Last night, I had the opportunity to sit in on Sara Weintraub’s Introduction to Writing Workshop for Elementary Parents (there was a repeat session this morning too – but I couldn’t attend that one!). Writing Workshop is an approach to writing instruction that has been implemented in all our Elementary classes since Sara’s arrival at The École. The parents who attended the sessions were treated to a micro-lesson and were called on to produce their own pieces of writing; they had to write a little story seemingly from nothing except for Sarah’s hints, tricks, and nudges: peoples, places, sensations, all came together to create an arsenal of illuminating ideas – a strategy that works just as well with grown-ups as it does with children looking for inspiration.

Personally, I know how it feels to find myself in front of a blank page – it happens to me every Friday morning when I sit down at my desk to write to you! My little trick is to think back to February 2020, when I first visited The École as a candidate for the position of head of school. I was able then to observe The École objectively as a professional without any concessions – I had but a few hours to identify the school’s areas of strength and those in need of improvement. We all know full well that first impressions count, and my first impression was that it wasn’t that easy to really discern the bilingualism that was touted everywhere – down to the school’s very name.

Using those first impressions as a springboard, I have made it my mission to work with my colleagues to make our bilingualism truly visible. Those of you who have been with us for at least three years will have spotted the shift in the class schedules to give more time to English: we’ve increased the number of subjects taught in English in Elementary and Middle School, we’ve recruited new teachers, we’ve reviewed the language support provided to our students so it meets their specific needs – it is no longer French or English second language support but rather language and literacy support that helps guide our students through increasingly complex texts, All of these transformations, which find their anecdotal expression in the displays along our corridors, are the trace of the answers to an initial question: what does a truly bilingual, bicultural school look like?

My hypothesis – my certainty – is that the two cultures should nourish each other and in order for that to happen the two languages should be on an equal footing in our school. From the outset, I knew I wasn’t an ideal or credible candidate to lead the project to develop the American side of our curriculum. I knew that I would have to recruit the best person for the job and put all my trust in them.

In the Spring of 2021, after several months of research and interviews,  I asked Sara to join The École for the following school year, so that she could inspire, coach, organize, and harmonize our American team. She made an immediate impact. I know that the parents at the workshop last night and this morning learned a lot listening to her. You can only imagine how much we, her colleagues, learn from talking with her and visiting her in class. Her intelligence, her knowledge, and her teacher-training know-how unite the entire team around her and the exhilarating projects she puts in place.

Yesterday, Sara inspired me once again to keep on writing the story of The École and to keep on sharing it with you. As you might suspect, Sara is one of the main characters in our story.