Category Archives: 1 Prof. Values & Personal Commitment

“So long, it’s been good to know ya!” – Week 8 in Stuttgart Reflection

Wednesday was my last day at ISS and it has been an emotional rollercoaster this final week.

Monday and Tuesday were the last full days in school where the students could work on their exhibition because Wednesday would be the night where they showcased all the learning they have conducted over the 7 weeks that has all lead up to this moment.

Monday was focused on going around each student and ensuring they had everything prepared and ready for Wednesday: display board, artistic component, mathematical piece, an action relating to their global issue and their speech prepared and ready for presenting all of the work they have conducted.

Usage of Technology – I was tasked with recording some students talking about their exhibition experience and then editing it all together in iMovie to present it at the beginning of the Exhibition Evening on Wednesday.

Tuesday was then time to get the students practising in front of an audience – their classmates and teachers. We got some volunteers that wanted to go first to get an almost dress rehearsal of what their exhibition would be like Wednesday evening, as each student was assigned a classroom in which they would present in front of their parents and their mentors (who would be assessing their performance through observations of their presentation). It was great for me to see all the presentations in their almost-final state because on the night I would only get the chance to see the other students that were in the same room as the son of my host family (there were normally 3-to-4 students per room). This method of practising also got the students receiving feedback from their peers; what was successful in their presentation and what did they need to work on in order to perfect their display of learning.

Amongst all of this exhibition chaos, the teachers and I were planning towards the next topic of work once the exhibition is concluded.

Wednesday night saw the exhibition commence in the AULA (the same ginormous assembly hall that was used on the multicultural evening and the assemblies throughout the year) where the Lower School Principal introduced the purpose of the evening. He gave a compelling speech that really interlinked with the core learning that I have gained from this placement: teaching and learning is constantly evolving. “Knowledge is everywhere. It is no longer just for the elite in society… For teachers, lecturers or scholars… Teaching has had a drastic change in the past 25 years to link with the world in which we live in today”. He also gave a strong analogy of what it would be like if a teacher from the 1950s had been transported to the night of the exhibition and saw all of the research and learning that the children in Grade 5 had conducted. It would be startling for them.

Then, I was starstruck by what came next.

“We also need to do something special for a guest that has been with us for the past 2 months…” I knew that this concerned me “we would like to give a special goodbye to a young aspiring teacher from Scotland who has been working and learning with your children throughout this learning process”

The same goodbye song that I had heard in my first week at the school for the students that were leaving was now being performed for me:

“So long, its been good to know ya, but you’ve got to be moving along”

I was then gifted with International School of Stuttgart T-shirts to show that I am now a strong part of the school. All of the teachers have told me that I need to come back in the future and I really feel a part of the community at ISS, much as the same way some of the alumni students that have returned on a few occasions; the doors are always open at ISS for those that have been a part of it in whatever shape or form that has emphasised the school’s internationality.

The Entrance to the AULA – the frames on stage were another project the children did during their specialist art time. It is an exhibition tradition that the students create a decorated frame that includes a photo of them with their mentor. This is then presented to the mentor as a special thank you for all their support during the process. Many teachers have amassed a collection of frames over the years.

Once the introductory presentation had concluded (my exhibition reflection video was also played), the lower school co-ordinator announced there was a change to the programme of events that evening. A few students had approached him during the school day to ask if they could perform a song that they had composed themselves during their music lesson that day. The lower school co-ordinator said it best: “why not? This shows the students are being real risk -takers” 

Reflective, open-minded, risk-takers, caring, principled, balanced, knowledgable, inquirers, communicators and thinkers – these are all the attributes within the learner profile.

The Stage is Ready – an example of one of the classrooms being set up for the exhibition presentations. The students placed all their work on the tables provided at the front – i.e. the books they used for research, their display boards, their artwork and anything else they wanted to display that was centred around their topic.

These students performed the song on the stage and then the parents were told to head to the rooms where their children had been preparing for their presentations.

Once the presentations were complete and all the questions were asked, the parents and mentors got a chance to partake in an “open-house” scenario where all the doors were opened and people could walk around and see all of the topics and ask more questions to all of the grade 5 students. They would not be required to present again, however, this opportunity allowed for them to really show their learning in a more relaxed manner after a somewhat stressful presentation beforehand. It was amazing to see the joy around the rooms – it was over, all the determination and conviction to succeed had been fulfilled that night.

I said my goodbyes to all of the staff members and parents that I had become acquainted with during my time at ISS and I was once again reminded that, if I ever needed anything, the team at ISS were only an email away.

We drove back home on a high that night; the youngest son was elated that all his hard work had come all together for his excellent presentation in his third language of English (which, he had only been studying now for just over 6 months) and I was somewhat content with the fact that it was my last day at the school. It did not feel like a final goodbye, however. I know that the staff at ISS and the students too would welcome me back with open arms if the chance ever arrises in the future of my professional career.

Overall, I look upon this final weekly reflection with a sense of wonderment. Where has the time gone? It has went by so quickly and yet, I cannot remember my former self at the same time. I have gained so much personally and professionally both from ISS and the day-to-day ongoings of my host family.

I really have accomplished what I set out to do and that was to:

  • Improve my language competency in German – I can now understand larger volumes of spoken language in conversation and I can also interact with day-to-day scenarios far greater than I could before. I have also been able to support beginners of German during lessons at ISS but I have also witnessed the skills and competencies of mother tongue speakers of German and the high calibre of language that can be achieved from children of a young age. How this relates to a scottish setting is that I now know that immersion is key to language development and that children of EAL should not be undermined in their capabilities of language acquisition. Interwoven within the language understanding, I have also been able to understand more of the culture of Germany with my host family. History of Kirchheim, the Fruhlingsfest beer festivals, the roads of Germany and so many more components that make up the culture of both Stuttgart and Kirchheim unter Teck have been really unpicked by myself during my time here. I have submerged myself as much as I could during my time here.
  • I have learned so much about the PYP at ISS and how it relates to the entirety of the International Baccalaureate system across the world in international schools. Not only have I gained firsthand insight surrounding the ongoings in an international school environment myself and reflected on them, I have also had opportunities to have lessons that relate to the IB myself across the grades. It has really made me reflect on what it means to be a teacher because the systems are quite alien when compared with the Scottish system. I can see both major positives and some negatives in the practices and curriculum structure, showing a criticality forming for my ongoing professional development.
  • I have seen so many strategies used by practically all the practitioners at ISS. I am very happy I planned with the lower school principal to divide my time across all grade levels because it allowed for me to both observe and work within classroom environments that were unique to the particular practitioner that was in charge of them. I have also seen the whole progression of the PYP education system right from the nest through to grade 5 before the students make their way to the middle school programme.

Goodbye ISS! – I had to take one final photo of the front of the school as we were leaving the exhibition evening.

I can now share my opinions more confidently, partly because I now have a more structure opinion surrounding education with this experience, and I feel as though I will take more risks and be confident about those risks. If someone had told me I have: survived an entire week alone in Germany, driven over 2000 miles across “Autobahnen und Straßen”, taught across all levels in an international school environment and have experienced cultures of Germany including seeing historical sights, taking public transport and partaking in the beer festivals festivities I would have laughed. These are only snippets of what I have accomplished and I am glad I have this blog as documentation for the learning I have done.

It has been amazing.

Die Zeit ist so schnell – Week 8 in Stuttgart Reflection

The end of placement is nearing and the weeks are rolling by at an alarming rate.

The Grade 2 teacher surprised me this week with pictures she had taken during my time teaching the class about Castles in Scotland – this was a particularly enjoyable time for me because I really got to be heavily involved in a topic that was very close to home. The students also really enjoyed to get an insight about castles from a different country than their own or even from Germany.

This week was a shorter school week because of the bank holidays on Monday and Tuesday in Germany, therefore, we only had a 3-day school week.

However the days were packed with lots of work due to the grade 5s’ exhibition date coming closer and closer, as the students now only have until Wednesday (9th of May) to prepare for their grand display of the research they have conducted this term around a global issue that they have felt passionate about.

This meant that lots of handwork has been continued around lots of different projects that culminate towards the entirety of the exhibition: artistic components, speeches, display boards, mathematics sections and many more nitty gritty parts have been worked on to get finished and it has been somewhat tricky as a practitioner to keep on top of the different stages of all the different students and how each student is progressing individually.

