Looking for a bilingual school in Paris which treats your child as a unique individual while preparing them for upper school in an American, British or French system? Two expat moms have co-founded RISE International School, a progressive, new middle school just west of Paris that rethinks international education. Michele Silvestri, an accomplished teacher and mother of four children, and Janine Springall, mother of a dyslexic child and passionate about children and education, created RISE because they identified the demand for a school that focuses on the different needs of each student.
Located in Mareil-Marly, just west of Paris, the new non-profit, private school, opening in September 2017, will emphasize differentiated instruction, project-based learning and community building. With a bus service for Parisians, a swimming pool and soccer field, this new school for children aged 11 to 15 aims to inspire confidence, curiosity and adaptability in young people while preparing them to succeed in the global community.
As an experienced teacher in France for many years, why did you see the need to create your school RISE?
In my experience, I have seen too many happy, bright and intelligent students lose their “spark” as a result of the rigid educational system in France and in certain systems abroad.
Many schools in France teach to the whole class and do not focus on the individual needs of each student.
Not all children learn in the same way, and some children will thrive more in a student-centered and community-oriented school environment. RISE offers another option to international and bilingual families in France with a program that utilizes progressive teaching methods that are tailored to each child and thus creates a safe place for both academic and social growth.
How is RISE different from the other bilingual schools based in Île-de-France?
RISE offers the best of both worlds. We are unique because we are working within the French middle school structure, yet we are offering a new and refreshing approach to learning. We have the same school calendar, the same number of instructional hours and the same core subjects as in the French system. At the same time, we offer global classes tailored to meet the social and emotional needs of young adolescents and foster the development of team and community building skills.
RISE offers opportunities for students to excel in areas not normally emphasized in other bilingual schools. We offer a one-to-one advisory program where students have the opportunity to build a meaningful connection with a RISE staff member through biweekly meetings and to focus on individual goals. Furthermore, our entire school is structured around the importance of being a member of the global community.
What kind of child would benefit from attending your new middle school?
Any middle school-aged child! However, those who thrive in an active, student-centered learning environment, who question the world around them, and who prefer to have a dialogue when learning, will greatly benefit from our hands-on, project-based teaching methods. Students who need extra support when adapting to the developmental challenges of adolescence will also benefit from our individually-tailored program and advisory sessions.
Why have you targeted children between the ages of 11 and 15?
I have been working with middle school-aged children for over 25 years and I have loved it from day one. I believe it is the most important developmental stage in a child’s life. This is the time when children become young adults, find an identity and figure out how they fit into the world around them.
Not only am I extremely passionate about working with students this age, I also see a great need for a school that prepares students for a smooth transition from a Montessori elementary school to a middle or high school in this area. Here, we have many options for bilingual and international elementary schools, but students often have difficulty transitioning from these schools back into the French system. RISE offers an alternative for these children.
How does the teaching at RISE bring out the best in children?
With an emphasis on differentiated instruction, we are able to quickly assess the strengths and weaknesses of each child. Once the student knows and understands their own learning style, they can learn to embrace it and push themselves in areas they tended to previously avoid. This offers a unique opportunity for teachers as well because they are able to create and adapt lessons, using the appropriate skills set and content, to each student. It is a win-win situation.
Do you think bilingual children learn differently?
I believe all children learn differently. And yes, that includes bilingual children. It is our job as educators to help students recognize their strengths and weaknesses and push them to reach their full potential. Being in a bilingual school does have its challenges, but it also has many advantages. Bilingual students learn quickly how to transition from one language and culture to another. This skill provides them with a key to opening a door to a whole new world and truly become active members of a global community.
Many expat families find the French educational system difficult for their international children. If they are coming from a French system before the age of 11 and need to reinsert back into a French high school, how do you foresee the transition?
It is the duty of all schools to prepare students for life outside of school. RISE offers each student an individualized educational program while following the French and American curriculum. Students are able to discover their strengths, gain confidence, then push themselves in weaker areas and therefore work to their full potential.
Because RISE teachers utilize a variety of teaching methods, including direct instruction, which is more synonymous with the French style of teaching, students learn to be flexible and to navigate through all types of learning environments.
This skill directly prepares students for a French, American or British high school.
Also, RISE faculty work closely with students on their personal goals and future plans. At the beginning of ninth grade, students inform RISE of their high school plans. From there, we tailor their academic program so that they are ready to move on to the high school of their choice. Whether their goal is to attend the Lycée International or the American School of Paris, for example, we can give them the content and skills needed to be successful. Ninth graders will have the opportunity to take the brevet or the first year of the IGCSE’s depending on where they would like to go for tenth grade.
Was it difficult to create a new school in France?
My co-founder, Janine, and I now understand why there are no “stand alone” international middle schools. The requirements and needs for a middle school are much greater than, for example, an elementary school. All teachers must be certified in each discipline and the stakes are higher when preparing students for high school. Each subject must meet for a certain amount of hours and offer a skill set far deeper and richer than in elementary school. Last year, there were over 93 new schools created in France, so fortunately France does have a system in place to assist new start up schools. However, being American makes the process more challenging when navigating through French bureaucracy.
What would you like to say to parents and young students who are looking for an alternative school in France?
Come and visit RISE and set up a home visit! We are a unique middle school that focuses on the whole child and we believe students can only succeed if they are happy. Social needs, as well as academic needs, must be stressed.