Welcome to Learning @ ISB!

Welcome to the learning at ISB blog! We’ve been pretty quiet the last 2 years, but we’re back and excited to continue sharing learning at its best at ISB.

At least twice per month, we’ll be publishing posts written by ISB educators sharing their thoughts & reflections on learning. Have an idea for a guest post? Let us know! Want to get inspiration delivered to your inbox? Enter your email on the right to subscribe! [Make sure to keep an eye on your ‘Other’ inbox tab for the emails!]

Have thoughts about something you read on this blog? We love comments! Feel free to leave your thoughts here or come chat with us in person.

As we relaunch this blog, we wanted to introduce Learning at its Best and our principles & approaches of learning. You probably have one of these posters up in your classroom or have seen them around the school. All of our blog posts will be written through these lenses. Want to dive deeper into one area? Check out the categories on the right to begin exploring!

Learning at its Best

ISB’s principles of learning provide a research-based foundation for how students learn best and insight into what makes our learning environments most effective. ISB’s Learning Principles are based on Tripod’s 7C framework of effective teaching: Care, Challenge, Confer, Clarify, Captivate, Consolidate, Collaborate, Classroom Management.

The approaches of learning are integral to how we design learning experiences at ISB, guiding our instructional practices.

Social-Emotional Learning – Research shows that explicitly teaching social and emotional skills increases student well-being, enhances positive behavior, reduces crises, and enhances academic achievement. A focus on social-emotional learning also creates a safe, positive school culture. At ISB, we prioritize building relationships and want every student to feel cared for every day. Our Social-Emotional Framework supports students in developing self-awareness, self-management, social and cultural competence, nurturing relationships, and taking purposeful action.

Personalized Learning – At ISB, we believe in a progressively learner-driven model of personalized learning to facilitate student ownership of the learning process and provide student voice and choice in their learning. We empower students to build strong relationships, leverage their interests, and assess their strengths and areas for growth to engage in deep, relevant learning.

Service Learning – Service Learning is infused into the curriculum and across the co-curricular program at ISB. It is a relevant learning journey that integrates meaningful action with instruction and reflection. We believe that Service Learning develops compassion and empathy, strengthens communities, and nurtures a global mindset.

C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework – The community at ISB is culturally & linguistically diverse, and we aim to serve our emergent bilingual and multilingual students so that they are able to access grade-level standards regardless of language proficiency. The C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework supports faculty in creating culturally responsive lessons that celebrate the diversity of our students.

Inquiry Pathway – At ISB, we empower students to ask questions, think critically, and reflect. Based on provocations and real-world phenomenon, students see & think, wonder & question, investigate & explore, make meaning & find patterns, and explain & construct arguments.

Design Process – Solutions to the problems of the world do not exist in silos and neither should learning. Students at ISB are given the opportunity to use design-thinking to create connections between traditional curricular areas and build empathy while solving real-world, authentic problems.


We hope you’re as excited as we are for this blog to be active again! Next week, keep your eyes open for a post from Angie (MS/HS Math Instructional Coach) with a focus on Challenge. Even better, get her post delivered to your email as soon as it’s published by subscribing on the right! After you subscribe, look in your email to confirm your subscription.

ISB Parents: Jiāyóu!

Image Credit: Pixabay

If you are a parent in Beijing right now, you are being challenged (and here’s a virtual hug).   A mere two weeks ago, life was fairly normal – we were finishing up a short stent of school and work between Winter Break and Chinese New Year and we were excited thinking about our Chinese New Year plans – being with family, eating delicious foods, and some more relaxation time.  Then, we started hearing more about the coronavirus…  As an international school, we were told that schools would not reopen until we receive further guidance from the Beijing authorities.  And since then, we have gone through the gamut of emotions, decisions on whether to stay or go and watching media from sources within China all over the world.  We are trying our best, with no clear end in sight. It has been hard.
Now, many of these emotions are still very much alive and we are feeling up, down and all around on a regular basis.  And now, our kids are at home with us and started “eLearning” while we are trying to work AND keep it all together. This is definitely not easy.  With two working parents and two kids at our house, Monday was exhausting.  We were trying to figure out our “new normal” and when everything is dependent on technology and there is information coming from multiple sources, it was a lot.  I’m sure you felt it too.
As parents, we want what’s best for our kids.  What can we do? And, what can we do to support them and stay sane and healthy ourselves?
Here are some ideas:

