Invitation to High School Back to School Night Tomorrow

Please join us for High School Back to School Night on Sunday, September 24th at 5:45 PM in the MPH.

Back to School Night is one of the best nights of the year and I can’t wait to catch up with all the parents!  As BTSN only happens once per year, I would like to take a minute to remind everyone of the purpose of the evening.

1) Build Community

A school is only as good as it’s teachers and at UAS we have great teachers.  This is your chance to get to know them on a personal level.  This is not a parent-teacher interview.  It’s an opportunity to put a face to a name and to hear about what learning is going to take place this year.  If you take the time to build a personal relationship with your children’s teachers, it will be enormously helpful to you as the year progresses.  Take advantage!

2) Communicate

There are a number of new initiatives we are launching at UAS and I will be presenting many of them during my address to the community which will begin at 6:00 PM.  Please be on time to ensure you get a seat!

3) Catch Up

Some students still have not submitted their Academic Honesty forms, Acceptable Use Policy etc.  We aim to get all this cleared up by tomorrow so we can focus on upcoming issues.

Structure of the Evening:

Back to School Night at UAS is designed to give parents choice.

  • Interested in hearing about the direction of the school?  There will be an opportunity to do that.
  • Interested in seeing some formal presentations from the Curriculum Leaders?  There will be an opportunity to do that.
  • Interested in simply getting to know your teachers in one-to-one conversation?  There will be an opportunity to do that.
  • Interested in getting to know other parents over a coffee?  There will be an opportunity to do that.
  • Miss last Sunday’s Week Without Walls presentation and interested in learning about the new local experiences?  There will be an opportunity to do that.

Here is the plan:

5:30 to 5:55 – Parents arrive.  Coffee and refreshments served in the lobby.

6:00 PM – Formal address from Mr. Sealey.

6:25 PM – Prayer time and beginning of informal conversations.  During this time, all teachers, except those who are praying, will be available to meet parents.

6:45 to 8:00 Formal Presentations: for those interested in a more comprehensive overview from the Curriculum Leaders of each department, please feel free to join these presentations.  During the presentation times, the all other teachers will remain in the MPH to chat with parents.

M02/03 Grade 9&10 presentations M04/05 – Grade 11 and 12 presentations
Arabic & AFL: 6:45 – 6:55 Science: 6:45 – 6:55
English:  7:00 – 7:10 Humanities: 7:00 – 7:10
Math:  7:15 – 7:25 Arabic & AFL: 7:15 – 7:25
Science: 7:30 – 7:40 English 7:30 – 7:40
Humanities:  7:45 – 7:55 Math 7:45 – 7:55

Other Important Information:

We balanced out our Arabic, Math and English classes last week.  If your child was moved, he/she will have a new schedule.  The teacher on that schedule will be your child’s for the remainder of the year.

The only classes left to restructure are Grade 9 Languages. As this is the first year that effectively all students in Grade 9 are taking languages, we have not yet found an appropriate place for all students.  If your child is taking French, please take the time to meet both Mr. Devie and Mme. Merlet, as either of them could be your child’s teacher.  Likewise, please get to know Ms. Hontoria and Ms. Rings if your child is in Grade 9 Spanish.

Finally, once again this is not parent-teacher interview night. If you have something urgent and/or personal to discuss with your childrens’ teachers, please arrange a private discussion later on in the week.

Looking forward to a great night!


Ole Sealey

High School Principal.


Incredible First Week!


First of all, it’s been a month since we have welcomed all our wonderful new faculty to UAS.  I’m sure your children have been raving about the interesting, exciting, innovative and engaging teachers we have hired this year.

If you haven’t popped in, please do  the school feels great!  We have been working really hard and the feedback I have gotten from students is that they are very happy with where we are.

Here is a brief list of all the incredible things we have done in the last 8 school days in High School:

  • Welcomed our New Teaching Staff
  • Conducted first ever IB Boot Camp for new students to IB
  • Conducted first ever EE Workshop for Grade 12
  • Welcomed our new students
  • Had our Welcome Back Assembly (Slide show below)
  • Launched our new Advisory Programme
  • Hosted our Week Without Walls Assembly

If you want to check out the assembly presentation, please click here


If you thought THAT was good… Wait until Next Week! 

Sunday September 17th – 7:00 PM – Week Without Walls Parent Information Evening.  Come see what we are offering!

