Beginning at the End

Hello world, and welcome to my very first blog post! I've decided to get the ball rolling by reflecting on the past two years I have spent at ISS in Singapore, and what I have learned from my experience there. When you work with young children, the last week of school tends to be a time to just have fun with a group of children you have grown to know and love. The best part is that they often don't fully register that their time with you is nearly done and the only one in the room who is getting sentimental is the YOU! Perhaps not every teacher's experience is as such, but I know that every year, as I pass on another group of amazing children to the next grade level, I can't help but get emotional! Teaching in the international school circuit can make it all that more emotional, because each year families will move on to other countries or back home, wherever home may be. This year, I am the one who is moving on so I am not only saying good bye to another class of little munchkins, but I am also saying good bye to ISS, my colleagues and friends here and to Singapore. This community is filled with constant change, so much so that you have to learn to make connections and bonds quickly, or before you know it time will be up!

So, what have I taken away with me from my experience here?

1. The Power of the 'Action Board'

I learned about student initiated action when I first started my training to become a PYP teacher, and it is what we something we aim for our students to achieve as PYP teachers: being able to independently take their learning further. In the older grades, student action has been seen in our school through a variety of projects led by the students, such as initiating a school recycling program or earning money through a bake sale in order to purchase a piece land in the rainforest and preserve it.

What does it look like with the youngest learners though? Is it even possible for them? These were questions I struggled with and over the past two years have discovered that it is indeed very possible, occurring almost everyday! I have had an action board in my class for about four years now, but it was only this past year that I paid more attention to picking up when the students were really taking action on their learning and making the effort to celebrate it on the board. Occasionally, my class blog became a place to celebrate student action when I managed to capture it on video. The more I posted on the board and on the blog, the more the kids started to recognize what 'taking action' was and soon would identify themselves when they were doing it or when their peers were. Here are some links to some student initiated action that happened in my class this past school year:

2. Having a Class Blog

I have only had a class blog for the past two years and I LOVE IT! Here are some of the benefits I have seen:

  • Home-School connection strengthened: 
    • Window into the classroom for not just parents but grandparents, relatives and friends all around the world
    • Children can share their work and talk about school at home
    • Parents understand lessons more as they can be illustrated and explained
    • Sharing activities and ideas that can be done at home
  • Global education opportunities: opens up the classroom to the world and gives children an avenue to communicate with other classes, teachers, experts and many more.
  • Language, communication and thinking skills: The children have to think and reflect on how to reply to comments, how to ask questions or why they want to post something on the blog (what is the purpose for posting it?)

3. Joining Twitter

I was very hesitant to join Twitter but once I did I was HOOKED! I joined Twitter less than a year ago, and the amount that I have learned within that time period is unbelievable! It has allowed me to build a personal learning network (PLN) of teachers, authors, administrators, educational app creators and many more within the field of education. I have learned from them, shared ideas with them and joined in chats to discuss a variety of topics along side them. So many people have been inspirational to me, and whenever I run into a problem, I just have to tweet a question and I'll get responses from all ends of the globe! To be so easily connected to so many minds that I respect inspires me on a daily basis and keeps me excited about heading to school and trying out the latest thing I learned. I have always loved what I do, and I can't believe how much more I love it now that Twitter is in my life!

4. Using iPads for more than just review/practice

Many teachers who begin technology integration into the classroom, especially the use of iPads, will rely heavily on the apps and this is how I started. Each day I chose an app that practiced phonics skills, number identification or something to that tune and rotated my children through an 'iPad center'. After joining Twitter, I learned more and more about the ways other teachers were using iPads in a more open ended manner. For instance, the camera is so powerful! Children can record their own learning using it either for still pictures or video. They are able to use it alongside apps to create stories/books, mind-maps or even send a message to someone. For children who are 4 years old, the power of communication without having to write opens up an entirely new world of inquiry. Take for instance this inquiry the class did in collaboration with educational app creators, Duck Duck Moose: Click here. The use of the iPad allowed my young learners to record their thoughts freely and thus, they were able to inquire more independently.

I began this first blog post in Singapore as I packed up and shipped out. I am finishing it off in my new home, Taipei and I'm ready to begin my next adventure. Here's to new beginnings! I look forward to what is to come.