Friday, August 26, 2016

Food for Thought: Who are you?

Dear all,

There is so much that I want to share with you but don't want to overburden you, hence I decided to complete the post on a Friday so as to give you time to browse over the weekend. This week's Food for Thought has several parts and an additional provocation, that in their way build on the work we started in our Tuesday meeting. Our goal last Tuesday was to help you take time to explore which of the positive emotions are strong for you and which need building up. We believe that this exercise will benefit all of us in the long run.  

The first two parts of this weeks Food for Thought relate very much to our year long inquiry, Who are we? The first is a series of thoughts from the philosopher Alan Watts, not a relative, who encourages us all to reflect upon how we are living our lives and subtly asks, are making the most of your time?

The second part is a meditation that deepens our understanding of who you are and can be undertaken with your partner or close friend. It is designed to help you gradually move away from self obsession towards being able accept and appreciate others. It is believed that until you are able to understand your own selfishness you will not be able to cultivate kindness.

"The only way to maintain that connection is to extend our awareness to include all of our experience, not just the parts that we find comfortable. Meditation practice is a good way to begin because it is a process of becoming aware of whatever comes up in our mind, both good and bad, painful and pleasurable. We are learning to be open to who we are, and whatever we are experiencing. So meditation practice is not just a mental exercise; it is a way of making friends with ourselves at a very basic level. Step by step we are learning more about ourselves and accepting and integrating those parts of ourselves we had rejected.
This exercise takes two people. To begin, sit quietly together, either next to one another or facing one another. Take some time to settle your mind, placing your attention lightly on the breath. Do not rush, but allow enough time to settle and to be at ease simply sitting together in proximity.
The next step is to consciously include your partner in your practice. As you breathe out, extend your attention out to her and as you breathe in consciously include her in your awareness. Be as straightforward here as possible. You are not analyzing your partner’s state of mind or trying to figure her out, but simply being aware of her presence.
Finally, pay attention to the space between you and your partner and your connection to one another. Into that mutual space, as you breathe out, project a quality of acceptance and simple friendship to your partner. On the in-breath, take in and receive the acceptance and friendship that your partner is extending to you. Feel the energy of acceptance and friendship circulate between the two of you.
To conclude, spend a few minutes simply sitting together quietly.
When we sit quietly like this with another person, we gradually become more aware of that person’s presence. We begin to accept and appreciate her or him. Those two qualities, awareness and acceptance, are the ground of kindness. But we keep getting absorbed with ourselves, and losing our awareness of others. When we are caught up in our own concerns, our appreciation and awareness vanish. They completely disappear—poof!
We might prefer to ignore our tendency to focus on our own concerns and ignore the concerns of others. However, if we want to cultivate kindness, we first need to understand our own selfishness. That is where we begin. We need to stop and take a good look at this fixation with ourselves."

Finally, here is one extra piece of research that further supports what we feel is right in the way we are approaching student learning at ISHCMC. If you don't want to read the book the rest of this post from Psychology Today, will certainly give you research based reasoning if a parent ever questions your pedagogy. Here is a brief extract from the post.

Farrer, Straus & Giroux
"Alison Gopnik is a renowned developmental psychologist whose research has revealed much about the amazing learning and reasoning capacities of young children, and she may be the leading interpreter of such research to the general public.  She is one of the best science writers I know of.  In her most recent book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, released just a few days ago, she describes the results of many clever experiments that help us understand how young children learn by watching others, listening to others, and manipulating objects in systematic ways in their play. 
A persistent theme emerging from such research, as Gopnik explains, is that children learn not by passively absorbing information, but by actively engaging their social and physical environments and drawing logical inferences based on what they see, hear, and in other ways experience.  Gopnik contends that children learn a great deal from other people, including from their parents, not because the others are deliberately teaching them but because those others are doing and talking about interesting things, which children are innately motivated to try to understand and incorporate into their own growing world views."
Have a great weekend,
Here is an additional provocation to think about as we think about who we are. We do not exist in isolation but in a fast changing world that is not the same for all, and impacts each one of us differently. This TED by writer Anand Giridharadas is a letter from one citizen to another. It's from one who has won in this era of change, to others who have, or feel, lost.It asks us to think deeply about the world that we are creating for ourselves and future generations and to find ways to understand each other before there is anger and blood. It outlines many of the challenges that our students will face in this changed world. In our search for who we are, I believe we cannot ignore the world beyond HCMC, and that we need to reflect upon where we stand, and from there be able to create a school that is built around a collective vision for the future.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Food for Thought: How We See Ourselves

Dear all,

Firstly, a big thanks to everyone who attended the 'Back to School Party' on Friday evening and helped to make it such a fabulous evening. Thanks to the school band, Get Staffed, for their lively entertainment that helped cement the increasing feeling that we are all part of one good school.

This week's Food For Thought I hope builds on the atmosphere and ambiance that was present at the party and is designed to continue our thinking about who we are. This first video is a short poem about saying yes, and instead of finding reasons for not doing something changing our mindset to taking on new challenges and adventures.

