Category Archives: 2.2 Education Systems & Prof. Responsibilities

“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.

The Constant Changes at an International School

Whilst working with the grade 5s during the final weeks of my time here in Stuttgart, I have discovered the startling fact that over 11 of the children are not moving onto the middle school with the rest of their peers in the next year. However, I have been told by my fellow practitioners that this is somewhat normal in international schools. Children and staff come and go for when they are needed…

Just as the learner profiles promote, the school itself exhibits international-mindedness with their outreach work being global.

Although 11 is a bigger number than normal, it is very common for students to move on at different stages in their learning whilst being at ISS. This might be due to the types of contracts that big companies in Stuttgart offer their employees. A staff member at ISS told me that they have friends and family that are hired on a 2 to 3 year contract basis and are offered the incentives of accommodation, a car for transport and of course education at an International school for their children coming with them.

It gives me a real representation of the point we were told in university; schools are communities themselves but they also serve communities beyond itself. Big companies in Stuttgart (such as Bosch, Daimler – parent company to Mercedes Benz and Smart, and Porsche) need to have schools that their staff member’s children can go to for formal education and that education needs to be able to be conducted across the world in similar manners. This is what the International Baccalaureate emphasises when it says that it is an international stage for learning. Although interpretation is unique, the majority of international schools will have similar frameworks and outlooks to learning which will allow companies to house families that can gain a similar education anywhere that they find themselves to be working. It links back to the idea of the International Schools themselves being businesses (although the majority being non-profit they still need to meet guidelines in order to call themselves international schools).

Therefore, a network of international systems needed to be established for businesspeople to be accommodated for a few years at a time depending on their contract before being moved – taking their families with them. Companies can send people away and they can also bring people into the country – interlinking with the overall concept that a school is more than just a place where people learn, it becomes part of a wider community that it needs to represent.

So, students at ISS may be moving for parental job opportunities whilst others may even be going back to their home country. A common theme amongst the Japanese community at ISS is that the students are put into an English school setting to improve their language and then they return to the Japanese system to gain their qualifications, which is also quite an interesting concept. It shows once again that ISS needs to be providing what their “clients” want and need. There are many students that live locally to Stuttgart and they will continue their time in education completely at ISS, whilst there will be other students that have experience a wide array of educational settings and facilitation of learning has to be seen in both scenarios.

I felt that this particular topic required further analysis through a blog post because it has given me a real-life context to see why International schools exist and why there is a real need for them. Consistency for those children of military families, footballers playing for teams abroad and workers of global companies need to have a system that can provide learning no matter where they are placed in the world, but also consistency for those students that call Stuttgart their forever home. It emphasises the mixture of backgrounds that international schools bring, just as the global workspace does in a similar fashion.

Grade 5 Exhibition – Examining the PYP

I have successfully worked my way through all of the grade levels during my first month at ISS and have been able to teach and assist in all of the levels of progression that are offered at the Lower School… except for Grade 5.

This was done purposely during planning because it is now the time for the students in grade 5 to be focusing in on preparing for the exhibition where they will need to have investigated a topic independently and organised a presentation centred around the issue.

My job for the next month of my placement is to assist in the teaching of the grade 5 students in their exhibition, which are all unique to the child. So, my dynamic as a teacher will need to adjust to fit the PYP once again.

Within the Primary Years Programme Exhibition guidelines (2008), it outlines the exhibition as being a key event that displays all of the skills a student has built up during their time in the international education system and it allows students to showcase their findings and actions that they have done to work through a real-life problem in the world.

More Documentation – The guideline reading has been really beneficial for me to get a better understanding of what the overall framework looks like and must feel like in order for a school to be truly considered an IB school.


The purpose of the exhibition is for the children in their last year before moving into the middle school to really go in a large amount of detail during their inquiries that they predominately do in a collaborative manner with their peers. It also allows students to really show their own learning on both an individual and group level basis. This is because, in the run up to the exhibition, the students are continually reflecting on their learning journeys with their teachers, their mentors and their peers.