This is where the journal entries have been a great aspect of the assessment because it allows for us teachers to gain an insight on the feelings of the students on how they are progressing and it also means that students are getting continual feedback on their progress. Students can ask questions in the journal, can highlight issues they wish to address but also it allows them to keep on track of the things they’ve accomplished so far. I know that once the exhibition is concluded, the students will reflect on the entirety of the learning they have done in preparation for this project and the journal will be the best source of information for them. They have documented their progress every week and each entry will be a snapshot of what they did at any given time during their learning process. This all demonstrates that the IB really considers learning as a process that requires reflection to give it real purpose to the students and for the students to find that purpose for themselves, as it is them that have enquired through the topics (International Baccalaureate, 2009).

This has been the common sight in the Grade 5 Classrooms – lots of preparation is going into this event from the students and it is really starting to take shape.

Now, my big responsibility this week was to begin preparing the exhibition reflection video that will be played at the beginning of the evening to all the guests. I had to touch base with the students that were ahead enough in their work to take time out to be a part of this additional responsibility of the exhibition. I first got them all together and we brainstormed some of the skills they had gained from this exhibition experience. I then got them to interlink this with some of the attributes of the learner profile within the IB, which demonstrated a greater understanding of the curricular framework that is in international baccalaureate schools. We then divided responsibilities and I allowed for free choice amongst the kids if they wanted to record a section individually or to do parts in twos or threes. Normally, in my usual setting, I probably would have assigned the groups myself however working at ISS I have realised that organisation skills should be enthused within the children and it also shows a real sense of trust when a teacher says to students that they are responsible for who they work with and that if it doesn’t work out sensibly, then the consequences are on them.

So, we got down to recording and it was great to see the kids take ownership of what they wanted to say and how they were providing feedback for one another on their presentation skills on screen; something that will be beneficial for them later next week when they will be presenting for their exhibition.

We successfully got all the parts recorded and we now just need to piece it all together and add in transitions and the video will be good to go! Its been good to take charge of a technology-component whilst here at ISS because I have luckily had experience using iMovie before and I know that it can be tricky sometimes when trying to perfect the transitions of a video.

On Thursday, I had my end-of-placement review meeting with the head teacher of the lower school and we discussed all the learning that I had gained over my two months of being here. He even said himself that he couldn’t believe how quickly the placement has went. It was great to have a finalisation of my work at ISS as it is drawing to a close. I still have next week at the school, however, we will have our Vivas beginning next week (mine specifically will be on the Thursday the 10th of May via Skype interview). Many of the staff members at ISS have said they will miss my presence at the school and it is such a great feeling knowing that my determination has been seen by other staff members and they can see that I always strive to work my best towards my professional development. Teachers have told me that I will just have to stay here because I have made myself too useful!

Then of course Friday saw the Multi-Cultural Evening which was an extravaganza of cultures and heritages all under one roof at ISS. It was the perfect way to end the 8th week of my time in Stuttgart, particularly as, although this week has been short, it has been very heavy going with work for all of the students and teachers at the school.

Time really does fly by when you are having fun – even more so when that fun is interlinked with hard work and determination!


International Baccalaureate (2009) Making the PYP happen at ISS: A curriculum framework for international primary education. Cardiff: International Baccalaureate Organization.

The Multi-Cultural Evening at ISS

On Friday (4th of May 2018), ISS held its yearly event known as the Multi-Cultural Evening. I had been waiting for this day with anticipated joy because so many people had told me in the run up to it that it was a night that could not be missed at ISS!

What the multi-cultural evening is meant to represent is that the International School of Stuttgart is, as it is appropriately named, an international environment that celebrates its differences on an equal playing field. It is also a reminder to all the students that are part of ISS that they can both celebrate themselves and their peers.

There is a seat at the table for everyone.

Each nation’s table had their own menu on offer to show people what sort of foods are found from their home country

The night began with the school’s jazz band playing the many guests, students and staff into the large assembly hall called the Aula (assembly hall) and then we were all welcomed by the school’s director, Tim Kelley, who started with a profound speech that gave the mission statement of the entire night as a whole: “This is what the world looks like and this is what we want the world to feel like. To be inclusive of all and to be able to celebrate all our differences together”. The message really lasted with me because it is the core essence that I have felt whilst being at the school for these past 2 months. Everyone, no matter their background, is encompassing of one another and we rejoice in our practice through the similarities and differences in languages, cultures and nationalities. I even believe that, because we get to celebrate the other cultures of our peers, we then begin to really have a bigger reflection on our own cultures. This placement has made me proud to be Scottish and to hold onto my traditions and be able to show them to the world in an environment where everyone is equal in merit.

The lower school children took part in a parade to show the different countries that they were from. There were children from Brazil, Cambodia, Croatia, France, Germany, UK, Sweden, America, Russia, Turkey and so many more. Internationality is interwoven into the community of the school; people from around the world are part of this community of globalism and ISS has a responsibility to ensure that that community is welcoming.

This year had a slight change from the previous years in that there was now a competition for who had the best decorated table (each country gets to host a table where they display their traditions and prepare food from their home country for people to try) amongst the participating countries that had prepared their traditional delicacies. India was crowned the winner and rightfully so; not only was their table decorated in Indian art, but they themselves came in the most beautiful traditional attire in so many different variations of colours and embroidered designs.

The Winners of the Night – Some of the Indian community of the school onstage accepting their award. They were not the only ones that had came in the most exquisite traditional garments. Once again, I had wished I had packed my kilt!

Once the parade and award-giving were both finished, we got to then explore the many different tables that were set up across the two levels of the school and we got to try many different delicacies on offer.

I stuck with a few teachers that I have really made great friendships with during my time here because they told me the best route to take to get to the most popular tables first! It was a great laugh to not only be socialising with teachers that were from all across the world, but also to feel like we were in Japan, Croatia, Italy and France for the night with all the amazing stalls that were set up.

The Japanese table was first and then the Indian. We strategically went to these tables in the beginning as there are normally queues. There were so many different types of freshly prepared sushi, edamame soy beans, pork meatballs (tsukune) amongst the decorations of pikachu, dragons and kimonos. The Japanese community were very accommodating in telling us about the food that was on offer as were the Indian community in their traditional attire.

Making our way around the tables, we also saw many different examples of cultures beyond food. One in particular was on the Turkish table where the practice of Ebru art was being shown to the children and they were getting to participate in the art themselves. The Turkish Cultural Organisation (2018) explains that this form of art is paint is submerged in an oil-like substance to refrain from the paints mixing, which allows for patterns and shapes to be made with tools. Once a pattern is made, it can then be transferred onto paper and the whole process can start once again with the oily chemicals.

The Technique of Ebru – The children got to try their hand in the art that is created through creating colourful patterns on a pan of oily water and then transferring the creation onto paper to finalise the art.

Culture Extends Beyond Delicacies – examples of the finished pieces that had been transferred onto paper. It was really an art of patience and a steady hand that was able to create these masterpieces of Turkish heritage.

Whilst people were making their way around the food, the Aula was hosting different performances that were announced over the school’s speakers to say a particular traditional art was being performed. It was perfectly timed that the professional Turkish dancers began to perform when we had made our way back to the hall.

From what I’ve looked up on the internet, the Turkish dance that was performed was a “Zeybek”

There were also kung fu performances from the students that were from China and they got to show the audience their masterings in the martial arts that is famous from their home country. Cheerleading, african dance, flamenco dances and many more performances were put on by the ISS family and they were all spectacular in their own right. I felt very proud for many of the students that got up and presented their arts that are derived from their country of origin.

I also couldn’t help but seek the comforting tastes from home at the UK table:

There’s No Place Like Home – I may have eaten too many scones and pieces of shortbread

What I particularly enjoyed about this part was being able to show and explain to the children of my host family about all the different British (and Scottish) delicacies and they particularly enjoyed trying the banoffee pie and the trifle (after being able to already taste shortbread that I made at home). I also got to show the staff members what my background looks like as a menu along with my fellow British peers that work at ISS.

I was partially adopted by the French table, however, due to the mother of my host family being French and she herself had a great hand in preparing the table with her French peers.

Vive la France! – crepes, wine, macarons and quiche were some of things on offer from the French table.

The French were making freshly prepared crepes for those that wanted a taste of France and many of those that were not driving got to have a glass or two of the finest French wine. I had the car and therefore had to refuse kindly.