Monday September 18th – 6:00 to 8:00 PM –  Music Students and Parents – Instrument “Zoo”.  An event where music students can roam around and try the various instruments that they will play in this year.

Tuesday September 19th – First Early Release Day – Students to be released at 2:00 and go home.



Due to Islamic New Year our High School Back to School Night has been moved to Sunday, September 24th from 5:30 to 8:30.


What else is on?

Course Changes: Course changes will be accepted up until the end of next week.  After we have a sense of all the changes we will do our annual Schedule Balancing.

Schedule Balancing: Every year, with the very welcome addition of several new students and with many course changes, some classes become unbalanced.  Outside of the Arts and PE, a maximum class size at UAS is 25 students.   Unfortunately, this means some students will have to be moved.  Parents and students affected by the balancing will receive personal letters next Wednesday.

CAT 4 and MAP testing for Grades 9 and 10

Next week we will start our MAP and CAT 4 testing in Grades 9 and 10. We have been looking at this data for the last two years and we are going to be more proactive in using it.  This year, MAP and CAT 4 will be the primary source of data for choosing next year’s courses.  CAT 4 tells us about a student’s aptitude and potential, and MAP tells us how well they are progressing against curriculum standards.  Parents will receive their children’s reports along with our interim reports in November.

That’s it for this week!

I look forward to welcoming everyone to Back to School Night on Sunday, September 24th.

Have a great weekend!

Reflections for the beginning of the year!

Let’s start by looking back!

I’m super excited to welcome the kids back to school tomorrow!  I thought I would take some time to reflect on the work of teachers and look back at some of the best moments I had when I was in the classroom.

When I conducted my M.Ed., I undertook a side project on student perceptions of education.  I followed 5 Australian boys around in their Grade 11 year and interviewed each several times on the purpose of education, and what makes students successful in school.  What I was most surprised by was even at the age of 17, the boys mostly attributed their success to the degree to which they perceived their teachers “liked” them.  We looked at the data and there was a correlation – they did do better in those classes.  What we also discovered, was that the kids put in more work for teachers they believed “liked” them.  They also appeared to respect teachers more who pushed them than who let them coast.  This project was the foundation of educational purpose which is: to help students identify, and achieve, their personal best in education and in life.  That’s still what gets me out of bed every day.

When I returned to the classroom, the results of this qualitative study came with me.  I used it to change my practices.  First of all, I made sure I knew “what”, and more importantly “how” every student thought.  What are their opinions, what are their biases?  I had every student write a full page on whatever they wanted every week for the first month of school.  I read each one thoroughly, giving them feedback on their writing and their ideas.  I did this for a few years as a Middle School Humanities teacher and got great engagement from my kids.  This became the foundation of my teaching practices, and I didn’t spend nearly as much on the content areas as some would have expected me to.  Instead, I focused on the students and on how they thought.  I tried to use as little as I could of the textbooks.  I tried to get them to think conceptually about “what, how and why” and expected them to learn “who, where and when” on their own.

Eventually, I was asked to teach an IB History course.  When I started, I did what I knew instead of what many colleagues and students thought I “should” have been doing – learning my IB curriculum that I had never taught before.  In class, I would facilitate class “fights” but choosing controversial subjects and having kids stand on either side of the room as though in government.  Kids could cross the floor whenever they wanted and someone wasn’t participating I would wait until I heard something I knew they would be passionate about and call them to challenge.  “nice point, Jeff, but I think Amanda would disagree with you”.  Amanda then had to defend her opinion.

Knowing that I didn’t know much about the curriculum, I had to rely on my other strengths.  Having completed an M.Ed. in assessment and curriculum, I knew how to write academically and how to break down assessments.  I taught my kids MLA referencing and in-text citations for the first two weeks of school.  I taught them how to structure long quotations and when it’s best to paraphrase.  I made them learn how to identify flaws in a works-cited page without using the then-emerging technology of cites like “Bib-me”.  When I assigned homework, it was to critique the academic writing of the texts; to find fault in the writing of our books.  The chapters assigned were related to what we were meant to be studying, but the content was simply used because I knew eventually they would have to know it, but the content was not the focus.  The writing was.  I started feeding them past exam questions and getting the kids to do the “where do I stand” activity with content.  I spent weeks going through the technical command terms and teaching them how to identify things like distractors in multiple choice assessments.

