Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our First Staff Meeting of the New School Year

Today was our first day back with all the teachers and we had meetings the whole morning.  We heard from the Director of our school, the Director of Student Life, the Curriculum Director and so on.  We heard about our beautiful new middle and high school buildings, we heard about the achievements of our students in their IB and AP exams, we heard about respecting each other and the code of conduct and we heard about how we will be moving forward over the next 3 years in aligning our 3 curricula (PYP, MYP and DP).  We heard some talk about 21st century skills too.

Obviously our job as teachers is to prepare students for their future.  Over the last few years the catchphrase "21st century skills" has been used a lot.  I've always disliked that term, though, and in this morning's meeting it was pointed out that many of these skills are not in fact new at all - problem solving and critical thinking have been around for a long time and were certainly part of our IB curricular well before the 21st century.  There are some new skills our students will need, however, such as global awareness and information fluency.

Some teachers talk a lot about the subjects/content that students will need for the future, others talk about the skills.  As was pointed out in our meeting this morning, our debate should not be about the content versus the skills, but should be about how to meet the challenges of delivering both content and skills in ways that improve student learning.  Also it's not just about "delivering" these - we want to empower our students to be self-directed, collaborative, creative and innovative learners.

Another thing that was presented to us was that we often talk about giving our students experience, yet experience is not the same as practice.  Experience is using a particular skill, practice is that you improve and formulate strageties to do better.  Practice requires feedback, usually from someone more skilled than you are.

All 3 of our IB programmes have 21st century skills built into them.  However they were developed at different times by different groups of teachers in different schools.  The MYP and PYP both started as different programmes that later came under the umbrella of the IB.  Our challenge as a school is to connect them in meaningful ways to produce a coherent programme that runs from pre- school to grade 12 - and it was pointed out that 20% of this year's graduates have actually spent their entire school life here in this international school so the programmes need to flow together and build upon each other.  So far, what we have as a way of unifying these 3 programmes is the emphasis on international mindedness and the learner profile.  Our challenge this year is to consolidate what we are doing and to identify the desired outcomes - what we want the students to know (the content), what we want them to understand (the concepts) and what we want them to be able to do (the skills), and we also want to know how this is going to look in each grade in the school.

Photo Credit:  United Hands by Rita M

1 comment:

  1. Have a great school year! It sounds like it started on the right foot with a time of reflection and goal setting.