Even just reflecting on this night as a personal development point, I would have laughed if a person had told me I would be devouring sushi, dumplings, crepes, curries and (holding onto my traditional home favourite) shortbread – especially in one night! I want to thank all of the helpers that prepared all the meals, the tables and the decorations because without the school community coming together to host an event like this, then people like me would not be exposed to the different ways people live their lives. One of the staff members that I’ve been really supported by during my time here even told me that they had worked across the world’s network of international schools and had never seen an event like the Mulit-Cultural Evening that is hosted by ISS ever in any of the other international schools, proving that it really is a school that flagships culture celebration.

Before the crowds would make their way to their cars to head home, the oldest son and I left in the car just before the winners of the raffle baskets were announced. It was my first time driving in Germany in the dark. It has been quite an experience to take on the high-speed driving of the autobahn for 2 months but it was another to do it in darkness. I will take badly when I return to the speed-limited roads of the UK! I have been driving all over during my placement; Sindelfingen, Stuttgart, Kirchheim unter Teck and even Sillenbuch. It’s been very handy having another driver with the family and I have been very happy to take on the responsibility of taking us places when the parents have had business or the children have particular clubs or events on during the week. It has really increased my confidence in driving and confidence in my own capabilities as a whole; gone are the days when I was first picked up by the family and we were zooming to my unknown place of residence for the 2 months at 200km/h in the Audi and I thought, “how am I going to be able to handle this myself?”. Now, it is me making those trips every morning and afternoon to get to and from school and beyond!

Once we arrived home, we settled in our rooms to sleep with full stomachs and full minds of all the things that we had experienced in one night. I have to say that I felt transported with every table I visited and with every person I interacted with during the multi-cultural evening.

Truly, a one-in-a-lifetime experience: this night, this placement and the school of ISS.

I leave this post with more of the photos I took during the night, however, I believe they can never do the grand event justice. The atmosphere could never be documented:

The Italian Vespa – Italy really stood out for me with their scooter. They served the iconic dishes like pizza, pastas and cheeses.

The Taste of the Caribbean and Africa – the smells coming from this table were amazing. The spices were really aromatic and the dishes looked so tasty. The helpers were also dressed in traditional African clothing which was also great to see

Indonesia’s centrepiece was particularly rememberable.

From upstairs the Croatian table could be seen down below. Also, the usage of “lesen” on the entrance way into the school is a great form of symbolism used by the school. The verb “to read” is used in the foyer in all the different languages that are evident at ISS, which served as a great environment to be hosting such an inclusive event


The Turkish Cultural Organisation (2018) The Turkish Art of Marbling (Erbu) [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 5 May 2018).

Exhibition Topics – A.Is in Education, Hacking and Warfares – My Inquiry

I have first explored what the actual purpose behind the Grade 5 exhibition is, however, I also want to write a particular entry into my portfolio where I explore some of the main topics that have interested me; the topics that the children have chosen to explore, I mean.

One of the biggest one I was drawn to was that a particular student will be examining the concept of artificial intelligences (A.I) in education.

This topic has already been introduced to me from lecturer back at the university where they told us that, in the future, people are planning to replace many jobs with machines that have an artificial intelligence and are able to communicate independently. One of the professions could even be teaching… The child wants to examine this issue that can have drastic consequences in society. Millions would be out of a job because machines do not require breaks like humans and they are capable of being programmed to follow commands from their human overseers. However, some startling videos in recent media attention towards A.I “life-forces” have been quite scary in terms of blurring the lines between what is considered human and whats not:

However, Poth (2018) finds that the majority of these artificial intelligences will be used for supportive roles in practice, such as with administration paperwork, marking and keeping track of grades. They would not completely replace the role of the classroom teacher that needs to be human in supporting children in a classroom environment emotionally. A.Is are unable to feel emotions and understand the humanity needed to be supportive of children. However this could even eventually, through time and advancement in technology, be a simple program that needs to be implemented to robots… With emotions then, they could then claim rights just like the rest of us. Sophia, the A.I in the video, was the first ever robot to be seen as a citizen by any country and that was from Saudi Arabia. Gershgorn (2017) argues back that Sophia is merely a more sophisticated chatbot robot that has a face that has been very much sensationalised by the media… For this subject, it is really relevant for me as a future teacher and I am glad that a student is taking an interest in seeing what the future of education may look like and I hope to be of assistance when they are preparing all the aspects they need to complete

Hacking was another one that was of great relevance in today’s society and was similar in the sense that it was interconnected with the advancement in our dependence on technology in our modern world. We’re all so connected to the internet world that we really have become far more vulnerable to cybercrime and cyber attacks. A key story that always sticks with me is the cybercrime attack on the National Health Service (NHS) where the company was hit by a hacker, who supposedly did not need to create such an advanced virus to break the system, out of nowhere. This meant that peoples operations were cancelled and many issues occurred with the NHS across the UK. The student in particular wants to take their action into creating a platform where they can inform people about the dangers of hacking and how people can keep themselves protected from hackers.

A relevant theme that was featured across some of the students’ topics is the concept of warfare and conflict. Some are looking into the wars in Chad, the wars in Syria and the conflicts between North and South Korea. Now, these are much harder to analyse due to the broadness of war itself. However, what makes it far more relevant is the grouping of the children when it comes to literacy circles; the children have been assigned to particular groups depending on the themes of their topic. The children focusing on warfare then come together every week to talk about their developments in their exhibition and they can gain feedback from their peers and are able to gauge where they are at in comparison to the progress of the other students. Furthermore this also allows for them to see the types of issues that might be getting a focus from particular pupils. I know that these conflicts (particularly Syria and the Koreas) are very relevant to modern society because they are still very real and happening currently. 

This, although not very in-depth research, was useful because it is in line with what the students themselves are doing. They have to go out and collect data centred around their issue in a more in-depth manner.

One really needs to get submerged into a topic wholeheartedly to truly understand it. This is where I fell the component of action really cements the exhibition process. There is one thing researching a topic but it is completely another thing to go out and try to make a change to a big issue that you are passionate about. Students are going to countries to do charity work and donate money that they have fundraised, there are students that are helping with homeless schemes in the area, there are also students that are wanting to bring awareness to a big issue that they are enthused about. It is emphasising to the pupils that they can really make a difference through doing something they are passionate about – a skill that interlinks with the learner profile that the IB wants to construct.

Personal topics such as the issue of anorexia or allergies are also going to be explored by students. Anorexia is one that is becoming ever-increasingly an issue in modern society because of our constant bombardment from social media around what we should look like or what the perfect body is. This then leads young teens and even children to feel pressured to live up to unrealistic expectations (which are most likely photoshopped and edited in the first place).

Overall, it has been quite useful to unpick some of the issues for myself, because it then allows me to see some of the issues in a more knowledgable sense. It also then allows me to see the topics and reflect on them knowing the kids that have chosen them, why have they chosen them? What has made them so passionate about this particular topic?


Gershgorn, D. (2017) Inside the Mechanical Brain of the World’s First Robot Citizen. QZ [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 23 April 2018).

Poth, R. (2018) Artificial Intelligence: Implications for the Future of Education. Getting Smart [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 23 April 2018).

Kirchheim unter Teck – die Kultur und die Verbindung mit Großbritannien

Whilst staying with my host family, I have been able to really get engrossed into the town of Kirchheim unter Teck. Kirchheim is a little while away from the city of Stuttgart – it requires a drive of 20 miles to get to the International School of Stuttgart across the A8 Autobahn, something that I have blogged about as I’ve been driving us to and from the school everyday.

Kirchheim itself is a small German town located in the southern part of Germany and in the state of Baden-Württemberg. I got to see more of the town itself with the family. We even got to go up the Teck mountain and see one of the castles that are on top of the mountains. This is where I also got to understand its historical connection with the UK. Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother, Mary of Teck, was born in the UK however, she was seen as a princess of the Württemberg due to her father being the Duke of Teck and he was married into the British royal family. This then shows an unusual connection between the two countries, particularly the Baden-Württemberg section that I am residing in. It made for an interesting discussion with my host family about the history behind Teck itself and how the world can be a small place sometimes…

The view from the castle on the Teck

It is the same for when the family went away to a conference in March, they ended up talking with DC Thomson & Co. from Dundee and it was strange that, out of all the companies that they interacted with, it was one from my hometown that they were with. Somewhat of a digression, however it made me realise that you never know who you will bump into in life.

