News Post

JHB MS Principal Update, 16 August 2019
JHB MS Principal Update, 16 August 2019

Dear Parents,

Welcome back to school.  It is great to have the 2019-20 school year underway.  Thank you for reading the first edition of the Middle School Weekly Update for this school year.  This will be our weekly Middle School publication and we use it to communicate with our community, to highlight Middle School happenings during the week, and keep you updated about future events.  Please be on the lookout for it every Friday.

This newsletter can also be accessed from the school website using Finalsite.   Parents with usernames and passwords can log into Finalsite and will be connected to the Middle School Portal where they will find the "News" tab on the top navigation of the MS Portal Page.  Parents simply need to click on this tab and the weekly newsletter will appear.  

We started off this week with approximately 160 Middle School students in attendance with a few others expected to join us next week.  Over thirty new students joined us this week and we welcome them and their families to our school.   I do believe that they have been warmly welcomed into our Middle School community, have adjusted to their new school, and most importantly, have begun to make friends.  As well, over forty 6th graders began their Middle School experience on Tuesday and we welcome them too! 

There has been a lovely buzz of energy that comes with students back on campus and in my observations, both inside and outside classrooms this week, there is a feeling throughout the Middle School that is upbeat and positive.  Both the students and faculty are excited to begin the school year and our journey together.  Whether you have returned for another year of the Middle School or joined the Middle School community this year, the new school year is always a time of transitions.  If we can be of any service or help to you, do not hesitate to contact us.

Teachers worked incredibly hard before school to prepare for the opening and have spent time this week building relationships with their students while also helping them become comfortable adjusting to schedules and routines.  We have also worked hard to begin developing our strong sense of community grounded in our CORE beliefs:  caring, open-minded, risk-taking, and ethical. These “living words” are expected to be modeled daily by both students and adults and will serve to guide us all in our interactions with one another.  We know that embedding these beliefs into the daily classroom experiences of our students will help them grow and prosper throughout this year and beyond.

We hosted several assemblies as well to introduce faculty and support staff to our students.  As a learning community, it is important that our students and staff come to know each other.   We also shared our new program, Ukuhlola (Zulu for “exploration”) with the students and there is excitement for this exploratory experience to start on Monday.

Students received their school-owned computers on Thursday and Friday.  Grade 6 and Grade 7 students will be using MacBooks and 8 students will be using Lenova Yoga PCs this year.  This is a big deal for students and we will be spending time next week orienting them to the personal responsibility that comes with being a member of a 1:1 school as well and helping them navigate the variety of tech platforms we use to support learning.  Please help them remember to charge their computers each night before bringing them to school the following day

As we move into the first full week of learning next week:

As mentioned, students will begin their first Ukuhlola experience on Monday.  They will learn about the course they have been enrolled in based on their selection preferences this week.

We will also officially commence with SSR (Sustained Silent Reading), which takes place for ten minutes following lunchtime on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Students should be prepared on Monday with a book to read.  They may bring actual books or e-readers (i.e. Kindle).  They can also always visit the Middle Library where our Teaching Librarian, Ms. Zanele, is always willing to help put a good book into the hands of our students.

Students will have their annual school photos taken on Tuesday, August 20th.  Photos will be taken during our grade level elective blocks 6th (E), 7th (F), and 8th (G).  Shortly after photos have been taken, parents will receive information regarding how to order photos should they wish to do so.

On Thursday, August 22nd we invite all parents to the Middle School Open House.  Early next week, once our Open House schedule is finalized, we will send a separate email about Open House, including the schedule for the evening.  Open House is an excellent opportunity for parents to meet and learn from the teachers who will be playing an important role in their lives this school year.   Open House begins at 6:00 pm in the Theater with a welcome from the Middle School Principal, an introduction of our new faculty members, an overview of the evening, and general presentations from our World Language, Physical Education, and Electives/Exploratories.   Parents will then adjourn from the Theater and attend a presentation from the Core classroom teams.  We look forward to your joining us that evening.   Please account for traffic on the Riversands Road and make sure that you allow yourself plenty of time to get to school for the start of Open House.

As the new school year unfolds, we have much to look forward to this year in the Middle School.  Our teachers are highly committed to your children’s learning experiences.  We have an engaging curriculum that focuses on understanding and thinking while challenging students to apply their knowledge and skills in authentic and novel ways.  We focus on personalization of learning; listening to students and honoring “voice and choice.”  We work hard to teach and develop critical dispositions such as resilience, curiosity, creativity, communication, collaboration, global connectedness, and empathy.  We have passionate teachers who love working with adolescent learners.   We also have enthusiastic students who embrace the learning opportunities afforded to them each day and who show themselves to be good people to one another.  We have a supportive parent population who meaningfully engage us in the critical home-school partnership.   Truly, I feel fortunate to serve as the Middle School Principal.

We hope that you are excited about the year ahead as we are.  I wish all of you a great weekend.  Thank you for your support of the Middle School as we embark on a year of working in partnership together.





August 27th – JHB Middle School Principal’s Parent Coffee Morning from 8:15 – 9:30 am in the Library Hub

All parents are invited to come to the first coffee morning of the year on August 27th, which will provide new parents with the opportunity to meet and interact with returning parents and to learn more about Middle School initiatives for the 2019-20 school year.  The coffee morning will be hosted in the Middle School Library. We hope to see you there.