The Basic Outline:

  • Students work towards the exhibition during (normally) the last term and it culminates towards a big event day where students can showcase their learning through a specific topic of their choice that interlinks with the central idea.
  • The exhibition itself must enable all the attributes of the learner profile to be showcased, whilst also incorporating the key concepts and also making sure that the transdisciplinary themes and skills are being utilised. Overall it is the grand finale of the PYP before students move onto the next phase into the middle school/secondary education.
  • The students need to also cover all of the “subject areas” with the exhibition incorporating an artistic component (which could be art, writing, music or a drama piece; it must relate to the expressive arts subject areas), a usage of mathematics (data handling in our case), writing (speech, interviews, research) and technology (using technology to create websites or to research information). Another other area can also be tapped into with their action – some are doing experiments to collect results (science) and others are looking into the background of a particular event (history). The pathways are really open to interpretation so long as they interlink with the central idea and the key concepts of the PYP.

The Central Ideas & Key Concepts – these are core to the PYP programme and the exhibition as a whole, as the exhibition is showcasing all of the skills students have culminated up to this point in their time in education.

Now, seeing this in practice, I have really found that the exhibition really holds a strong place in the eyes of the children that are actually part of the process within grade 5. This is because they are choosing a topic that both interests them but also a topic that is an issue in society that they can bring awareness to and even bring about change towards. For being aged 10-11, the topics are really hard-hitting: racism, anorexia, warfares in home countries, air pollution and many more topics have been chosen by the children. What I’ve found is that the issue really is of a great passion for the children. In the words of the Exhibition guidelines, it should “offer the students the opportunity to explore knowledge that is significant and relevant” (International Baccalaureate, 2008, P.2)

Within these topics then, is where teaching can be worked within the frameworks that we are used to. Data handling and graphs are the centred topic within mathematics so many students are creating surveys and then analysing the data they have collected centred around their topic, thus creating a duality product of inquiry-based knowledge interlinking with the advancement of skills within a particular “subject area” (however, the subjects are not so regimented in comparison to other curriculums).

This then all allows for more freedoms for teaching, but also places more constraints on it as well. It is much harder to do a whole class lesson with this approach to learning because the children are very individual in their specific areas of inquiry. However, what can be done instead is the introduction and advancement of specific skills – how to analyse sources, how to construct grafts, how to write a speech and other useful approaches needed to conduct the exhibition.

The children are continually reminded by their environment of what they are capable of when they work towards being the best versions of themselves. Not only this, but also focusing on reflecting across the journey of learning.

Looking beyond this stage of learning, I can see how it is really preparing the students for the futures ahead. They are required to maintain a log of their references (something that rings true at university level) through NoodleTool. This way, the students are not just plagiarising from their sources and are seeing the relevance of crediting where they have found their information. Then the topics themselves and the process of finding action to try and make a difference towards the problem really emphasises the internationalism within the learner profile that the school strives to achieve. It shows students from an early age that, through drive and determination, they can truly make a difference once they have established a strong ground of research behind a topic.

What I also find is that because there is no standardised testing in the system (or not as heavily as other systems) the students are really being able to explore as much as they want to with their topic. It is establishing an environment where students continually want to be doing their best because it is those that reap the best benefits. There’s no need for extrinsic motivation because the children realise that the learning is for themselves. This also interconnects with another area of the exhibition and that is the reflective journal. I knew straight away what this meant for the students being that for this very module I have to maintain reflection around my learning. The students are required to document their progress in their exhibition weekly in the run up to the event and create goals. These goals are then self-assessed – “was I too ambitious?”, “do I need to work harder next time?” and “where do I go next?”. Regulation and self-awareness are then also advanced because students are checking in with themselves on what they’ve done. It is not a focus on what someone else believes upon their progress, because at the end of the day the learning is for them.

Taking this outlook on the concept of the Grade 5 Exhibition has been very helpful for my practice because it allows me to go in with my time with the grade 5s with a greater understanding of what is both required of them and what is required of me as a teacher that is directing them and aiding them in their learning.


International Baccalaureate (2008) Primary Years Programme: Exhibition guidelines. International Baccalaureate Organization: Cardiff.

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.