The coat of arms on the front of the castle. The one on the far right is the coat of arms for the Duke of Teck, the family that is interwoven with the British royal family.

Part of the beauty of Kirchheim unter Teck is the heritage that it holds, with many of the buildings being traditionally Fachwerkhäuser (traditional timbered German homes). However there are also more modern developments across the town beginning to take shape as, like many parts of Germany, they are still rebuilding after the war. I’ve been able to experience both the traditional shopping settings of the weekend markets where fresh produce is sold on stalls by local vendors and I have also been able to see the giant supermarket mall that is here also. It also made for an interesting talking point with the family about if modern constructions fitted with the older buildings that already existed.

There are also a lot of bigger companies within Kirchheim. I had a lot of deja vu walking into the Lidl that is here because they are identical in the UK, which reminded me that it is a German company in the first place. Recaro, the famous company for making the seats for race cars and aerodynamic planes, has their headquarters here also and the head of the company lives here too.  I have come to discover there are lots of businesses in Kirchheim and of course within the wider city in Stuttgart, as it is famous for the engineering industries.

This short post has allowed me to put into writing some of the details I have discovered about where I am residing during my placement, showing that I am engaging with the wider community as well as the community of the school. It also allows me to showcase some of the pictures I have taken too!

Erasmus Visitors at ISS (Section 3)

Much preparation at ISS has been put into this week (16th of April to 20th of April).

This is because of the special visitors that have come to the school. There are students coming from England, Poland and Italy as part of an Erasmus scheme where the partnership is centred around rethinking “Playgrounds as a Learning Environment” with the partner schools.

I have been witness and have supported the work that has gone into this week. Within art, the students have been making displays of their home country’s traditional garments that they wear on special occasions. On the back, as these displays will be showing both sides of the outline of a person, the students were then tasked to either draw their home country’s flag or make their own design using the recognisable shapes, colours and symbols from the flag (interlinking with the visual elements that are crucial to the teaching and understanding of art).

The corridors have been full of the traditional garments – further emphasising the celebration of differences at an international school.

On the 16th of April at the start of the week, students were welcomed into the school with a whole lower school assembly that celebrated the city of Stuttgart, but also the different languages of the visitors. Students were also dressed in their home country’s traditional clothing. I saw kimonos, lederhosen, saris, dirndls and even american football jerseys all across the school (it made me wish that I had brought my kilt with me). The kindergarteners and Nest children (who I worked with during week 5) sang the guests in; first in English, then in German, then Italian and then Polish. It was amazing for all of the children, no matter their background, to be able to experience the different languages that are out there and be able to practice in singing them too at such an early stage – this could even spark an interest later in life and students may even study them further. Then, students that are ISS that are from the visiting countries put on a sketch with some staff members to demonstrate them first arriving at ISS and wanting to learn more about Stuttgart; a particularly useful aspect for me because it gave me more insight into Stuttgart and the surrounding area of the school. We got to then see the German children from Grade 2 sing us through a pretzel song – a famous delicacy in Germany –  that they had also made illustrations for.

The student council were then tasked with taking their visitors to the library where they would be working on their projects centred around playgrounds.

Tuesday (17th of April) was another special day for the visitors who will be with us for the whole week, as they were treated to a multi-cultural lunch. Staff and Parents had prepared dishes from their home country and shared them with the grades 4 and 5 and the erasmus guests. I also got to enjoy some of the foods and they were all so delicious and different from one another. I tried sushi, chill, coconut rice, ham sandwiches, quiche and a mixture of other things! There was so much food and everyone was very full afterwards. It was also great to see all of the kids mixing with one another and including the erasmus students at their tables in the canteen – it highlighted to me how inclusive international school children can be of one another because they understand what its like to be in a strange environment from what they are used to back at home.

The Erasmus Cake – one of the desserts that were available for us during the feast. This particular cake really stuck with the partnerships theme of exploring the learning spaces of playgrounds.

The visitors will be here for the rest of the week and I have made sure to welcome them to the school in the same way the rest of the staff members welcomed me when I first came here in early March.

This all interlinks with section 3 of the portfolio as I am really getting to see the broadness of the stakeholders that are associated with ISS. The interconnectedness of this Erasmus partnership has shown how the stakeholders can all come together (parents, staff and students) to produce a week of great events that showcase the diversity of the school and, in turn, the wider world as a whole. This all then fosters the learner profile that ISS strives to create within their students.

Something that was also hard-hitting amongst all of the celebration was one particular staff member opened up to us in the staffroom and emphasised that they wished their more conservative family at home could be so open-minded to all of the differences of people in society and that the staff member will miss this ethos at ISS when they return home over the summer. Celebrating differences breaks down the boundaries and I really love the ethos of ISS because all of the parts of learning all correlate to one another to really ensure that open-mindedness is at the core of everything.

alle kleiner Kinder – Week 5 in Stuttgart Reflection

First week back at ISS after the Easter break last week and I feel that I have been able to get back into the structure of working at the international school of Stuttgart and gain new knowledge once again in terms of professional development.

Before the holidays, I had worked my way down the grades right to grade 1. This week progressed this continuation of moving down the grades as I began my work with the Early Years team at ISS. This meant working with both the Kindergarten and the Nest teams and children.

Now, I will admit that before this week I hadn’t much experience working with younger children within an educational setting, hence why I made the decision that I wanted to see the whole perspective of a child’s experience of education whilst working at the international school for Learning from Life. I also knew that much of what we have learned about the Early Years in MA2 would be missed out if I didn’t get to experience it in a real-life practice this year before my MA3 placement next year when I will work at the lower end of the primary school system in Scotland.

So I spent the first half of the week (9th of April – 11th of April) working with the Kindergarten children. The children within the two classes ranged in the ages of 5 to 7 depending on their prior experience within educational settings (one particular child was older but was never part of any form of formal education and therefore was put in Kindergarten to introduce them to school). They were very enthusiastic to interact with me and tell me all about themselves.

I also got to tell them a little bit about me when exploring the concept of time as I investigated the different time zones with the teacher to show the students what the time was in Scotland, what the weather was like and how it differed from Germany (and even their own home country).

What I loved about the two classes were that their learning environments were totally different from one another; emphasising the importance of individuality for teaching practices. One class was very regimented in its layout where clear areas for particular learning (role play, quiet reading and chill out area, letter/number forming and art areas) were clearly evident. The other class was much more carefree in the layout of the room and was more flexible in terms of allowing the children be more independent in choosing what they did within the room depending on the task they were doing. Yet, they both worked very effectively within their own right. It really proved to me that there is no one way of having your classroom set out because if that was the case, teaching wouldn’t be so flexible. This allowed me to get firsthand knowledge into early years classroom layout strategies.

Now, what I really learned from the practitioner that had the open-spaced classroom this week was the beauty of allowing enough time for learning. Monday morning was really testing of my patience because the teacher made it her job to give the simple (what I thought was simple) task of writing out the date on the board to the children but it took far longer than what I expected…

This was because the teacher made sure that it was solely the children’s job to complete the task of writing the date with only minor prompts from her so there were many different suggestions of what day it was, what the number should be drawn like, how it should be displayed correctly etc. At first, I thought that it would be so much easier just to write it yourself and to get on with the lessons of the day. However, as my short time progressed with the kindergartens, I soon realised there was a great purpose behind this approach that really needed a patient and consistent practitioner – giving me an area where my opinion on teaching completely changed. Once the date was completed, the teacher then got the children to work out how many days were left of the term with chain links on the board. Many questions of, “what should we do if we have this number of days in total and we know how many days are left?” were asked by the teacher and then the task was left to the children to work out themselves. I was amazed that such young children were skilled in working with numbers. It proved to me that starting with concrete materials will ensure sound knowledge is the first layer in the building of a strong foundation in numerical skill. This all relates back to the overall purpose of ISS – to foster inquirers that will go out into the global world and really make a difference with the determination that they can do whatever they set their hearts on with hard work.

It was because of this morning routine, that consisted of working with date and time, place value and number identity (mind you, this was all in English with children that mostly do not have English as their first or even second language so it was also assisting in language acquisition), the children could really be at the forefront of their own learning. Even during the children’s snack time, they were coming up to the board and explaining their thinking in working out how old I was when I gave them the year I was born in. The young children took it upon themselves to start their own inquiry in number work to work out my age by subtracting the year it is now with the one I provided them with – which was also assisted by the teacher aiding in prompting the children to use different strategies to find their answer.

