Our Pandemic Experience: A Year in the Life of the M'KIS Class of 2021
As part of an independent project to reflect on his senior year and the collective experience of the Class of 2021, upcoming M’KIS graduate Amsalu spent weeks interviewing his fellow graduating seniors about their pandemic experience. They talked about their struggles, their friendships, their fears, and the things that gave them hope during a year that looked very different than what they had imagined.
The article below is Amsalu’s personal reflection of this challenging year, with reflections from his fellow upcoming graduates.
Covid-19 took the world by storm, spreading so rapidly and so far until it felt like it was impossible to imagine the existence of our previous, normal world. I’m certain that many of us spent countless hours reflecting on the impact that Covid-19 had on our lives at school, at work, and at home. Hour after hour, we felt imprisoned in a seemingly endless loop, longing for freedom and the hope that we could return to the life we knew before.
But the light at the end of the tunnel seemed farther than ever as the world was engulfed in a global, rapid spike in cases. So many aspects of our social and economic life collapsed, plunging us into quarantine and isolation.
From left to right: Amsalu; Senior Kosi during Mock Exams; Senior Asumi during Mock Exams.
What were once important parts of our daily schedule became a distant dream and the world turned more nightmarish. We were forced to step beyond our comfort zone in order to find means of entertainment and communication in order to cope with the unexpected global crisis that threatened our very existence. We became reliant on and grateful for technology, which not only connected us with our loved ones but also kept us psychologically stable.
As an upcoming high school graduate and teen, the global pandemic left an ugly bruise in my consciousness. It took away so many opportunities which should have been the best moments of my high school years. Adapting to such a mind-boggling situation was no walk in the park (something I couldn’t even begin to think about during lockdown).
From left to right: Seniors Reem and Joey preparing for Climate Day of Action; Seniors Rohan and Jaynee during the Senior Luncheon; Seniors Ria and Amsalu during Spirit Week.
Prior to the pandemic, I was an active person who loved exercise, but over 14 months of sustained lockdowns and time spent at home drained me of my motivation to do anything. Thinking about attending university in person, returning back to school, playing sports, or resuming a normal life became unimaginable. I was usually optimistic, but any hopes for a better future were crushed as I began to contemplate the possibility that the pandemic would continue to dominate our lives. Extreme sorrow and anger built up as the uncertainty of vaccines or signs of a permanent solution left us to suffer in silence.
But it was not all bleak. In a way, lockdown and Covid-19 taught me the importance of gratitude and appreciation for many things in my life. I realized how fortunate I was to have access to a reliable healthcare system that is not possible for many. It taught me to open up to more people and sympathize with them in a way I never thought was possible before. It was painful at times because of the extreme uncertainty of our situation, but it made me realize that we were all in this fight together. I also picked up skills and hobbies such as cooking, chess, working out, board games and other things that normally didn’t cross my mind.
From left to right: Seniors Manon, Kosi, and Asumi during Spirit Week; Senior Megan during Mock Exams; Amsalu and his parents during the Senior Luncheon.
It's no surprise how much seniors around the world missed out on due to Covid-19. Prom, homecoming, sports, social events...the list goes on. Milestones and celebrations that we desperately looked forward to were canceled. For many of us, our final year in high school was spent in fear. It was as if a part of our humanity and identity as teenagers was stolen from us by a global pandemic. As teens, we thrive on social events and interactions, especially with our closest friends. We rely on each other for moral support.
These bonds became increasingly difficult as we were separated from our friends, left isolated, and thrown into a different reality. The pandemic created so much chaos in our education that it became hard to look forward to classes or even school. We lacked the motivation to complete assignments, tests, or even think about how much was at stake for those of us in the full IB Programme. School became a source of stress as we were given strict protocols to limit human interaction. We were confined and couldn’t physically interact with our friends, which was painful.
As a senior, I was disappointed I missed out on so much, especially since it was my final year at M’KIS. This experience and feeling of isolation is definitely something I will never forget, no matter how hard I try. It drained me of my optimism, motivation, and part of my identity as a teen. It also left me vulnerable to threats such as depression, anxiety and paranoia.
