I haven’t written much about school this year, mostly because I know that many of our readers aren’t teachers. However, I got a lot of questions about teaching when I was at home, so I think it’s time to address them.
Cedar International School is an IB World School, which means it is authorized to teach the International Baccalaureate programmes. A key aspect of the IB is character education, through what’s called the Learner Profile. The character traits/actions of Caring, Inquirer, Balanced, Principled, Reflective, Open-Minded, Risk Taker, Thinker, Knowledgeable, and a Communicator are to be infused into our lessons daily. At Cedar, kids (and adults) are also encouraged to recognise others who display these traits through an ICIB, a slip of paper where the action and the IB trait are written down. At assembly every other week, the kids who were caught exhibiting the traits are recognised on stage. In many ways it’s like PBIS, but I feel it’s less external because it’s mostly kids recognising one another without the tangible reward. No one has waited until I walked by to pick something up and then asked for an ICIB for doing something they should be really doing anyway!
The other big difference is how student centred the educational programme is. Rather than starting with a list of facts all kids are expected to know and designing lessons that will address those facts, we start with a broad topic (like exploration) and design guiding questions to help shape the unit. There is a big emphasis on student curiosity and individual lines of inquiry. It’s most important that the kids are exposed to interesting learning experiences centred around the key concepts of the unit and much less important that each child learn the same things. This has, and continues to be, a big adjustment in my teaching! In so many ways it is wonderful to have so much professional freedom! I get to use strategies that I know are good for kids and design my instruction according to best practice! I’m truly using all the study I’ve done over the last few years on differentiation. At the same time, it can be a little daunting as well! As much as I resisted those school textbooks in favour of trade books, they were a good guide to follow. Without them, and with no grade level co-workers to guide me through what they’ve done in the past, sometimes I feel a little lost. Those broad topics can suddenly seem suffocating as I try to narrow them enough to address them in 6 weeks, while still addressing each of the guiding questions! Take exploration, for example. That includes ancient exploration, European discovery of the new world, and modern exploration of space and the oceans! That’s a lot of content to cover!
It wouldn’t be possible to teach such broad topics without the integration that occurs regularly. A lot of that happens within my own class – pulling reading texts and literature based on that topic, writing about that topic, etc. I did a lot of that in Olathe with our Science and Social Studies curriculum. Here though, that integration also happens with many of the kids’ specials. When we studied weather in class, the kids created Photostories about severe weather in IT, learned how to talk about weather in Spanish, created weather songs in Music, and researched weather topics in Library! I love how everyone is able to teach their own content through the same topic, and the kids love it too!
There is a lot more to the IB, but I think that’s a good place to stop for now! Now I’ll take you on a brief tour of our school.
Here’s the view from the road.
The front entrance opens up into the atrium, which is like our multi-purpose room. The kids have assembly here every other week and this is where they come at dismissal to wait for their parents. Book Fairs, bake sales, and fundraisers happen here as well.
This is the Kindy area. They have their own play area there behind the gate.
These are the new classrooms that were completed the first week of school. The stucco and a more permanent overhang are slated for this summer.
Upstairs is the secondary school, as well as the Library, IT and Art Labs ( a couple of which I forgot to photograph before we left school on Friday.)
This is the pitch, and that building with the world on it is the music room.
The kids eat lunch on these picnic tables, right outside my door.
I’m really enjoying this experience of teaching abroad. I know I’m growing as a professional, and I feel the IB really has the right ideas about teaching kids to become the leaders of the future. I’m also really looking forward to next year, using the materials I’ve ordered myself (including Rubber Cement and all kinds of cardstock!) and having a better idea of what in the world I’m doing! Thanks for supporting us in our Teach Abroad Adventure!