Overall, what I really took away from the easiness of learning that the teacher had was that we may always worry about the next thing that needs to be completed by the children, but real secure learning comes when that extra amount of time is truly spent on real moments of learning. Quality over quantity, particularly in the early stages, ensures that learning is really profound. Not only this, but the whole ideology that is evident across the whole of ISS is beginning to take shape in Kindergarten because the children are learning to be inquirers from the get go – their natural curiosity is really being fostered because it is them going about with their learning with the teacher. They aren’t being told how to do something or to just learn something, they themselves are taking an interest in learning that is part of their everyday lives (little scenarios like counting how many days it was until a child’s birthday were used to advance mathematical skills).

So, I may have originally felt at the beginning of the week that time was almost being wasted away over an everyday task, but I soon realised what deep learning these tasks held when a well-knowledged teacher was pointing children in the right direction, rather than entirely leading the learning process, thus establishing a shift in my overall teaching ideology – something that I will take into great consideration later in my practice. Time is crucial. 

A contrasting example of practice that wasn’t evident in the other grades as much was the importance of free play. Children were allowed time everyday to play (something that the host family’s son was very jealous of when he heard about it from me). However, this play wasn’t entirely left to the devices of the children: once more, the teacher had set up stations that would aid in particular learning points – art stations that fostered creativity, iPad stations that tested mathematical skills through the medium of technology and the role play station that was given a voted “setting” that the children had to construct and act out with materials (campsite won this week). I came to realise that play itself is natural to children and that the best kind of learning can be found through allowing kids to be kids – so long as it is also purposeful: “It is through play that children explore their world, learn to ask questions, to solve problems and to socialize” (International School of Stuttgart, 2017, p.4). Teachers need to be there to move the learning forward within play. Answer those questions or pose new ones to get them thinking further – these are some of the changes I’ve been making to my practice at ISS.

What was also evident during my time with the early years was the emphasis on “Outdoor Learning”. The children had the unit of inquiry that centred around plants and living things. The children had the task of planting over 250 trees around the borders of the playground. However, they did not need to do this entirely alone as Grade 5 were also tasked with collaborating with the young children to ensure that the bigger jobs of digging and lifting the plants were done properly so not to injure one of the little ones. It was great to see the intergenerational groups work so well, even through the differences in maturity and experiences of life. For the kindergarteners it was also great for them to use their motor skills to dig, measure and plant the trees to make sure there was enough room for the roots with the assistance of the older grade 5 children. They both got to get a hands-on experience with nature.

Some of the trees that the children planted – The collaboration of the Grade 5s and the Kindergarten children produced a great product of life as the children got to understand a physical representation of their topic around plants.

Beyond this outdoor learning, the children were also given the task of growing their own plants in the classroom whilst using a wet tissue paper to soak the seeds on a plate that was put in direct sunlight. Now, I remember doing this same topic with children that were double the age of the Kindergarten kids, so I first thought that it would be a challenge for both the students and the teacher. However, once again, I was proven wrong. Freedom was utilised by the teacher in that the children were given the free choice of what seeds they wanted to grow – carrots, tomatoes, different types of flowers and more were all on offer. Scientific questions were already being asked by the children also when resources were being distributed – “Don’t the seeds need soil to grow?” “How will the seeds all grow if they are different plants?” and “how will they grow on a plate?”. These were all replied with more prompts of inquiry from the teacher in a very effective manner of questioning. Whilst it got the children thinking, the teacher made sure to keep the flow of the lesson moving whilst also handing out the various resources and then getting the children to then document their “observation” of what their experiments looked like at the beginning. All of this culminated towards a great first science experiment that fostered the inquisition skills that will be very important when the children progress to more advance science as they age.

It wasn’t all happiness in Kindergarten however either.

Interlinking with the pedagogical understanding that young children find it difficult to empathise with others as they are predominately egocentric at their early stages of development, I got to fully realise that many young children cannot understand that others have different viewpoints from their own until the ages of 7, which works in line with the views of Piagetian theory (Halpenny and Pettersen, 2014). It was interesting to see how conflicts were resolved in an early years setting, as they differ greatly from the older children. Some of the conflicts are the first that a child is ever experiencing as school is normally the first place that they are in groups with people that they need to work with (which brings about the possibility for conflict in the first place). Although very minor issues in the grand scheme of things, it was my job to really work children through their conflicts to find resolutions, thus establishing children that could grow into resilient individuals.

Thursday and Friday (12th and 13th of April) were spent with the Nest, which is the Early Years Programme before Kindergarten and Grade 1 at the school of ISS. Children range in the ages of 3 to 5 and a  clear difference between the Nest and Kindergarten is that the Nest is more collaborative  as the children are divided into 3 groups that are each assigned an adult that is in charge of them (categorised predominately by their age), however, much of the time they are working as a whole through learning, as they work between rooms and groups. The Nest children normally begin outdoors in the morning then partake in circle time and then work around centres that are set up by the teachers.

There is even, nearer the end of the day, quiet time where the younger children can have a nap if it is needed or to just chill out and listen to a story.

An example of the mattress and sleeping bag that the Nest children use during their quiet story time where many of them get a well-deserved nap.

Thursday was an interesting day because some of the staff and children were missing due to the public transport strike in Stuttgart and other parts of Germany occurring. Buses and trains were cancelled which meant that some people couldn’t make it (this also tested my driving skills with the increase in volume of traffic that morning, but I digress). This meant that we had to be spread across the groups more due to there being less staff members (however fewer children also helped the flow of the day with less teachers). The youngest children also got to go out and go on a forest expedition with staff members and parents, which interlinks with the German’s system of early years education of Waldkindergarten – forest nurseries. Much of the pedagogy behind the early years practices at ISS are inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach.

The plan of the day for Thursday – Notice the forest trip. Also, the differences in the layout of the day can really be seen when comparing the other grades, as students progress through education.

Friday also brought more challenges as staff members were ill unexpectedly and we had all the children in. It, however, really showed me how successful practitioners can be when they come together in the wake of obstacles and challenges. The staff at ISS really came together to fill the gaps of roles of responsibilities that the different teachers that weren’t there left and it was helpful that I was there to assist. I was also in charge of establishing a station in the “movement room” where the children had to use their body to build role-play scenarios using the resources in the room. It was great to see the creativity of the young children to make their house out of giant cushions and then create characters that fit into the setting they were creating. It also showed me that many of these creative skills are employed as the children progress through development and education (they’ll be using this creativity like when the grade 1s had to think of written dialogue for the actions of my character before the holidays).

This week has established a great foundation of knowledge in early years practice, something that I will build upon as I progress through my time as a practitioner. I’ve found that there is less marking with the younger children, however, the practices are far more physically demanding in terms of having to do a lot of the thinking for the children in planning. Being explicitly clear in instruction is crucial within this too. Also, much more emotional support (although emotional support is very important at all stages) needs to be provided to ensure that young students come into education with a happy outlook towards it, particularly as this is their introductory stages to education and school as a whole. There is a lot more outdoor learning and a lot of benefits come with that as children that get to explore and play within and with their environment in a mulit-sensory manner get the reap the benefits of greater quality development and a better overall understanding of both their environment and themselves (Burghardt, 2011).

However, the biggest development this week I think is in my understanding that time must be given in ample amounts to children – at any stage.

Learning cannot be rushed

Pressures on teachers to satisfy boxes and checklists really hinder the learning for students because they are then advanced through a topic far too quickly and they do not establish strong learning, which really shows that doing tasks for learning far too fast might as well not be done at all because the children do not gain any real substance from it.

Next week will see a shift in pattern as I will move all the way back up to Grade 5 to help in their work towards their exhibition.

Today, also marks a month until I will be returning home back to Scotland and I cannot believe where the time has went and how I have packed so much learning in a months time. I know that my second month in Stuttgart will also be as (or even more) fulfilling.


Burghardt, G. M. (2011) Defining and recognising play. In A. Pellegrini Ed. Oxford handbook of the development of play New York: Oxford University Press pp. 9-18.

Halpenny, A.M. and Pettersen, J. (2014) Introducing Piaget: A guide for practitioners and students in early years education London: Routledge.

International School of Stuttgart (2017) EY 3/4 Nest Handbook 2017-18. Stuttgart: ISS.

