Aspirations Week!

Learning at UAS is coming A.L.I.V.E!


Aspirations week is in the books and it’s been wonderful!  I like events that start with a sizzle instead of a bang, and that’s what Aspirations week did.  We quietly gained ground on achieving each of our three goals last week (Literacy, School Culture, Student Voice).

On Tuesday we had our first of three whole school spirit events this year.  Our student athletes have been asking for years if they could perform in front of the whole school.  On Tuesday we made that happen. During Period 5, we brought the school down to support their team and the boys didn’t disappoint, winning a hard-fought match against a talented GWA squad.  There was a lot of positive energy in the room and the game was a tremendous success.  By giving our students opportunities to show pride in their school they will, in turn, be more motivated to work hard to achieve their goals.

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Throughout the Homeroom programme, we have been asking students to set goals for the year.  Ms. Gibson and our amazing counselling team have been busy collating the aspirations of our community to find out what our students want from the year.  Dr. Qualia refers to aspirations as the outcome of big ideas and hard work.

Learning about our students’ aspirations will empower us to empower them to achieve their personal best. Every student has ideas and those ideas have value.  By knowing what those ideas are, we can make an impact on our students achieving them!

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On Wednesday night, we had our annual Back to School Night.  The purpose of Back to School night is to develop relationships between teachers and parents; to inform the community about our curriculum; and to give parents choice on how they wish to receive this information.  The feedback has been enormously positive and parents have a clearer understanding of where the school is headed.  As an educator, it is always nice to speak about my passions – the potential of young people and the nuances of my subject area. I very much enjoyed the opportunity to do both last Wednesday.  If you have any feedback on how to improve the evening, please leave a comment on this post.


If you were unable to attend, there is critical information that every parent must know in the attached booklets.  Often times parents are surprised that their children did not meet the prerequisites for certain classes in Grade 11.  Please take the time to read the following documentation to ensure that your child is on track to take the courses you expect them to qualify for next year.



Marcus Smith

On Thursday, we had the first of six whole-school assemblies where a guest speaker, Marcus Smith owner of Inner Fight Gym, Professional Athlete, Endurance Racer and Motivational Speaker came to our school with an important message about perseverance.  You can see the trailer for his talk here:

Carrying on the Student Voice and School Culture initiatives, this Wednesday our Student Government is hosting a Movie Night in the MPH.  The event is free, but they are asking for a 5 dirham donation to support other such events.  Parents, students and teachers are all welcome.  We look forward to supporting future events of this nature.


Lastly, On Thursday there will be a whole-school Professional Development day.  Teachers will be in house carrying on the great work they do every day.  We will be writing curriculum, reviewing our timelines and learning more about how to use our MAP data to improve teaching and learning at UAS.  We wish students and parents a wonderful day off on September 29th.


Grade 9/10 Parent Information Meetings (Day 1)
6:00-6:25pm   US Space Camp
6:25-6:50pm   Germany
6:50-7:25pm   Morocco
7:25-7:45pm   RAK Camp
7:45-8:15pm   Switzerland (changed from Tuesday)

Tuesday, September 27
Grade 9/10 Parent Information Meetings (Day 2)
6:00-6:30pm   Laos
6:30-6:45pm   Job Shadow
6:45-7:00pm   Al Boom Scuba Diving
7:00-7:15pm   School of Culinary & Finishing Arts
7:15-7:30pm   Al Badia Golf Camp

Wednesday, September 28
Grade 8 Parent Information Meeting & Grade 9/10 (Day 3)
6:00-7:00pm   Grade 8 (Kenya)*
7:00-7:30pm   London (Grade 9/10)
7:30-8:00pm   Spain (Grade 9/10)

Thursday, September 29
Registration begins

Thursday, October 13

Sunday, October 16   
Confirmation of trip assignment

Thursday, December 15        
Final payment due

February 12-15, 2017
Week Without Walls

*a UAE camp option will also be discussed

Questions? Email me at


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Registering for the ASAs

September 20, 2016

Dear Parents,

After School Activities (ASA) Registration for elementary, middle school and high school will open at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, September 21, 2016.

Registrations will close on Sunday, September 25, 2016 at 5:00 PM.

We are happy to offer more than 23 ASA choices in the elementary school, 20 in the middle school and 23 in the high school during this first session. Thanks to the hard organizational work of Alison Backous, Kristen Miller and Asha Burton, our kids are so lucky to have such amazing choices! We have tried to provide a nice balance of no-charge options as well as options where there is an additional charge.

You can find detailed descriptions of the ASA activities in these locations:

High School

Please follow the steps below to register your child for an ASA activity:

Log on to your parent portal page here.
Follow the link to view the descriptions and choose the ASA Activity.
After submitting the form, you will receive an immediate confirmation email.

