AURAK Puts the “Pal” in Principal

March 22 2017,

In continuation of Innovation Month for the UAE, the American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK)’s Dr. Judy Khaloui, Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership, and Dr. Winnifred O’Toole, Assistant Professor of Education, lead a workshop for local community principals entitled “Leadership and Learning.”

AURAK President, President Prof. Hassan Hamdan Al Alkim, welcomed principals, wishing them a successful workshop and relating his desire for AURAK to provide them with what they need in bridging the gap between academia and industry.

Dean of Student Support Services, Dr. Steven J. Zani, introduced Dr. Judy to the audience and she commenced with “Leading Learning in the 21st Century” in which she explained that lessons should require the four Cs: creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration.  To illustrate her point, she assigned the principals the task of trying to estimate how many M&M candies would fit into a 500ml bottle.  Each member of the group was given a 500ml bottle of water, a small package of chocolate M&Ms, a ruler, and a plastic cup to help them solve the problem. In moments the principals found themselves fully engaged in collaborating with their colleagues over the best strategies to use in completing their assignment and using their manipulatives to see how many candies would fit.  In reflection of the activity, principals agreed that lessons should have hands on engagement, interactions, interest, practical application, and require problem-solving skills.

Dr. Winnifred took the podium after Dr. Judy with her presentation of “6 Life Threatening Journeys Made by Kids to Go to School.” She asked principals to reflect on their trips to school when they were a child.  Many principals reminisced about riding buses and adventures they pretended to have while walking to school.  She then showed a video depicting Indonesian, Chinese, and Columbian child age students crossing broken bridges, climbing rickety ladders, zip lining over gorges, and rafting down white water rapids to get to school every day.  “They face death in the literal sense to get to school on time.”  She wanted the principals to remember the journey their kids take to school affects them.  Your journey as a principal to school every day affects you and, in turn, affects your students.

“You must educate the whole child; physical needs, emotional needs, and psychological needs must be met before you can expect them to learn content.”

Mrs. Shaw of RAK Academy for Girls found the presentation extremely useful, “It made us reflect as practitioners and provided us with a roadmap to make sure we were on the right path and the same path that is aligned with UAE standards.  I liked the practical element in illustrating activities we can implement in our programs.  It’s not about throwing out old ways, but taking the best and developing them.  She got us doing something practical and engaging.  She put the theory into practice.  It was pragmatic and realistic. It’s food for thought.”

The presentation concluded by Dr. Steven relating how glad he is that AURAK can support them and their students in any way, “It was a real pleasure to see our area principals and administrators hearing about innovative teaching for the 21st century.  These interactive workshops for me showed what this event was really about, how education has changed in the last few years and we need to change with it.”