How is a classroom in an international school different?
In order to understand how classrooms in an international school are different, let us look at two different scenarios or learning stories.
If we look at traditional schooling, many would recollect that classrooms were such that learning could only happen when the entire class was quiet and listened with rapt attention to what the teacher had to say. In order to ask a question, students raised a hand and waited until called. If they spontaneously made a comment, they may have been told not to “act too smart” or to disrupt the class. In many schools, there was a ranking system, and those who ranked among the first three students. The teacher was considered to be the repository of all knowledge, and the students hung onto every word. There was only one form of evaluating student performance, namely a worksheet, a unit test or an examination, and more often than not, the student repeated what was written in the textbook, or said in the classroom.
The scenario in an IB school could not be more different! Our classrooms today are noisy classrooms, where students ask lots of questions and may have respectful disagreements with fellow students as well as with the teacher, who is seen as a classroom facilitator. We have coined some phrases, such as constructive noise. Teachers do not mind when students talk, and most of the times the students are talking about the work in the classroom. If they are not, it is the teacher who acts as a facilitator and will help the students find something engaging enough to come back to the task at hand. Some problems have one answer, however the way or method or route can vary. Some problems have multiple answers, and students need to be able to defend the veracity of these. Students can use their own logical steps, and they do not have to emulate the teacher, in fact we support the students to find different ways to solve a problem.
Let us look at some examples of learning at Mount Litera School International:
- In a math class, students would not be told the value of pi. They would take several circular objects and measure the circumference and diameter and come up with the ratio.
- In a language class, the conversations would be around families, in which each student would have an opportunity to share in a circle, or they would sequence the steps of what they do when they come from home to school.
- Integrated math and language learning happen when students identify places on a map and give the coordinates in another language.
- Integrated math and art take place when students study patterns and create their own patterns.
- Evaluation of student work takes place in multiple ways by peer teaching and learning, role play, presentations, discussions, using art and drama, and/or free flow writing.
These are a few examples of learning stories, and I am sure we all agree that they are indeed different. Why is that?
Teachers in an international school accept that a student can say they do not like something, and we look for ways in which we can create a learning space where we support each other in the process of completing the task. This entails having a flexible mind from both sides, in order to come to some agreement on non-negotiable course requirements. We learn for the joy of learning, as well as for the assessment, and we work towards a balance of both.
We hope that our students become conscious thinking people, who believe in their passions and have the courage of their convictions to follow these. We feel fortunate that as IB practitioners, we do not have to limit myself to just content driven classrooms, but also teach to understanding and reflecting in order to go deeper personally and professionally.
Ultimately, a school is a place, which is a happy environment for all students, where individuals feel valued and cared for at all times, where teachers and students see each other as co-facilitators for learning and are not bound by the confines of one discipline or another. We can all contribute to a learning discussion and spend as much time as we need on a particular idea, rather than rushing from one subject period to another. What if a school is a collaborative space where groups of individuals respect one another and work together to develop a deep understanding, mutual respect, and keep in mind that eventually we all want the world to be a better place for each and every one of us.