  1. Talk to your kids!  They are stressed. Many of them are hearing us talk about what’s going on and are scared about the virus and being locked in.  They are sad that they missed their last basketball games, APAC tournaments, recitals, concerts and maybe thinking about what more they potentially may still miss in the coming weeks.  They miss their friends.  They miss the autonomy they have when they walk out the door every morning as they exert their growing independence as teenagers.  Let them vent a bit.  Ask them what they are happy about or what they are worried about and let them know it’s okay.
  2. Give them space!  Many of us are spending most of our days in one location –  houses, apartments or even hotel rooms, some of which are only temporary, and that is really challenging.  While it’s good to check in on your kids, give them breaks.  Let them go listen to music and tune out in their rooms.  Don’t make them sit and work behind their computers all day.  Make sure they are taking breaks and give them some room.
  3. Give them some new responsibilities!  Use this opportunity to have them contribute more at home.  I know my children have learned to do their own laundry the past week.  They’ve learned to make new foods and they have more chore expectations than usual.  It’s good for them to learn more life skills and also contribute to the family.
  4. Keep them social! Make sure your children are chatting with friends.  Most of our children are communicating with their friends via school tasks through Seesaw, Dragon’s Exchange, email, Flipgrid or the hundreds of other amazing tools teachers are using to promote social, engaging learning.  Face to Face contact is important too – not just WeChat or Instagram messaging – make sure they are making face to face contact with friends and family, so they are chatting with people outside of your house too.
  5. Encourage exercise!  This is challenging.  Most of us are self-quarantining, but when the weather is nice, get out for a family walk.  Do the PE personal fitness activities sent by their teachers as a family.  Do a yoga or HIIT workout together. It’s amazing what a little exercise can do for the mind and soul.
  6. Keep to a schedule! While most of us can do school and work in our pajamas, try to keep to a schedule.  Keep a reasonable bedtime for your family.  Eat meals together.  Make sure everyone isn’t connected to their devices all day.

As for us parents, these are all important points too.  Make sure you are talking to people to validate your feelings and relieve stress.  Ask for help!  We are a part of an amazing community.  We are all together in this and all we want is what’s best for our kids.  If you need help, there are so many people that are here willing to help – our Leadership Team, Teachers, Counselors, Support members, and fellow parents.
If you have ideas or successful activities plans that are working for your family, share them in the comments or with your parent communities.  We are in this together!
Jiāyóu
加油

Written by:
Julie Lemley
jlemley@isb.bj.edu.cn @JulieLemley
Innovative Programs Leader
ISB ES & MS Parent

Beginning of the School Year Dreams: Teaching Leaders of the Future

Image Credit: Creative Commons from Pixabay

As teachers, we always look out on those first promising days thinking “we are teaching the leaders of the world”.
For some of us, it’s a promise, it’s a responsibility, it’s hope, or inspiration that gets us excited to start a new year, and sometimes it just gets us through a tough day, class or year. But it’s true. We are lucky. We can have that impact. We do influence future leaders, followers and everything in between.
Frequently, our students will inherit a family business or walk into leadership roles with little to no work experience.  They already have money, power, and influence regardless of their education.
But do they have the skills and experience to be a positive influence in their business, community and to their co-workers? How can we help guide our students to be more responsible, kind, strong leaders of businesses, industries, and even countries?
Most international teachers I’ve worked with have come from a middle-class upbringing which is very different from what our students and even our own children are experiencing.  Some of us started earning our own money and had to be independent and made our own decisions at a young age.  Most of us learned so much at our first or tenth job, and most of our students never will have these experiences and environments to learn, fail and grow. Often times, standard curriculums don’t provide this knowledge or skills sets to collaborate, lead, learn and be responsible citizens of the future.
So what are we doing to provide these students with leadership skills and opportunities to fail and grow? How are we fostering responsible consumers and producers?
While we don’t have all the answers, I think ISB is moving in the right direction to help our students be more prepared for being compassionate, responsible citizens or leaders in any field.  We are putting a stronger focus on social and emotional learning while providing more interdisciplinary experiences to engage in deep, relevant learning.  We are fostering cross-curricular skills by giving our students authentic tasks to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.  We are reviewing our experiential learning programs and we provide dynamic robust professional learning for our community. It is definitely work that has started, it’s not happening everywhere, we are growing as educators and these hopefully more deep, relevant hands-on learning experiences at school will become more prevalent over the next few years.

Image Credit: Creative Commons via PixaBay

We are very lucky to have bright, engaged students who do well in school, but what traditional schools have done for the past hundred years aren’t preparing our students for their future jobs or to be responsible, compassionate transformational leaders.