However, after countless hours of talking with my family and friends, I have also come to realize that I connected more with them than I ever did before. I found a new unique connection and understanding even with people that I didn’t have much in common with. Although we have endured a lot of loss and difficulty together through this time, I am lucky to have gone through it all with the M’KIS Class of 2021 and our family, friends, teachers, and sources of support. I hope for a happier, brighter future for us all.
Rising to the Challenge and Counseling During Covid
At M’KIS, the wellbeing of our students and families is an important priority. This year, more than ever before, our School Counselors have played a vital role in caring for our community members as we deal with changes and challenges, adjust to online learning, and learn how to move forward together during the pandemic.
In Elementary School, we have also developed a new Counseling Protocol to help guide families as they choose the counseling services most valuable for them. From Check-in Counseling and Short-term Counseling for individual students, to Small Group Counseling for groups, we are excited to provide the highest level of support to our Elementary School students through a variety of counseling options.
We recently spoke with Ms. Lambinon, our Elementary School Counselor, to discuss what we have learned about supporting students and families in the last year. Read on for more!
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has put extra pressure on everyone. How have you been approaching this period so you can support the wide array of concerns during this time?
I am always available to meet (either in person or virtually) with all of our families and students who need counseling support. This can be for a quick check-in, but also to brainstorm about strategies to adjust to our current situation, both at school and at home. Besides individual support, I have worked with all of our Grade 1-5 students in class to discuss a variety of topics. We've talked about why it’s so important to share, express, and manage our feelings.
I also host monthly Counselor’s Corners about topics that are relevant to our families. These meetings are extremely valuable because they give families the opportunity to share their experiences with one another. Staying connected to others and learning from common experiences is the best way to get through this.
Since we have all been at home more than usual, the last year has impacted everyone in a different way. For many families, it meant adjusting their schedules, routines, and expectations. As a counselor, I'm here to support our families as they deal with change during this time. It’s amazing to see how all of our families are so resilient and are doing the best they can to support one another!
During times of crisis and stress like the pandemic, students can face an extra anxiety and challenging emotions. What are some of the tools you use with students to help them cope with changes in their routine and the stress of the pandemic?
It’s important for students to understand that the last year has been very different than what we are used to, and that it will not always look like this. Things will change over time.
I also want students to feel confident sharing their feelings, and I work with them to make sure they understand that every kind of feeling is ok. I work with students so they can express themselves verbally, via art, games, or other methods. No matter the situation, we are committed to finding a way of working with that student that makes them feel safe and heard.
For parents, I would encourage them to try to find at least one moment during the day to sit together with your child and connect, so they have an opportunity to express anything they’re struggling with.
What has been the most challenging part of counseling during the pandemic?
As a counselor and as a person, I love to be around other people. I love connecting with everyone in our community and understanding how they are really feeling so I can make sure they’re doing well. This usually means asking a lot of questions, spending time together, and reading non-verbal communication cues like body language.
During the pandemic and virtual learning, this was more challenging. When you’re not in the same room with someone and are not able to interact with them in person, it can be hard to get the information you need. For example, online, you can only see someone’s face and not their body, so you might miss body language clues. Or, you might have a poor internet connection that makes it hard to have a proper conversation.
But, after dealing with the new normal and adjusting to the new reality, I began to get creative and discover new solutions. It was rewarding to be able to support our students and families in new ways during this unique time.
What has been one of the biggest lessons learned after a year of counseling during the pandemic?
My biggest lesson learned is to focus on the things that we can control, and to let go of the things we can’t control. In a situation like this, where things are constantly changing and we may feel out of control more than we are used to, it’s more important than ever to create a sense of control for ourselves. Even if we can’t change a situation, we can still control our mindset and own attitude.
I’ve also learned that people (students, parents & teachers) are incredibly resilient, even more than we could have ever imagined. None of us have any experience dealing with a situation like this, and I am really proud of everyone in our community for all their efforts.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a student or family that is struggling at the moment?
Be kind to yourself! During this time, we all need to adjust some of our old routines or habits. Don’t be too hard on yourself and give yourself time to find your new balance. Also, make sure you share your experiences and feelings with the people around you. It’s important to share your feelings and concerns with each other, to keep an eye on each other, and to make sure everyone is doing well.
