Julie Lemley

ISB Professional Growth Reflections

Mid Year Reflections + Semester Two Goals

Whoa! What a semester.

Many people have been checking in with me this semester and a common comment is “What a crazy year to start in an Assistant Principal role!?”.


Honestly, I don’t know any better and I assumed it would be busy and there would be a lot of things going on.  I don’t know if it would be any busier in a regular year.  I think for some things, COVID has actually made life a bit more simple – no traveling, minimal events, no big PD.

I will say one thing, is that I really love my job.  I don’t always feel competent or confident, but I do really love what I am doing.  While I am working on the balance of my job – trying to find time to work on the things that I really value – happy, healthy students & teachers, SEL, quality instruction – all nestled in a positive, happy, and inclusive culture.

I feel horrible some weeks when I look back and think “I’ve only been in 2 classes this week” because I have other things that have taken priority – student wellness, parent contacts, discipline, staffing, etc.

So, in this post, as I reflect and synthesize my thoughts, I will also share some data that I collected.  It’s not much, but I do want to use data to celebrate successes, check-in with myself, and look at areas I can grown in.

I semi-made some goals in my head and in my previous post at the beginning of the school year, but I’m really going to just use this space to reflect on semester one and use my data to create goals for next semester.

Know our students!  

    • I am lucky that I have known a lot of our students since Middle School.  My first grade 8 mentoring group students are the current Seniors, so I know them well.  I have gone on a lot of trips with them and due to my previous job of a Design Facilitator, I was able to work with many of them on a lot of different projects, Enrichments, Clubs and through coaching as well. I want to stay visible and continue to forge relationships with our students, not just when they visit my office for disciplinary action.  I want to know the kids and learn about the great things about them, as long as support them through their struggles.  I love standing out in front of the school when the busses roll in and say Good Morning to them.  It’s a time I quietly quiz myself on their names, as well.  It’s definitely challenging this year with students wearing masks.  I was able to create a data point here that I was not so happy with when I tallied them today.  I printed out all the mentoring group pictures so I could learn the kids’ names (I saw a HS Principal do this in a school in LA and thought it was a great idea).  I put a green dot next to their name if I knew their name, and at least two things about them.  A pink dot if I knew their name, but not really anything about them and I left blank students who I couldn’t name nor knew anything about them.

Here’s the data I collected:

Total Number of Students.                Number I Know (Fairly Well)            Number I Know Their Names

Grade 9:                        118                                                 45                                                            21

Grade 10:                     127                                                  62                                                            10

Grade 11:                      118                                                  55                                                            12

Grade 12:                      100                                                  63                                                           13

So… I’m not feeling great about the numbers. Knowing the kids is something I feel proud of, however, after collecting this data, I realize there are a lot of kids I don’t know, at all.  To make myself feel better, I went through again and counted the number of kids who I’ve learned their name/who they are just this year (43).  That’s pretty good.  Some of them are new students, and it’s easier for me to meet them in smaller groups and get to know them that way.  But there is definitely work to do here.  I want all of our kids to be seen.  I want to know all of our kids.  I will get better at this.  If I know our kids better, I can better serve them and support our teachers and community.


I like people.  I like being around different groups of people and I want to genuinely help support people the best I can.  However, in this change of role, I feel a lot more responsibility. I want both teachers and students to be happy to come to ISB and think fondly of their time there.  I realize that work and adolescence are challenging and not every day is smiles and sunshine, but I do want the good to far outweigh the bad.

However, sometimes I do know when I feel like I’m in the weeds that I will put my head down and work, and sometimes what drops is the thoughtful gestures, and the face to face.  One time this year, I got through the week and thought “S(*^! I didn’t make it up to the third floor at all this week!”  It was an icky feeling.  As many of us do as we venture into a new job or a new situation, we all say, “Well, I’m not going to do that.”  I want to be a visible leader.  I don’t want to take a scheduled daily lap just to be seen and say I did it, but I want to know my school and I want people to know that I really appreciate all they are doing to make this work and so I can see the cool things.  I want to see our students and teachers in their ecosystems.  I want to see the reality of our school – the good and the bad.  No place is perfect, nor should it be.  But, in order to do my job well, I need to see and hear people.  I feel like I do, but not everyone.  There are people I spoke to more to this year, because they reached out or came by the office.  I was pretty good about staying in touch with teachers in quarantine, but then communicated with them less once they were back on campus.  I was able to catch up with people via WeChat on my Didi ride to or from school without encroaching too much on my own family time and chill time that I needed to be back on my toes the next day.