The second link is to a website,  Gratitude Revealed that has a portfolio of wonderful short videos that will make you think about key areas in your lives. Take your time to watch each of the different sections because they will certainly make you think about who you are and where you stand regarding each area. When I watched these videos I felt even more grateful for the life that I have and enjoy everyday. I hope that you will be similarly inspired and that you will be able to use this material to encourage your students to see how fortunate they are and how they can share their fortune with others around them. We all live in a beautiful world, full of amazing stories and potential, of opportunities to make the most of what we have been given no matter how big or small, in the end it is up to each one of us to make the most of our time. Of course this is far easier to achieve if we have a positive default, open mind and willingness to embrace life.

Have a great weekend,


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Food for Thought: Inquiry based learning in our classrooms

Dear all,

Thanks for the great start to the school year. I hope that you all had a good week. I know that the students did.

One of our key professional development areas for this year is to ensure we improve our understanding of inquiry based teaching. You may ask why would we do this when many of you are already quite proficient at this pedagogy. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, as a key goal this year we are inquiring into who we are across the whole school. If we aren't proficient in encouraging students to inquire they won't be able to seriously explore the question who am I?  and emerge with any meaningful discoveries. Secondly,  there are many different interpretations across a EE to 12 school of what inquiry means and these aren't always maximizing the potential of this pedagogy. Thirdly, inquiry is the expected pedagogy for all three IB programmes. Lastly, all the readings point to the fact that inquiry based learning feeds perfectly to our mission by energizing, engaging and empowering students to achieve more meaningful and deeper understandings through their learning.

By focusing on inquiry we should all be releasing more of the learning to students. Of course this does not mean that as teachers we do not teach anymore but what does change is our role in the classroom. No longer are we the fountains of all knowledge, but rather we have to think of provocation that will engage students and make them curious about their learning so they ask challenging questions and are motivated to explore their curriculum.
Each section of the school will be watching a series of videos on inquiry based learning and then discussing and applying their learning as the year progresses. Hence, I thought it important that this week's Food for Thought focuses on inquiry based learning with a series of short blog posts, videos and articles.


What is Inquiry based learning?

"Inquiry-based learning is more than asking a student what he or she wants to know. It’s about triggering curiosity. And activating a student’s curiosity is, I would argue, a far more important and complex goal than the objective of mere information delivery.

Nevertheless, despite its complexity, inquiry-based learning can be somehow easier on teachers, too. True, it’s seemingly easier because it transfers some responsibilities from teachers to students, but it’s really easier because releasing authority engages students.Teachers who use inquiry-based learning combat the “dunno” -- a chronic problem in student engagement.
Let’s face it, when you ask a student something like, “What do you want to know about _______?” you are often met with a shrug, or a, “dunno.” Inquiry-based learning, if front-loaded well, generates such excitement in students that neurons begin to fire, curiosity is triggered, and students can’t wait to become experts in answering their own questions."

Here is a TED talk given by Kath Murdoch, one of the worlds leading inquiry consultants around the world. In this talk Kath encourages teachers to maintain wonder in our students. This talk is from 2014 but certainly useful for those still grappling with why we would want to encourage inquiry. This is supported by a 6 minutes video that clearly articulates why we should be using inquiry in all our classrooms.

What are the benefits of bringing inquiry based learning to all our classrooms?

Finally for this post here are 10 tips for bringing inquiry to your classrooms. If you want to read more about each then please follow the link to the full article.

10 Tips For Launching An Inquiry-Based Classroom

1. Don’t teach the content standards; help kids find their own path towards the information they need to know.
2. Don’t tell students what they should know; create the structure for them to experience it on their own.
3. Use class time to make connections between pieces of information.
4. Many kids struggle with reading, so hook them with the non-written word.
5. Stop giving struggling kids the most boring version of the work to repeat over and over again.
6. Surprise students.
7. The traditional model of imparting knowledge isn’t working very well, so don’t be afraid to try out inquiry.
8. Find the “bend” in the outcomes and abandon the prescriptive path.
9. Indulge interesting student questions even if it doesn’t fit the pacing guide.
10. Approach the practice of teaching with inquiry and use that meta-practice to improve.

Have a wonderful Sunday,


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Food for Thought: Have a Fantastic Year at ISHCMC

Dear all,

For this first Food for Thought of the new year I have decided to share a powerful video with you, Dark Side of the Lens. At first view you may think this has little to do with us as teachers but after watching and listening I hope you will connect it with our work last week.

I may have shared this video before but for some reason it comes back to my mind at the start of the year. Although it captures the power of natures, it brings me a peace of mind. It removes any anxiety and stress that I may have about the year ahead. It encourages positive emotions of awe, integrity, passion and love. It reminds me of my duty to encourage and develop passion in our students. To provide learning opportunities that free our young thinkers minds from the shackles of conventional thought. To foster innovation and creativity by providing learning environments in which it is ok to fail. It reminds me of why I became a teacher; my love for watching students grow as creators of thought.  

I hope the video inspires you as a teacher and encourages you to think about how your work this year will encourage students to flourish in their lives.

I wish you all the best for the year ahead at ISHCMC and your growth as teachers.