There was a cheerful vibe at King’s Academy last weekend as hundreds of parents spent two crisp autumn days with their children on campus during Fall Parents Weekend.
Parents came from far and wide to catch up with teachers and advisors and, for the first time, King’s broadcast the Performing Arts Showcase and Headmaster John Austin’s speech live on its Facebook and Instagram social media channels. By going live, hundreds of parents, family members and friends from around the world, who couldn’t be there in person, were able to watch and cheer on the students’ performances as they happened.
Austin welcomed parents bright and early on Thursday morning in the Abdul Majeed Shoman Auditorium, and invited them to shadow their children in mini-classes throughout the day in order to “get a good sense of the kind of learning that King’s Academy is trying to create for its students.”
Austin explained that King’s Academy aspires to create “active, engaged, creative and skeptical thinkers,” and it does this by rejecting the “passive” model of education that most other schools follow. The headmaster noted some of the ways in which the school accomplishes this, such as by investing in the architecture of its classrooms in a way that promotes active learning; for example, with the Harkness tables and flexible seating that have been introduced in many classrooms.
“We aspire to create students who can ask questions and take charge and responsibility of their education,” said Austin. “We try to teach through discussion and active forms of learning so that the student’s voice is heard as part of the classroom experience. We know active learning is critically important to student success, not only in school, college and university, but also in work and life.”
Following the headmaster’s welcome, students entertained parents with a variety of musical, theatrical and dance performances during the Performing Arts Showcase. Starting the showcase off on a lively note, the school orchestra, directed by music teacher Nadine Cunningham, played a selection of songs from “Mamma Mia.” Abdullah Abuomar ’18 then recited the Prince of Verona’s monologue from Romeo and Juliet, to whet the audience’s appetite for the upcoming winter play.
Music teacher and Middle School Dean Reem Abu Rahmeh directed the Glee Club’s poignant performance of “One moment in time.” Theater and dance teachers Alison Trattner and Ryuji Yamaguchi then directed four Introduction to Performing Arts classes in a series of interconnected exercises designed to practice the skills of observation, set to the music “Airports” by Hewar.
The 18-member guitar ensemble, directed by music teacher Mohammad Agha, enchanted the audience with their instrumentals. This was followed by two expressive dance performances by the evening dance ensemble and the Hip Hop co-curricular dance students, choreographed by Yamaguchi and Faisal Al-Mamun respectively. The showcase came to an exuberant conclusion with King’s dabkeh troupe — made up of over 30 students — performing “Ya Halali Ya Mali,” choreographed by Qasim Abuorah.
Before shadowing their children in mini-classes for the rest of the day, parents visited the Gallery where both Upper and Middle School students’ art work was on display, presenting a visually stimulating and colorful collection demonstrating youthful talent in a wide variety of artistic mediums including painting, ceramics, textiles and multi-media.
On Thursday evening, around 50 people participated in the second annual parent, student and faculty football game. The friendly match was followed by music, games and hot dogs.
Also last week, the school hosted the annual Parent Council meeting, chaired by HRH Princess Ghida Talal, who described the council as a “wonderful forum for parents to communicate directly with school leadership in order to address their, or their child’s, concerns,” in addition to noting the important role that council members have as ambassadors for the school. Ten parents were inducted as new members of the Parent Council at the meeting.
One idea that was reinforced throughout Parents Weekend, particularly as parents spent time on Friday catching up with teachers to discuss their children’s academic progress, was the aspect of education most important to King’s faculty. That is, helping to identify what makes each child unique.
Austin highlighted this point during his welcome speech when he said: “So much of education today is deficit-based, concentrated on identifying what students can’t do, whereas schools should be focusing on what they can do.” The headmaster encouraged parents to have discussions with teachers about the strengths, capacities, abilities and talents of their children. “The purpose of school is to unlock and reveal them, and help them surface.”