As I got more comfortable with the material, we got more into content.  We were clearly behind in terms of content but it was easier than I thought to catch up.  When “real” work started coming in, I already knew how the kids wrote and how they thought.  Most of the time, I’d give comprehensive feedback and kids submitted great work.  If work came in that wasn’t up to a student’s standard, I simply wouldn’t accept it.  I would get half way through reading their work and if it wasn’t well written or didn’t reflect their voice I would simply stop.  There is a “rule” in major IB assessments of only being allowed to give written feedback once, so, I would simply not finish the draft, give it back to the student and tell them I couldn’t accept it.  I’d give a few oral examples of what was wrong and have a conversation.  Were they confused?  Was something else going on?  I’d ask them when they can give me a better, more consistent draft and agree on a new date.  Sometimes I had to repeat this and sometimes I had to accept that the kid was getting more lost and just needed feedback.  Sometimes done was better than perfect, but the students and I both knew we had tried our best.

There is no substitute for experience and eventually (mostly from the kids) I learned the curriculum.  Many of my students would come to me having read some obscure history and ask me what I thought of it.  I would go home, read it, and tell them what I thought.  Often I would use those sources in my lessons, acknowledging the student who brought it to me.  Despite not knowing that much about history, in my last class as a teacher, three of my students went on to attend Ox-Bridge and Ivy League universities in that subject.  I have kept in touch with them all and they have all been so complimentary.  I am honoured to have served them.

Not all students benefitted from my style, or even appreciated it.  Some saw me as a fraud who knew nothing about history as I expected them to learn it and to teach it to me.   Some said I wasn’t “fair”.  Some said I was “too hard a marker”.  Some hated that I wouldn’t accept their work if it wasn’t their best.  Some felt my lessons lacked organization and structure.  Some complained to my principal.  They all had a point.  I owned that I didn’t know all the answers, and I tried to make sure their points were heard.  Whether it be my IBDP courses or my MYP courses, I tried to stay true to my teaching style.  Even with students who didn’t like my methods, I tried to make sure they knew I respected them and I always tried to push them.  I was determined to ensure they attributed their grades as a reflection of their work, and not because they thought I liked or disliked them.

Like most teachers, I have stayed in touch with many of my former students.  Last November, through Linked In, I received this unsolicited message from a former student who was once very much in the camp of students who didn’t care for my methods:

Hello Mr. Sealey,

“I’m not sure if you remember me but I was in one of your classes… about 6 years ago. The other day I was thinking about how the education system could be improved to promote relevant learning and skills that would be valuable in the future. I feel as though there are a lot of faults in the system that could be improved. In my head, I was going through all the teachers I have had in my life and how effective their teaching was. You came to mind as being one of the best teachers in terms of challenging the ideas. I specifically remember a project you had us do about the (2010 Vancouver) Olympics and the problems with (it’s) governance – though I didn’t recognize the significance of the subject at the time. You truly went beyond the regular curriculum to make the course connect with real life problems. I wish teachers in school would do this more as in hindsight, this is helpful in furthering our knowledge and learning how to not accept the norm – although I understand this is difficult when you are given an outline to follow.”


Indeed, I remembered her well.  I remember her because at the beginning of that year, she was very critical of my teaching at student-led conferences.  I remember being impressed with her courage as she insisted I wasn’t teaching her “anything”.  You see, I was one of two teachers of that course and my colleague had a powerpoint every lesson and was meticulous through the curriculum.  I remember that meeting because afterward, I tried to be a little more organized, plan my lessons a little more thoroughly, and engage in some more didactic lessons.  I regret not making it a point to tell her that her critique helped and that her points were valid.  Had I built a better relationship, I could have had a bigger impact on her learning and maybe it wouldn’t have been 6 years since I’d last heard how she is doing.  This student reminded me that I had a responsibility to teach the curriculum and because of her I did that, but I always looked for a current event to use and when an opportunity to ditch the textbook came up, I jumped at it.

To get a letter like that, out of the blue, from a student you hadn’t spoken to in almost 7 years was amazing.  From her message, it seems she forgot that as a 14-year-old, she didn’t initially like my methods. At the time, I didn’t always think about my lesson objectives and I wasn’t always organized.  She made me better in those ways, and I am grateful.  You can’t have a connection with every student, but you can respect each and every one.  Giving respect to another person is like giving it to a mirror, it will come right back at you.

