KDSL Global chats with Ascend Education


KDSL Global collaborates with education businesses around the world. One service we offer is mentoring consultants and startups. This month the team had a chance to chat with Maha Sarraf and Dr. Michelle Haag of Ascend Education. Learn more about this new team and their work below.


Tell us about Ascend Education.

We’re Maha and Michelle and we worked together at an American/DP Curriculum School in Dubai. We formed Ascend Education Consultants (AEC) Ascend because we believe in creating communities in which voices come together to promote a unique mission leading to whole school growth, well-being and elevated learning.  We created our company to address a gap we have seen between what is taught in the overt curriculum and what is expected by the implied cultural curriculum of the school. At Ascend we work with whole schools to Amplify all voices of the community, Empower leaders at all levels and Collaborate to embed best practices in curriculum and instruction. Additionally, our expertise lies in both curriculum and operations.  We  support schools’ growth towards accreditation, community building and adding depth and rigor.


What would you say to an educator engaged in teaching online about well-being?

At Ascend, we are teachers, parents and coaches. Teacher well-being is one of the areas we feel is crucial whether online or not. Self care is a very important aspect in our service-oriented career. If we don’t take care of our inner well being, it is difficult to hold space for our students in taking care of their needs. This is a very stressful time–with the sudden change from being a part of a vibrant physical community and collegial support to round the clock remote interactions. It is very important that teachers create boundaries- ensuring they have time for themselves to recharge. Exercise, meditation, nutrition and simply doing things that nurture our inner being are even more important at this time. It’s also important that teachers talk to trusted colleagues/coaches/friends about the difficulties or challenges we are all  facing navigating the online world.

Along with self care, we understand that the foremost concern of educators is the well being of their students.  The relationship between student and teacher continues to be a priority. It’s important to establish time within the lesson to share concerns, fears, and personal stories. Students still need us to provide that safe space for thinking together. This is also a time for innovation. Teachers can guide blended learning that channels student questions into relevant information sharing. Ascend Education Consultants can support your journey from emergency remote content to innovative interactive community projects driven by students.


What do you see as the future of professional development for educators?

We believe that students, teachers and whole school communities should drive  their professional learning needs with supportive growth-oriented administrators.  We see more involvement of stakeholders in mission driven school development.  All members have differing growth goals and needs and just as we apply best practices for working with students, adults too need individualized experiences. Professional development might be through groups getting together to participate in online “workinars” or looking for “just in time” training to initiate their own plans for innovative achievement.  Ascend works with teacher/practitioners as they collect evidence and share their own action research.

We believe that professional means that leaders are found at all levels in schools and development is how these leaders grow as individuals and as team builders.


To learn more visit https://www.ascendeducationconsultants.com/#home.



Maha Sarraf, M.Ed

Constructive Leadership, English Language Arts, Social Studies

Maha has been a teacher and administrator in various international settings at the elementary school level. Most recently she was the Head of School in Kampala.  She has also served as a long time deputy director in Dubai.  Maha’s education degrees are from the Teachers College, Columbia University in New York and George Washington University.  She is fluent in Arabic as well as English. 

She is passionate about making sure all students have optimal learning opportunities. Recently completing the Conscious Parenting Coaching Course, Maha says “Education is a wonderful way to grow both academically and personally.” 



Michelle Haag, PhD

Integrated curriculum,  Science, Math, Instructional Coaching

Michelle’s education and experience has been in American Curriculum schools.  Her PhD work was in Cleveland City schools and she has held teaching, curriculum and administration posts in Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and in Ohio. She has taught Masters level courses at Cleveland State University, Lake Erie College, Bilkent University, Ankara and the American University in Dubai.

Having taught in traditional and outdoor ed settings, in elementary, middle, high school and at the university level in several countries, Michelle is passionate about experiential learning and authentic assessment. She sees education as a way to bring students together through and within our shared world.





Online Teaching in Brazil

KDSL Global recently had the opportunity to connect with Fatma Trabelsi for a quick check in about her experience teaching online. She is a grade 4 teacher at Graded – The American School of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Fatma was recently celebrated for being innovative an committed to student learning in the new age of distance.


How is your distance learning experience?