I found there weren’t enough hours in the day and I was usually pretty good about not working from 6 PM – 5 AM.  Some people may bawk at this either because I’m an administrator but I’m not checking my email at night or on the other side “What the heck are you doing sending emails at 5:00 AM?”  It worked for me this first semester.  There is always work.  I can always do more, but I want to be able to be a quality leader for the next 10-15 years, so I need to pace myself and figure out my boundaries before someone else or an environment does it for me.  I need 8-10 hours of sleep, I want to hang out with my family, I want to be a connected Mom to my kids, I want to cook, I want to read, I sometimes just want silence.


I feel like I’m fumbling here most days.  Even though I’ve been at ISB for four years and knew a lot of the systems and people, it’s always hard in a new role.  I’m using other people’s systems.  I’m stepping into another person’s role and I have a different perspective and different organizational structures.  I’ve definitely made some mistakes.  I’ve tried to clarify some things and then it seemed to cause more chaos then organization (for example: Work in Progress List, Dress Code and Mentoring/Counseling Partnership).  I feel really passionate and won’t give up on them, but ugh, it hasn’t gone the way I wanted it to go.  I don’t want to “play around” with ideas and systems at the expense of losing the faith of the teachers and students or them getting frustrated with me with all the changes.  I sometimes go fast and I’m a doer and just want to change things.  Change is messy, but sometimes it’s a good messy.  Sometimes with great things on the horizon, and sometimes it just isn’t.

I do want to find clarity in the following areas, specifically:

Roles in the HS (and in our Office) – What needs to be done and who should do it?

Attendance and Follow Up

Communication – What is the best way to communicate to the teacher?  What is the best way to communicate to the students?

Inclusion for All – Learning Differences, ABAR, Chinese, Korean, Western, Staffing, Systems and what this looks like now and in 3 years.

This year, I just did what I saw needed to be done, but I have stepped on toes.  I’m not always used to letting others do things for me, so I don’t always delegate well and I feel sometimes I can do it faster myself, so I’m working out some workflow issues.

To collect more data, I sent out a survey to teachers who I work most closely with – Science, English, PE, Arts & Design Departments, the Counselors and Student Life Coordinator. Unfortunately, I sent it out on the worst possible day, the last day before break, so I don’t have a huge sample size (9).

My Goals for 2nd Semester:

  • Care
    • Be Visible – in the hallways, classrooms, events
    • Continue to Be Present in Mentoring
    • Organize Fun/Appreciation Events/Gifts
    • Learn at least 50 more students names and get to know kids better
    • Follow through with Parent Book Club (January & April) and Maintain Good Parent Relationships
  • Clarify – Streamline systems without creating massive changes this year
    • Ask questions – Why are we doing this?  Is this what is best for students?  Is there a more efficient way?
  • Challenge – I want to start our Professional Growth Model with my Colleagues the right way.
    • Be Visible
    • Ask Good Questions in our Goals Meetings
    • Follow Up with Focused Walkthroughs and Differentiated Feedback/Conversations
    • Support Teachers for Growth in a Safe but Challenging Environment
  • Consolidate – How can I “show not tell” the Mission & Vision <Likely Goals for next Year from my feedback>
    • Joyful Learning – How can I make learning more fun and provide fun activities for the students?
    • Where thinkers and leaders find their place in the world and serve others – this is work I can do with the Pathways Program.  I feel so strongly about this program and want to help it flourish, but have a lot less capacity to do so, I need to think about how I can do this well.

