News Post

MS Weekly Principal Update October 4, 2019

October 4, 2019

Dear Parents,

Thank you for reading this week’s Middle school update.  We have had another excellent week of learning. My visits to classrooms have included observing:

Grade 7 scientists engaged in the process of design thinking as they construct models of buildings made to withstand natural disasters.  They have given our Makerspace a workout and I look forward to seeing how their models hold up against simulated earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis next week.

Grade 8 writers in Language Arts unpacking the peer editing process.  They have co-constructed success criteria for what good editing of written work should look like.  Talking about assessment helps our students become assessment capable themselves.

Working with Grade 8 Actors’ Ensemble students, who are passionate about making a difference in the world as it relates to climate change.  These students are using theatre as a platform for social change.  I commend them for this.

I would like to congratulate everyone involved with the Johannesburg Model United Nations (JOMUN) conference, which concluded last Sunday.  Well done to all involved.  Also, congratulations to all of our student-athletes who travelled to the ISSA basketball tournament in Mahikeng.  Both teams represented our school exceptionally well.  Our boys’ team finished fifth and our girls’ team took home the championship! Great job!  Thank you again to Mr. Cohen and Coach Pumla for accompanying the team and thanks to some of our Eagle parents who made the trip to cheer on our teams as well.

Thank you to the Grade 8 parents who turned out for the Grade 8 CWW Parent Presentation on Monday.  Plans for all three grade level trips are fully underway.  I trust that all parents have completed the online Permission Slip and Medical/Dietary information via PowerSchool.  The deadline to do so was today.  If you have not already done so, please do immediately.  Thank you.

The week was highlighted by our Parent/Teacher conferences that took place on Wednesday.   We thank all the parents and students who turned out to talk with teachers about learning that has taken place since the start of the school year and discuss their learning dispositions and learning goals that students have set for themselves going forward.  What impressed me the most was the focus given to our students and their involvement in these essential conversations.  Helping our students develop the skill of metacognition or knowing about their own knowing is critical to their development as learners.

Looking ahead to next week:

Our first half-term Ukuhlola classes will conclude on Monday and will promote the second half-term classes to students registering for these at a special assembly on Tuesday morning.   Students will then sign-up for new Ukuhlola class on Thursday so that they are ready to start new courses when we return for the October break.  While we do have some repeat courses, there are also a few new Ukuhlola offerings for this next half-term.  To see what is on offer for your children, please click on the link below to access the online Ukuhlola booklet.

We will also welcome esteemed English Language Learning consultant, Dr. Gini Rojas, to our campus this coming week as well.  Gini spent a week with us a few years ago and return to continue to work with our Learning Support teachers and ELL teachers as well as present to our entire Middle School faculty on Wednesday afternoon.   Dr. Rojas will also host a parent workshop:  Parent Workshop: Language Proficiency in the International School Setting: What Parents Needs to Know and Do on Wednesday, October 9th from 8am -10 am in T & L 1.   More details about this workshop are include below.

Parents are reminded to register their MS and ES students for season 2 CCA’s.  HS students register for CCA’s without parental assistance but it is important to remind them to register. The window to register is limited to October 7th to 11th.  Please carefully choose your activities as making changes after the window closes is a difficult process. Registrations are done through PowerSchool.  A help guide will be circulated from the Activities Office.

With one week to go before our October Break, the big highlight of the coming week will be International Day on Friday, October 11thInternational Day is always a great day on our campus featuring a festive celebration of our diversity and multiculturalism.  Events for the day will include the Parade of Nations, where students will walk with their country of origin, and of course, the International Food Festival.  Students are encouraged to come to school on International Day dressed in something that reflects their country of origin

There are many parents involved in planning the International Day Food Festival and I thank all of them for their efforts.   In addition to enjoying great food from all over the world, we are also encouraging our community help us be environmentally friendly on International Day.  The AISJ Sustainability Group has suggested ways we can all reduce waste from the International Food Festival.   For those attending the post-parade event, please try to:

Bring a set of utensils and a reusable cup. There will be water dispensers available for refilling. This reduces the need for plastic single use cutlery and cups. You can also bring a cloth serviette to minimize the need for paper serviettes.

  • Take only a sampling of food and only what you will consume - green compost bins will be around to collect any food waste.
  • As always, make sure to use the proper waste bins for recycling, compost and trash.
  • Utensils will be provided for those who forget, but let's do our part to make sure our celebrations leave only lasting memories not trash.

