Attentive and Personalized Instruction
All children love to learn. It’s in their nature. So why do some children struggle so much with their studies? The answer, sadly, is a simple one: adults place expectations on children without giving them the support they need to meet those expectations. Here at KAIS, we consider each child’s current level of ability and learning style, and work hard to provide the right kind of support to each child so that he or she can fall in love with learning again. Our educators accomplish this by acting as mentors, coaches, friends, and guides that help the students achieve their goals in ways that best suit their learning capabilities. In addition, our students do much of the heavy lifting of learning — the homework — at the end of the day and in the presence of an instructor who assists, guides, answers questions, and motivates the students as they study. Children who need extra support can also complete their lessons in these afternoon teacher-guided Homework Labs. Students who want to move more quickly can do the same. At our school, all of our students leave our campus at the end of the day happy knowing that they have understood and finished the day’s lessons. No lingering deadlines. No arguments with Mom and Dad about homework. And no evenings of frustration to worry about.
High Academic Standards
Children love challenges. They love to make progress and know that they are appreciated for it. This is why at KAIS we keep our students on their toes, lifting the bar higher and higher so they can achieve their greatest heights. Make no mistake: though we are a small school, we do not have small dreams for our students. Though we have alternative teaching methods, we do not have alternative goals. We want to empower our students with the knowledge, skills, earned self-confidence, and appetite for learning necessary to achieve their best in school and beyond. Students are also given plenty of guidance so that they can learn how to study effectively. Many student skills such as getting organized, setting priorities with their work, reviewing content, and so on are hard for students to learn on their own; yet many schools expect students to do exactly that, without any guidance whatsoever. At KAIS, we don’t expect children to somehow master all of these skills without guidance — we teach students these skills and encourage them to improve in reasonable increments. As the children grow older and the subjects they study become increasingly more advanced, deeply ingrained positive study and thinking habits will remove many of the obstacles that interfere with a student’s success.
Interdisciplinary, Project-based Learning
The adult world is not divided into components, so why should the world of children be? Perhaps for the sake of convenience, much of the content in schools around the world is rigidly categorized into subjects, resulting in it being presented in isolation from any meaningful context or experience. Many students unfortunately come to believe that the world is similarly compartmentalized, and that entire areas of life exist in a vacuum separate from one another. Education should seek to overcome this perception by encouraging students to appreciate the astronomical complexity of life and to tolerate (or even embrace) its ambiguity. At KAIS, interdisciplinary assignments and projects are an important part of our curriculum. Our educators are engaged in a cooperative enterprise; we brainstorm project ideas that blend subjects together, encouraging students to use their knowledge and abilities to tackle a variety of tasks. This approach has so far contributed to increased student engagement, a deeper understanding of the rich tapestry of life, and an interconnected worldview which blows away their previously held preconceptions of the world around them.
Emphasis on Inquiry and Experience
How many students come to associate the learning process with boredom, or have been rendered callous to new ideas through a litany of monotonous drills? Our approach at KAIS tries to avoid this through tailoring our activities and projects around the knowledge and interests of the students. Rather than simply read about science concepts and facts, students in our Science Lab, for example, come up with engaging and relevant questions or problems, and work together to discover the answers using their own agency and research skills. Our educators often assume the role of facilitators to help groups navigate difficult obstacles and achieve their goals. Using this approach, we ensure that students remain intrinsically motivated and enthusiastic about the tasks at hand. This makes education fun for all, teachers included!
Responsible Approach to Discipline
A large part of our success is due to our ability to establish positive relationships with our students. Rather than overload our school with a complicated system of rules, we confront the vast spectrum of behaviors and situations with a Love and Logic® approach — a system which allows our students to learn from the results of their own decisions or mistakes. Rather than engage in a power struggle by reacting with anger and lengthy lecturing, we apply consequences with empathy and understanding in order to intelligently manage behavior. Bad choices have natural consequences in life; these mistakes should not be ignored or forgotten, but nor should they be aggressively reprimanded. Instead, through the Love and Logic® approach, we (1) build positive relationships with our students, (2) set enforceable limits through enforceable statements, (3) share control, (4) implement disciplinary interventions that stop undesirable behaviors in their infancy, and (5) delay consequences to get the students to think emotionally about their decisions. Through these practical and effective techniques, stress levels are kept low for everyone and classroom management is easier and more enjoyable. If you want to learn more about the Love and Logic® approach, we encourage you to visit their website or read the book!
Before you enroll your son or daughter at KAIS EMS, there are a few things about our teaching methods and educational policy that you should keep in mind. At KAIS EMS, we do things a little differently — and, we like to think, a lot better — than they do at most other schools. To help you decide if our school is the right “fit” for you and your child, here is a brief introduction to the most important features of the “KAIS EMS System.”
Afternoon Homework/Focus Labs
At KAIS EMS, we don’t give homework as such, but this doesn’t mean that students don’t have plenty of work to do. What it does mean is that at the end of each day, students get time to complete their work assignments on campus in the presence of the teachers who assigned them. This is done in our innovative Focus Labs. Available to our students are a general homework lab, a project lab, a specialized math lab, a specialized English lab, and a specialized Japanese lab. We believe that this system benefits students and their families in many ways. But we also know that parents who are more used to seeing their children study at home may feel that the KAIS EMS system leaves them “out of the loop” to some degree. Such parents may request that their children take their school work home with them for the parents’ perusal.