If you register your child for a paid activity, kindly pay accounts promptly and bring your receipt to the school office. Please note that the registrations for paid ASA activities is not complete until full payment is made and without payment ASA assignments will be given to other children.

The supervising teacher will send a follow-up email by September 24th to confirm your child’s participation. Please note that spaces are limited in some activities and enrollment will be on a first-come-first-served basis.

If you have any questions about the activities, please send an email to:
Elementary School:
Middle School:
High School:

For portal support please email

Thank you for your continued support in the ASA Program,

Andrew Torris

High School Back to School Night – Wednesday 5:45 PM (MPH)

Dear parents,

It’s Back to School Night and you are invited!  If you are wondering what Back to School Night is, it is an opportunity to do three things:

  1. Build community by acquainting parents with their children’s teachers.
  2. Learn about what and how students are learning.
  3. Develop understanding of the philosophy, assessment and content of our courses.

The idea of the evening is to give parents a choice as to how they would prefer to learn about the curriculum at UAS.  In the Main Hall of the MPH there will be booths where parents can approach teachers for smaller discussion, or, parents may choose to attend the more formal sessions led by department heads in the adjacent classrooms.

Structure of the evening.

  • Doors open at 5:30 – please arrive by 5:45 latest.
  • 6:00 PM – Formal address from High School Leadership team.
  • 6:25 PM – Prayer time and opportunity to approach teachers.
  • 6:45 – 8:00 PM – Formal presentations occur, or, parents may wish to remain in the main hall.

Schedule of formal presentations.

Room M02/03 Grades 9-10

Room M04/05 Grades 11-12

Arabic & AFL: 6:45 – 6:55 Science: 6:45 – 6:55
Science:  7:30 – 7:40 Humanities: 7:00 – 7:10
English:  7:00 – 7:10 Arabic & AFL: 7:15 – 7:25
Math:  7:15 – 7:25 English 7:30 – 7:40
Humanities:  7:45 – 7:55 Math 7:45 – 7:55

In the interest of letting our good teachers get home to their families we ask that parents plan how they wish to learn on this evening in advance.  We will be closing the event at 8:00 PM.

We look forward to sharing the plans for the year with you!


Good to Great: Moving from “Me” to “We”.

Our teachers are great and they really care for our students.  Of this I am sure.  If I were to ask any teacher in my time here at UAS what it is that drives them, I believe they would universally say “my students”.  So why, then, are we not the top-performing school in Dubai? Why do some students feel that this school is not helping them to achieve their Personal Best (at least not yet!).  I think there is a simple answer to that question... if “I am here for my students”, then perhaps students who are not mine perceive that I am not here for them. I have seen similar issues in good schools that have the potential to be great ones.  This school has the potential to be beyond great.  This school has the potential to be extraordinary!  We can be one of the named schools across the world, if we change our mindset from “me” to “we”.

Moving from me to we is easy to say but hard to do.  Instead of “I am here for my students”, I ask all members of the community to say “we are all here to make this school better for all our students“.  Recently, I challenged some leaders in the senior class to reach out to the greater community.  The students chose to approach the junior class about their ideas for the Senior Lounge.  When we put in the Senior Lounge, the students had many concerns. They were worried that “they” would do “all” the fundraising and “no-one” would support them. By including the junior class in the development of the senior lounge, these young leaders are developing a sense of “we”. The Juniors will have a voice in developing the space that they will inherit in a year’s time.  They will have a voice in shaping the space so that it won’t be such a chore to make it their own come next September.

Last week, Mr. Torris initiated the school’s first Community Faire.  The event brought parents, students and teachers together.  I was fascinated to meet members of the community and learn more about what they do.  It was a great event and very much a “we” event.

img_3063   (parents, teachers, and students enjoying the Community Faire)

They.  Everyone.  All.  No one…  I hear these words a lot at UAS.  There is nothing wrong with these words in and of themselves.  However, the context of these words is everything.  These words in the context of “me” can be quite detrimental.

  • “They” aren’t going to listen.
  • “Everyone” is going to be upset.
  • I have to do “all” the work.
  • “No one” cares.

However, what if we consider them from a mindset of “we”.

  • “They” look like they could use some help.
  • Let’s try to get “everyone” involved.
  • We can “all” do a little bit more to make this better.
  • “No one” should feel left out.