I want to thank every teacher for reaching out to young people and helping them achieve the best possible version of themselves.  Sometimes the things you try to do take years before they have an impact.  But the work you do matters!  It matters so much that years from now, some young person will take time out of their day to thank you for doing what you do best.

For the past two weeks, UAS teachers have been building curriculum, writing their syllabi, collaborating, standardizing assessments, marking exam re-takes, organizing their classrooms, planning the new advisory programmes, organizing resources and building trust.  We are doing that for our students. They are the people we serve and tomorrow all that hard work gets a context.

As we begin the year here at UAS.  Let’s really work to get to know how our students think.  Let’s focus on helping them learn.  Let’s listen to our students and help them set goals.  Let’s not accept work that is any less than their best effort.  If we do that, they will never forget us.

Let’s have a great year!




Important Information re: IB Boot Camp September 5 and 6 and other Summer Learning

Dear Parents,

First of all, I’d like to wish everybody a wonderful Eid!  I hope you had a great holiday!  There are so many amazing things that happen every day here at UAS and I am so proud to be a part of this community.
Once again, our IB Boot Camp starts tomorrow and we can’t wait to see the students!  As you may know, most IB schools around the world are in their second or third week of school by now.  We appreciate the support of parents who have rearranged travel plans to support us in supporting our students.
Please know that the cafeteria will not be in service, students must bring their own food!
Here are a few more things the UAS team did over the summer:

UAS Students Attend Stanford University Pre-Collegiate International Institute

August 8 through 20

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

On August 8, nine UAS students made their way to San Francisco, California and then on to Stanford University located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, California. The students attended the Stanford University Pre-Collegiate Institute.

With great excitement and high anxiety they participated with 450 students from other countries representing 6 continents. They experienced life as a collegiate student for 12 days. After settling into their dormitory rooms and a dorm “house meeting”, the students were divided into 4 mixed nationality cohorts.

Students attended classes taught by renowned university professors. Classes covered a variety of topics including: Visual Design Thinking, Democracy: Why or Why Not, Creative Writing, Robotics, Mathematical Logic, Anatomy and Digital Anatomy, Stem Cell Technology, Biotechnology, Normativity, Neuroscience, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship. Interspersed with the courses were field trips to San Francisco, Levi Stadium (home of the 49ers) and an outing to Great America theme park.

Each student said how rewarding the experience was for them. Some saying “it was life changing” and “the best experience in their life”. All of them came away with new perspectives on our modern world, hope for a better future, new friends from around the world, and a renewed sense of what it means to be a “global citizen”.

Huge Kudos to the Esol organization for promoting this opportunity and to Mr. Allen Finney for taking time out of his summer to support this incredible opportunity!

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Kyrgyzstan Mosque Project
In June, Mr. Fayez and Mr. Kamch made the long journey to Kyrgyzstan for the grand opening of the mosque built by donations from the UAS community.  As you may recall, Mr. Fayez and his team held a campaign in the 2015-16 school year from which they raised 160000 AED.  The mosque is now complete and Mr. Fayez and Mr. Kamch were the guests of honour at the grand opening.  The mosque is located in the village of Khotor, a six hour journey from the capital, Bishkek.
Our colleagues were so proud to see their hard work realized.  Mr. Kamch and Mr. Fayez would like to extend a huge congratulations to the students and parents who helped this dream come true.  Through this well-managed campaign, the school truly embodied the IB spirit of using education to make the world a better and more peaceful place!
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Again, here are the final important dates for High School:

Tues./Wed. September 5 and 6 – All IB Diploma Students to attend School from 10:00 to 3:00 (no busses)

  • Grade 11 students will report to the MPH
  • Grade 12 student will report to the Secondary Library

Thursday, September 7 – New High School Student Orientation 9:00 to 11:00 (no busses)

  • New students (and their parents) should report to the Secondary Library.  Please arrive by 8:45.
  • New students who have not yet selected courses will do so from 11:00 to 12:00.

Sunday September 10 – First day of High School (busses will run in most routes)

  • Students to report directly to the MPH for Opening Assembly
  • There will be a special schedule for this day.
  • Grade 12 Extended Essay drafts due!

Sunday September 17 – Week Without Walls Update! 6:30 PM High School Library

  • Parent Information evening

Wednesday September 20 – Back to School Night (6:00 – 8:00 PM in the MPH)

  • Opportunity to meet your children’s teachers and learn about developments in HS this year