April 3, 2016 - Michael Salinger

International School of Belgrade

isb003“You’ll get worms if you eat poop!”

This is the sage advice given to me from Max – a kindergarten student at the International School of Belgrade – just as I was leaving campus. He was perched, fresh crew cut, clinging onto a white picket fence that bordered the playground then dashed off toward the swing set as soon as this important hygiene tip was delivered. It’s something I am going to remember.

I’ll also remember the rest of our visit to ISB – but Max’s parting shot reminds us that one can never be 100% sure what is going to stick in one’s gray matter. This is the reason we assess students learning. Our good friend and education guru Stephanie Harvey says, ”We assess often and evaluate rarely.” Assess comes from the Latin assidere which means, “to sit by”. It’s a check on progress, a metaphorical look over the shoulder – not a grade. A grade, percentage, or numeric value – that’s the rare evaluation that Steph is talking about.


Sara and I feel our quick writes are a perfect addition to the formative assessments teachers use in their classroom. They’re precise and concise by design – if a kid is getting the lesson it’s quickly apparent if a kid is off base that too is instantly evident. So I was stoked when one of the elementary grade teachers invited us into her classroom so she could “see what her kids know.” This is the perfect attitude as far as I am concerned. After the class this same teacher told me that there were a couple things she noticed that need revisiting. Again the perfect attitude – assessment informs us of the success of our instruction every bit as much as the progression of understanding by our students.


We found engaged and involved teachers throughout our visit to ISB. We attended a Poetry Jam performance by upper school students where it was obvious the teachers have fostered an environment where the kids felt secure in tackling big subjects and expressing their ideas about them.


Kudos to the administration and staff – ISB is definitely a school on a healthy education diet. Special shout out to Brooke – librarian extraordinaire who invited us to share this cozy corner of the world – and to Betsy who made sure we got a flavor for Belgrade that we could savor like ajvar spread across crusty bread.

So, even without Max’s suspect epicurean advice – I think Belgrade is a place and time that certainly won’t fade from our memory.

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“Sara and Michael bring infectious energy and joy leavened with deep knowledge of best practices in literacy to their work with children and teachers.” Ellin Keene – Author of Mosaic of Thought and The Teacher You Want to Be
“Sara and Michael bring magic, and a contagious love of words to both students and teachers alike!” Georgia Heard - Author of Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School More testimonials...