Lower School

Reflecting on How Far We’ve Come

好 奇 Curiosity
好 奇 Curiosity

As Head of Early Childhood Wei Qian prepares to begin her maternity leave this week, I am entering professional transition mode, making preparations for my temporary shift to oversee our extended K-5 band. I’m looking forward to spending more time with the many familiar K-1 faculty members with whom I worked particularly closely back in 2018-19. One interesting fact that we discovered during the pandemic was that CAIS experienced less teacher turnover than our average Bay Area peer independent schools. My working hypothesis is that, with our mission to Embrace Chinese and our history as the first Mandarin-English school of its kind in the US, we tend to attract those self-selecting types of educators who are inspired and invigorated by the idea of being on the cutting edge of a field. There’s nowhere else quite like CAIS if you want to play a role in the everyday innovation of Mandarin immersion education.

The last time the full K-5 was under my purview was six years ago, and I’m feeling particularly reflective, and proud, as I think about the strides we have made as a school in just that handful of years. Here are some examples of the energy and efficiency with which CAIS has evolved and iterated our programming since 2018.

Alternating Language Days

Our K-5 campus made the significant switch from transition-heavy half-days spent in each language to robust alternating full days spent engaging in all core academic classes in Mandarin. This led to interesting and exciting shifts to our teachers’ management and classroom leadership styles and opened the door for deeper, more extended periods of learning on any given day.

Social Emotional Learning

We embarked upon a relationship with Bay Area organization Social Thinking, and have since essentially turned a monolingual methodology into a bilingual one with our own uniquely CAIS versions of their core concepts and methodologies. Our students can move seamlessly between their classrooms knowing that the vocabulary and concepts used to help them make sense of their social experiences and expectations (for example, our 团体计划 or “Group Plan”) are consistent across languages.

Bilingual and Bicultural Standards

Faculty have engaged in the creation of new bilingual and bicultural standards and schools of thoughts where previously none existed, as evidenced by the rich re-design of our math frameworks and pedagogical strategies, pulling the very best from American Common Core standards and the elegant New Taiwanese Education Curriculum standards to create uniquely CAIS standards that truly fit the novel needs of our specific population of student mathematicians.

Early Childhood Education Leaders

CAIS’s then pilot ECCIF (Early Childhood Chinese Immersion Forum) is now a professional education institution, preparing for its 7th annual meeting. This conference, founded by CAIS and drawing top-tier early childhood educators from within our school and around the nation, is one of many ways that CAIS has continuously professionalized the underrepresented field of Early Childhood Mandarin Immersion.

Full Immersion Preschool

Speaking of early childhood, our Preschool went from being 50-50 English-Mandarin to being 100% full Mandarin immersion, offering our students rich experiences in STEM, design thinking, literacy exploration, fine and gross motor development, and more, all in the target language and under the tutelage of exceptional teachers.

Tech Savvy Faculty

We’ve seen an explosion in digital prowess by our faculty, who not only learned quite literally overnight how to conduct school online, but have maintained and expanded their digital capabilities as they source and curate digital educational tools and content to better serve our students.

And of course, by the end of my interim time overseeing K-5, we will have embarked on the largest physical, and possibly community cultural, change in our school’s history, unifying as one community at our new campus on 19th Avenue! 

There are myriad wonderful independent schools in the Bay Area, but there is only one CAIS. I look forward to working with you and your children this spring and early next fall as we make the move to our new Forever Home.