Amman, Jordan Report of what it's like to live there - 01/06/15
Personal Experiences from Amman, Jordan
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
1st grade (we will also be here for 2nd grade next year).
3. During what years were you affiliated with this school?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Proximity to home and work, preferred my child to be in an American system. The British school gets decent reviews but with this being a "danger post," I wanted my son close to me in case of an emergency and ICS is a bit further away.
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?
A. I found the admissions process to be straightforward. The only confusion was on who paid the US$100 application fee. You have to pay it and then voucher for it through work.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
B. The newcomer orientation felt disorganized and all over the place. I left feeling like I had none of my questions answered. We're talking basic things like transportation and hot lunch. Part of it, I think, was there was a brand new elementary school principal and he arrived only about a week prior to school starting so he was still trying to figure everything out himself.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
Positive! We are VERY happy with the teacher and classroom. I have been highly impressed with the variety and rigor of the curriculum offered. His teacher is supportive emotionally but also challenges him cognitively.
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:
A. I personally haven't had any negative experiences but I have heard some stories - mostly about the local Jordanians who send their children to the school. Not just anyone can afford the tuition here and often with financial privilege comes an entitlement attitude.
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
A. My son's teacher is very responsive via email and she sends out a nice monthly newsletter.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
N/A My child does not have any special needs so I can't speak to that. I will say that the ability groups for various reading and math levels seem appropriate. I feel my son is being challenged and properly accommodated in the areas he should.
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?
Hot lunch is extra as it is most anywhere. After-school activities are extra.
6. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
F. The after-school offerings are pretty extensive (everything from Tae Kwon Do to Cooking!). Unfortunately unless you are 1) lucky enough to get into the online registration system within the first 15 minutes of the system opening or 2) don't have a job and have time to physically run down to the school, then your child will not get to participate in anything. The online registration system crashed on me the entire first day and on day 2 when I got in, everything was full!!! I heard first-hand stories of parents driving to the school and paying on the spot and demanding their child be let in and it was allowed. I didn't push the issue but it was heartbreaking to see my child crying because he got into ZERO after-school activities.
The school is building a swimming pool. Right now if you have a child who wants to be on a swim team it costs about US$500U a semester and is located a good 30-45 minutes away (and evening Amman traffic is enough to make you not want to go anywhere at all). The school has a nice futbol field and I'm guessing there is a team for the older students.
7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
B. I feel the homework could be a bit more challenging. I think my son spends about 5-10 minutes a day on homework. I do love that every single day each child takes home a different book from the classroom library.
8. Administration-parent communication:
C. Like many schools, LOADS of room for improvement.
9. Teacher-student communication:
A. My son and his teacher have a great relationship.
10. Academics, answer the following questions "yes" or "no" with an explanation if appropriate:<br><br>Are there any classes or subjects where students are not appropriately challenged?
11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
12. Do you believe the special-needs assistance is appropriate and fills your needs? Explain:
13. Does the gifted and talented program meet the needs of students? Please explain:
14. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
15. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
16. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
I believe so for middle and high school. They do a cool program where they actually travel to other countries for programs/projects.
17. What activities do you feel are missing?
Can't really think of any at the moment.
18. Have your children participated in the activities offered? If no, please indicate why:
No. We couldn't get in.
19. Does the school provide appropriate assistance to new students?
Yes and no. They do try but they are quite disorganized.
20. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
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?
A. My son was part of a transitions counseling group and he spoke positively about it and I think it helped him adjust to a new home and school this year.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
There is a brand new "learning commons" that looks impressive from the pictures I've seen.
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
A. As a 1st grader my child has technology class once a week. The program seems to offer a lot of variety.
4. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
A. He has PE once a week and he is happy with it.
5. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
A. I think there are about 18 children in the class with a teacher and a full-time teacher's aid. Very happy about that.
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?
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
No (could be a bit more challenging).
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
A. I can only speak to my 1st grader. He has art and music each once a week which seems sufficient enough. I will say I was highly impressed when at the holiday concert the 3rd graders all played several pieces on the xylophone. There is a lot of exposure overall to various instruments which is nice.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
11. 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!!!! IF you can actually get your child registered into any of them.
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. The majority of his classroom is American but there are also students from various other countries.
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.
Not for us. I know there were some bullying problems on the buses. The buses are a HUGE problem for ACS (everything from behavior to bullying to safety). There is a group of parents working with the administration to hopefully fix some of these things.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
For elementary school I feel the curriculum is rigorous and appropriate.
2. Greatest challenge?
Organization and consistency. Everything produced by ACS feels fragmented. This includes everything from newcomer orientation to the holiday concert or Halloween festivities. I guess I had this idea that because it's an American school that it would be run more like the schools we went to in the U.S., but it definitely takes on the local flavor of doing things instead!
I also feel like security could be better - I think they are working on this. For a country with a 15% danger designation, I was shocked at how easily one can drive right up to the school.
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
As of today, yes I absolutely would. Fingers crossed we have a positive experience next year as well!