In addition to the Parade of Nations and Food Festival, we will also take time within the Middle School to celebrate the cultural diversity that makes this school so magical. Our schedule for the day is below:

7:40 – 8:05

Advisory and Assembly

8:15 – 8:40

Assemble in ES classrooms by country


Move to the field and gather by countries in designated locations.


Parade of Nations starts


Parade of Nations finishes


MS break


MS Activities with PTA by grade level


Meet in Amphitheatre


MS PTA goes to International Food Fair


Grade 6 goes to IFF 

 11 :55

Grade 7 goes to IFF

12 :00pm

Grade 8 goes to IFF 


Drama Performance in the Amphitheatre 


Dismissal and Happy break!

 ***Note:   Parents of Middle School students who plan to leave campus with their children before the 1:30 dismissal time will need to sign out their child at the Middle School Office and receive approved exit slip per our normal procedures.  Thank you.

Thank you again for reading this week’s news from the Middle School and for your continued support.  I wish you all an enjoyable weekend.


Andy Ferguson


Parent Workshop: Language Proficiency in the International School Setting:

What Parents Needs to Know and Do

Wednesday, October 9th from 8am -10 am in T & L 1

Dr. Gini Rojas specializes in English as an Additional Language Development and in providing access for English-knowing bilinguals through differentiated instruction and progressive scaffolding for developing academic English. She will be at AISJ working with teachers on effective programs and strategies for English learners.

On Wednesday, October 9 in T & L 1 from 8am-10am she will be presenting to parents on Language Proficiency in the International School Setting. It is geared to parents of multilingual children and will stress the importance of continued development of home languages to support your child’s development of English.

She will be considering some of the following questions in her session:

  • What’s a parent to do when their children enter the international school with one or more home languages?
  • Will continuing to use the home language ‘confuse’ children who are also learning in English?
  • In a home with two languages, should parents choose one language of communication?
  • What should parents understand about schooling in a language other than the home language?
  • What can parents do if full bilingualism is a long-term goal?
  • What is translanguaging?

It is a great opportunity and we hope you will be able to join us.

Laura Cox

K12 Learning Support Coordinator & Coach



Season 2 Co-Curricular Activities Fair: On Thursday, October 10th from 7:40-8:00am, we will be holding the Season 2 CCA Fair in MiddleVeld. Parents are encouraged to attend. The Activities Office will have a booth set up so that parents can register for Season 2 CCAs right there and then. Please consider coming out to the fair, so that you can see the offerings, meet the activity sponsors, chat with your child, and sign up.

AISJ Middle School Instagram: with nearly 70 followers already, the MS Activities Instagram account is becoming quite popular.  If you’d like to check out all of the great things happening each day in the Middle School, please consider following the IG account. If interested, please click on this link. Once the Communications Office confirms that you are a parent, they will grant you access. With a new photo being posted each day, don’t miss out!


ISSA Athletes: Congratulations to our U14 Girls and Boys Basketball Teams. In less than 48 hours, this group of student-athletes played a combined 13 games. Each of these games was played in the baking heat of mid-day Mahikeng or on gym floors that were as slippery as an ice skating rink. Our boys made it all the way to the quarter-finals, eventually finishing in 5th place. And our girls WON the tournament! Special shout-out to Alexia, Grade 7, who was unanimously named MVP of the tournament and Betty, Grade 8, who was named to the All-Tournament Team. A special shout-out to both Betty and Xia, Grade 8, as this was their 3rd and final time at this tournament, and after finishing in 2nd place in 2017, and 3rd place in 2018, they finally won the tournament this year! Congratulations to all of those who attended!

World Scholars: In my five years at AISJ, I have marvelled at what our middle schoolers have accomplished. From student performances in Peter Pan to founding the MS Garden, we’ve had no shortage of accomplishments in our Middle School. At the same time, I have never seen anything like what our World Scholars accomplished in Durban last week. 71 silver and gold medals and 19 team and individual trophies. I mean, WOW! A special shout-out to Kate, Grade 8, as well, as she won the Asimov Award for best junior in the tournament. Good luck at Yale, scholars!

Junior Track and Field Athletes: Saturday marks the last meet on the year for our Junior Track and Field Team. I want to thank our 6th and 7th graders for the leadership they have shown to their elementary school teammates. It’s been a wonderful season so far, and I look forward to them ending it on a high note. Good luck on Saturday!

Mr. Cuyamendous and Mr. Hart: For the final week of the regular season of our intramural soccer tournament, each team was allowed to add an adult to their roster. While many students reached out to staff members (HUGE shout-out to them for their participation), Mr. C and Mr. Hart were the only faculty members to participate. They deserve a BIG shout-out for giving up his lunches this week to play some soccer and help their teams advance to the playoffs.