I realize that these are a lot of goals, probably too many to do well in, but there are so many important facets to my role.  I will try my best and attempt to reflect mid-semester and at the end of the year, so I continue to come back to this, no matter how busy the year gets or what 2021 and COVID throw at us.

Blogging has always been a good reflective tool for me, both professionally and personally.  It’s even good if no one else reads it, because it gives me a space to think and reflect in an organized way.  However, If you have managed to read or skim this, I would love any feedback or ideas you may have.  I am lucky to be connected to and work with so many supportive colleagues who I respect and love to learn from and know that by publishing this, I can extend my own thinking and practices to continue to improve.


Preparing for 2020-2021

I have just finished going through the PD Module, “Preparing for 2020-2021” and as I think about this coming year, there are so many things we have to prepare for.  I am still so excited about my new role, but am anxious as I think about the daunting task of trying to keep so much together under such daunting and ever-changing conditions.  It was a good experience going through the DX module.  It gave me time to reflect and think, so I could consolidate some of my ideas and really look through this work through the lens of the assistant principal.  I also wanted to go through it, so I know what our teachers will go through and so I can help them and support them.

My biggest takeaways are:

How can I best support our teachers and students?

While at the start of the year, I will be mostly putting a lot of time and effort to on-campus reopening, teachers, students, instructional partners, all the exciting new changes on campus, how can I stay connected to our off-campus teachers and students?

How can I foster high-quality teaching and learning while putting care and social-emotional learning at the forefront of everything with due in these conditions?

While I feel like my goals for this year have been already stated in the “Revision Goals” for our Learning Models as we face a year of unknowns, I will be posting in another couple of weeks about my goals for the year.  I hope to reflect on this blog to reflect on my challenges and successes this next year and as I grow as a leader.

Here is my (adapted) Online Learning Planner:

To better read this document:

JulieLemley2020-Online Learning Planner

7Cs Reflections as a Design Facilitator 2018-2019

This year, I floated in and out of the Professional Growth pilot group.  I love the idea of public reflection and seeking feedback from the teachers (and anyone else who reads my reflections) I work with, but was often in other meetings during the times they met on Wednesdays.  However, I  wrote a few blogposts and gathered some feedback from some (9!) of the colleagues I worked with.

I sent out my survey to teachers after I worked with them.  I only sent it to each teacher once, rather than send it to teachers multiple times if I worked with them more times throughout the year as we first discussed at the beginning of the year.   I wish I was better about sharing this with my outside of school PLN.  I still struggle with writing on too many platforms and need to figure out how to better manage this in the future.

I agree with most of the responses, but wish that I could have gotten more feedback on the “approaching” area.  I would like to see what that/those teachers were thinking about this or how I could do better in these areas.

I’d be interested to see how this 7Cs for Coaches and Facilitators evolves next year. This year we created this prototype and I’m actually not sure how it went for everyone else. I think it is so important in our jobs that we seek feedback to improve.  There is a great culture at ISB for facilitating, co-teaching and relationships are everything for this to work.  I think the more we can work as a team of facilitators and coaches within our own PLN to share strategies, successes and struggles will be great for the whole school.

Failure & Growth: Reflections of My Year

WoW!  Looking back on my goals for this year, I have royally failed.  I set my goals before I really knew that my job was going to change for next year and that our Design Center wouldn’t be completed and due to those things, my workload doubled and changed.

Quickly on those goals because I still feel like these are areas I could continue to work on:

  1. Being a better public speaker: Yes. This still needs work.  It’s definitely a big weakness of mine and my anxiety really creeps in when I have to speak to a large group, especially on a stage.  I would like to work on this more and will have at least one opportunity next year at Learning 2 Nanjing to present.  I will try to work on this over the summer and in the Fall before then.
  2. Feedback:  This is something I feel really strongly about.  With my job changing, I won’t be in direct contact with students as much any more, but I have put this on the action plan for the Design Department to work with the teachers for next year.  I think that with good feedback protocols, better “making cultures” emerge and it can change our community in how they think about learning.

