Notes from an International HS Curriculum Night

Last night, Brett and I attended Curriculum Night at Quinn’s new school:  The International School of Luxembourg (ISL.)   As one might expect, things work a little differently here then they do in the US. 

DISCLAIMER:  This is only one party’s interpretation of the events of last night.  Transmission cannot be guaranteed to be error-free as information may have been corrupted by US theories, or contain omissions  due to selective listening, or contain viruses if not read in the overall context that HOW LUCKY ARE WE THAT OUR SOPHOMORE GETS THIS OPPORTUNITY.  

Note #1: Pre-arrival warm up.   It’s called the Upper School, not High School and it is led by the Head of School not the Principal.  Also, Quinn is not a sophomore; he is a Grade 10 student. (Disclaimer appended.) Spoken misuse of this nomenclature will immediately identify us as one of the parents who have not yet read the Parent/Student Handbook.

Note #2: Arrival.  If you want to hear remarks from the Head of School, you must arrive when the program starts at 18:00.  18:15 is truly, grossly tardy. 

Note #3:  IGCSE PE/Health.  Aka “PE with Balls.”  IGCSE stands for International General Certificate of Secondary Education, and never ever will it roll off my tongue in the right letter sequence.  It’s an international curriculum out of Cambridge that is used in 100 countries worldwide and a precursor to the IB Diploma Program, making this the “PE with Balls” program that involves both practicum and theory.  Students must choose four practical activities from at least two of the seven categories (a dizzying array of options that include cricket and judo but not baseball) for 50% of marks; students must then analyze and improve practical performance for 10% of marks …. Classroom studies … 40% of marks…. factors affecting performance … Health and safety aspects …videos of your student performing their sports will be sent to Cambridge for analysis.  OMG.  Really?  This PE program is so complex I don’t even understand the Powerpoint.  What I do understand is there will be No Mobile Phones on the class trip.  The class trip in June.  Never mind what is going on next Tuesday.   I also understand that I must buy a Track Suit for away matches.  Thought bubble:  “Do not, I say again do not, raise your hand and comment that you already purchased a PE Kit and could have killed two birds with one basketball had you known about the Track Suit situation.”   Brett, out loud : “I have no idea what just happened here. “

Note #4: English.  Aka “Navel Gazing 201.”  No IGCSE here, just some good old fashioned reading of poetry and literature with a kick ass South African teacher who’s also a novelist.   A writer’s workshop opportunity with someone who loves and is constantly working on his craft.  Thought bubble:  Consider dropping in to class incognito.

Note 5: Studio Art.  Aka “ART!!”  This is not an elective.  This is an ART! class with a gifted art teacher, and 12 fellow students who all took a full year of Studio Art in Grade 9.  Teacher’s warning:  "My last American boy without an Art background/skill set got a 3 out of 7 (aka Mediocre/C-) the first marking period.  This was a surprise to both him and his parents."  Teacher’s advice: “Tell Quinn to listen to Julia, not the Korean kid.  It’s not a language issue, he just gives the wrong instruction.”  

 Note 6:  ICGSE Additional Maths.  Aka “RUN FOR THE HILLS!!”   The gentlemanly Brit teacher’s welcome went something like this: “This is ICGSE Additional Maths.  (tsk, tsk)  It’s basically like taking two courses at once.  It will be the hardest class your son or daughter will ever take in high school, maybe even in college. This advanced class is only for students who love math [and who sleep with their graphic calculators not iPhones.] (tsk, tsk.) It is not too late to decide to drop it and [should you child decide to stay on in this class, I will chop them into little pieces and eat them for dinner.]”  We are afraid, very afraid, but we are staying on…  

Note 7: Social Studies.  Aka “Yipee.”   Why? Because this new Social Studies teacher just moved here from teaching at a school in Azerbaijan! And before that, he taught in Kuwait, Kiev, and Peru.  Plus, he’s from Chicago originally.  (We pounded out the Chicago love after class.) Sounds like the right guy to be teaching students about Micro Economics, Global Business Environment, Data Collection, and the Cold War.

Note 8: French.  Aka “Oh Merde!”  (Like I told you in my last post, sometimes shit still applies.) The exactly-as-you-would-expect French teacher’s welcome went something like this: “This is a nice class, but also very challenging. We have 9 second year students and 4 beginner students.  Yes, 4 beginners students who know no French.  None at all.  Nothing.  But, by Christmas, I expect that they will all be at the same level.” Pause. Pause.  A few wide-eyed parents (myself included) asked a few follow up questions.  She continued, “Yes, there are many websites that could maybe help them. I tell them to bring their laptops to class and listen to exercises on their earphones.   Buddy system for beginners and second year students?  Perhaps … [not a chance in the world.] … but by Christmas, they WILL all be at the same level.”  At minute 13 of the 15 minute presentation, a lone parent hand raises to ask: “Is German an option?”

Note 9: IGCSE Science.  Aka “ICGSE Science.”  There’s no messing around here.  This is a double award, earning two grades, coordinated science program that gives students the opportunity to study Biology, Chemistry, and Physics within a cross-referenced, scientifically coherent syllabus preparing them to sit for final cumulative exams.  It’s super rad because the Australian teacher rocks (and he’s totally helping Quinn bridge the gap in the Grade 9 Chem and Physics content he missed), and also rad because never again do I have to take Physics.

Marking for the International Upper School Curriculum Night:  6 out of 7 (aka Very Good!)