The Primary Years Programme at ISS (Section 2)

I believe it is necessary to delve deeper and to unpick the framework of the Primary Years Programme at the International School of Stuttgart in order for a better understanding of the International Baccalaureate curriculum and the school of ISS. Therefore, I think it is best to create a blog post that centres around this exploration of the curriculum that is taught at ISS and to unravel the history behind the IB pathway in education. Not only this, but I hope to examine the underlying school ethos that is established at ISS through the PYP.

“Aims and aspirations are translated into a curriculum that is structured from the earliest years around a Programme of Inquiry that contains formal ‘units of inquiry’ in each year. In the early years (aged 3–5 years) the children are required to engage in at least three units of inquiry a year. After this they must engage in six units of inquiry under each of six broad transdisciplinary themes namely: Who we are; Where we are in place and time; How we express ourselves; How the world works; How we organise ourselves; and Sharing the planet.” (Bacon and Matthews, 2014, p.356) – an interesting take on the International Baccalaureate’s system of inquiry-based learning, something that I have also unpicked in another blog post that examined this phenomenon of inquiry-based learning.

The concept of “units of Inquiry” was very alien to me at the beginning of my placement. However, even from the first week, I soon realised the massive importance they have for learning – not just for the teachers teaching the curriculum but for the children that are experiencing and doing the learning. I particularly found that most of the kids at ISS love it when it is UOI time, no matter the grade level. Within the timetable, UOI is a prominent feature amongst the homeroom times, specialist lessons and recesses and break times that the children have on any given day. Across the entire year, students will explore various topics in a great amount of depth, whilst also tapping into other areas of the curriculum in order to establish a cross-curricular model that fully encompasses all areas of learning that can occur. Whilst talking with the grade 3s, I found they had already completed inquiry topics this year on ancient civilisations, how the brain works, space and living things. They are now moving on to preparing for a show where they will all have a role in acting or production. I couldn’t believe the breadth of knowledge that the children were given in terms of exploration for knowledge. However, this is very normal for international schools that follow the PYP.

Using Atlas Rubicon, we can see the Grade 3s progression of UOI Topics as they work through the year.

The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is far more rigid in the sense that set times are normally the case for most primary teachers. They know they are doing maths at a specific time on specific days every week, with only minor changes to the routine. Lots of initiatives however are pushing for CfE to be a flagship for the similar practices found in the IB methods – transdisciplinary skills, cross-curricular and interdisciplinary learning links and having mindfulness of the wider world in everything we do. We can see this with the four key purposes in the Scottish education system CfE – successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

Now, the International Baccalaureate offers more than just the Primary Years Programme, it covers education from 3 all the way up to 19, with Middle Years, Diploma and Career-related programmes also being offered to students.

The different programmes offered by the International Baccalaureate within international schools – sourced from

Although it is handy to know where students will progress to, my main focus will be on the Primary Years Programme, as this is the level that I will be working with as a future primary school teacher.

It was first offered in 1997 after much deliberation was conducted in the early 1990s around the offering of a curriculum that was suited for students aged 3 – 12. Today, we can see that the curriculum itself is centred around the connection of 6 transdisciplinary themes: 1. who we are 2. where we are in place and time 3. how we express ourselves 4. how the world works 5. how we organise ourselves 6. sharing the planet (International Baccalaureate, 2017). These themes are interwoven and correlate towards creating “knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect” (International Baccalaureate, 2017, p.2). But what does this mean in a literal context? From what I’ve witnessed at ISS, I can say that it is children, adults, staff members and students alike being open amongst one another – it is going beyond the idea that education is the transmission of knowledge. There is a real connection amongst the people that call ISS their home for however long that they are there for – and even beyond this with alumni students being welcomed with open arms at the school during my time here. Staff members interacted with particular former students as if they were nieces and nephews, showing that real connections are formed between student and teacher.

My take on the dynamics that are clear in the Primary Years Programme at the International School of Stuttgart (and I assume many of the other international schools that offer the IB PYP) is that, because everyone is predominately from different backgrounds from one another, they feel united through their differences. These differences come together to create a learning space that cares a lot about achieving individual goals whilst also establishing a space that people can come together in unity to be there for one another in a wider sense, which is emphasised in Attitudes and Action in the PYP that are there to empower students within their experiences of learning. Within these experiences is a wide array of topics that can be covered through units of inquiry and other topics in the curriculum with their homeroom teacher or specialist teachers.