Important Dates:

October 4th – 6th


Mbabane, Swaziland

Senior Track and Field Waterford Invitational


October 7th – 11th



Season 2 CCA registration


October 7th – 11th


MS Soccer Field

Intramural soccer playoffs


October 10th



Season 2 CCA Fair


October 14th – 18th


Tree House

Volleyball Camp*


October 22nd



Ski Trip parent information meeting**


October 26th



Season 1 CCA Activities end


November 1st


Curro School

Junior Swimming Meet


November 2nd


JHB Field

Steph Sprint for Cancer Awareness


November 4th



Season 2 CCA Activities begin


*Over the vacation, Grade 8 Students are invited to participate in a free, drop-in volleyball camp. There’s no need to RSVP. Simply show up. 

**Check out the poster and the parent information letter for further information.

 Bus Schedule



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 early 20th Century, one of the few still untouched destinations on the globe was the South Pole. Two explorers, Robert Falcon Scott of England and Roald Amundsen of Norway, set their sights on being the first to conquer the Antarctic wilderness and reach the South Pole. There was good reason that others had not succeeded or even attempted this expedition. Temperatures could reach -70-degrees Fahrenheit and few, if any, resources existed to assist along the way.

The end result of this race was that Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole on December 14th, 1911, raised the flag of Norway, and named the location Polheim or “Pole Home.” Robert Scott and his party were not as lucky as they all perished on the return trek after reaching the South Pole on January 17th, 1912 only to find the Norwegian flag already planted.

Historians have studied this story from many angles to determine why two experienced explorers could have had such drastically different outcomes. While it’s often accepted that Scott’s effort, though heroic, was doomed due to exceptionally bad weather, of recent, this narrative has been rethought. Scholars now point to his arrogant leadership style and faulty decision making as the key factors in his fatal expedition. One thing that stands out in comparing the two explorers is the superior planning and tactical thinking of Amundsen.

A critical planning factor was the choice of transportation modes for both team members and equipment. While Amundsen relied entirely on a large number of sled dogs, Scott depended on Siberian ponies. Amundsen also used skis, which proven invaluable for traversing a glacier filled with crevasses. On the other hand, Scott was hampered by ponies that all died and equipment that failed in the harsh weather. This resulted in his men having to haul equipment and supplies. Amundsen’s careful planning also included providing a more balanced diet that combated scurvy. Additionally, Amundsen selected a starting point for the expedition near the Bay of Whales, which was 60 miles closer to the South Pole than Scott’s starting point.

While it appears from all accounts that weather was a contributing factor, it also appears that the meticulous planning of Amundsen made the difference between success and failure.

I came across this story this week and thought to share it with you all because of the recent spate of success in our Middle School. Over the past seven days, it seems like every time I check my phone there’s another WhatsApp message about a student accomplishment. From trophies and medals in Durban and Mahikeng, to a successful House Event, to student efforts in JoMUN, our students are walking tall and with their heads held high.

For all the glitz and glamour of these accomplishments, though, what we don’t always see is the hard work that students are putting in behind the scenes. Whether it’s spending their summer vacation preparing for World Scholars, afternoons getting ready for JoMUN, the band-aids, bandages, and bruises from basketball practices, and the countless lunch periods that House Captains devote to planning, these students are more than just a talented bunch. 

As Eddie Cantor once said, “It takes 20 years to make an overnight success.” So while we celebrate our students’ remarkable accomplishments this week, let us not just celebrate what’s easy – the gold, the trophies, the speeches; instead, let us recognize the hard work, perspiration, and time that these students have committed to making these outcomes possible.

It was an amazing week for the Middle School, but it’s been an even more amazing few months of practice, preparation, and planning.

Zak Cohen

Middle School Activities Coordinator

Other Important Dates and Events for the Months of September through November

October 11

International Day

October 12 – 21

School Holidays

October 26

AISJ MS Basketball Tournament

October 28 – November 1

Grade 8 Classroom Without Walls – Sugar Bay

November 2

Steph Sprint 3 km Run for Cancer Awareness

November 4 – November 8

Grade 6 & 7 Classroom Without Walls – Blyde Adventure Camp

November 14 – 16

Grade 6 – 12 Musical Production – “Matilda”

November 19

Principal’s Coffee Morning

November 28 – 29

U.S. Thanksgiving Holidays – No School


Three Cheers all the parents and students who attended parent-teacher conferences.  Thank you for engaging in essential conversations with teachers.

Three Cheers for all of our parents involved with International Day.  Thank you for your efforts to bring this special day to our campus.