And finally, make sure you create some time for yourself to relax and recharge everyday. This could be doing a fun activity by yourself or with a family member, or maybe even taking those 5 minutes to finish your tea when it’s still warm. Self-care is more important than ever.
Student Feature - Anaya's Treats to Support Animals
Today, we're highlighting the initiative and positive contributions of one of our Grade 5 Elementary School students, Anaya. After hearing that the animals at the Zoo Negara were in need of support and supplies, Anaya decided she would take things into her own hands to improve the welfare of animals, a cause that is near and dear to her heart.
She began making homemade mousse and selling it for a small price, and was able to raise 1250 MYR! Anaya has already donated 250 MYR to the Zoo Negara, and this money is already going towards supporting a variety of animals. Anaya has donated the remaining 1000 MYR to WWF Malaysia, an environmental conservation organization. Through the organization's Malayan Tiger Conservation Team, Anaya's funds will directly support the conservation and protection of tigers.
Congratulations on making such a positive difference, Anaya! Let's hear a bit more about this effort from Anaya in her own words in the interview below.
Tell us a little bit about your efforts to support the zoo. What have you been doing?
I have been organizing a fundraiser to raise money and awareness for the animals at the Zoo Negara during the pandemic period. I have been making homemade mousse and selling it, and with the funds, I have been supporting animals at the zoo. The money raised helps buy food and supplies for the animals.
Why did you choose to take on this challenge?
I chose to take action because I found out that the animals at the local zoo weren't doing so well, which made me want to take up this initiative to support them. I'm also a big animal lover!
This is a great example of two of our M’KIS values in action, kindness and compassion. Why do you think it’s important for our community to share these values?
I think it is important to have these values because if we did not, then our community would not be the kind, friendly community it is. What I am doing is a choice, and I didn't have to take on this fundraiser. But, I feel that it is not fair to just push away these kinds of choices. So I chose to do it and take action. We need these kinds of values to help support the ones who can’t speak for themselves.
What has been the most rewarding part of this experience? What have you learned?
The most rewarding part of this is all the feedback that I have received. I love feedback from people because it helps me learn what I need to fix and improve, so that more people can enjoy my homemade treats. I have also learned that running a business is really hard work! I have had to make batches after batches of mousse after school because I have so many orders to fulfill!
M’KIS Admissions Spotlight: Supporting Families During their International School Search
To say that this has been an unusual year for international schools, administrators, and admissions departments across the world is an understatement. The transition to temperature checks, wearing masks, social distancing, online learning, virtual tours and testing, quarantine, and so much more has tested us all.
But amidst the challenges, there is opportunity for growth. As an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, our Admissions Team has drawn inspiration from one of our most important roadmaps, the IB Learner Profile attributes, to help us adapt to adversity this year.
Being an IB school means we strive to develop learners that are: Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced, and Reflective.
In a year of tumultuous change, the attributes of the risk-taker have offered a powerful guiding principle for our Admissions Team: “We approach uncertainty with forethought and determination; we work independently and cooperatively to explore new ideas and innovative strategies. We are resourceful and resilient in the face of challenges and change.”
Here are a few highlights of how we are embracing our new normal and serving families with the personalized attention upon which we pride ourselves.
Tailored Virtual Tours
Although our campus has been closed, our Admissions Team has been running on all cylinders. We quickly transitioned to online tours, which are tailored for our families much like our campus visits. Although so much of what makes M’KIS unique is the palpable sense of community you feel when you are on campus, virtual tours still allow for great opportunities to share our stories and showcase our campus via 360 degree photos. Beyond the pandemic, virtual tours will continue to be an important tool for accommodating families across different countries, time zones, and circumstances.
Streamlined Testing and Orientation
While we prefer to meet and get to know all of our prospective families in person, we continue to test and evaluate our students online. Technology platforms like Zoom and Google Hangouts make it possible for us to offer our families flexibility with remote testing. This year, we have also had many students start their schooling while we have been in virtual learning mode. To welcome families and support their transition, we virtually introduce them to their teachers, counselor, and principal prior to the first day. These first connections are incredibly important for families so they can ask questions and feel comfortable in their new learning environment, especially in these uncertain times.