Something that I really liked that emphasised this entire school ethos was during another assembly where students that were leaving to start school abroad received a farewell song from the staff and students. It was an emotional day for many because there were students that were moving to far away countries to start a whole new life.

Overall, there is a big difference in the curriculums between international schools and the curriculum used by many schools across Scotland. However, we can see that a lot of the ideologies are stemmed from the same roots. Furthermore, much of the same pedagogical understanding was used to form both curriculums. Looking at both systems with a critical lens that has been able to experience both in practice has allowed me to really look internally and question my personal and professionals beliefs on education as a whole. A lot of the practices that I’ve seen at ISS have been very different and others have been very similar to ones that I have used myself. However, the biggest thing I will be taking away from the framework of the Primary Years Programme is the Units of Inquiry, as these core subject areas allow for a lot of independence and development of a child as a whole, and it also indicates to me that learning MUST come from the children themselves.


Bacon, K. & Matthews, P. (2014) Inquiry-based learning with young learners: a Peirce-based model employed to critique a unit of inquiry on maps and mapping, Irish Educational Studies, 33:4, 351-365, DOI: 10.1080/03323315.2014.983303

International Baccalaureate (2017) The History of the IB. [Pdf] Available at: (Accessed: 1 April 2018)

Picking Apart Inquiry-Based Learning

Prior to coming to ISS, I had only heard about the implementation of inquiry-based learning within the primary school classroom. Inquiry itself, to me, is to go forth into learning with an aim to prove something or to investigate a topic for yourself; it is a key method of study at university as independent adult learners, we need to be able to independently investigate our topics whilst also searching through lots of different sources to find what we are looking for. We may not think it, but this takes skill to decode what is needed, what is useful and what is not needed and that can be discarded.

I originally thought that using this method, within a primary school setting with children,  would not only create a loud and chaotic learning environment that would most likely lead students off-task but it would also mean that, as an educator, you are taking a step back from being a teacher by leaving the children to their own devices.

However, I was very wrong in my original assumptions through further investigation in academic reading and being witness to the amazing work of inquiry-based learning at ISS.

Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2007) find that guided inquiry has been researched extensively to a point that, when used effectively, it has been found to produce the best, deepest learning experiences for students, as they are constantly and consistently forming new ideas and learning on top of pre-existing skills. The role of the teacher is not to simply provide the resources for learning and then leave them to investigate; children need to first be established in their “pre-existing skills” with sound knowledge that is provided by the aid of the practitioner in questioning sources, using search engines properly, and having prompts to be brought back onto task throughout the process. After all, it is called guided inquiry. Inquiry needs a purpose which must first be provided by the teacher before children can be sent on their inquiries. Jo Fahey (2012) also believes that inquiry is best utilised when investigation has been thought out by a practitioner but is still allowed freedom for the children to interpret through their own analysis.

Its been very beneficial for my role as a teacher to really be questioned during this placement – something that I didn’t think would happen as much as it has in such a short space of time – as Scottish education has seen a retainment of much of the traditional didactic formats of teaching, with the teacher at the front of the classroom leading much of the learning. At ISS, I have only seen this used a handful of times to introduce new learning. Much of the learning is then sourced by the children whilst being aided by an adult. Teachers should be facilitators of learning instead of thinking that children come to school purely to gain knowledge in their empty minds that are there to be filled with information from a teacher. Students come to class with their own experiences of the world that are entirely unique to them, and with them comes areas of knowledge and skills that a teacher can be missing. Units of Inquiry allow these experiences to be both recognised and flourished in an educational setting whilst still retaining a core purpose for a teacher.

I have witnessed this myself at ISS.

At the very beginning of my placement, I was amazed at the independence of the grade 4s in their unit of inquiry centred around the exploration of media. They knew their groups that they were working in and they knew exactly what goals they were striving towards within them and they were on the right path to be able to work towards completing their goals. However, what I did not see was the prior learning that clearly went into facilitating the children with the sound knowledge of what they actually had to investigate. It was this establishment that then allowed for independence to spur in the children’s learning. The teacher also needs to be very focused on the learning that is occurring during inquiry as I also witnessed and aided in steering a group that was going off task in their inquiry, as this is an issue that can occur in inquiry-based learning. This, I felt was harder than getting children who have been assigned a task back on track because they had already began much of their research towards the project they were making for their grade year assembly. However, there was learning within the corrections, also. The children realised they needed to use their self-evaluation skills and critically see what areas they needed to adjust in order to get themselves back on track with the assistance from us as the teachers.