Now, on to what I did do this year…

What am I proud of from this year:

  1. The Design Team has again grown, we added two new teaching positions and 4! new assistant positions because Design – whether it’s integration our courses is really taking off at ISB.  I am so happy with the diverse skills of our team and what they have brought to the team – they are an integral part of a lot of curriculum planning across all areas of the school, they manage spaces, and they are all great teachers!  I feel uber confident to step back and I know the design program is in super capable hands!
  2. As far as my integration, I am super pleased with the new projects I helped facilitate this year: Grade 9 EAL + Design project, the Grade 10 Climate Change Unit, the FA7 Entrepreneurship Project and adding a more sustainable option for the Grade 8 Chemical Engineering: Polymer project.
  3. I loved that the Responsible Consumption and Production Expectations sparked out of the Entrepreneurship Project and will be used in a variety of areas around school next year: ISB RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION + PRODUCTION GUIDELINES
  4. I’ve started to develop some leadership skills in my supervisory role.  I have been been more involved in the hiring of assistants this year and I am trying to be the best leader I can in this area.  It is definitely not easy.  I have strengths in organization and working with others, but I definitely need to work more on not avoiding tough conversations and articulating myself in a calm and sensible way.

What I need to work on and may consider for goals next year:

  1. I want to grow as a leader.  I will be completing my Leadership Certificate through Georgia Southern this next year, and I hope to use what I am learning in my new role to practice and hone my skills.  I feel like some sort of leadership role is my next step (in 3-5 years), but I can’t decide whether I want to go deeper into curriculum or become an Asst. Principal/Principal.  There are parts of both of these jobs that I am really interested in.
  2. I have 3 Action plans for next year: Design Department, HS Pathways and Future of the Middle School.  I’m really excited to be doing this work but at times, I’m daunted by the openness of the work.  I’m interested to see what we can accomplish over the next few years.
  3. And… research, research, research:

What are best practices and systems for personalized, authentic learning experiences for our students?

How can we offer different options and more personalized learning for our HS and MS students?

Passion Project Round-Up

It is the end of semester 1 in the high school, which means that another round of Passion Projects are “complete”.  When I inherited this class two years ago, it had a solid framework for the students to use as they followed their passions and blogged about their process.  I made little tweaks along the way and aligned it to our ISB Design Process and standards.  At previous schools, I was the MYP Personal Project coordinator or a mentor and I really loved the idea of the project, but for a lot of students it became a chore and something they groaned about and had to tick off at the end of grade 10.

At ISB, Passion Project is an elective.  It allows for students to follow a passion, delve deeper into a subject or learn something that isn’t offered in other courses at ISB.  The course is open to all high school students, although mostly ninth and tenth grade students take it.  There are even a few students who have applied to take it more than once.

Even though students are following their own passions, it is a challenge for most high school students to stay focused and work independently through the project when they are busy with so many other things.  The three things that I really focus on the most as I coach the students through their Passion Project are:

1. Following the ISB Design Process – especially focusing on feedback and iterations in the “Create and Improve” stage

2. Documenting their process and learning through their blogs and using  media to support their reflections

3. Sharing their work  with a wider audience, both during the course for feedback – asking friends, parents, teachers, experts for advice and encouragement and at the end of the product to share their learning and “final products”.

The hardest thing for me in this course has been providing the right environment for students to work on campus.  There is such a wide variety of projects and all the students need different things.  I often let them work where they need to and check in with them, but that doesn’t always lend itself to productive working sessions at school.  That being said… it is a student-led learning environment and a lot of the students do a lot of work at home because that is their preferred “creation” time.  But this is definitely an area for improvement.

It is a course that I feel is a really important part of our offerings.  Next year, another teacher will take on this course and it will likely change it’s name to align better with our Design Elective Courses.  I hope it continues to grow and we can get more students involved in this course, especially in 11th and 12th grade.

Without further ado, here are a few of the projects from this semester.  Please feel free to give students feedback on them.  Their blogs document their whole process this semester, but their latest posts will be their final reflection.  And, I’m always up for feedback as well: suggestions, recommendations and to see how other people are doing independent passion/personal projects with their students, so please comment and/or share away!

