participate in after school activities.

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6. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:

This year we have really worked hard to enrich our after school program and invest in a quality program. We are offering Chess, Sports, Ceramic Painting, Computer Animation, Yearbook, Hip Hop, Mosaic Art, Tennis and Yoga this term. We are always looking for more opportunities to better enrich this program. One added benefit we added (at the request of parents) was to provide an after school van service to children participating in these activities.

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7. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:

Yes. I believe this is consistent throughout the school and proven by our yearly MAP testing which gives us data to prove our students are performing at a high level and usually well-above grade level norms. We are currently in a transition from AERO standards to the Common Core standards, which will soon be reflected on our Atlas curriculum website.

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8. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):

It is easier to explain by sharing what we have in our family handbook. Here is what it says:

At the elementary school level, the nature of the subject matter, age and/or academic maturity of the child and interpretation of the curriculum dictate specific homework expectations by the classroom teacher. Parents are informed of the teacher's specific homework policies at the beginning of each year. However, the following general school policies are as follows:

Basic daily homework assignments reflect the day's studies either as practice/drill exercises or the completion of work begun in class. At the lower elementary grades it may be simply to read a list of new words or tell a story to parents. At the upper elementary grades the homework expectations become progressively more demanding.

Recognition is given to the normal differences in time needed by individual students to complete particular assignments.

Long-term homework assignments such as research papers or special projects will be accompanied by a written explanation to the students and parents outlining the assignment expectations.

A special homework notebook is recommended for all students. The notebook should be used to record assignments and as a tool in the process of learning how to be an organized, responsible and independent learner.

No specific number of homework hours or minutes can be required of each student, each day. The individualized methods of elementary school instruction do not lend themselves to such rigid expectations; however, homework is an important part of the learning process at JAIS and students will be required to complete tasks at home regularly.

In the Secondary School, homework expectations become more demanding. Parents and students will be informed of teachers' specific homework policies at the beginning of the school year. However, some general school policies are as follows:

Recognition is given to the normal differences in time needed by individual students to complete particular assignments.

Long-term homework assignments, such as research papers or special projects, will be accompanied by a written explanation to the students and parents outlining the assignment expectations.

Students who are absent are expected to call a classmate for assignments or check the posting on the class Moodle site where homework is posted.

No specific amount of homework is required of each student each day. The individualized methods of instruction do not lend themselves to such rigid expectations; however, homework is an important part of the learning process at JAIS and students wi

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9. Administration-parent communication:

I would say that it is the same as the parent-teacher communication, but on a more formal level. Admin provide parents with up to date information about the calendar, directory, school wide events/concerns, and welcome feedback and input from parents. We have an open-door policy.

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10. Teacher-student communication:

Teachers at JAIS work hard to develop good, supportive relationships with each of our students, providing individual attention and to nurture the strengths of each child. We try to support and inspire each of our students to reach their academic potential, think creatively, show initiative, assume responsibility, develop a passion for life-long learning and contribute actively to it says in our mission!

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11. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?

Yes. We have a strong art, music, P.E. and modern language program. Electives could be developed in the secondary school if there is a demand for it in the future. For now, we provide additional electives through the University of Nebraska for any high school students who want course outside of what we offer in-house.

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12. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?

All middle and high school students need their own laptop computer (provided by the family.) The trip fees are covered by the school or the student council fundraisers.

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13. What activities do you feel are missing?

We are missing sports teams in the secondary school. We have the facilities and staff to provide these activities, but we need larger class sizes to form teams. Many of the students join local or community sports teams outside of school for now. We have students participating in baseball, soccer, ballet, horse-riding, volleyball, and martial arts outside of JAIS.

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14. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?

Yes. The school staff works hard to meet the needs of new students. We have a program to help transition students who do not speak English and provide the support they need. With our school buddy system, we try to pair existing students with new students to help familiarize them to JAIS and Jerusalem. All of our staff are committed to helping new students in any way we can. The PTA holds a new family picnic at the beginning of the year and the school has a whole-school sports day and community picnic where we get to know one another. It can be more of a challenge if a family comes mid-year, but we try to meet needs on an individual basis.

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15. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:

Parents are welcome to come to the school grounds, meet in the garden or on the grassy hill, but I think it would be nice to have an indoor space that could be used, other than a classroom. As the school grows, I hope that we might be able to work towards creating a multi-purpose room or parents and community gatherings. We have the ability to rent space on campus now, but having a space of our own would be ideal. As a teacher, I would like to have a place where parents could meet regularly to socialize. For now, we have the PTA meeting in the art room. In the future, I would like a space where parents could gather, collaborate with staff and one another.

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Academics & Resources:

1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?

We have some administrative staff that can provide family support, help with college guidance and career advising, but this is an area that is new and growing. We usually refer parents/student to trained professionals if the challenges or counseling needs are outside our area of expertise and experience. We have a list of recommended professionals that we have worked with, which we can provide families as needed.

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2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

We have a growing library with a wide-variety of fiction, non-fiction, periodicals and reference materials. We have books for parents and teachers in addition to the students. One of the best things about our library is that it is filled with books that have been hand-selected by parents and students in our community.

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3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?

We have a dedicated computer lab, two desktop computers in each classroom, and a laptop for each teacher which connects to the Smart Boards in every room. The middle and high school students have a 1:1 laptop program. We are working towards transitioning some iPads into the classrooms this year.

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4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

We have a P.E. program from preschool through grade 12. Our elementary students have swim lessons once a week. Our middle and high school students have access to a gym and lift weights, in addition to learning about health, nutrition and life skills.

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5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?

In elementary the ratio is about 15:1. In the middle and high school it is about 6:1. Since our class sizes are small, we can provide a lot of individual attention and maintain a family-like atmosphere.

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6. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?

We offer AP classes if we have student who qualify or are interested. This year we don't happen to have any AP classes. Last year we had students taking AP U.S. History and AP Environmental Science. It depends on the year and the students, but we are an AP school and can offer both the courses and exams on site.

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7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?

Yes. (See the explanation of homework above)

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8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?

We have an art program across the school, from preschool through grade 12. Our music program is from kindergarten through grade 12. Students from fifth grade and up learn to play an instrument. We do not offer drama as an elective, but most classes have plays and musicals throughout the year which tie into the curriculum. For example, my class did a song and dance performance on the water cycle and Westward Expansion. We also had a performance on the solar system, and participated in an all-elementary winter show for the parents. Sometimes drama is offered as an after school activity.

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9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

Yes. Even our French and Spanish teachers speak English fluently, although it is not their native language.

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10. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?

Yes. We have an active student council in both the elementary and secondary school. We have a strong after-school activity program (see above). We also have students participate in the National Honors Society and the Model United Nations.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?

Yes. Most of the families at JAIS organize play dates, special activities and events outside of school. Many children participate in sports or recreational activities (such as horse-riding, ballet and soccer) and others get together for play days in the parks, trips to the beach, local swimming pools, hikes in the forest or exploring the rich archaeological history around us.

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2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.

Since we are a family-like community, we work hard to maintain supportive relationships at JAIS. Although we cannot always predict what children will do, we teach conflict resolution, problem-solving and peace-making across the school at a personal and age-appropriate level.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What is the greatest strength of this school?

The greatest strength of the school is our community! We have such a wonderful group of parents, teachers and students. We are like a family and the environment, school communication and relationships reflect that in the care and commitment we have to one another.

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2. Would you choose this school again? Why?

It is the best school in Jerusalem!

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