Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.

Inspired by our Students

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Inspiration is not hard to find in a school… as long as you’re looking.

One of the great things about being a teacher in an international school is there is always so much going on, and that even if we’re feeling a bit challenged, a student or group of students will remind us what our vocation is all about. This last couple of weeks I have been inspired not by educational reading, MA work or my role as a pseudmin, but by the students in our school.

HS Students showing off their project – to residents, visitors and TV

Last Saturday, a group of high schoolers who had set up their own Biology club took part in a science fair run by the national school next door (a ‘Science Super School’). They took their work on biofuels and algal cultures and represented well: they were great ambassadors for our school and for student science, and they have been key in building a stronger relationship with our neighbours. The school next door is running some great projects, and now our students can be involved. But the key to their success is their ownership of the projects.

Last Friday the English department ran the annual speech contest, and some of our Grade 10 students inspired me to think more deeply. One student had me in tears of laughter with his speech on violent video games, while another made me think much more deeply about the effect that the ‘feminine ideal’ of the Disney Princesses could be having on my daughter. It led to a good discussion about feminism and Brave in class during the week.

The very same weekend, High School Drama put on Two Gentlemen Of Verona, which was funny, well-acted and produced and really entertaining. Seeing our students in a different light (and in character) gives a whole new perspective and appreciation for their talents.

Then last Sunday we went to see another of our students’ own projects – a photography exhibition hosted alongside an established French painter who lives locally, in a small tea-room gallery in Kobe. It was a great opportunity for her to show off her photos in this way, and I think she even sold some. This was an authentic outlet for her work, with a real and valuable audience. She used this as the basis of her personal project and you can tell that we was engaged and passionate about her work throughout.

Before the winter break I had a great time coaching the Middle School Girls’ Soccer team. As third coach I was responsible mainly for the grade 6 team and it was a blast. The change in gear from more serious HS Science and curriculum work to running about on a field with some hyper-enthusiastic kids is invigorating. Even now, 2 months later, I get daily squeals, hellos and waves-in-through-the-door. It puts a smile on may face and I hope they keep their energy when they reach High School!

There’s a never-ending parade of student-led projects, athletics and events going on in a school – too much to attend all of them – but it is great to see them in action. It is their energy that inspires me, so I need to keep mine up to do the same for them.

Student-centred‘ is an edu-term that gets slung around a lot: the IB programme models but the Learner in the centre, we claim that’s what we’re doing in class. As we review curriculum and pedagogy, we should remember this. What are we really doing to put the students and their learning at the centre? How can our curriculum and teaching facilitate this?

When is it best for us to just help them get set up and then get out of their way?

Author: Stephen

Director of Learning & MYP Coordinator at Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan. Formerly MYP HS Science & IBDP Bio teacher and missing it terribly. Twitterist (@sjtylr), dad and bloggerer.

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