At times in teaching it’s good to step back and think about how our cultural values have shaped our educational systems,the results, and whether we can step out of our ideological paradigms enough to adopt better practices. We may not be able to change our national systems or the IB as much as we would like (though there is plenty of scope for that too) but we can surely look for ways to make sure all students within our care are treated equitably.
I’ll find a way to use The Atlantic’s article “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success” in my English A: language and literature class probably at the beginning of next year. It will provide a good opportunity for students to share their own educational experiences, and that can be very helpful to know as a teacher, whether it’s part of the syllabus or not.
I might repeat with them something I tried with the students in the residence of which I am the Head of House (we are a fully residential school). We have one day each year that we spend entirely together, and this year, our focus was on ‘Education’. We started the day by cooking a brunch in tutor groups, with each group providing dishes that sprung from cultural cuisines represented in the group, and learning how to cook them in the process. Prior to the day I had the students e-mail me a sentence explaining what they saw as the most influential aspect of their educational experience. I collated these and prepared a ‘game’ used to raise awareness about how different our backgrounds are, and therefore, how much we can learn from each other. In the gym, we read the statements in the e-mails and asked, “To what extent do you agree that the education described in the statement is similar to yours?” We laid out five pieces of poster paper, with the labels,”Strongly Agree’, ‘Agree’, ‘Partially Agree’, ‘Disagree’, and ‘Strongy Disagree’. Students had to run to the poster paper description that best fit their response to the question. It was a fun, quick way that led to a lot of discussion. We also watched Zhang Yimou’s Not One Less in our auditorium and Justin Chadwick’s The First Grader at the local Hong Kong cinema. I specifically chose different venues and types of activities throughout the day as a reminder of how important education beyond the classroom is. It didn’t hurt to remind students of the value of their own education.