Therefore, I see great method behind allowing children to inquire into their own learning, whilst still giving them a field of view in which they must remain (which is the central idea in IB). Not only has reading about the concept of inquiry-based learning been useful for my overall understanding of the practice, but I have also been able to see it in action for myself and really got to grips with adjusting what it means to be a successful practitioner.

A wider question I have however is, what would this format of teaching look like in a Scottish educational system? I question if the culture towards education would be able to facilitate the practice in such a successful manner as the International School of Stuttgart does. It will have taken many years of work, then years of structured reflection and analysis towards practice before ISS was as confident in the practice and I think similar initiatives would need to be examined if the curriculum for Scotland was to adopt a inquiry-based approach in a full-time manner.

The 5 Essential Elements of the Primary Years Program – All areas correlate to supporting the production of international-mindedness within students that exhibit the Learner Profile.

I’m so glad that I chose the setting of an international school as I have been able to get to grips with a system for education that is quite abstract from the one I am used to in Scotland, thus sparking massive areas for critical reflection towards what it truly means to be a successful primary school teacher.


Fahey, J. (2012) Ways to Learn Through Inquiry: Guiding Children to Deeper Understanding. Cardiff: International Baccalaureate Organization.

Kuhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K. and Caspari, A.K. (2007) Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

International School of Stuttgart – Structure of Placement Provider (Section 2)

The International School of Stuttgart is an educational institute that aims to create and shape globally-minded students that strive to see their prospects in life with a wide scope. The school follows the international baccalaureate diploma and provides education from Kindergarten through to grade 12:

“ISS is a vibrant, student-centered learning community where both subject rigor and character development are fostered, where tradition is valued and innovation embraced and where partnership with parents is a fundamental part of our philosophy.” (ISS, no date)

Particularly, within the “Making the Primary Year Program Happen” Document (2009), it finds that education that is international needs to be both inclusive and challenging to be able to shape a globally-minded being. A key area that I find relevant that interlinks with CfE is that International Schools aim to utilise the transdisciplinary model “whereby themes of global significance that transcend the confines of the traditional subject areas frame the learning throughout the primary years, including the early years.” (ISS, 2009, pg. 6).

International Baccalaureate, in a similar fashion to Curriculum for Excellence, strives IB learners  to be:

Inquirers – Ensuring students are independent in their studies and are studying for the sake of learning and to enjoy the process of learning itself

Thinkers – Critical and creative thinking are needed in order to both understand problems that one faces on an academic level, but also beyond in real-life situations.

Principled – Thinking and acting with respect and taking into consideration of fairness and justice (which resembles the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s SPR 1)

Knowledgeable – Exploring knowledge in an interdisciplinary manner that allows

Communicators – Being able to communicate and express oneself in more than one language

Open-Minded – Having integrity to understand and value ones’s own historical heritage whilst also seeking the stories and beliefs of others to mould our perceptions and thoughts on the world around us.

Caring – Having compassion towards others and striving towards doing the most that we can to support one another.

Risk-Takers – learners must see challenges within their lives as areas for great development and critical reflection to occur when learning takes place.

Balanced – understanding the importance of balancing and juggling the aspects of our lives – physical,

Reflective – Being mindful of our strengths and weaknesses in life and being able to see where we need to go in life in order to achieve our goals.

All of these attributes culminate towards creating an IB learning profile that is fit for being a responsible citizen that can contribute both locally and globally with compassion and wisdom (International Baccalaureate, 2013, pg. 5).A key area that I find relevant that interlinks with CfE is that International Schools aim to utilise the transdisciplinary model “whereby themes of global significance that transcend the confines of the traditional subject areas frame the learning throughout the primary years, including the early years.” (ISS, 2009, pg. 6).