*Please note that students who do not complete their assignments at school must take their work home with them. On the other hand, students who finish their assignments early are encouraged to go to a specialized lab where they can work ahead on one of our online or open-court math or English programs.
*Please also note that KAIS EMS assigns “actual” homework during the school holidays — and expects the assignments to be completed. So families will need to consider this when making their holiday plans.
Weekly English and Math Retention Checks
At KAIS EMS, we give all students third grade and above a weekly English and Math Retention Check to gauge whether they have learned the week’s core concepts and skills. Students who score high enough on both checks may choose which Focus Lab to attend the following week. Students who score below the minimum standard on either check are asked to attend a specialized lab for tutoring. This system allows us to make sure that all our students know what they need to know in order to get the most out of and truly enjoy the following week’s lessons — it means that our students never have to suffer the confusion and frustration that come from falling behind.
KAIS EMS offers two types of formalized support. The first type, Real-Time Assistance, provides support to students during class time. This is done in two ways. Our full-time Support Specialist will sit in the classroom with a student or small group of students to help out with any language or other difficulties the children may face. Alternatively, the Support Specialist will remove a student or small group of students from the classroom for a portion of the lesson, provide the needed support, and then have the students rejoin the lesson.
The second type of formalized support is Pre-Teaching. As its name implies, this help involves going over the most challenging aspects of a lesson to a student or small group of students in an afternoon Focus Lab the day before the lesson is taught. This allows students who need support to master key concepts without having to fret about slowing other students down. It means that when they join the regular class the next day, they don’t have to feel lost or frustrated; instead, they can actually confidently review and expand on the knowledge they picked up through pre-teaching.
Special Events and Scheduling
Many of the projects that our students work on are due to be completed on the day of school-wide assemblies. To prepare for these assemblies, we close many of our classes for several days in a row to allow our students to experience the thrill of getting ready for a big event. This is always an intense and exciting time for our students that challenges them to focus their attention and learn to deal with the pressure of an upcoming performance or publication date. It can, of course, be a stressful time, too. But at KAIS EMS, we believe that a reasonable amount of stress is highly motivating, and that dealing with the stress allows our students to grow in ways that they previously thought impossible for themselves. It instills confidence and determination and builds character. We also believe that “disrupting” our academic schedule like this from time to time serves to ward off the gloom of monotony that is typical of much student life at schools that strictly adhere to more traditional schedules.
Wednesday is a special day at KAIS EMS. Although some of our students have dubbed Wednesday a “day off in the middle of the week,” it is actually one of the most activity-filled days on the calendar. Wednesday is a lot of fun, but it is also a day when a lot is accomplished. On this “day off,” students take part in elective classes that they themselves have selected from a menu of choices that was handed out to them at the start of the term. Some of the elective classes that we have offered so far include: cooking, manga drawing, dance, language and culture, architecture and design, exploring narrative structure through tabletop role-playing, print photography, 3-D printing, arts and crafts, and singing. Because the classes are chosen by the students, everyone, students and teachers alike, has a great time and brings to each lesson a heightened level of enthusiasm and effort. Wednesday’s elective classes also provide an opportunity for students of all grades to explore a shared interest together. The feeling of community this engenders permeates the entire week and helps to break down barriers among students of different ages and academic ability.
An International Faculty
At KAIS EMS, we embrace internationalism. We strive to expose our students to a wide variety of beliefs and points of view, which we believe benefits them in all kinds of ways. Though our primary language of instruction is English, we are not specifically a British, American, Australian, or Canadian school. Nor are we a Japanese school. Our faculty represents a broad spectrum of backgrounds, reflecting not only the diversity of our own student body, but also the diversity of many of today’s workplaces and modern life in general. While all of our teachers and staff share a commitment to the core educational principles of KAIS EMS, our approaches are all unique. Each adds its own element to the rich and ever-evolving tapestry of our school.
Our Relationship with Our Host Country
One of the core principles at KAIS EMS is that it is essential for all our students, regardless of national or cultural background, to develop a habitual inclination to learn about and respect the traditions of any country they live in or visit. This is why we stress the importance of our students’ behaving in a way that is in harmony with Japanese mores and culture, particularly when they are out in public or interacting with Japanese people. For many overseas students, this can be a difficult adjustment. But we feel that only by making this transition can they develop the ability to “code switch” from one culture to another, an essential skill for succeeding in any international environment — be it in school, in public, or in the modern workplace. Of equal importance is that this consideration and respect for local customs and ways of doing things leaves a positive impression of our own cultures in the eyes of our students’ Japanese hosts.
We Don’t "Enable" Children
At KAIS EMS, as we endeavor to tailor-make a meaningful and rewarding experience for each child, we know how important it is for us not to “spoil" our students by enabling poor academic performance or behavior. Such permissiveness comes with many risks for students, the most pernicious of which is making lowered expectations a life-long habit. We believe that resilience — the ability to face up to and deal with great challenges — is a critically important trait. Students can only develop and refine this type of toughness and tenacity by stepping outside their comfort zone and then adapting to the new “zone” through determined effort. Teachers who, in the spirit of love and kindness, inadvertently lower standards too quickly or remove children from “difficult” situations, ultimately deprive students of this opportunity to grow. Parents who enroll their children in our school must understand that we keep our standards of performance and behavior high, though reasonably so. Only after all other options have been explored and exhausted do we ever minimally and reluctantly lower our standards.