Frohe Ostern! – Week 4 Reflection in Stuttgart

Although I am on my easter break this week, I still feel that it is necessary to write another weekly reflection, because I am still gaining a lot of learning in culture and language with my host family. Furthermore, this time has allowed me to explore the town of Kirchheim unter Teck more.

Frohe Ostern! – I got to participate in the host family’s easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday

On the Easter weekend, I got to enjoy many of the traditions that German people uphold in their celebration of Ostern (Easter). My host family had already decorated Easter trees around the house, had easter eggs all prepared and we even had an Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday in the garden! It was beautiful to see some of the German traditions come alive in a real life setting – it was interesting to finally see it all transpire in the flesh when comparing what we learned about German culture in school. I must say, however, I think that I have eaten far too many chocolate eggs! We spent Easter Sunday completing the egg hunt and then celebrated with a home cooked roast together, which was really lovely and it made me feel really part of their family unit.

Being off the school has allowed me to engross myself in the everyday usage of the language of German – going to the shops, buying things, interacting with the family and people in the town in the state of Baden-Württemberg. This has benefited the advancement of my skills in speaking and listening, particularly within everyday scenarios. Gone are the days where I am trying to remember specific vocabulary for a presentation in German, now I am actually having to use the language to communicate specific points in order to be understood. I was even preparing shopping lists in German so that I knew I was getting the right things! As small as these milestones are, it really shows that I have had to really go back to basics to really utilise the skills that I established in studying the language of German in both school and the University of Dundee. I may know abstract vocabulary for global issues that we learned about, however, simple conversations have been a lot more trickier but also a lot more fulfilling when I have successfully communicated my point across.

Tuesday brought about some amazing sunny weather, with a nice warm heat of 21 degrees, that we were able to enjoy (what made it even better was getting updates back home that the weather has not been good in Scotland). I got to travel around the town I am staying in and enjoy some of the architecture and the lovely scenery that is evident in the area – much of the town is mountainous and rural very much like Scotland (Kirchheim unter Teck’s name translates to the town of Kirchheim that is under the mountain Teck). I also got to enjoy a nice meal at a traditional German restaurant (supposedly it was the location where the state of Baden-Württemberg was discussed as being formed into one state, as it was historically smaller states that were formally combined in the 1950s). This also led to the family introducing me to some of their friends. What was particularly interesting about these friends was that their German was somewhat different from the German that I am used to hearing from school listenings and news clips. They had a specific dialect of German known as Hochdeutsch (literally high German). I was able to understand main parts of their speech, however, much like when us Scots speak very fast in our dialect, it became quite tricky to understand everything that was being said. This showed me that, very much like English, there are various different dialects to German besides the traditional version we are always exposed to in school and in movies. I think that this interesting variation in dialects and language would be an interesting area to explore in a Scottish curriculum setting, as it would engage students in relating to the differences in their own dialects and language when exploring the styles and variations of another.

An example of Maultaschen (sourced:äbische_Maultaschen_2.JPG)

I have also been able to dabble in some cooking of German food whilst with my host family. A particular dish that has intrigued me the most is Maultaschen (singular – Maultasche). It literally translates as a feed bag (Maul – mouth + tasche – bag) and it is a unique dish that is at the heart of Baden-Würtemberg and was recognised as a regional speciality in 2009 by the European Union, which protects the dish as being produced only in the area that invented them as it is a Swabian speciality. The closest thing I can relate it to is ravioli, however, it is packed more fully with a minced meat and herbs substance in the middle. They are very savoury and tasty and are a core element to the culture of the Swabian heritage that is evident within the area of Baden-Würtemberg.

However, I have also been able to share some of my Scottish heritage with the host family. On Wednesday night it was my responsibility to cook dinner so I thought I would prepare something Scottish – stovies. Although it did not require gourmet cooking, I found it a great achievement for me to be able to cook a meal completely from scratch for the family. They loved the meal and found it very filling. It was also good to be able to taste something that is very reminiscent to a meal at home. I’m lucky that my grandmother showed me how to make the tastiest stovies! This means that I have not only been able to learn about a new culture, I have also been able to share my own with others, which interlinks with the core purpose of ISS (and also one of the many goals that I wanted to achieve whilst being in Stuttgart). Not only did I cook a Scottish meal, I also baked some Scottish shortbread on Thursday evening. This placement has not only advanced my professional outlook on education, my understanding of German language and German culture, but it has even allowed me to improve my culinary skills – something that is necessary for independence in life (something that I aimed to achieve through this placement). I really am “Learning from Life” because through everyday interaction, I have been able to make big leaps in my own self-concept. Formerly, I would have just bought shortbread from a store, however, being in a different country where that isn’t so easily possible, I had to use my initiative to create my own (and, it is actually an easy biscuit to bake. In future, I think I might bake my own shortbread instead of just going to a shop for some).

The shortbread that I baked for my host family – the sharing of cultures and traditions is proof in itself that differences can bring people together – the core ethos of ISS.

I have also seen a great development in the English of the son of the host family with them having me here. His volume of speech has expanded a great amount with coherence becoming stronger with every conversation he has with me. It is also evident that he has began to imitate much of the vocabulary that I have specifically used to spark new words and terms that he may have not heard before. His homework for English has also improved and he is not needing as much support from me to be able to complete his book reviews. It has amazed me what a young mind is capable of in terms of language acquisition. English is his third language and yet he uses it very well and I can only see improvements from here on out and I am glad to say that I was a part of that advancement. We have also been helping one another in the desired languages we both want to learn (German for me and English for him) by having conversations in both languages and assisting one another in gaining the required vocabulary we wish to learn, but we have also found it useful to watch movies and TV shows in the evenings in either German or English so that we can hear the languages even more through a multimedia platform. Its also been interesting to show him some of my favourite English movies that I enjoyed as a child and to see that interest be passed on. Its been even more interesting watching some of the most famous English movies in German and being able to correlate some of the phrases from English to their German counterparts (particularly, watching the Terminator movies has been interesting to hear it in German).

Now, to conclude this particular post I believe that I should have a check-in with what I have achieved so far, what I still hope to achieve, and what I think will be my future learning to take away from the entire placement when I return home in May.

Firstly, I feel that I have achieved much of what I have set out to do or I am heading in the right direction to achieving it. Particularly, I have advanced in the skills that I broke down in my audit of skills and I have utilised my prior knowledge of German and Germany to prepare me for interacting with the people in both Kirchheim unter Teck and Stuttgart. Key skills that I feel I have progressed in are sharing opinions confidently and taking risks because I have been able to share my professional feedback to other staff members to give them an outsiders perspective on what they do at ISS, but I have also shared my own personal opinions with people at the school and with my host family in order to show them my way of life and culture. I have taken risks in terms of having teaching points with groups of children and having some whole class interactions with some of the children from different grades as well as I’ve had to ensure that my approach towards teaching correlates with the IB’s guidelines. I’ve used my prior knowledge of last year’s placement to really find my footing at ISS and to be seen as one of the staff members at the school by my professional peers and the students. Furthermore I have investigated into the educational literature surrounding the practices of ISS (particularly the concept of inquiry-based learning and the overall ethos of the school in my other blog posts).  Overall, I believe that I will come out of this experience a changed person. I have more confidence within myself and my capabilities as a person and as an educator. I think that the growth mindset ideology has taken shape in my own educational philosophy: everything that I have faced I have tackled with the mindset that I can achieve whatever it was that I set out to do and it has proved to be a great way to go into things.

Next week when I make my return to the school, I plan to begin my work with the Early Years team at ISS and interact with the Kindergarten and Nest areas of the school in order to use the knowledge I have gained this year in lectures and research in a real life context. I also hope to gain new professional knowledge from the staff that will be experts in what it means to be a successful practitioner with younger children. From then on, I will use the rest of my time working with the grade 5s whilst they prepare for their grand event of showcasing their unique topics of inquiry – the Grade 5 Exhibition.

Taten sagen mehr als Worte – Week 3 in Stuttgart Reflection

Third week in and it is that time again to sit down and critically reflect on what has transpired this week. Already I am feeling really at home working at ISS.

I started my work with the grade 1 classes on Monday (26th of March 2018), as I have already worked with the grade 4s, 3s, and 2s, so I continued working my way down the grades right up until the beginning of the Easter holiday break (which is approaching very quickly!). Then, I will work with the Early Years team at ISS for the first week back and then I will work more in-depth for the rest of my placement with Grade 5s as they prepare for their Exhibitions (which I will no doubt blog more about nearer the time).