Austin’s Dragon Design Student Pop-Up Shop

June & Melissa’s YouTube Channel – Scenario with their supporting process blogs – June’s Blog & Melissa’s Blog

William’s Music Writing Passion Project Blog

William’s Performance at the Open-Mic Night:

BreAnne’s Piano Skill Development Project

Captivate & Challenge: My Goals 2018-2019

Before I start about me, I am proud of what we’ve accomplished with Design and STEAM at ISB in the past few years. And I’m excited to see what the future holds – as the team grows, as we move into a purpose built space, and as we continue to refine and develop our curricular program.  Our ultimate goal is that all students at ISB get a range of design thinking opportunities and develop technical skills that will help prepare them for future careers, projects and life to make a positive impact on their communities and the environment.

But, this post is about MY annual goals this year…

I’m keen to be a part of this pilot for teacher reflection and growth.  While goals are personal, I think it’s great to see what other colleagues are doing and how we can connect what we are doing and work together towards common goals.  For this pilot, teachers will be using Tripod’s 7Cs Framework for Effective Teachers.  Since this didn’t fit perfectly with our roles, the EdTech team has revised this framework to better suit our needs:  7Cs Framework for Coaches

<Please note that this coaching framework is in draft form.>

My two main goals this year are connected to CAPTIVATE & CULTURE.

CAPTIVATE: Coaches who captivate spark and maintain learner interest in learning. They stimulate and engage learners by cultivating curiosity and inquiry and by making lessons interesting, relevant, and enjoyable.

My goal: I want to improve my presentation skills both in workshop and presentation format.

The WHY: I present a lot with my role.  I like sharing.  I get just as much from presenting as I do from being a participant (sometimes even more!). BUT, I get very nervous when I present.  I talk too fast.  I lose my place.  My message and passion gets lost in the delivery. I love being inspired by a presenter, a keynote speaker, a teacher and I want to get better at this.  Specifically, I need to work on presenting where there is “no feedback from the audience” – a big presentation on a stage and the first 10-20 minutes of a workshop.

How I will measure this goal: I will get feedback from trusted colleagues and participants after presentations.  I will use video to analyze different presentations this year.

How I will achieve this goal:

  1. Participate in Kendall Zoller’s Presentation Professional Development (Sept 2018 at International School Beijing)
  2. Work on one skill per month to increase “muscle memory” for these competencies of Choreography of Presenting
  3. I will use the Choreography of Presenting book as supporting materials
  4. I will use video from some of my presentations to analyze my presentations and receive feedback from others

CHALLENGECoaches who challenge learners insist that they persevere and do their best work. They hold learners to high academic standards, encourage persistence, and monitor learner effort.

My goal: I want to improve the feedback protocols we use in our classes and activities – through Integration, Enrichment classes, and Ignite Weeks.

The WHY: Sometimes I feel like the feedback protocols I use are repetitive and don’t always get good quality responses from students. Carving out enough time to adequately reflect and give/receive feedback has been an area I feel like that I can continue to improve on.  Also, I want to impact the culture of our students, especially as they enter more “high stakes” high school courses they want to know how do I get highest marks rather than critically looking at their own work and also collaborating with their classmates to help everyone improve.

How I will measure this goal: I will have a resource to share with all teachers with different feedback strategies we can use as a whole school for design thinking and quality reflection practices.

How I will achieve this goal:

  1. Collect feedback protocols and strategies from my colleagues & extended PLN about their existing feedback practices
  2. Meet with the EdTech/STEAM Team to evaluate feedback protocols and strategies create a common language for feedback practices
  3. Curate feedback protocols and strategies for self/peer reflection, conferencing, formative feedback and assessment
  4. Design appropriate graphics for high impact visuals for teaching and learning
  5. Share feedback protocols with ISB community, Design network and beyond

All images in this post are from The Noun Project

And a few “mini” goals that I will also be working on:

  1. Working with Facilities, Design and our Team for a smooth transition into the *NEW* Design Space
  2. Get more local designers in for workshops and to share the rich culture, skills and knowledge of great Chinese design
  3. Design and Plan a Workshop/Conference next Fall for Design/STEAM teachers in Asia

So, many things… But it’s going to be a great year.