Furthermore, the transdisciplinary model, particularly within the development of skills, is seeped in pedagogical findings, particularly within the development of gross and fine motor skills (ISS, 2009, pg. 23), which Boyd & Bee (2014) emphasises that is core in the overall physical, mental and perceptual development of a child, ensuring that they are adequately equipped for their futures ahead. The international baccalaureate emphasises that the utilisation of large muscles alongside delicate muscles for precision need to be development (this is within the branch of Self-management skills.

Now, looking at ISS in a deeper lens, we can see that there are various stakeholders that impact the school but are also who are impacted by the institution itself. I will explore these within this post below.


“Our parents, as key stakeholders in the school, are an essential part in the education of children and an active Parent Teacher Association also helps relocating families to settle in, make new friends, find their way around and to feel part of the school and the local community.” (How to Germany, 2018)

Looking through the website and speaking to staff members, I have found that the school has a deep connection between staff members, students and their parents, as they are all stakeholders within the school. Particularly, the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees comprise the ISS Supervisory Board and members are elected to serve a four-year term of office and devote their time and energies on a voluntary basis. Those elected serve as being advisors for the School Director. Due to the school being a private non-profit organisation, the stakeholders, whom invest money into the school in order to see that students are adequately educated, have the right to have their voices heard in terms of the practices used within the school. Also, a predominate feature of the board of trustees is that they have children at the school of ISS, which also factors in the great deal of importance they place on their hopes for education. They will consider necessary funding and initiatives through a parental lens but also within a business lens – how will this improve/benefits the students/teachers at ISS?

I have also been told that the board meet on a regular basis (a minimum of once a year) with staff members in order to discuss the school.

Furthermore, the core stakeholders that are evident with every school are obviously the parents, the teachers, the staff members and, of course, the children. These are then interlinked with those affiliated with the school itself – finance providers, large resource companies (with the example of Michael Schmitt Gastro, who supplies the food in the canteen), and the International Baccalaureate as a whole. Not only does the school need to adhere to the laws of education for Germany, they must also cover the guidelines established by the IB pathway.

Leadership Team (Chief Roles): 

There are many people involved within the International School of Stuttgart that go beyond just educating the children. Teachers are supported by both a leadership team and a human resources branch within the school, with various receptionists, support staff and involved parents participating in implementing the International Baccalaureate education.

The main responsibility within ISS lies with the School Director, who shares strategic and pastoral initiatives, as well as operational review, amongst the leadership teams, which “consists of the Business Manager, the Division Principals, the Head of Campus in Sindelfingen and the Director of Admissions and Enrolment.” (ISS – Leadership Team)

Beyond this, there are two principals for the lower and upper stages of the school (this is also due to the buildings being separate for the lower grades and upper grades). There is also a Business Manager who’s main role is focusing on the finances of the school. Human Resources Manager, Directors of Administrations and Enrolment, and even a head of another campus are some of the leaders that command the ongoings of the school. Also, working within the school I have seen that there are various other staff members that work with the children in differing formats. There are specialist teachers whose role it is to facilitate the education of a particular subject area (for example, students will go to art lessons in the art room that has a specialist, the same can be said with P.E and Music). This also allows teachers to have non-contact time to plan lessons and seek the required resources that are necessary to meet the learning intentions of their students.

My main points of contact are with the Lower School Principal, who needs to ensure that the school is running smoothly and accordingly as possible but also ensure the safety of the children within the school (a key example I saw on placement was a child was unable to eat and the head teacher had to make the executive decision to send them home because it impacted their capabilities to learn) and the Lower school assistant principal, who orchestrates much of the meetings for teacher planning. The assistant principal will meet with the teachers from each grade level to plan out the learning they hope to achieve, highlight any concerns or questions they have and make goals towards what they hope to achieve in their practice. I can see this being a massive job to undertake, but one of massive importance as it allows management staff and teachers to be on the same page in terms of the progression of learning.

Furthermore, the class teacher I was placed with first indicated to me that as an international school teacher she was able to source continual professional development workshops or courses, bring them up to management and possibly have the course paid for. So long as it was meaningful for the practitioner and the school could gain benefits from it. This can also be found on the school’s website amongst its Erasmus+ information, as a teacher can take part in training in any European country.ISS state that between the years of 2014 and 2017, 65 teachers and staff members benefitted from professional development that was funded through Erasmus+. Also, from discussions in the school, I have found that the school is in partnership with other schools across the EU (Poland, Italy and the UK being three examples of links that the staff have mentioned to me) to host students to come and learn about the school and also share their background, showing that the stakeholders are global.