The Middle School Welcome Back Social:  Friday, August 30th from 6:30– 9:00 pm at BOUNCE Fourways

The first Middle School social of the year will take place on Friday, August 30th from 6:30 – 9:00 pm off-campus at BOUNCE in Fourways Mall.  The social is being organized by the Middle School teachers and administration and more information about the event will be shared in future weekly newsletters.  Admission to the social will be 100 Rand per student and the Middle School Parent Association will support the social by providing pizza and drinks.   Bus transportation to and from the social will be provided for registered bus riders and we will register bus riders when students sign-up and pay for the social during the week of August 26th.   This should be a fun way to get together and celebrate the start of the new school year at BOUNCE.



Registration: Please click here for instruction on how to register your child for Season 1 CCAs.

Purchasing Uniforms: Please click here for instructions on how to purchase uniforms for your child.


The Parent Association: Shout-out to the Parent Association for helping to bring the newly founded Middle School Chill Zone to life. This space, which includes a ping-pong table, foosball table, Bluetooth speaker, and a lounge area, is already having a transformative impact on the way that students of different grades are socializing with one another. You did the grunt work to make this happen, and we are incredibly grateful.

Activity Sponsors: Shout-out to all of the faculty members who are stepping up to run a Co-Curricular Activity. This season, we have a diverse selection of activities, which range across the Four Pillars. There’s certainly a little something for everyone.

Students: The MS Chill Zone is designed to be a space that is for the students and managed by the students. Already, we have had 8th graders step up to create appropriate playlists for the speaker and 7th graders who got their hands dirty by cleaning the foosball table. This sort of ownership of the space is an encouraging sign as the Chill Zone continues to evolve.

Ms. Kholo: The MS Office Secretary, Kholo Ramatjie, is taking on some added responsibility this year to support the MS Activities Program. While there are many things she’ll be doing, I want to give her a shout-out for taking charge of the bulletin board in the MS Chill Zone. She had the idea that this space should be devoted to student photography of life in the Middle School. This is an awesome idea to encourage student ownership of the space, and we all appreciate the initiative she has taken to bring this to fruition.


August 23rd

3:00 pm


Hilton Arts Festival payment deadline


August 26th 

3:00 pm


Season 1 CCAs begin


August 30th

3:00 pm



Hilton Arts Festival documents deadline

August 30th

1:30 pm

MS Amphitheatre

MS House Event


August 31st

8:00 am

Upper Field

Jr. Track and Field Clinic


September 12th – 14th



Hilton Arts Festival


September 13th



ISSA MS Basketball Tournament documents and payment due

September 18th

1:00 pm

Pinnacle College

Jr. Track and Field meet


September 25th

12:00 pm

Beaulieu College

Jr. Track and Field meet


September 27th – 29th


International School of South Africa

ISSA U14 Basketball Tournament





3:00 pm

4:30 pm

5:30 pm


3:00 pm

4:30 pm



1:40 pm

3:00 pm

5:00 pm (only for select students in specific programs)


3:00 pm

4:30 pm



3:00 pm

4:30 pm




The schedule is a live document containing all information regarding MS Basketball and Jr./Sr. Track and Field. Since this is a live document, I will include this link every week. I encourage you to check it every week, as well, so that you are up-to-date on exactly when and where practices, matches, and meets are being held.


Activities Note:

In the scheme of things, two months isn’t really that much time. When I left Johannesburg in early-June, the weather was chilly, the Leonardo Building in Sandton was under construction, and South Africa had turned its attention to the Cricket World Cup. Fast forward to today and the weather is still chilly, the Leonardo Building is still under construction, and South Africa now turns its attention to the Rugby World Cup. Even here at AISJ, things remained mostly unchanged. On our first day of work, a colleague turned to me and said, “It’s like we never left.”

This sense of stasis, however, was flipped on its head when students returned this week. It turns out that the laws of time do not apply to the Middle School. Students who only two months earlier had been diminutive 7th graders were now a head taller than I am! My nearest analogy, I guess, would come from the movie Space Jam when the Monstars steal the abilities of NBA all-stars and grow overnight.

For some of our students, I hardly recognized them. Of course, their outward changes pales in comparison to what’s happening on the inside. Two months is a long time when it comes to the interests and inclinations of middle schoolers. The formative experiences that students have had over the past couple of months have undoubtedly informed and possibly even shifted their interests. One student showed up this past week to tell me that he would not be trying out for the basketball team because he’s going to be taking a dance class. This fluidity in students finding what works for them is awesome and should be encouraged. Ultimately, all of our students should be taking advantage of this time in their lives to explore who they are and what they care about.

My hope in writing this is that before the registration deadline this Sunday, each of you will sit with your child, review the Season 1 CCA options, and see if maybe there’s something on offer that speaks to the growth your child has experienced over these past two months.

Zak Cohen

Middle School Activities Coordinator


Other Important Dates and Events for the Months of August and September

August 20

Middle School Photo Day

August 22

Middle School Open House @ 6:00 pm

August 27

Principal’s Coffee Morning @ 8:15 am in the MS Library

August 30

House Event

August 30

Welcome Back Social at Bounce from 6:30 – 9:00 pm

September 6

Early Release at 1:30 pm

September 9

In-Service Day – No School for Students

September 12 - 15

Hilton Arts Festival

September 20

Heritage Day & ArtsFest – No regular classes

September 24

School Holiday – Heritage Day

September 26 – 29




Three Cheers for all of our new Middle School Students and Parents.  Welcome to AISJ! We are so pleased to have you joining our school community.

Three Cheers for the students and faculty who have worked hard together

to get our year off to a positive start.

Three Cheers to the Middle School Student Ambassadors, who have been helpful to the new students in making them feel welcomed and settled.

Three Cheers to everyone who reads the Middle School Weekly Update.  We appreciate your wanting to know what is happening in the Middle School!