Here at ACST, our mission and vision are more than mere statements on our website and letterhead. Our aim is to constantly bring these aspirational statements to life in our classrooms, corridors and play areas. Our mission “Opening doors, hearts and minds” can be explained in three parts. Firstly it is our intention to provide your child/ren with all of the opportunities that an American-based education can provide–literally to open doors by way of the learning experiences we provide. This is particularly true in the Elementary School where our aim is for every student to experience a whole range of learning experiences, in academics, art, physical education, music and world languages. Secondly we want to “open our students’ hearts”; we want them to grow and develop into great people who are compassionate, kind and respectful. Lastly we see it as our mission to ‘open their minds”. We want each student to be a thinker and a learner, capable of problem solving and in-depth understandings. Similarly the school’s vision which states that “The American Cooperative School of Tunis will inspire a passion for learning, while endowing students with the expertise and confidence necessary to pursue dreams in and for a global society,” is the cornerstone of all that we aim to achieve. It is vitally important that our actual daily practice aligns with these statements.
In the Elementary School, we believe that one way that we can achieve both the mission and vision of ACST is to ensure that each student is learning at just the right level for them. The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotksy in the early nineteenth century developed a concept called the zone of proximal development, often now referred to as ZPD. His idea was that the best learning occurs for anyone when they are operating in a zone that is just a little ahead of where they are operating independently. An example of this would be a child who can read books at a certain level needs to be instructed at a level slightly ahead of this. They are being challenged but not stretched so far that it is impossible for them to function. With help and support from a coach or teacher, they will constantly be ‘in the learning pit’. What this means is that within a class of children who are around the same age as each other, there are many different levels of achievement. Twenty children can all be in Grade 2 but they can be operating at 5 different levels. It is the teacher’s role to work out how the teaching program can be organized so that each child is being “stretched” at just the right level for them.
This year, we are organizing our learners into groups or classes that are named by their room number and also communities of these classes. Three classes make up a community and each of the communities are to be named after a ‘migrating bird of Tunisia”. Our PK classes are to be called the flamingoes, our Kinder/Grade 1 class the tawny owls, the Grade 2 and 3s the cranes and lastly the Grade 4 and 5s the hummingbirds. All of a student’s learning will happen within the community that they are in, however they could very well be learning in three different classes across three different curriculums within one school day. For example they may be with their own teacher for reading and a different teacher for math. Our overall aim is to ensure that each child is grouped with others of the same level so that they are working within their ‘zone of proximal development”. We want all of our students to be stretched and/or supported according to their individual needs.
At ACST, your child’s growth both academically and as a potential global citizen of the world is our ‘core business”. We do not want school to be ‘too easy’ or “too hard”–it needs to be “just right” for each individual.