We had the opportunity to get to know Northview International School's founding principal, Mr. Sheldon Smith, ahead of the school's opening
11 March 2021| Last updated on 24 March 2021
Explore a fantastic curriculum that aims to spark students’ love for school and lifelong learning...
A new American-style school is opening this fall in Qatar, welcoming students for its upcoming 2021/2022 academic year.
Northview International School, operated and delivered under leading education group Artemis Education, aims to build a foundation to the community. They are a new school based in Umm-Garn, Doha, centred around kindness and educating children with the necessary 21st century skills to prepare them for the future workforce.
We caught up with founding principal Mr. Sheldon Smith to find out more about the school, what they offer, and what parents and students can expect at their phenomenal new campus.
Q. What three words would your last school use to describe you?
"I believe that if staff were asked to describe me and my leadership style, the three words they would use are honest, transparent, and kind."
Q. What’s it like building up Northview International School during these health-sensitive times? Can you describe that lived experience?
"It is more than just a Northview experience; it is a global experience. The COVID crisis is a global pandemic and many people have suffered so I want to be sensitive to this, however, I do think there have been some positive impacts as well.
One positive aspect is that there is a much better understanding of cleanliness in public spaces and schools. Now more than ever, we are more conscientious of cleaning surfaces like light switches and doorknobs in schools. This improved practice has become routine and it will also benefit the health and wellbeing of our community.
This unprecedented time has also encouraged people to be more compassionate and think about the safety and wellbeing of others. It has demonstrated that wearing a face mask and taking our temperatures is not necessarily a bad thing because it helps to protect everyone around us.
Collectively, if we can continue this practice, we can work to reduce the occurrence of common sicknesses, like the flu, and everyone would positively benefit."
Q. What might school look like this September, based on your initial plans?
"We are assuming that the current MoEHE (Ministry of Education and Higher Education) protocols will remain in place for September.
As such, this means a maximum of 15 per class and maintaining social distancing is required to ensure a safe environment. With these guidelines, it is up to us to create the best learning experience that we can for our students.
We need to be creative and innovative while we encourage engaging learning in a personalized way. This is exactly what we are focusing on and we are committed to laying a solid foundation for the next academic year."
Q. Some students may have trouble adjusting from a long year of online and hybrid learning. How will NVIS ensure they meet any learning gaps?
"In this particular case, we are in a unique position. We are in a new school that will initially have approximately 250-300 founding students within the entire campus.
In the initial phase, we will have 24 classrooms so we can easily meet the 15 individuals per classroom requirement and operate below 30% of the MoEHE’s maximum capacity guidelines.
This means that every child can attend Northview 5 days a week. This ensures continuity of learning in fun and safe environment. And while on-site learning is preferred by most parents, we are fully prepared for on-line and blended learning models.
At Northview, we strive to have each child engage with their teacher and engage with their classmates, every single day."
Q. Were there any moments that took you by surprise?
"I think what took me by surprise the most, well I guess it is not really a surprise but more of a confirmation, is that our school’s location is desirable amongst parents. Also, parents have confirmed that we have chosen the correct curriculum path and that they understand our relate to our ethos.
We are delighted to hear that parents want a community school where everyone is cherished, is valued, and is respected for their point of view.
Saying all this, there have been some surprises. In our quaint area but expanding area of Umm-Garn, the predominant market demographic consists of Qatari families. One might assume that this consists of conservative families who are against co-ed schooling, however, we have been pleasantly surprised to learn that they are in support of co-ed classrooms.
This goes against some commonly held stereotypes and it has been an incredibly positive eye opener.
Another surprise is that parents have been wonderfully open minded and are interested in how their children develop and view the world.
Prospective parents have been keen to learn about the curriculum provision and they have shared clear feedback on what types of activities they would like for their children. For example, a parent recently inquired about the amount of time that we have planned for P.E. each week as they want their children to engage in physical activity, as well as be active learners."
"Parents have also shown a focused interest in the wide range of extra-curricular activities that we have planned.
Recently a mother and her two daughters came to our Visitor Center. The older daughter was forthright in sharing her disdain over changing schools.
While introducing Northview, we enthusiastically explained our diverse after school activities (ASA) program and her daughter’s eyes lit up. She became animated and invested in our conversation. At the end of the meeting, the mother asked her daughter what she thought about going to Northview and to our surprise, she said that she could not wait because they have such cool after school activities.
So again, witnessing families putting their faith in our approach is another fantastic surprise."
Q. What makes the American Common Core curriculum and IPC a unique learning path?
"The American Core curriculum and IPC are unique to themselves, but put together, they have helped us structure a bespoke curriculum for Northview.
The IEYC, IPC and IMYC curriculums are thematic and by using this as a foundation, it has enabled us to create an extraordinary eco-curriculum which is the core that will run through all our teaching and learning. Everything is in collaboration and is cross-curricular through math, science, and English.
The beauty of the American Common core standards is that it is not overly prescriptive. It is a framework that acts as a guideline, so we understand what measures we need to deliver from an educational point of view to meet the learning needs of the students without being tied to an exam.
This is a notable difference as we are not bound to an exam center which prescribes content and focuses on revision.
This allows us to have a personalized approach and the teacher, who knows the student best, can assess, and differentiate the student’s learning journey."
Q. What are some key features of the campus that have ‘wow’-ed you so far?
"When the campus is complete it will be ‘purpose-built’ and state-of-the-art’, which you often hear to describe new schools. However, when you get down to the details and innerworkings of the school, this is the ‘WOW’.
Our black box theatre, computer and robotics labs, are amazing but the differentiation of the classrooms in fixtures, furniture and resources all show extreme thought and care in how we are setting up the school. This phenomenal learning environment is pioneered by a group of passionate people who have decades of educational experience.
What we have is an opportunity to take this extensive experience, examine models and adapt it to create and facilitate the best teaching and learning environment. So, the WOW factor goes into every nook and cranny of the school! We want children to feel that coming to this school special and that every day is going to be about fun, exploration, and enjoyment."
Q. From your experience, where does education in Qatar differ from other countries?
"Essentially it doesn’t. A good school is a good school. It does not matter if you are in the US, Malaysia, Thailand or anywhere.
If you have a good school, it is because you have caring people who understand educating and nurturing children. To a large degree, the facilities are not paramount as you can have an exceptional learning experience in a small village school in Nepal or even a villa here.
The best learning experience is not about geography or facilities, but the people that engage and challenge the students."
Q. During these difficult times, how do you keep spirits high among NVIS’ founding staff?
"Our founding staff are all from Qatar. They are still completing contracts and they are preserving under daily and weekly pressures. I can proudly say that our founding team are some of the most positive, forward thinking, open-minded people that I have ever encountered in my career.
We are extremely lucky to have a stellar leadership team coming onboard. And within their networks, they have been reaching out to other likeminded people, and that is a key cornerstone to our initial development.
The Arabic and English staff are a wonderful team of people and my job now is to give them as much support as possible. Everyone knows everyone so we are a group of friends and networked colleagues, working together to create something extraordinary, which is truly special."
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges you find lie ahead for NVIS?
"In my mind, the biggest challenge that we will have is to continually upskill and train teachers to understand how we want to build up the school. We do not want to be prescriptive. We do not want a teacher that is set in their way, unless it is our way.
I think one of the key goals is that happy teachers make happy students, not the other way around. Our teachers need to feel that they are valued and that their concerns are met honestly, fairly and with kindness. This must be ongoing, each day, with a ‘boots on the ground’ approach that provides the necessary support structure.
We cannot wait to open our doors and welcome our teachers, parents, and students to Northview International School!"