I should say things are getting better and easier. I am working my way through all the technology features of the tools that I have never expected to use before! Yet this whole transition is extremely draining as it requires a lot of pre-planning and consistency.  If I can use an analogy this whole distance learning is like an airplane prior to take-off. The sound, the spinning, the speed, the fuel, the orientation are all set before the take off. That’s why I find it inspiring and exhausting at the same time.



What technology are you using?

At Graded, we are entering our third week of distance learning. The dust is gently getting settled.  The first week resulted in long hours of work in front of screen, serious exhaustion, several meetings with grade level teachers and designing the best possible plan to serve both parents and students of our grade level. Yes, we lacked sleep and we were tense. Surveys were sent at the end of the week to check if things went well. We were surely happy with the survey results.

In the lower school, we are all using Google Classroom, Brainpop for reading assignments/ Science. Screencastify for morning messages and mini-lessons, and Edulastic for standardized assessment. For regular check-in we use Flip Grid. Obviously, all the Google resources / extensions are used to support our presentations and enhance our mini-lessons. Our library has a bunch of online resources that became quite helpful in these days.



One message you want to share with your scholars.  

For all other scholars, it is important to remain calm, clear-headed and positive. We remain the familiar and the inspiring figures in our students’ lives. They need us now most as uncertainty and doubt veils their days. As educators we also need to empower each other and support those who need more help. This is a serious time where we need to show solidarity and compassion in both in action and words.




Fatma Trabelsi is an experienced international educator with eighteen years of teaching and leading experience in different international schools across North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South East Asia and South America. Over the years, she has gained deep understanding of the IB programme as well as the American curriculum. My recent work experience was the American curriculum with a major focus on the workshop model in literacy and math. She has been involved in IB re- authorization visits and CIS/WASC re-accreditation meetings at organizational level.

Throughout her teaching journey, she has often found herself actively engaged with the school growth and development. Fatma has a MA in Education, BA in English Language and literature, TEFL certification, and several years of teaching experience in international schools. Beside her qualifications, she received training as CIS visiting school member and  has recently completed a TTC workshop on leadership tools in international schools offered by Bambi Betts along with Middle Leadership course delivered by Nord Anglia.

“I am not a virus”


Dallas, Texas, April 12, 2020 – The “I am not a virus” mantra, which Asians around the world shared, is applicable to all humans regardless of skin color, citizenship or ethnicity.

News sources and AIELOC members based in China revealed that people of African origin are being evicted and denied services at businesses and other establishments such as restaurants.  This is in response to an increase in COVID-19 infections and the blatantly racist and unfactual belief that persons of a certain skin color are carrying the virus. An April 1, 2020 PBS News Hour, details anecdotes shared by individuals globally.  The report confirms what AIELOC is hearing and now tracking: “As novel coronavirus spreads around the globe, so have xenophobic misinformation, harassment, discrimination and insults.”

AIELOC unequivocally and absolutely condemns these acts of racial discrimination. We are also concerned by the growing number of these cases on a daily basis. AIELOC calls on international education organizations (AAIE, EARCOS, NESA, AISH, Principals’ Training Center, The International Educator, W Lead Asia, Diversity Collaborative, and ACAMIS) to reach out to heads of schools and directors to ensure a response and that an action plan is immediately put in place for staff, families, and students impacted.


On April 12 we asked AIELOC members based in China:

  1. What response have you received from your community, board, and leadership to this alarming rise in discrimination against Africans and Black Americans?
  2. What support are teachers and students being impacted receiving?


Below are some of the responses:

  • “I plan on emailing my head of school about it tomorrow.”


  • “It has been radio silence where I am. Those of us that are African and Black American are very concerned because it could trickle to other areas. They are already skeptical of foreigners and we have to go through an extra layer of security.”


  • “My South African colleagues were forced into quarantine even after testing negative. My school hasn’t outright addressed the behavior for what it is: racism and the targeting of people with black skin with Africans of other races simply being collateral damage. As a black community, we’re always going to support each other, and that has happened beautifully. At this point, the mantra is to help where you can and to report racist incidents. In terms of my school, I want to know how they plan to support our safety and well-being in light of this official report.”