I do not mean to say that we are completely in a “me” paradigm.  I see a lot of “we” around the school and it is getting better. The first two weeks have been a great start.  As a community we are going to look at ourselves very closely over the next 10 months and really begin to identify the parts of this school we want to improve.  We will also make sure we do our best to preserve and celebrate the best parts of who we already are.  Next week we have three whole-school events.  On Tuesday, we will be celebrating our athletes by inviting the students to come cheer on the volleyball team at 2:00.  On Wednesday we will have our Back to School Night at 6:00 PM in the MPH.  On Thursday, we have a whole-school Aspirations assembly at 2:00 where local businessman and fitness guru Marcus Smith will be in speaking to our students about the lessons he learned through failure.  Parents are welcome.

When the tide comes in, it lifts every ship.  “We are here to make this school better for all our students” is going to take some time.  It’s going to take patience.  It’s going to take compromise and it will never be perfect.  That’s not the goal.  The goal is to move from good… to great… to extraordinary.  Every student at UAS deserves this and it is achievable if every member of our community works together to make it happen.



“I Wish You Were My Mom”…


(Students and Teachers celebrating together at the Grad Breakfast)

WOW! What an amazing first week we had at UAS!  I have been popping in and out of classes and there is dynamic learning taking place.  I have often said that trust is a pre-condition of learning and I was reminded of that by a touching story that took place this week.  One of our students was having some significant anxiety about one of her classes.  Sensing the student’s discomfort, our teacher came over and took the student’s hand, looked her in the eye and stayed with her until she calmed down.  She was told that as long as she did her best, that’s all we can ask for.  The anxious girl relaxed and her seat partner was absolutely mesmerized by the patience and calming influence that her teacher had on her friend.  The awestruck girl looked at her new teacher and said “I wish you were my mom”.

A compliment like that will melt the heart of any educator.  Teaching is noble work and great teachers have to be both masters of their craft and heroes to their students.  So many teachers are outstanding in one of these domains but not the other.  The fact is, without both of these critical components, learning is compromised.  This story is an important reminder of two things.  Firstly, our students have a lot of pressure on them to perform. They really want to achieve their personal best and school can be a very difficult and stressful part of their lives.  The second is that a school is only as good as it’s teachers and we have wonderful teachers here at UAS.  I have chosen not to name our heroic teacher in this case as I don’t want people to figure out who the anxious student was.  But I do want to take a moment to celebrate the great work of some of our teachers in the first week of school.

  • Ms. Williams has done a lot of work this summer organizing an overseas workshop for IB Theatre students in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
  • Ms. Ray has worked very hard on developing a new CAS website where important learning outcomes can be celebrated.
  • Mr. Ferguson recently gave an outstanding webinar on the role of assessment in Physical Education.
  • Ms. Scheirer has expressed an interest in working with Student Government, helping their initiatives to become more organized and better celebrated.
  • Ms. Guest has been working with the Seniors on organizing the student lounge.

So many of our teachers are doing so much for our students and for our school.  This is just a small sample of what some of our teachers are doing.  A rising tide raises all ships and the leadership of these educators is going to be felt across the organization.  Here are some photos from the first week:


(Math students presenting in Mr. Chan’s class and collaborative learning in Ms. Ali’s class)

Looking Ahead:


Community Faire on Wednesday.

Want to meet some of these amazing educators?  Please come to the first annual Community Faire on Wednesday, September 7th from 4:00 to 7:00 PM in the MPH.



High School Back to School Night will take place at 6:00 on September 21st.

What are the requirements to get into HL Physics? What topics are covered in Algebra 1? Which novels will Grade 12’s be studying this year in English?  While Community Faire is intended to build relationships and engagement, more specific curricular information is going to be delivered on this evening.  Don’t miss out!

Assessment dates:

This year we will be triangulating our internal grades with external benchmarks.  This is a KHDA mandate and is an important part of the national agenda as the UAE works to become a top 15 country in education by 2020. This will be especially felt by our Grade 10 students, who will receive a number of assessments this year.  Here are some important dates:

  • Sept 19 and 20 – Grade 10’s will take the CAT 4 assessment.
  • Sept 25 to 30 – Grade 9’s and 10’s will take the MAP assessment.
  • October 1 – 120 students from all over the UAE will participate in the SAT test.

For more information, see the attached from Ms. Gibson Cat 4 Parent letter 2016

Final Thoughts

I want to thank everyone for being so welcoming to me as I step into the huge shoes of Ms. Sebban. I was in touch with her recently and you’ll be happy to know she is having a wonderful time in her new school.  As Principal I am honoured to carry on her legacy.  I will have the pleasure of meeting with the Senior moms this week as we work to celebrate the class of 2017.  We have been accommodating a number of course changes for students in the first week and we will be monitoring whether we need to balance out classes to ensure optimal learning can take place.  We are building our After School Activities programme which will begin in early October.  It’s a busy and exciting time!  On to week 2… 🙂