What I wonder is what happens when the qualified teachers, coaches & tutors are gone.  How do our students continue to learn and grow? I think then we will truly know how prepared our students are for their futures.

Building Empathy with our Students

I recently read an article published by Jay McTighe entitled Three Lessons for Teachers from Grant Wiggins. Several of us know the late Grant Wiggins for his work around Understanding by Design, feedback for students, and his cheerful and thought provoking dispositions.
For me the most notable lesson Wiggins had to share in the article was “Empathize with the learner.” I have always been a classroom teacher. I feel fairly confident that I know what the experience is like as an elementary schooler; I see them on the playground, I acknowledge the pressures they feel from parents, and I value their diverse interests and needs. However, there is so much more to their day-to-day experience than the opportunities we explicitly provide them.
With this in mind I decided to heed one suggestion to help me build empathy with students-shadowing a student for a day. I looked at my schedule, contacted a lower elementary teacher, was given a buddy, and spent an entire afternoon in that classroom. Fortunately, the homeroom and Chinese teacher welcomed me and the idea and agreed to let me come in on the fourth day of school. I am very grateful and appreciative to the teachers for letting me come in and learn.
Before I walked into the classroom room Thursday afternoon I set some agreements for myself:

  • I would follow the daily schedule, including specials.
  • I would sit with my buddy wherever she sat (carpet, table, couch, etc).
  • I would follow the classroom rules and procedures (rules for bathroom, water, electronics).
  • I would take my teacher hat off but be observant of my behaviors in order to reflect on the experience.

Here are some of my takeaways:

  1. Our teachers cultivate incredible communities within the first week of school.

Seeing as it was the fourth day of school, I was not surprised when the teacher told me beforehand that she was spending a lot of time on routines. However, while there were procedures and routines being learned it was done in such a thoughtful, kind, and caring way. The classroom rules were in positive language, children were encouraged to think and discuss why we have rules, and the classroom had thought provoking questions all around the room. When a student needed a reminder or redirection it was done seamlessly and with a smile and it was focused exclusively on the behavior, not the student. I found myself smiling and laughing along with the teacher and other students because there was such a warm feeling in the room. The read aloud and community building game at the end of the day was such a beautiful example of how our teachers consciously make decisions to develop the whole child and nurture the needs of the students in the room.

  1. Our students show more empathy to one another than we realize.

When I was on the carpet during math time and working at a student table there were frequent opportunities for interaction. I was amazed at the way the students spoke and interacted with one another without much direction from the teacher. They were inclusive, working together, sharing, showing self-awareness, encouraging others to share ideas, and making space for one another. This was all done not because the teacher reminded students but because of who they naturally are as individuals. It was really heart-warming. During the short game at the end of the day I observed how well the students were including everyone and supporting one another.

  1. As engaging, brilliant, and planned as we are, our students will not hear everything we say.

We ask our students to listen a lot. We are frequently asking questions, giving directions, restating directions, modeling, giving examples, giving non examples, making students laugh, and a myriad of other things. It’s a lot to listen to as a student! After some time on the carpet my eyes were starting to wander around the room. I was taking in the classroom set up, glanced at the clock, looked at the math center, noticed what other students were doing. All the while, I thought I was listening but when the directions came of what to do with the math manipulatives I realized I had completely missed the instructions. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with them! If this happens to us as adults, it is definitely happening for our students.

  1. I failed at taking off my teacher hat.

If I was really doing this right, I would have spent more time focusing on being a student. But in truth I was always thinking through the lens of a teacher. I was adding management strategies to my tool box, when the small group I was working with was stuck I was scaffolding my questions to help students, and when I saw a student in the hallway hit another student I immediately walked over and spoke with the child to have him apologize. But I’m going to give myself a pass on this one.

  1. Teaching is hard, but being a student is harder.

There is no doubt that ISB is full of hard-working, talented, and amazing educators. Our job is not easy. But, we at least have the benefit of knowing the content, we have the benefit of understanding how the activity should go, how long the lesson will take, what will be covered when. We have the power to change something when it’s not working, speed up or slow down when we need to, and ask questions to help our students get there. Our students don’t usually have this power. They are learning new content, reflecting on something new, learning to work with other people, and are reliant on the adults to (generally) dictate the time and the content. Add in the additional challenges of being a new student, learning in your non-native language, or mastering difficult content and we realize just how tough a student’s job is.
The experience of shadowing a student was incredible, and one I highly recommend even if only for a short duration. Have you experienced a Chinese class at ISB? Have you attended Art or PE? Sat with your children through lunch? Completed the homework they have night after night for a week? It just might help us build empathy with our students, and with each other.

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