What is most insightful from working between grades is that I get to not only see the overall progression within an educational institution, but I also get to become a recognisable face to many more people around the school! This is one area that I’ve found has expanded a great deal as the weeks have progressed: my confidence to work with people at ISS, as I am becoming well acquainted with more staff members and children with every passing moment. This will stead me well in other educational settings (particularly the placements in MA3 and MA4) because I realise that as a teacher, you need to be both approachable and open for everyone that comes into contact with you, this shouldn’t be exclusive for just the kids in your practice. You should also go out of your way to welcome others in the school community; something that the staff members at ISS have done with me, which has greatly aided my confidence.

Now, although the school week was a little shorter this week for the Easter break, so much was packed into my time with the grade 1s.

From the get-go, I was working hands-on with practical work with the young children that are in their first year of primary school at ISS (I have found it was a lot more practical-based in comparison to the other grades). I first had to act out different scenario poses to help the students come up with “dialogue” for me as a character. This would feed into their work towards their writing activities that centred on introducing speech marks into text. Albeit giggly and giddy, this approach got the children really focused on really thinking about what their characters would be saying in their own stories and it also served as a great icebreaker for the kids to get introduced to me as one of their teachers for the week.

The dialogue options that the children came up for me as a character

Straight away I could see clear areas of progression that are crucial in getting children engaged with any form of writing. The classroom environment was surrounded by language in the format of posters, books and signs. The children also illustrated the stories that they were writing in order to fully experience their writing in a multi-sensory manner. These skills and knowledge in language through multi-platforms of media will serve them very well once they progress through their time in education. I can vouch for that from seeing that skills in writing only expand as we work up the grades (however, this can only happen effectively when children are within an enriched environment like the one established in the grade 1 classrooms).

Two of the examples of the different processes that can be used by the children when working with numbers – drawing pictures and writing number sentences are key skills needed in having fundamental knowledge within the skills of mathematics

Mathematics followed a similar theme as the grade 1s were working with numbers and number sense. Just like in grade 4 and 3, the students were tasked with looking at their mathematics problems in a deeper way than just as problems that simply need correct solutions. Instead, the practitioners made it clear to the children that they had to emphasise the methods they could use in solving problems. Number lines, tally marks, pictures and number sentences were some of the examples on the board that the children had to show in their working out for problems, which further emphasised my understanding that was established in both the Discovering Mathematics module and the STEM module which showed us that students need to be able to get a real fundamental understanding of the core areas of mathematics and be made aware of the interconnections between concepts (Ma, 2010) (which the International Baccalaureate heralds as a key area that teachers need to do across all areas of learning).

I also, on Monday, got to witness the children’s specialist music lesson, which was also very helpful to see areas of progression, as the older students are very capable in playing instruments. This is evidently because the grade 1s are, like in all the other inquiry-led learning situations, set off to investigate into their knowledge in music to expand on it and to form it into something new. A particular group I saw that really engaged with the inquiry-based approach within music were trying to play the full song of “twinkle twinkle little star” together with boomwhackers that were different sizes to correlate with the different pitches of noise they made when played. The children had already explored the notes that they could use in playing instruments prior with the teacher, however, they had to figure out the correct sequence to produce the song together. Through lots of practising and determination, they were able to achieve the full song together and I got to see the importance that it brings to the children to figure something out for themselves. The music teacher could have easily stepped in to show them how to play it correctly, however, the process into achieving the song was the core essence of the learning experience as a whole. They were working with interdisciplinary skills of sequencing (a skill evident in mathematics and science), knowledge of music notation, and their listening skills, to name a few, in order to problem solve their way to success! It really showed me that too much involvement from a practitioner could really spoil the overall learning experience for the children in certain circumstances. Time should be allowed for the children to come to their own conclusions in learning – something I think we can take for granted sometimes as practitioners.

Tuesday was a very busy day for me as there were a few staff members off due to sickness. I started my morning with interviewing the children in grade 1 individually or in pairs depending on their projects that they were working towards for the Erasmus visitors. Just like the grade 3s had their school of fish on their doors and the grade 2s had their movement in play artwork on theirs, the grade 1s were tasked with creating their dream playground that used many different forces with 3D shapes. Forces in the world is the main area of inquiry for the grade 1s and it, much like all the other aspects of learning in grade 1, is evident across the whole learning environment.

Examples of some of the books evident in the grade 1 class – emphasising the importance of research through different medias, particularly for their UOI topic in forces.

I had to make sure that the children could justify their creations, which interlinked with the core area of post-reflection that is a critical stage in the learning process for the International Baccalaureate – “Reflection can happen at any time in the lesson, and it is vital that it is given time, whether through the teacher, individuals or groups, written or verbal” (Bunting, 2015). Forces such as pushing, pulling, going forward and backwards, moving up and down and stretching and bouncing were evident across most of the designs that were so outlandish in the imaginations. It was great to see such a creative outlet being used for exploring a really scientific topic.

Science, however, was not missed out from the learning. To end the day on Monday, I read a book that was about the different types of forces and the concept of friction to the children. An interesting idea that I found in the book was the concept that friction can slow objects down – particularly if you roll a ball down a ramp that has a carpet on it. So, the teacher came to me and gave me the task of establishing a science experiment that could test out this discovery. During the UOI time this week, the teachers all set up their own station that the children would go around to see different: magnets, Lego, creating dances with force movements and so on. My station was centred around what we learned in the book on Monday: what happens when you roll a ball down a ramp with and without a carpet? I also added different factors like changing the type of ball used, increasing the slope of the ramp etc. The children were really engaged in this station, however, for some their youthfulness meant that they got a little carried away with building their ramps. This was beneficial for me, however, to see the difference in approaches needed with younger children. Upon reflection, I can see that I maybe should have had more tasks to keep the children focused on what it was I asked them to do – maybe included different types of carpets or limited the amount of blocks they were allowed to use when building their ramps or given them examples of what they could make. An area that I thought I tackled well was the big factor that many of the grade 1 children were on a vast spectrum of English communication. The sheet that they had to complete about what they had learned at my station could be completed either by writing or by illustrating the equipment that they used. Some even had a mixture of labelled diagrams, However, the overall learning was still there and the same children that could not write out their learning could easily explain the forces behind the experiments that we had conducted, which emphasised to me that the language barrier should not be the main hindrance for children to progress in their learning. Overall, it was great to lead groups of younger children through learning, as it has better prepared me for my Early Years placement and already started areas within me that I know I need to delve into deeper to understand the importance of early years teaching as a whole.

It was great to be back with the grade 2s to see how they were progressing with their models and overall understanding of castles! It was particularly interesting to see the kids painting the brickwork onto their castles.

Tuesday afternoon was a prime example of the changes that can happen within a school on a daily basis. One of the grade 2 teachers explained at lunchtime that day that her support assistant was sick and she could not complete an as in-depth lesson as she hoped. It luckily worked in time when the grade 1s had a specialist lesson so I thought it was best for me to return to grade 2 to assist in the lesson. The children were excited to see me again as they had enjoyed my lesson about Scottish castles the week before. I remained with the main class to assist and guide them through their writing activity that was around a castle book that they had read as the teacher took groups out to start the painting of their model castles. It was a great feeling to be in charge of a class again and the techniques of management that I had learned last year served me well for maintaining order in a lively afternoon class (especially when they so desperately wanted to go out and paint their castles). The lesson was a success and the children were then all brought out to paint the rest of their castles.

Thursday saw the day ending early for teachers to embark on another professional development day. I got to continue my science experiment station for the kids that did not get around to trying it out the other day and I also got to witness the children’s specialist art time. The day ended with a circle time talk about the children’s plans for their Easter break and it was extraordinary to hear the all the different places that the children would be visiting in the world!

Overall, this week has been a shorter week in the school however it has been packed with so many learning points. I have made great progress in my professional development and have been using the information I have gained from my investigations into the International Baccalaureate system when working with the different grade levels. I have also worked more heavily in teaching points this week and hope to continue this when I come back after the Easter break, particularly when I work more intensively with the grade 5s. However, now I hope to truly experience the Easter celebrations of my host family and come back refreshed and ready for more learning!


Buting, N. (2015) Approaches to Reflection [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 30 March 2018)

Ma, L. (2010) Knowing and Teaching elementary mathematics: teachers’ understanding of fundamental mathematics in China and the United States Anniversary Edition. New York: Routledge.


