What makes TASIS Portugal unique?
Here is an answer in three parts:
1. Our People
We have an advantage as a new school in Portugal. Attracted by the great TASIS reputation, our teachers want to be a part of starting a new educational venture. They are interested in our fresh approach, focused leadership, strong mission, and commitment to professional learning.
Higher salaries don't hurt, but that is rarely the main reason great teachers seek out TASIS. Rather, they seek respect, a place that values them as professionals, and an environment that holds them to high standards while allowing them significant autonomy.
2. Our Program
Our academic program is unique--especially in the lower school, where students benefit from two full time experienced teachers (not teaching assistants) in each classroom. In the Early Learning Center, there are often three teachers for classes of 22 or fewer.
This allows for differentiated instruction and high levels of both support and challenge. At these young ages students differ considerably in their backgrounds and maturity level. We believe these foundational years are the best time to invest in high quality teaching and learning.
By grade four, TASIS Portugal ensures that subject specialists meet children in all subject areas to share their passion and depth of knowledge, for no one teacher can be expert in all things. Of course, both the curricular program and the co-curricular program include specialist teachers in many areas including physical education, fine and performing arts, yoga, chess, violin, coding, Portuguese, and many other activities.
3. Our Culture
I believe culture might be the most important ingredient in a successful school. The word "culture" derives from the Latin root cultus, meaning care. It represents a particular way of doing things, an organizational climate, and deeply held beliefs. It can be healthy or unhealthy.
Culture can exist in pockets or transcend an organization's entire structure. It can make or break a school. As Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
A strong culture (whether positive or negative) is very difficult to change, especially in the short term. If you intend to introduce a change that is incompatible with an organization’s culture, you have only three choices: Modify the change to be more in line with the existing culture, alter the culture to be more in line with the proposed change, or prepare to fail (Salisbury and Conner).
What Makes for a Great Team?
You get a feeling when you walk in the door of a great school. It's a feeling that grows in strength and warmth the longer you are in the building. Being part of a great team is about being part of something larger than yourself, of being connected, of being generative. Those who have been part of such a school remember the feeling and commitment that pervades the experience, and some spend the rest of their lives looking for ways to recapture that spirit.
The heart of strong positive school culture is trust. Trust to make mistakes, trust to risk, trust to learn from one another, trust in one's peers and trust in the school's leadership. Team members who have trust have high expectations for one another, hold themselves accountable, and create true learning communities.
Research suggests this also improves student learning, which makes sense. Healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion, and provide environments star performers never want to leave.
At TASIS Portugal, this team includes the faculty, staff, and leadership, obviously. However, it also involves parents in the educational partnership. When parents trust that a school will make decisions with the best interests of their children in mind, and teachers feel the support of parents, it is a combination that cannot fail.
That is what TASIS Portugal expects and it is the value proposition we offer.