Boyd, D.R. & Bee, H.L. (2014) The Developing Child 13th edn. Essex: Pearson Education

How to Germany (2018) International School of Stuttgart Storefront [Website] Available at: (Accessed 9th of March 2018)

International Baccalaureate (2013) What is an IB Education? [pdf] Available at: (Accessed 10th of March 2018)

International Baccalaureate (2012) The IB Primary Years Programme: Education for a better world Cardiff: International Baccalaureate.

ISS (no date) About ISS [Website] Available: (Accessed 10th of March 2018)

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

The Scary Side of Social Media

Over the past weekend, my friends and I watched an interesting film that sparked a critical thought process within me. The film ‘Unfriended’ sees a group of teenage friends get caught up in a horror and revenge plotline over a group Skype call. Although, the film itself was somewhat convoluted and cliché, its premise was still very original and important in our digitally dependent world.

The whole plot flourishes out of a tragedy that is hitting headlines even more so now in 2017 than when the film was released in 2015. Fictionally, Laura Barns falls victim to the hysterical mania of social media when she is recorded whilst being in an intoxicated state at a party and the embarrassing video spreads like wildfire over YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and beyond the realm of the Internet. Due to the pressure, she takes her own life and even this is documented in a video and posted anonymously online. These events in the film shroud the death of Laura with media frenzy and the culprit of the uploaded clips are not revealed until the very end.

Trailer may be deemed as offensive and disturbing to some viewers:

However, going beyond the film, these problems are very real and happen on a day-to-day basis in front of our very own newsfeeds and timelines. Recently, the tragic case of 12-year-old Katelyn Nicole Davis has sparked outrage on how explosive and unruly a single post on social media can be. Davis used a live streaming service where she recorded her own suicide. Morally, we would expect this video to be taken down right away, however the uncontrollable nature of the Internet went against our human moral code and within hours millions had watched it.

The video was viewable to all, across numerous social media platforms, for days before people’s flagging brought about action. However, much like a virus, the clip spread across the web and was reported by numerous outlets and many commented on the topic on their own social media pages. The age of the Internet has really thrown in the question: what’s truly in our control?

Delving into the issues of the worldwide web further shows us that we are all so plugged into a system that promotes connecting with people yet it leaves us truly disconnected from one another. The lines of right and wrong have been completely blurred, as it’s all so accessible. You’re just one click away from shocking images that are becoming numbingly normal to us. We can just as quickly tap out of the gore as we can into it.

What does this say to our younger generations?

People fail to realise that the Davis story wasn’t a movie. It was real. A family has lost a child and the world is watching. They aren’t getting the privacy to grieve.

The realms of cyberspace are uncontrollable and unstoppable. The smartphones we carry everywhere have the power to ruin people’s lives and careers within in seconds.


Social Media is Powerful

The General Teaching Council for Scotland obviously has understood our growing dependence on social media and built more documentation towards tackling these issues that will make their way to the classroom. The documents tell us that we need to embrace Internet in a cautious ways and put boundaries up to protect ourselves online (GTCS, 2012).

As teachers, we must lead by example of being competent in the negatives of social just as we are in the positives within the classroom and beyond. The General Teaching Council for Scotland has written about this in their guidance documents for social media usage:

“Before posting materials online stop and ask yourself:

1. Might it reflect poorly on you, your school, employer or the teaching profession?

2. Is your intention to post this material driven by personal reasons or professional reasons?

3. Are you confident that the comment or other media in question, if accessed by others, (colleagues, parents etc.) would be considered reasonable and appropriate?” (GTCS, 2012, pg.5)

If we’re smart with our social media footprint then we can instil our own values of the Internet with the pupils we teach. Utilising tragic events like the fictional story of Unfriended, and the unfortunately very real story of Katelyn Nicole Davis, we can see some good come out of the sadness plaguing social media.


GTCS (2012) Professional Guidance on the Use of Electronic Communication and Social media available at: (Accessed 22nd January 2017)