Justin Usherthe Boarding Director | College Du Leman
- First, please tell us about your school.
- Justin : “Collège Du Léman was founded 60 years ago. Our school is located near Geneva, between the mountains and the lake. At our school, we have 2 to 18 years old’s, and our boarding system starts from 8 years old to 18 years old. As a school, we are known as a visionary school with our education philosophy and also for leadership we have at school. We have been involved in many different projects since its inception. We are a part of the Nord Anglia Education family of schools, which represents 70 schools across the world. The school is unique because it has a focus on a balance in life. We are focused on not just the education inside of the classroom, but as much for me the boarding is about education outside the classroom, to make sure our children understand academics are very important but is equally important to know the values in life: Respect, Internationalism, Team spirits, Excellence of value which we put in our acronym, RISE. Everybody in the school understands what RISE means. The teachers we have for boarding are dedicated to the boarding department, and they don’t work in classrooms. In this way, we can make sure children understand important things in the 21st Century. For example we teach about healthy eating, healthy thinking, how to choose correct friends in life, how to stay safe using online, and how to balance screen addiction. There are 5 pillars of well-being, which we give reports to our families, so our reports are not just about academic records, but also the situation of their life.
The other thing is our school is very international. We have students with over 100 nationalities. It is a very diverse and great environment for children to learn about each other and different cultures every day inside and outside of the classroom. “
- What does your child's life look like at your school?
- Justin : “ Children wake up at 7’oclock and they have breakfast all together. We don’t allow any screens or tech at breakfast because we want them to talk to each other. Then we have lessons. The class is mixed with day students from 10AM to 4PM. The students are allowed to choose the class from many such as high school program, high school program with AP, IB, IBDP, and IBCP. After 4pm, children go back to the boarding house. They meet boarding parents and have a little chat before their activities. The activity is from 4:15 to 5:15 PM. After a 20 minutes break, there is another activity, where they choose from over 100 activities every week. For example, if you want to study more about debating, you can do that. If you would like to do any sports such as horse riding or sailing, you can do that as well. After all that, it is dinner time. Dinner time is from 6:30 -7:50 PM, and we put our focus on having an international dinner. In February, we celebrated Chinese New Year with Chinese food, and we also celebrate Iranian New Year with Iranian cuisine in March. In the evening, our students need to stay on campus. They can still go to the fitness room or join some clubs on campus as well. It is a 1- hour free time. Students need to go back to their bedroom by 8:45 PM and they have 1 more hour to study. Sleeping time depends on the age; younger students go to bed around 8:30 PM and older students start going to sleep around 10PM to 11PM. On weekends, we try to throw as many activities as we can because that is a part of balance. We have a big activity program such as volleyball club, mountain biking club, rugby club, football club, and so on. These are conducted on Saturday morning. In the afternoon, students are allowed to go out to enjoy one of the benefits of our school location, which is next to Geneva. Students can enjoy and learn the real world. If they are young, they are supervised with their teachers. As they get older, they have more independence to go on their own. On Sunday, we go on a cultural trip across Switzerland. “
- COVID-19 really affected many aspects of education. It is hard especially for young people. What were the challenges and how did you solve the situation?
- Justin : “It is indeed challenging during the COVID-19 to provide students with the environment as normal as possible. I have to say I am very proud as a school. We have 2,000 students, and we have been operational ever since last April. We were closed for about 1 month when the government ordered everyone to close, but since then we have been open. I have many friends in the U.K. or across Switzerland who work at schools, and many of them had to shut down because there were some problems to reopen. We managed to contain COVID. The reason why we could do that is because we worked on education every at the level. We worked to educate our kids to take responsibility in prevention. In terms of hygiene, we have tested our kids a lot. We were one of the first schools to have a test in Switzerland, so we were able to test our kids on a regular basis. Every time they go away, we test them when they come back. If they go to a high risk area, we have special villas that we have as a school where we put our kids for 10 days, so they stay in the villa working virtually on a one to one basis with teachers. We know that is not the best because the best thing is to be in the classroom with their teachers and their friends. We have been able to make sure that we keep operating, putting kids in the classroom, and even going on trips. It was very important to keep those activities for the mental well-being of children. We did have some restrictions to keep the school open. In normal time, students can go to Geneva with permission. However for the last 8 months, students are not allowed to go unless we have permission from their parents and the number of cases are not high in the city. We could let children eat together at the big table as well without masks. We have a medical room within our campus and we have a doctor who is famous in Switzerland. We are the only one who have been open. It is a lot of work, but it is worth it to keep the environment for children. “
You can check the video about boarding life herehere.
As the only school in Switzerland that is currently operating normally, they are working on the prevention of COVID-19 a lot. I think the key point is that they taught the children to behave responsibly, not just doing the precaution by the adults. Here, children are not treated as children, but as members of society.
Natsuko MitsugiGKCors / Pivot Tokyo
- Pivot Tokyo Executive Director / GKCors Director