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EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY

TEACHING & LEARNING SHOULD BE INQUIRY DRIVEN, STUDENT CENTERED AND WORKSHOP ORIENTED

GOOD RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE FOUNDATIONS UPON WHICH GOOD TEACHING TAKES PLACE

A strong relationship with the students should be the number one priority for all teachers. When students feel safe, respected and actively like their teachers, the best opportunities for learning occur.,

DEVELOPING LEADERS IS AN EVERYDAY PROCESS THAT STARTS IN THE CLASSROOM

The IB Learner Profile cites a wonderful range of traits, that when considered as a whole, can be summed up in one word: Leadership.

To be clear, this reading of the IB Learner Profile is not meant to understand leadership as a static concept or a formal position. It is the fluid set of characteristics that inform that the actions that students and teachers take. It is the everyday actions that we take and attitudes that we exhibit.

It is important that we are grounding our students in the IB Learner Profile, that we are seeking to help students recognise these traits in themselves, and help develop them. Leadership therefore is developed day by day, by the process of mentoring of students by their teacher, by reflection that helps students understand their action, and by the process of modeling, where teachers show their students what a true leader looks like.

A school with a mission to develop leaders is most congruent with principles of the IB.

THE WORKSHOP MODEL DRIVES STUDENT INQUIRY, AND MAXIMISES STUDENT AGENCY

The workshop model is an effective, student centred approach to education that embraces both the benefits of inquiry as a pedagogical approach and student agency. A good lesson will consist of three parts, the initial engagement activity, the conceptual development and application, and the reflection or the debrief.

The initial engagement activity can be a number of different things. In mathematics, it can be the number talk of the day introducing new problems to students, or it can be examples of students work from the day before where students and the teacher as a class can discuss the work of the previous day. This is equivalent to the tuning in stage of the inquiry cycle. In literacy, it can be introducing a new writing convention or a new element of a specific genre. The key element to the initial engagement is that it should not take longer than 10-15 minutes, and should be structured to generate student discussion, whether in pairs, as a class or in small groups. It should be in a location in the classroom that is set aside for communal gathering as a whole group.

The second stage of a lesson should be conceptual development or the application. In a literacy lesson, this would be the portion of the lesson where the students are set to work on their writing as individuals or in pairs. This could, for example, be the portion of the lesson where the students practice their writing or engage in peer review. The central role of the teacher in this section of the lesson is to roam, engage and discuss the students work with them. By way of another example, in mathematics, this portion of the lesson could be done individually or in pairs, and should be a rich task (that which can be extended to meet the needs of higher level students but is still accessible for lower level students). These could be completed on whiteboards or math journals. Once again, the role of the teacher is to roam, engage and probe students understanding of the work they are doing. This should take 20-30 minutes, and crucially, students should move to a new location in the classroom.

The final part is that of the debrief or reflection. This is where the class will gather as a whole to discuss the work done in the conceptual development stage. This part of the lesson is critical for gauging student understanding, and for developing planning for the following lessons. This should take 10-15mins, and can end with a quick “exit ticket” activity or sentence. Pair work can also be utilised here, but should always be brought back to the whole class. Student agency and inquiry critically are developed in this part of the lesson. Students should be encouraged to share their ideas, solutions and problems that they encountered, and this should drive future learning engagements.

GOOD CLASSROOM STRUCTURE IS CENTRAL TO FOSTERING STUDENT INDEPENDENCE

Responsive classroom cites a simple mantra for educators to embrace: Believe the best of students.

Often this idea is misinterpreted to mean that students should be free to act and do as they feel all the time, that teachers should simply have blind faith that students will act in their own best interests, and the best interests of others. On the opposite end of the spectrum to this is the belief that a structured classroom is an archaic and restrictive classroom.

I would argue that neither of these is an accurate interpretation of believing the best of students. Firstly, when classroom routines are developed and established in conjunction with the students, a classroom culture is seeded. This culture is critical in helping students believe the best of themselves and others. Classroom routines furthermore help create a series of systems that help students take ownership of their learning, and foster independence. This helps develop principled and balanced students. Simply put, establishing classroom routines help students set aside the need to ask adults as to what they should do next, and lets them do it for themselves.

The caveat to these comments, is that these examples will differ depending on the age range and developmental stage of the students. A structured, independent classroom will look very different in Grade 1, from what it would look like in grade 5.

 

COLLABORATION IS ESSENTIAL FOR A UNIFIED VISION TO SUPPORT SCHOOL CULTURE

Collaboration between teachers is the most efficient way for teachers to be ensuring that their practice is indeed the best it can be, and for teachers to be confident that they are indeed meeting the needs to their students.

But another reason for teachers to be engaging in an open door policy and freely moving in and out of each others’ classrooms is that it ensures that the vision they have is a shared one.

A shared vision is the most important factor in ensuring that teachers are all moving in the same direction together. This is one of the central elements to building and maintaining a healthy school culture.

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