Leading with our Values
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, families not only have many more questions than before, but the nature of the questions has changed. Questions about campus safety measures, virtual and hybrid learning, and government protocols are common. Ensuring that our families feel welcomed, cared for, and heard is always vital, but especially during a pandemic that has challenged our notions of safety and community. We continue to lead from a place of offering our families belonging, connection, and compassion, which are our key values.
By learning to work outside of our comfort zone during these unusual times, we all are demonstrating resourcefulness and resilience. And although much has changed this year, our core principles remain the same, both within our Admissions Department and more widely within our school.
Our Admissions Department continues to offer all prospective families a personalized and streamlined process, from initial inquiry to enrollment and beyond. We continue to share the sense of community and genuine care for all members of our school by focusing on the needs of each child and each family that comes through our doors. We support our families by addressing a range of topics, from the excitement and nervousness of their move, to questions about the academic, social, and emotional needs of their child, and, most recently, the safety measures we have on campus.
Although 2020 is coming to a close, we believe our work is never done, and we continue to reflect and refine our process to best serve our prospective families. We are grateful for the newest members of our M’KIS community this year, and we look forward to opening our doors to more families in 2021!
Student Feature - Christie's Writing Adventure
Today, we're highlighting the creativity and talent of one of our Grade 3 students, Christie. A budding author, Christie is excited to share her first published book, Kasey and Tom’s Magical London Adventure, with the world!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Christie and I am in the third grade. I have been at M’KIS since Kindergarten. I am very happy to be at M'KIS, which gives me opportunities to learn a lot of things. I've made a lot of friends here and I especially love the teachers here.
Can you tell us a bit about the book you wrote, Kasey and Tom’s Magical London Adventure? Where did the idea for the story come from?
When I was in Grade 2, we started to read series books and learned how authors wrote these books. One day, we did free writing, and I decided to write a fiction story. I started to create the characters, which are actually my brother and myself, and the story is all about our magical adventures.
I wrote several stories and the third one is the one I turned into a book. During the summer holidays, we learned about different places, their cultures, landmarks, inventions, and more. I liked London the most and wished that I could visit someday. I decided to put my characters in London for a magical adventure!
What was it like working with an illustrator and publisher to create the book and bring it to life?
It was great to work with the illustrator, Alicia, on the book. I showed her my draft drawings and talked with her about the ideas in my mind. We talked about what drawing should go on each page and worked as a team on the book. She is very artistic and we cooperated well.
The publisher was also very helpful. The publisher helped me to lay out my story and art into a book format, and at the end, my story become a real published book. It's like my dream come true!
What was your favorite part about the book writing process?
I like all parts of the book writing process. In the beginning, I like to plan and decide what I want to put into my imaginative story. I have chosen the book characters and sightseeing places in London that I love most, so Kasey and Tom can interact with them and have some fun.
And the actual writing part is also great, since I can use my imagination and add exciting details.
The editing part needed the most attention, and my tutor supported me a lot on this. I needed to read my story so many times. Of course, finishing the book was my favorite part! I was very happy with what I had accomplished. When I saw the printed book in my hand, I was excited.
Do you have other story or book ideas you’re working on right now?
Yes, my next story will be about Kasey and Tom having another mystery and magical adventure in Italy, where they will meet some musicians. My Kasey and Tom series will never end, as Tom and Kasey will travel around the world and have lots of adventures.
How has your time at M’KIS prepared you to write and be creative? What do you like most about learning and being in school?
During my time at M'KIS, my teachers have taught me to be open minded so that I can write different types of stories and be a risk-taker. This allows me to try new things and write creatively. In literacy lessons, my teachers have thought me how to research writing topics using the mind-mapping method that we learned in class.
What I like most about learning at M'KIS is the chance to wonder and explore. For example, I did a lot of research on London to complete my book. This was very interesting, because I learned a lot of new things and fun facts. With this knowledge, I put new elements into my story.
In school, I am also involved in Student Council, Girl Scouts, and musicals. I really love these experiences because I can share ideas, listen to others, cooperate with them, learn problem-solving, and practice my leadership and communication skills. Mostly, I have lots of fun!
What are your dreams and goals for the future?
Before, I thought publishing a book and being an author was impossible. Now, I can tell everyone that anyone can be an author, and having your own published book is challenging but doable. My next goal is probably to become a famous author.
