Hitting the ground running

We are six weeks into the new semester and I’m finally able to come up for some air.  The semester started at great speed with new responsibilities, opportunities and a few new faces.  I love that positive feeling that always seems to accompany the start of a new semester.   Yes, there are moments of confusion, frustration and nervous smiles and grins, but overall there is a tangible feeling of hope and togetherness -a bond among teachers. We all stand at the gateway of learning; willing and ready to guide our learners into a greater world of  understanding. It is with these thoughts circling the skies of my consciousness that the words of Dr. Kurt Hahn come to mind:

“I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.”

Kurt Hahn

In  my new capacity as CAS coordinator I’m surrounded by people who are willing to share what they know and walk this new road with me. I attended a CAS workshop in Shanghai a few weeks ago and was blown away by the camaraderie between all the CAS coordinators from various schools across Asia.  We are all united in our mission to provide learners with the best possible opportunity to engage with their environment, make a difference and learn through experience. The workshop was a fantastic model of how we should engage our students in meaningful learning.

 “Be the Meddler in the Middle, not the Sage on the Stage or the Guide on the Side”

Can’t exactly remember where I got that phrase , but it seems to be true the more you think about it and the requirements a 21st century educator. CAS lies at the heart of the IB Diploma and as such provides students with the best possible opportunity to engage in experiential learning to become truly holistic learners and individuals.

Check this video out!!

I love the web!! More specifically, I love the opportunity that comes when you combine fantastic educators, technology and the web. I recently taught a lesson on tariffs for my Year 12 IB Economics class and it was hard for them to grasp the whole concept, especially the idea of dead-weight-loss that comes from using tariffs.  Instead of of reviewing the lesson again I thought it might be a better idea to give them another perspective on the same lesson. I turned to one of the best econ teachers out there and sure enough he had a lesson on tariffs on his wiki. Here is a link to the lesson: The Effect on Tariffs on Imports

It’s not the teacher with the most knowledge that makes the best educator, but the one who can lead most to become knowledgeable.

I also started an IB Business and Management course at my school. This is extremely challenging since it’s my first time teaching this course and I am the only biz teacher at school.  A new challenge-I like it!!! We need to be challenged in order for us to truly know who we are.  I found this great online lesson on forms of ownership that really engages the students and requires them to think critically. Business Ownership: How Sweet Can it Be?

I think that’s all for now. Hopefully it wont be another two months before I add a blog entry.

This is my IB World


Vacation Syndrome!!

Almost two weeks into the vacation and a sense of normality has returned-if ever you can call the world of a teacher normal.  I do not like the word normal, in fact I despise it! To be normal is to be a sheep and fits you right into the little box of expected behavior. I will have none of it!!

One of my favorite quotes comes to mind as I sit here and think about the next school year, the challenges I will face, the opportunities there will be, but above all how I will get the best out of my department and the students I will teach.

Where The Mind is Without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow

domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the

dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought

and action–

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Rabindranath Tagore

One of the most exciting developments for me this week was the discovery of the Google+ project. I’ve only been fiddling around with it for a few days, but the potential is quite obvious. It seems to me that Google+ has taken elements of FB, Twitter and LinkedIn and off course a whole spoonful of their own ingenuity and created a great platform for organizing, managing and sharing content. The best part for me at this stage is the potential impact on education. The following article goes into more detail:

Why Google+ is an Education Game Changer 

As the world changes education is faced with a critical question: Adapt or Die? I believe that schools and educators who will taste the most success in the future are the ones willing to change with the times and adapt their teaching styles to teach for change. I read an article a while ago that mentions a large portion of the students in our classes will do jobs in the future that have not been invented yet. WOW!!! So what do we teach then? Context is becoming increasingly more important than content, yet some nations still follow the standardized testing recipe in their quest for assessing who goes to which school. It is part of this drive towards high test scores that lead to the debacle in Atlanta, “Atlanta Schools Created Culture of Cheating,Fear, Intimidation.

The "Joy" of Education

Education need not be a race to the top, rather a journey in discovery and understanding. That is what I believe and why I love teaching in an IB school. The past year has been a remarkable journey for both students and myself. As I adapted my teaching style towards a more constructivist approach, I saw My students getting more involved, taking ownership of their own learning, but above all enjoy learning and being in class. Once students understand that there would be no percentage grades-EVER-they can focus on what education is really about-mastering skills and gaining knowledge in order to be better prepared for a future that is always changing.  My MYP Humanities class became a melting pot of ideas where students worked in groups, pairs and individually to discover meaning for themselves. Throughout the year we practiced skills that would be helpful as they progress through school and life. We did not practice memorization of content, rather how to respond to an issue. Why memorize mountains of information when most of it is readily available on the internet? The ability to use knowledge and skills to solve problems or analyze situations is far more valuable and useful than the ability to regurgitate fact upon fact.

