Meghan Burns, American School of Brasilia , Brazil
The American School of Brasilia (EAB) welcomed twenty-seven educators to the second AASB Student Services Conference in September 2013. Following the first conference in Sao Paulo last year, EAB offered to host the second conference. The Student Services Team worked with counselors and learning support specialists from around Brazil to gather experts in their field to learn and understand best practices associated with supporting students’ learning needs. The guiding principle of the Student Services Conference is to share what we do and learn from each other with regards to what we can do better. The goal of our student services team at EAB is to inspire discussions and raise awareness of the tools and strategies available to student services specialists while furthering discussions about how to best implement them within the context of Brazil.
One of the most important topics for the Student Services Teams is what is legally allowed and required to be done for students with learning needs in Brazil. To explore the issue further, a two-hour session with EAB’s lawyers answering questions and providing examples of how the law is applied and interpreted was organized. The conference also hosted a session with Dr. Virginia Rojas, Differentiation Specialist, as she was spending the week with EAB faculty. She was able to spend time with the group during the conference to increase our understanding of how differentiation strategies can be utilized in schools.
Throughout the conference we worked in cohorts – job alike groups – to focus on best practices. One participant stated, “The cohorts were a wonderful opportunity to understand what other schools are doing and get ideas for our programs.” This was the purpose of the conference: to gain insight into how others support students in their schools and understand how each of us can do our jobs better. By way of modeling, EAB’s Leadership Team has focused on structuring professional development opportunities that embrace the expertise of those within the school community, which is how our conference was structured. While discovering new practices from experts is extremely beneficial, the information our colleagues have to share was of particular importance, especially as they are encountering the same challenges and frustrations. Finding a peer with an inspiring idea who is willing to exchange emails can lead to fantastic conversations which conclude with both of us incorporating best practices in our fields.
The 2014 AASB Student Services Conference is something I look forward to taking part in. Sharing what works best as well as gaining useful insight from my colleagues, is an important method of learning.