I have lots of dreams. I want to be a popular YouTuber, a fantasy author, a violinist, an entertainer or actor. I wonder if I can be all of them. My current goal is to learn a lot of different things so I have more stories to tell in the future!
M'KIS Middle School Students Outshine Competition at NISCMUN
Last week, our M'KIS Middle School Model United Nations Club (MUN) participated in the Northbridge International School Cambodia MUN (NISCMUN) conference. Over the course of 3 days, students and delegates came together to debate important issues such as the Yemeni refugee crisis, the regulation of nuclear weapons, COVID-19 vaccination, and many more questions about world governance and peace. Together, students created resolutions and debated these issues, all in the hope of finding resolutions to complex, global challenges.
This year, 14 regional schools attended the conference, with more than 250 delegates attending. The conference was run entirely online.
Despite virtual learning, our MUN Club has been busy preparing for the conference by regularly meeting online with their advisors, Ms. Mathers and Mr. Herbert. Not only did our M'KIS representatives have a great performance across the board, but 5 of our students came home with certificates to recognize their performances!
Please give a big round of applause to the following M'KIS students who won awards at last week's conference:
We would also like to recognize two 8th grade students, Rohan and Matthew, who attempted to debate with high school students. Their age didn't stop them from keeping up with their fellow debaters.
Congratulations to all of our students who participated, and special kudos to those that had stellar performances! We're so proud of you.
Below, from left to right, are Mia, Anvay, Prisha, Rohan, and Jan Sen.
M'KIS Artist Spotlight: Expression and Escapism with Zainab
We have a thriving community of creative teachers and students at M'KIS — from painters and illustrators, to sculptors and dancers.
Today, we're shining the spotlight on one of our phenomenal M'KIS artists, Zainab. Zainab has loved art since she was a child, and is a jack of all trades when it comes to art mediums, from paint to digital tools. We interviewed her to find out a bit more about her style, what inspires her, and why art is such an important part of her life and her identity.
Thanks for sharing your amazing work with us, Zainab! Now let's get to the Q & A.
How did you first get into art? Was it always something you were interested in, or is it a recent passion?
I’ve enjoyed doing art since I was a child, and everyone has encouraged me to pursue my art since childhood. I ended up falling in love with the practice and now it consumes my life.
What have the art classes or programs at M’KIS been like for you? What have you learned?
In 9th grade, I had the opportunity to take Ceramics at M'KIS. I was not as familiar with clay as some other materials, but surprisingly, I picked up the skill pretty quickly. Besides that, I’ve taken art every year since I’ve been at M'KIS. I've always enjoyed it, and it’s been my favorite class.
Right: "I painted this piece as a therapeutic act. I didn’t want it to be ultra realistic. I just threw some paint and glitter on a canvas and it turned out pretty decent. "
Tell us a little bit about your process and the materials, tools, or technology you use.
I consider myself more of a “quantity over quality” artist. While I know how to use many different mediums, I haven't particularly mastered any of them (yet)!
Where do you get the inspiration for your artwork from?
I get inspiration from people that I like. I usually draw famous people because they’re very unlikely to see my art.
Left: "I’m not great at digital art so it was surprising to see how this piece turned out. I chose Hayley Williams as the subject because I think she’s effortlessly cool and I want to be her."
Middle: "I consider this to be my best alcohol marker piece. It ended up being a lot more realistic than I expected. I usually find it hard to draw people, and hands especially. "
Right: "I look up to David Bowie a lot — he was so cool and comfortable in his own skin. I used a mix of watercolor and glitter for this piece. The gold accents felt appropriate for his aesthetic."
What role does art play in your life? Is it something you do to relax, to connect with others, to escape, etc.?
Art is a form of expression and escapism for me. Although I rarely feel relaxed when doing it, because I get hyper-focused on perfection even though I will never achieve it. I also create pieces as an outlet for my emotions — from happiness to rage.
Why is art important to you?
Art is important to me because it allows me to express myself in an abstract way. I’m not great at some subjects, but I’ve always been good at art, and that gives me a huge confidence boost.
"Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists because he has a very distinct visual style. I was inspired to recreate this piece because of the film Loving Vincent."