Niemand hat gesagt, dass Leben leicht ist – Week 1 in Stuttgart Reflection

In such a short space of time, so much has happened.

My first week in Stuttgart has come to an end, and I foresee that the rest of my time here will be just as insightful as this week has been; brimming with multiple points for reflection and development.

Even before I started my work at ISS, I was expanding my knowledge of both the culture of Germany and the language of German, with great assistance from the host family who have welcomed me with open arms. During my stay, I will be working with the family’s youngest son in order to improve his English skills, which will both improve his language skills, due to the exposure to a mother tongue speaker, but also enhance my teaching practice as I will need to work one-to-one with the child to respond to his particular needs in terms of enhancing his English as an additional language skills. Even just day-to-day conversations will no doubt have great impact on the progress of his English knowledge. These skills will no doubt be beneficial when I return to Scottish education, as there will be students that do not speak perfect English at some point in my professional career (which I had last year during 1PP1). This experience will allow me to utilise various professional skills, with setting professional goals being a core area, as I will need to set out goals for both the child and me to progress cohesively.

The view of the garden from where I will be writing most of my blog posts.

My first introduction to Stuttgart was with the family that provided a massive culture shock. My first full day consisted of portfolio planning that was surrounded by the on-goings of George Michael’s “Older” album playing over speakers, to then change into the likes of Debussy and Bach, as the German news was playing in the next room. Alongside this during the first evening meal, the family was communicating across the dinner table in French, German and English, with conversations flowing with ease across the triad of linguistic frameworks that somehow worked seamlessly, as if it was meant for the languages to be experienced together. Opening oneself to different languages and cultures can bring great benefits in my opinion, as this family is proof of it: their children are well above their expected grade levels for their ages and they have gained the necessary skills to examine more languages. The freedom to be able to express oneself in any given language is something that I envy, I wish that much of the UK’s culture and societal view upon language as a whole would be more open to going beyond relying on English as their go-to language (even in countries that do not speak English as a first language). Particularly, when we view it in an educational lens, as the 1+2 scheme in Scotland hopes to fix this issue. However, I believe we need to unpick the societal problem that has a bigger lasting impact on our perception of language as a whole.

However, I must examine my work that I conducted during the first full week at ISS, the International School of Stuttgart, also. For this week, I worked with a grade 4 class, whose teacher has a rich background in working within International schools. This served as a great basis for me to get to understand the IB PYP (International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program). In short, the predominant feature of PYP is that the children are heavily involved in their own inquiry-based learning. A key feature in the timetable is a specific slot time for the children’s unit of inquiry, which is a core area within IB.

Furthermore, The teachers plan collaboratively for their whole year of teaching in terms of the specific areas within a subject through an application called Rubicon Atlas, with the example of mathematics being shown here:

The whole grade’s plan for the teaching of mathematics depending on the time frame

They also use a portal known as Veracross to take attendance, track students progress in learning, and make themselves aware of any allergies or health points that a teacher needs to know. This is to coincide with the platform of Atlas.

“Central to the philosophy of the PYP is the principle that purposeful, structured inquiry is a powerful vehicle for learning that promotes meaning and understanding, and challenges students to engage with significant ideas.” (ISS, 2017, pg.5).

Much of the learning within ISS is facilitated through a constructivist approach towards learning, wherein that students will focus on building their learning themselves alongside support from practitioners that will guide them towards the correct avenues of learning, thus the inquiry-based approach is utilised. Within this, topics such as stereotypes, Internet safety, and societal issues coincide with the learning required in research skills – how do I go about making this project? How do I find appropriate sources? How will I know they are appropriate? Why is this important? These are but a few questions that arise with students within their inquiry that is focused towards a particular interest within the child.

The paperwork that I will be familiarising myself with over the 8 week placement.

Within my specific class for this week, we worked through their unity of inquiry through collaborative groups, which were constructed across the entire grade. This meant that teachers were facilitating learning aids and prompts across various classrooms at one time with students working with different mediums within their group, an approach I have never seen in practice until now. What I really gained from this work was that I was able to see that students really had a passion towards the learning that they were doing, it was learning for the joy of learning. I also witnessed some groups following the trends of Tuckman’s group theory of forming, storming, norming and performing (1965), which believed that people working within small groups that need to work towards similar goals, go through different stages of coming together, having conflict, working through conflicts and then going on to meet the aims of their tasks. This is particularly challenging for teachers. I had to work with a particular group that were disputing over the assigned roles within the team (which were required to bring their ideas together to create a presentation) and it was tricky to try and diffuse the situation somewhat, however, it was also even harder to not try and solve the problems myself, as the group dynamics were learning points for the students as well, which IB outlines is a core aspect of learning. This is a massive area for forming internationally-minded students, as people need to understand they will experience challenging group situations within life, and IB is preparing students for them. Furthermore, the types of collaborative projects have been very thought-provoking.

An example of the work I was doing with my class in mathematics – an emphasis on the actual “hows” and “whys” of mathematics rather than just knowing the answer is emphasised in the IB curriculum.

This particular unit of inquiry (UOI) was centred around the whole grade level being sectioned into groups to conduct tasks that interlink with the outcomes required in the IB curriculum around the topic of our lives being so heavily influenced by media in the global world. The central idea is concerned about our understanding that we are both producers and consumers in media-rich societies. Issues like phishing, cyber bullying, photoshop editing, continuing stereotypes through advertisement, social media’s impact on body image and self-esteem issues were split amongst the groups who were assigned different media outlets to express their findings and opinions on the topic. Skits, presentations, animations and news reports all have been created to highlight the precautions needed with media in the global world; we are all consumers of a consumerist world and must be forever mindful of that. Not only that, but we need to be safe online. These groups will come together to form a whole grade project of inquiry that has been predominately student-led. The grade 4s hope to bring together their findings as one informative assembly presentation that will showcase the inquiry they have done.

Also, due to the business being a school, I knew to expect the unexpected in terms of what can happen within a school day and week. However, I ended up being able to go on a school field trip on only my second day of being at ISS. The field trip was to the the Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart (the giant library in the centre of Stuttgart), which allowed me to see the centre of Stuttgart for a short while, also. This field trip was different from the ones I have experienced in Scotland where most of the transport is planned out, timings are crucial and the whole day is set out, with children having little freedom in the sense that they are always accounted for within a teacher’s schedule. Instead, we used public transport with the kids, we planned what we did with the children according to the plans of the tour (for example, we originally hoped to have a picnic lunch outside, however, were able to have lunch at the library itself instead due to it being cold). The kids even got some free play time outside the library before having to get the train back to school, which showed a more relaxed approach to trips with a large group of children, which gave me areas to reflect upon in terms of the health and safety obsessed approaches the majority of the UK maintains.

An example of one of the classrooms in ISS

I have also been able, in my time with the class, to work within small group lessons and conduct one short whole class lesson within mathematics (which, by following the Atlas, you can see that we are focusing on multiplication and division). I was tasked with exploring worded problems that emphasised the exploration of the hows and whys of mathematics. I took great confidence in leading this topic as there was one particular boy in the class that struggled with working with division, however, using the skills that I have gained in the STEM subject at the university from the likes of Eddie Valentine, I was able to break down particular areas that were tricky for the child (especially their understanding of place value) in a far more effective manner than I would have this time last year, which proves to me that I am already boosting in my confidence, particularly within mathematics.

I have also met with the Head teacher and we have mapped out my plans and aims for the placement: I will work my way down the grades, helping and aiding in classes and teaching in some, to experience the differences in the years across a school (4, 3, 2, 1, kindergarden). Then, when it is time for the huge project of the grade 5 exhibitions, I will assist in teaching and aiding the grade 5 students and teachers (something I will blog about more closer to the time!). Thus, concluding my placement with a wider scope of the whole process of learning that goes on in the primary stages of an IB school, but also get to know the school and staff members more whilst gaining experience teaching in an international school environment.

Beyond the school, I’ve been learning more about the culture of Germany and the German language. I’ve also been driving on the Autobahn to get to and from the school!

Looking ahead to the rest of placement, I hope to be able to take more control in terms of teaching points within the school, but also reach out more to the other staff members, as I have already received such a warm welcome from everyone at the school.


ISS (2017) ISS PYP Handbook Degerloch: International School of Stuttgart

Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384-399.