Please leave comments, add connections, tell me what you are doing, give me feedback, whatever!

Sustainability ELO – A Student Initiated Trip

Last semester, in Grade 10 Biology 1 class, an idea bubbled up.  After working with Mr. Tebo on the Conservation Action Project, students were inspired and wanted to take action. They learned about the importance of sustainability and the need for action regarding conservation.  Right around the same time, students heard about The Green School in Bali.  After further inquiry, the students learned that The Green School was an exemplar school for sustainable action, and their ideas and planning began…

A small group of the Biology students wrote a letter to the Office of Learning to propose their own ELO (Experiential Learning Opportunity) for their Junior year.  They wanted to visit The Green School to learn more about what they were doing and to make plans to bring ideas and action back to Beijing and ISB.  After communicating with a Science teacher at The Green School, and further assistance from our Director of Learning, a new ELO trip was born.

Since The Green School is a fully functioning school, they couldn’t host us all week, so the Office of Learning hired Buffalo Tours to help fill in our week with other conservation and sustainability projects in Bali.  Our week was fufilling and our students gained so much from the experience.

On Tuesday, our first full day in Bali, we visited The Green School.  We were lucky to be hosted by teachers, Pak Dan and Ibu Jackie.  They were gracious, engaging and knowledgeable hosts and we took a tour of their school and participated in one of their high school science electives: Chickens and Permaculture.  Other highlights included their composting toilets, working with their students, learning about BioFuel and the BioSoap workshop.

Working with Green School students to prepare signage for food waste to be used for chicken feed

Making BioSoap from used cooking oil

On Wednesday, we went to IDEP and learned more about permaculture and Bali Water Protection Program.

Learning about community wells giving back to the aquafers

On Thursday, we went to the Coral Triangle Center to learn more about conservation of coral reefs and mangroves while reflecting on our own tourism practices.

Planting mangroves

Learning about data collection from the CTC

Students collected their trash for the week to reflect on their practices

On our last day, we visited Zero Waste to Oceans which was a great mix of an Eco-park and hands-on learning center where the students participated in different activities (composting, creating seed balls, natural dyeing, learning about different plants) to get their Eco-passport stamped.   Later in the afternoon, we visited the ROLE Foundation to learn more about how the program works and students participated in a soap making workshop and an educational exchange with the girls in training there.

Students making seed balls

Giving new life to leftover hotel soap – Pressing the soap to make new soap

English language & cultural exchange at the ROLE Foundation

We arrived back in Beijing with our hearts and our minds full.  We were all sad that the week had ended and created a special bond over our experiences.

Now, we wait and see what great ideas spawn from this trip and how our students (along with their equally inspired chaperones) take action and weave more sustainable practices into our ISB community.


Welcome to your Professional Learning Blog! This is a place for you to post your goals, and reflect on them throughout the year.

  • Decide on your goal, perhaps in consultation with your colleagues or principal, and create a post to share with this online professional learning community that you are now a part of! Categorise this post in Goal Setting. Set your goal by considering:
    • Self assessment and reflection based on new teacher standards  (Tripod 7C’s)
    • Previous or new observation data from peers and principals
    • Student surveys (online surveys developed and aligned with 7C’s)
  • Identify colleagues, coaches, principals etc. that will play a supporting role in achieving your goal, and invite them to view and comment on your post. Encourage them to bookmark your blog and visit regularly.
  • Throughout the year, collect and share evidence to support your progress. Categorise these posts in Reflection.
  • Encourage your colleagues to share your learning journey by engaging with your blog. In return, engage with their blog (and others across the School)
  • You may also like to share work that your students have created or your own professional achievements that may not be directly related to your goal setting. This is encouraged! Categorise these posts as Showcase.

If you need support using this platform, please don’t hesitate to contact Ed Tech, we are always happy to be of assistance!

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