News Sources and References

  1. African Nations, US Decry Racism Against Blacks in China (https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/04/11/world/africa/ap-af-virus-outbreak-africa.html)
  2. ‘I am not a virus.’ How this artist is illustrating coronavirus-fueled racism


  1. Email sent on April 11, 2020 from U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China to American Citizens in China email list-serv entitled: Health Alert: U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China (April 11, 2020).
  2. US Embassy China Alerts and Messages (https://china.usembassy-china.org.cn/u-s-citizen-services/security-and-travel-information/archive-alerts-messages/)




The Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC) is devoted to amplifying the work of international educators and leaders of color with a focus on advocacy, learning, and research.

For further information, please contact Kevin Simpson, Founder of AIELOC

Tel: +1.312.478.1695 | aieloc2019@gmail.com




Singapore’s Progression of Restrictions Ease Panic

Since December 2019, we have been watching the world deal with the novel coronavirus which first surfaced at a wet market in Wuhan, China. As an expat resident of Singapore, a country that has frequent visitors from all parts of China and Asia, we have had several containment and tracking measures put in place on this small island nation. 


In times of uncertainty and somewhat unknown territory, people can feel left to make some of their own assumptions when information released is very controlled. There is a natural tendency to do things that defy logic. In our initial learnings about how this virus spreads and how many cases were in Singapore, some residents had similar initial reactions to those we are currently seeing in the Western culture countries, primarily in the United States, Canada and Australia, when clusters began popping up. 


While the emotional reactions are natural, they do not help in a time when we need to be logical so that the safety of all citizens is the priority. Some residents were ones of mild hysteria such as toilet paper, noodle and egg hoarding. Thankfully these reactions have been short-lived and curbed as grocery stores started limiting the number of items that people could purchase at one time. Stores reassured people that supplies would not be affected as importing to the country would not be affected. 


To understand where and how cases were moving about, the Singapore government put tracking measures in place very quickly to curb feelings of panic from the public  and contain infected people. It was determined that the first two clusters reported were from Lunar New Year dinners at the end of January, and the second from a church congregation. Once these initial clusters were identified, all people were and still are required to provide information about travel and health to security guards upon entry to their places of work and school. This practice of tracking and tracing have proven to be effective in finding and notifying people who may have been in contact with those infected, getting people tested, and then either giving them official notice to quarantine or get them treatment.


The logical move to institute tracking measures when only a few cases started to pop in Singapore was an effective way to ensure the health and safety of citizens. The first measures have been in place nationwide since January and have been updated as changes in numbers of cases increases locally and globally. These measures have been helpful in identifying those who are/were unwell, who may show symptoms, where people have been and who they have been in contact with. 


Here is what those measures look like:

  1. Identifying clusters. The Ministry of Health (MOH) were able to identify clusters of ill people based on large events attended, such as Chinese New Year dinners and church congregation activities.
  2. Signage. The MOH distributed signs about hygiene to posts in all public venues, from grocery stores to condo and apartment elevators.
  3. Mask distribution. The government made 5.2 million masks available for its citizens to pick up. Personally, I thought this may further push people into hysteria, however, I had to put my personal cultural upbringing and biases aside as you do as an expat because wearing masks in Asian countries is one of the normal precautions that people take during a regular flu season. We never picked ours up because there hasn’t been strong evidence supporting that wearing one will keep you virus-free. We are healthy individuals and opted to not pick up masks, assuming that masks not picked up would be sent to hospitals. 
  4. Temperature readings. Upon entering schools and office buildings, all individuals get their temperatures read, and must do so twice daily. Presently, we reside in a temporary corporate apartment and each day we have a reading before going to  breakfast. At the airport and now in many office building lobbies, there are scanners to read body temperatures as you walk past the monitor so there is no longer a need to stop and get checked, you merely keep walking.
  5. Notice of travel. All individuals must fill in Notice of Travel form at gyms, schools, offices, doctor’s offices, etc. Initially the questions asked if travel was taken to China but since those first weeks of this practice in January that list has grown to include Iran, Italy, most of Europe, South Korea, etc. Now those restrictions are tightening again as of March 27th, 2020. All locals returning must quarantine for the 14 day period following return to Singapore.
  6. Reduction of numbers at gatherings. Schools were required to take precautions right away by canceling all large assemblies and after-school events. Schools instituted rotating lunch schedules and play times and offices, have flexible schedules so employees can split into groups and occupy the office space in smaller numbers. 
  7. Increase in sanitizing public spaces. Singapore is clean anyway but we are now even cleaner. Rails, doorknobs and buttons in elevators are cleaned frequently. Singapore is known for its clean public bathrooms and manicured public spaces which is one of the perks of living here. They are cleaned even more frequently now. My hope is that the increased hygienic practices become the norm everywhere.
  8. Tracking App. You can sign up with your identification number and log your movement for the government in the event that you show symptoms. This makes it very easy for the MOH to contact anyone you have been in contact with locally.
  9. Harsh penalties. Singapore is known for having some odd rules like making selling chewing gum illegal but they are also known for having a very safe society because people follow the rules. If people, business owners as well as individuals in public spaces, are caught not adhering to restrictions, you could receive a heavy fine (up to $10,000) and jail time. No joke there.


