Q+A: Al-Mizhar American Academy, Dubai
Al-Mizhar American Academy in Dubai, an American Curriculum school for Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 (all-girls only Grades 1 to 12), answers our questions and takes us on a virtual tour...
What happens when parents visit the school?
When parents arrive at our school, they will be greeted with a warm welcome by all the staff members they encounter. They will meet our Admissions Manager who will discuss with them how our school will suit their child in terms of what they are looking for.
The family is then taken on a school tour. If it is a normal school day, they will be introduced to class and subject teachers to give them a better insight into what happens inside the classroom, and they will see the activities taking place at the time. If the visiting student is into sports, then the tour will include the gym, pool and pitch area, and they will meet the PE teacher(s).
What Accreditations do you have?
Al-Mizhar American Academy (AAM) is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Council of International Schools.
What is your teaching philosophy?
In essence, AAM offers an accredited American education with traditional values. Our mission is to promote intellectual curiosity, independent and critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills, a lifelong passion for learning and an exposure to and a respect for cultural diversity. By expecting academic excellence, we inspire personal growth, and develop intrinsically motivated global citizens who are committed to being leaders in community service and environmental responsibility.
How do you support pupils who are struggling?
We believe every student has potential, and to eliminate any obstacles and challenges that may stand in the way of learning, support is provided through our English as Additional Language (EAL), Arabic as Foreign Language (AFL) and Special Education Needs (SEN) departments.
For more information, please contact Sheena Nolan, Head of SEN (please go to this link for contact details).
Why should I send my child to your school?
AAM offers students the same elite education that is offered at top American private schools, and prepares its students for a multitude of universities worldwide. Today, more than ever, preparing students for university involves more than just academic work. It is also necessary to offer challenging extra-curricular activities, and a broad exposure to and interaction with myriad cultures.
It is with great pride that AAM has created such an environment, where students are challenged to excel academically, as well as develop into culturally aware citizens of the global community.
How can parents get involved?
Al-Mizhar American Academy very much encourages parental involvement in their children’s school lives. This helps to make the child feel more secure and therefore more willing to be engaged and productive. At AAM, we have three different groups:
Friends of American Academy, Mizhar (otherwise known as FAAM) – Members are committed parents of AAM students, who take part in organizing events on topics such as classroom-parent tutoring, annual celebrations and professional career talks given by parents.
Links Parent Group – The Key role of AAM Links’ class parents is to support their child’s class teacher, and engage with other parents through open and on-going communication specific to the child’s grade or class. The responsibilities of class parents include providing assistance and support with projects, field trips and celebrations.
Share Your Career Series – Insightful, experience-based sessions on a wide range of career opportunities, delivered by parents for our older students.
Do you offer parent workshops?
Yes, for example, with the introduction of our new ‘Schoology’ IT platforms at AAM, it was essential to train parents to help them follow their child’s academic performance online. The software also helps them stay in touch with teachers by providing a communication platform. We have also held workshops for parents about e-safety, in order to help them play an integral part in protecting their children from cyber-bullying and improper use of the Internet.
Other examples include a workshop for parents on breast cancer, presented by a visiting specialist surgeon, and a ‘Tolerance’ workshop, given by a representative from the Mohammad bin Rashid Center for Cultural Understanding.
What extra-curricular activities do you offer?
At AAM, we provide a well-rounded extra-curricular program for students in Grades 1 to 12, enhancing their life at school and broadening their experiences and opportunities.
The school involves the younger students, those in Elementary and Middle School, in a fun-filled program of extra-curricular activities known as CHIPS (C-reativity, H-appiness, I-nnovation, P-ioneering and S-pirited).
The Middle School students are also very much involved in sports activities, and we have football and basketball teams who play against other schools.
Extra-curricular after-school activities for Middle and High School students include Student Council, Model United Nations (MUN), Book Club, Rugby, Film Studies, Band, Robotics, Painting, Writer's Workshop, Aqua Club, Public Speaking, Student Leadership, Drama Club, Advanced Gymnastics, Scrapbooking, Spanish Club, Qur’an Club, Cooking, Arabic Club, Educational Trips and more.
Our older students are also involved in community service (both in the UAE and abroad), and arts and internship opportunities. They can also take part in educational trips to promote their intellectual and creative skills, for example, to the Space Academy in Singapore.
What is the background of your teaching staff?
Our teachers come from a variety of international professional backgrounds, bringing along with them well-rounded knowledge and understanding, as well as rich experience. Many of our teachers hold higher degrees in education, and have taught in schools across the globe, or in other Emirates in the UAE, before joining the AAM family.
How do you encourage reading?
The school is very active in organizing book fairs, featuring books in both English and Arabic, to encourage reading, and to develop a love of books. All our KG, Elementary and Middle School students have compulsory library time every week, and to make it an enriching experience, we ensure that the languages and cultures of the school community are an integral part of the library’s collection, services and environment.
Seniors are very encouraged to read as well. Our Advanced Placement program includes AP English, where the emphasis is on reading as well as literature.
In line with the vision of H H Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, of making Dubai a Reading Nation, our school has embraced the ‘Seven Minutes’ initiative, whereby every individual has the right to read for this time on daily basis.
How do you encourage inquiry-based learning?
At AAM our philosophy revolves around encouraging the students’ voices to be heard, and engaging them through learning from others and sharing their knowledge. We give them control over their learning process, and then encourage them to reflect on their learning, so that by being critical thinkers and problem solvers they are able to challenge themselves.
Do you have a mother-tongue program?
The Arabic Language is taught to all our students, unless exempted upon request. Since the UAE are keen on sustaining the Arabic language as the formal, national and native language spoken, we do give great attention to it by including the non-native speakers in our Arabic as a Foreign Language (AFL) program.
What opportunities exist for parents to speak to their child’s teachers should they have any worries or concerns?
Parents are always welcome to set up appointments with teachers to discuss any problems or concerns they may have. In addition, parents can communicate with teachers via ‘Schoology’, one of our IT integrated platforms, which they can also use to view their child’s performance, homework and grading, and in this way, they are included in their child’s academic journey. Teachers also use ‘Schoology’ to publish regular updates, announcements and newsletters.
Do students have the opportunity to participate in Model United Nations?
Yes, our students took part in the 2015-2016 MUN conference in Italy, where our girls presented themselves as delegates, discussing international issues and passing resolutions.
Do you arrange for guest speakers such as authors and experts to come to school?
Yes, we often invite guest speakers to our school, and this has proved to be very successful. We have had visits by a number of authors of children’s books during our book fairs, and they read to our students and sign copies of their books.
Role models and inspirational speakers are invited to share the enriching experiences of their academic and professional backgrounds with the older students. These visits, which include Q&A sessions, have proved to be inspirational to the students in helping them to make choices for their future studies and careers.
All images: Al-Mizhar American Academy
You can view the Winter's profile for Al-Mizhar American Academy by going to this link.