Alfonso's news & updates

Dear Friends,
We had some great visits this week: from the Chinese Ambassador Wu Jianmin, who responded so joyfully to our students’ excellent Chinese ability; from the leaders of Confucius Institutes all over Canada, the US and China, who were also quite impressed with our students, our Chinese teachers, and the combination of immersion with the PYP; and finally from a NASA engineer who presented to the Spanish grade 4 and 5 students in Spanish and to other grade 4’s and 5’s in English.

HS-J-PK-1Secondly, thanks to the many people who came out for the first PTO meeting of the year. I am grateful to have such a strong group of people working on the PTO and functioning as room parents, and I particularly enjoyed having a chance to hear more perspectives from all of you.

Being new to TIS I have so much to learn about people’s points of view and about what really goes on around me each day. At the meeting I said that I sometimes feel the community is a bit fragmented. It may just be that I have forgotten what American life is like! But I certainly need to hear all your voices to insure that we remain one community. All at the meeting agreed that there are many good things that bind us together at TIS. And I see that every day as I go into classrooms. We are blessed with a really fine group of teachers.

One point I shared with parents was the homework policy we have just developed. After extensive discussion with teachers, I am currently convinced that especially for the Japanese and Chinese tracks, teachers need to assign the amounts of homework listed below - which are the MAXIMUM for each grade. As I believe one of the articles mentions in the packet on homework I sent you (as part of ITK) earlier this month, homework rates have generally been higher in independent schools, and they are bound to be higher than the national PTA guidelines in a language immersion school such as ours. The outside limits for homework amounts at TIS are as follows:

  • Grade 1:  up to 30 minutes plus up to 15 minutes reading English with parents or alone

  • Grade 2: up to40 mins plus 15 English

  • Grade 3: up to45 mins plus 15 English

  • Grade 4: up to 50 mins plus 15 English

  • Grade 5: up to 60 mins plus 15 English

Please bear in mind, these are outside limits; you do not have to expect (or dread) homework of this length every night. As a parent, your job is to establish a quiet, undistracting place to work and to help the child stay focused enough to complete the work. After this amount of time has elapsed you should stop the child from working further and notify the teacher of what happened. If directions are not clear to the child or to you, then notify the teacher. If you think the work is not productive or fruitful, contact the teacher and calmly let him/her know what you observed at home.

It is normal human nature to resist work at home after a day of work, but that does not mean we have to have big discussions or dramatic scenes with our children. Instead, we can assist them best by keeping them focused and moving forward, and reminding them that they will have time to spend on their preferred endeavors as soon as they finish.

If you have a point of view to share about these homework limits or your homework experience, please feel free to contact me. As I told you, I am learning. However, I already have a very clear sense that our teachers are earnestly focused on the learning of students. Making students proficient in a foreign language by grade 5 is quite an amazing feat.

One piece of advice: don’t miss reading time together in English. Some of my fondest memories are of reading with my son- even after a hard day’s work and night classes and my own homework to do. And in the past when I polled seniors every year I found an amazing correlation between high verbal SAT scores and vivid memories of early reading with parents.


I have asked teachers to communicate with parents by email at least once per week. If this is not happening, please let me know. I have heard from many parents that communication has been regular and excellent.

Yesterday, Sunday September 20th I enjoyed a very fruitful day of work with the entire board at an off campus retreat. We planned for the year ahead, reviewed priorities, reviewed some policies and processes and gave a final look to the strategic plan.

A number of chats with Alfonso and pizza with Alfonso and so on have been added to the calendar (see further down in this ITK for details & RSVP to and I would ask that you send me topics for an open forum I’ll be hosting on October 14th (6:30pm in the gym, childcare provided). I’ll do just about anything to talk with you short of "Alfonso watches the kids while you go out dancing".

Starting this Thursday, I will be at the PreK building each morning on Tuesday and Thursday to find a chance to welcome and chat with PreK parents. (I will find a replacement for traffic coverage: maybe a swat team or special forces squad.)

As I know many of you are busy, I’ll also be sending home a questionnaire soon. For that I will expect a 100% response rate.

Meanwhile take care and more soon,
503-226-2496 x109