Because there have been so many measures in place, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has kept schools open, both local and international schools. While international schools operate independently of local schools, schools still adhere to what the MOE suggests. Local schools are currently back in session from their spring break. International schools are mostly on spring break now until the start of April. Do parents agree with the MOE, some yes, some no, but the MOE states that the  best place for students to be is at school because of the low rate of contraction and transmission. The greater worry seems to be around the possibility of infected parents and helpers who bring students to school. There have been some cases in which parents exhibited symptoms which resulted in school closures for one day to do deep cleaning. Is this enough? It seems so since the incidence of cases in Singapore remains low.


All in all, Singapore has done a lot to contain community spread, and it seems to have been effective so far. And due to increased imported cases, border restrictions are now in place until April 30th. It is a model that countries can look to even if not all the same measures can be taken, many of the same can be. Stay safe everyone, and keep your distance for now.


Now, since writing the first draft of this article above, we have been given another set of restrictions, announced by Prime Minister Lee, as of Friday, April 3rd. 


Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong announced Friday that the nation would institute a “circuit breaker” restriction to control the nation’s uptick virus spread. This uptick began in late March, however, now we are dealing with fewer imported cases as we had seen in mid-March, and more communal spread. New clusters have been reported around the island, many in highly congested dormitories where laborers have been housed, as well as more cases of infected staff at a local preschool franchise. 


PM Lee stated that as of Monday, April 6th, all schools would be closed and full-time home-based learning would take place as of Wednesday, April 8th through to at least May 4th. Local schools had one day of home-based learning “transition” last week while many international schools would just be concluding their spring breaks. Prior to the break, many international school teachers did some preparation in March, in the event that this announcement would come. 


Since this announcement, Singaporean parents have been worried about all the same things that American parents have been concerned about, and because of this, the MOE has been available for holding online Q & A events to help ease those concerns. 


Does the MOE have a magical remedy here? No, of course not. But they had suggestions ready, similar to ones we have heard about in the US or Canada, and all examinations have been cancelled except the national exam for Singaporeans. This is a learning curve that the nation is slightly behind on, yet not far behind, as the nation has been watching other responses to closing schools from abroad. I am also certain that there would not be any school, district or nation that would ever have the magic potion for instituting an efficient full-time online school / homeschool / work-at-home program.


Additionally, from Tuesday, April 7th, all non-essential shops and businesses are closed. Only grocery stores and pharmacies remain open, and food establishments are open for take away orders and deliveries. Mask distribution commenced again this week at community centers as well so I walked over to my nearest center to pick one up where I had my local identification card scanned. There were no lines, but still many older folks remained seated around the communal tables at the neighborhood hawker center, as I’m sure they have done for years. I guess they were getting their last group chat in before all the tables are removed and stored for the month. Enforcement of social distancing rules is in full force and unless you want to pay a hefty fine, you should be sure to keep your distance from anyone in public places!


To offset some business’s loss of wages, we hear of many national governments creating stimulus packages and governmental monetary support for its citizens. The government is providing a small monetary support to Singaprean citizens with payments ranging from $300SGD to $900SGD per person (depending on salary) from the nation’s Unity Budget. While the locals do get some support, there are always those who are happy to get the payment, those that don’t need it, and those that require more in order to survive. This seems to be a common concern in nations with the same system in place. Additionally, some of the hardest working people in this country are here on work visas and will not receive this support. Those of us who are in the expat community must consult with our home countries’ associations or embassies if we need support.