Part of successful education in the 21st century is rooted in the use of technology in the classroom. The use of blogs, wiki’s, FB, Twitter etc. has already had a massive impact on modern day education. With the arrival of Google+ we as educators have yet another tool at our disposal-one which I believe we should all learn to use effectively. I, myself, am a Google+ newbie, but I’m exited and ready to learn, explore and become a better educator. Are you?

Here is a great link to get you started with Google+

Introducing the Google+ Project: Real Life Sharing, Rethought for the Web

This is my IB world.



Toe to Toe With the IB

So here we are at the final stretch of the semester with 1o days left until freedom calls. It’s been quite a year to say the least. Diving head first into the IB world and groping around to make sense of things had been an enormous learning experience.

Looking back at that first day of confusion and chaos I realize that I have come quite a way in learning about the IB, DP and MYP. My first experience was being beaten senseless by the IB jargon-I mean I could not understand what was going on-I was lost in a land of confusion where the powers that be used some weird language unknown to me. Remember to incorporate the inquiry cycle in your unit plan………..What?? Oh and remember to spread the AOIs across the units as you write up your scope and sequence document…………………………say who? Which ATLs do you think is appropriate for this particular unit question………who me? Etc.etc………..

Lost, confused and ever so slightly overwhelmed I grabbed my MYP Humanities  and DP Economics guides and set off on that journey that would hopefully grant me wisdom, knowhow and just basic understanding of this strange new world. It was great that there were folks around me who have made and survived this journey before. What makes any new learning experience more meaningful is the willingness and help on offer from people around you. The guides are quite comprehensive and extremely different just as there are vast differences between the DP and the MYP

picture source (freelanceshack.com)

The MYP to me is more of an experiential program focusing on the skills that will be essential for success in the DP and later on in tertiary education. It is a massive paradigm shift to move form a content heavy syllabus to one most definitely focused on context. If you are someone who likes to work from scratch and create your own content, you will revel in the opportunities the MYP provide for just that. The MYP is also the youngest of the three programs in the IB and sits uncomfortably between the older more content heavy brother-DP-and the younger free flow inquiring sister-PYP. It is seen by some as the ugly stepchild and by others as the true core of the IB program. Those who oppose the MYP often call it, “too loose or without direction.” Those, like myself, who love the MYP really love it and enjoy the remarkable opportunities the MYP provide for being creative and exploring new ideas. It took a lot of reading, reflection and conversation to get a firm grasp on MYP Humanities, but now I feel I have a good understanding of the expectations of the program and how to plan and teach in the MYP and…………… YES!!!!!-I do speak the language now.

Follow the link below for a laugh on how students perceive the IB (DP)


This is my IB world.

Baby Steps

The birth of my blog was eminent yet that old friend procrastination held on tight and it took some time to banish him to the the recesses of a lesser world. The idea for this blog has been taking shape in my mind for the past year or so and only now have I found a moment of clarity that would hopefully set me on the path to regular blogging. A blogger!…..Me!! The idea still seems somewhat absurd and otherworldly, only made normal by the fact that I started tweeting a few months ago.
Let me start by admitting my shortcomings straight of the bat so as to not lead you down a path of falsehood and deceit. I am by no stretch of the imagination a prolific writer, word smith, poet or grammatical genius. In fact, my spelling is abysmal (thank the gods of mercy for Spell Checker) and my grammatical structures have a quality unknown to many a linguist, not to mention my punctuation or the lack thereof.  If you can bear the thought of trudging through the mud that is my writing style, I invite you on this journey through my world as an educator.
“A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am a father, a husband and a teacher. I’m passionate about education and innovative ideas that stretch the imagination of young minds and challenge the status quo. I believe in the future and getting the best out of people. I teach Economics and Humanities at an IB school in Taiwan. As of next year I will also be teaching Business and Management as well as taking on the role of CAS coordinator at my school. This is the IB world that I live in and will reflect on.  Most of my posts on this blog will focus on either CAS, Economics and Business management and issues that relate to these. Off course every now and again I might slip in something different just to add some spice and just because I am me.
I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Mark Ginder, who helped me come up with the name for this blog. A name for this blog had been surfing the outskirts of my imagination until he helped yank it out and onto this blog. Thanks!!
This is my IB world.