After a short summer and a big move... I am feeling incredibly welcomed into my new home in Ho Chi Minh City. The employees at my new school have such a fantastic vision for education. Accepting a job at a "dream school" is scary. What bubbles will be burst? Can I keep up with what is happening around me? Will I like it as much as I want to?
So far... so good. That doesn't even seem to cover it. Everyone is open. Everyone is willing. Everyone cares. "Energized, engaged, and empowered" is truly lived here. My colleagues are amazing, and I couldn't ask for a more supportive group of people to work with.
After their success last year beginning #Studio5, the school decided to expand this model, and I am officially part of the #Studio4 team at #ISHCMCib. With different students, we are still not 100% sure what this looks like yet. We are proposing different things and still having discussions about what is best for this group of students as they arise. I envision things changing and growing as we go, just as they did for me last year with my grade 3's in Switzerland.
After a few conversations of what it might look like, last Wednesday we finally met our students! From day 1 we began fostering agency. The returning students had some familiarity with these ideas from their grade 3 experiences last year, but we also have a lot of growth in the school and our grade level.
A few things we have done to try to build a "Studio" atmosphere so far (embracing voice, choice, and ownership from the start).
1. Planning our day as a group. Each teacher wrote a variety of things on one of our moveable whiteboard walls. Some options were more traditional first day things, some were not. Some I had not planned for (and then had to find something at the last minute because they wanted it. Fair!) Each student then decided whether these items should be a must, should, or could for the day by using different colored check marks. Then we talked about them as a group and sorted them into the chart and placed them into our blank (kind of) timetable for the day. Already things have come up where we have had to be flexible and change the schedule. I love that the real world is affecting us and they are learning to make changes as needed. It is teaching them how to become more decisive and flexible, as well as giving my brain a break by taking away a couple of those thousands of decisions we make daily as teachers. We did this every day last week, adding new things. I can see it lasting maybe another week but it is time consuming doing this as a large class group... so wheels are turning about the next step with this.
2. Goal setting. I wanted to get them into this habit right away. I asked them to think of a small, achievable goal that they could complete in one day. For example, learning one new name, being kind to someone new, or making good choices in the playground. At the end of the day they thought about whether they achieved this goal (and put a check mark if they did) and/or if they wanted to keep working on this goal (added a +). Each morning we thought about our goals for the day.
3. Mindfulness. ISHCMC truly lives and breathes mindfulness. It is also embedded in our Who We Are unit as part of making choices and having a clear head when dealing with our day. I am exploring options with the students but love their passion for it, and their routine of calming down when needed.
4. Reflection. As with Studio 5, we have CAR time (Choose, Act, Reflect) in the mornings and afternoons to get this routine into place. I am again showing them a number of ways right now so that later on they can choose the tool they like the best. We have done free writing, drawing, answering specific questions, and walking through our day in our minds. Beginning to think about the next day's goals can also be useful during this time.
5. Collaboration. Our moveable walls are fantastic. A few times now, students have met in the town hall while a collaborative activity is explained, and the teachers open these walls. Then the whole studio has had the chance to feel open and work together. I love the atmosphere that happens when we do this! So far we have had a scavenger hunt within the studio and a marshmallow building challenge. I am excited to see what these open walls will bring us!
6. Exploration. My students explored their studio and wrote an I see, I think, I wonder about it. Then we explored other spaces in school for more inspiration to add to the I think and I wonder parts because of what they saw. This was a great way to see what they are already wanting and seeing in their future studio.
I am excited to see how this year unfolds with these new inquirers. What have you done/plan to do in the first week of school to make students feel welcomed and have ownership over their new space?
Former PYP Coordinator and Head of Computing Curriculum, Apple Teacher, Google Educator L2, Microsoft Innovative Educator, Book Creator and Seesaw Ambassador. Passionate Canadian PYP Teacher in Vietnam