All in all, things have been changing quickly and I think this will be the last of our big changes here. We have experienced quite a progression of changes over the last couple of months to help people feel at ease with a threatening situation and mostly panic has been kept at bay. I think it’s worked for the most part, so now we ride it out for the next few weeks, keeping to ourselves, and hopefully we will be in a better place very soon.


Take care everyone, and stay home.


Asia News articles:

Schools Open in Singapore


Greater Restrictions Close Schools and Businesses

Singapore Stimulus Package




Copy of Tammy Musiowsky-0220.jpg

Tamera Musiowsky-Borneman is an international educator, advisor, and coach who has taught and lead in Singapore, New York City, and Edmonton, Canada. She is the creator of EdCoach Coffee Break, she is an active member of ASCD, President of ASCD Emerging Leaders Alumni Affiliate (ELASCD), KDSL Global Advisory Member, and Participate Course Author. 


A New Dawn for Basic Teachers on Digital Literacy in the 5 Regions of Northern Ghana

Speaking with colleagues and friends from the USA, Europe (Macedonia), and parts of the MENA region (Dubai) suggests that the COVID-19 outbreak pushing teachers and pupils to work from home is evidence that there is a great gap in my country’s (Ghana) digital landscape.

In Ghana, how many teachers have a personal computer and know how to operate it? What proportions of teacher have smart phones? How easy it is to access the Internet? This presents a challenge for teacher to somewhat update themselves to the current global trends in digital literacy.

A survey conducted focused on basic school teachers from the northern part of Ghana in the past one week suggests that everyone says is for no work due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I had to enquire from them as to what can be done to assist our brothers and sisters from home. It was obvious that they have no idea as to how they could reach out. I identified some issues with Internet connectivity, cost of bundles, and lack of technological infrastructure. This was especially noted with teachers from the remote communities in the 5 Northern Regions of Ghana, which can support and complement the ‘work from home’ concept.

Most universities and colleges in Ghana have adopted the online approach of delivery as a short-term measure to fill the gap. What can we do as basic teachers in smalls way to be in touch with our pupils so that they do not lose out on learning in the wake of this COVID-19 pandemonium?

I will end this piece with a quote from Professor Godfred Bokpin, an Economics at the University of Ghana, who says that “It is of importance that everybody, not only businesses but individuals also begin to upgrade their digital literacy because that is where the world is heading.”

When we talk about some of the businesses picking up from where they left off, they’ll need to rely on the usage of technology more, going forward because the world would not be the same again after coronavirus.



Abdul-Razak, Issah

Basic School Educator, RLS Staff Trainer, Empatico & WLL Cohort 2 Fellow,
KDSL Global Fellow.

Email aizakoos96@gmail.com

Online Teaching in Dubai

KDSL Global recently had the opportunity to connect with our Teacher Advisor Monique Childress for a quick check in about her experience teaching online. She is a grade 4 teacher in Dubai at Collegiate American School-Innoventures Education.


How was your first week of distance learning?

My first week of distance learning was quite challenging for me and for my students. Everything was new! However, we are getting into the grove of this new norm and becoming more comfortable and confident.
What technology are you using?

We are currently using Microsoft Teams as our platform with some Seesaw integration.


One message you want to share with your scholars.  

Remember we are building a community of life long learners as we are all learning new norms to adapt to.


To learn more about remote learning in Dubai and in the United Arab Emirates visit:






Monique Childress has been in the education field for 16 years and enjoys incorporating technology within her lessons. Currently, she is working as a teacher in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  Monique enjoys assisting KDSL Global with their conferences and events and has been since 2013. As a volunteer teacher fellow, she will collaborate with the team to develop innovative programs and materials and contribute to professional learning opportunities. Monique has been involved in many KDSL Global initiatives such as Cognitive Coaching and she has hosted Real Men Read UAE literacy volunteers in her classroom. C. Monique Childress received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Tuskegee University in the United States of America. Monique has been working on her Master’s from Troy University in Adult Education with a concentration of Instructional Technology.