Category Archives: Learning from Life

Professional and Reflective Posts about MA2 Placement

End of Placement: What Now…? (Section 4)

My Learning from Life placement is coming to a close and it is necessary for us to take a step back from all the work we have done as student teachers in a different setting from our usual Scottish format to see what learning we will go forth and conduct from the knowledge and understanding that we have gained whilst being out on our MA2 placement.

For me, I already know that I want to investigate even more systems of education beyond the International Baccalaureate to see what the different beliefs on what “education” really means can form different institutions for learning. This is because I have seen that working at an IB school has really sparked lots of time for self-reflection in terms of my role as a teacher and what the role of any practitioner or “educator” is. Particularly, when it concerns gaining the best learning for the next generation of learners and innovators. To do this, I will go back to some of the country systems that we learned about for our comparative studies in semester 1 and look over the systems with newfound knowledge and understanding on differences of educational philosophies. It will stead me well for my future placements as I know that I am becoming a critical practitioner instead of a docile teacher that does not question their purpose in the realm of institutional education.

Furthermore, I hope to continue my studies of German further and not lose the new vocabulary and grammar understanding that I have gained during my time in Stuttgart. I want to delve deeper into the different dialects of German also, because this was an area that I found challenging when communicating with people that had a Hochdeutsch dialect. I could even look into attending the night classes at the university for German in order to maintain my language capabilities, as I did in first year as part of the elective. What has been most beneficial for me is that, as time has gone on, I have been able to cope with and understand larger volumes of German language. I remember that it was such a massive area that i struggled with in terms of being able to digest what was being spoken to me, but now I am far more capable of breaking down the words in spoken speech.

I also really hope to stay in contact with my host family that have put up with me for 2 whole months. They have shown me a whole new way of life and really been helpful of contextualising differences in cultures and language. They’ve also shown me that being open to differences can bring great benefits for understanding of yourself and your own heritage. I will never forget the evening meals spent at the dinner table where discussions are conducted in German, English and French in a free flowing manner. There shouldn’t be a closed off outlook on miscommunication issues either. The best part of language-learning is working through misunderstandings and errors and working together to see what learning can be had from interactions.

Overall, I feel that I am brimming with enthusiasm for the future ahead beyond Learning from Life. As sad as it is for it to come to an end, I realise that I must continue and look for the next adventures that will come my way in my teaching career and in my life as a whole. Better yet, I now have a bigger drive to go out and find those adventures because of the sheer openness I had towards LfL and I can see the great learning that I have achieved because I jumped right into the deep end.

End of Placement: Reflection of Impact (750 words max) – Section 4

Feelings before: 

Prior to coming to Germany, I felt a mixture of emotions that were veering between excitement and anxiety. I knew that I was doing the right thing with going to Germany due to my past experiences and the types of professional development I wanted to gain. Particularly in the understanding of the differences in culture and the understanding of the German language. Furthermore, lots of planning in terms of gaining a police check, doctors certificate and other documentation proved that I was still very hungry for working in a school environment within a country completely different from my own. It was all a whirlwind of planning coinciding with revision for assessments at the university that when it was finally time to go I almost felt numb towards the whole placement. It didn’t seem real until I stepped off the plane at Stuttgart airport.

Feelings during:

At first, I felt a little out my depths in terms of the language barrier. Although, I have experience and knowledge of the German language, I have never really utilised it in its natural environment where people speak at a greater pace in conversations. However, through time and practice I was able to engage more in conversations. At ISS, I felt very welcomed from the very beginning. What was beneficial was that I would utilise the language of German with my host family and then use English when working at ISS (except in the kids’ specialist German lessons or when it was required to speak German). It struck a perfect balance between the two and allowed me to gain new skills in the language of German (both conversational skills in everyday life and didactic presentation skills for when I worked in German lessons at the school) whilst still retaining my teaching in English. I have also gained lots of new skills beyond the placement itself: I have driven on the other side of the road on the Autobahn German highways, I’ve shared my Scottish heritage through cooking meals and baking and I have been able to adapt to a whole new way of life in Germany beyond just my professional self at the school.

Feelings after: 

I feel that this placement has been very successful for me in terms of what I wanted to achieve from it. I have grown as a person so much and become far more autonomous and independent in terms of the way that I conduct myself in my personal and professional life and I feel far more confident in being able to share my opinions more openly in both environments. I just can’t believe how quickly it has all passed me. It has been an intense two months that have been filled with lots of learning points in life itself.

Progress on goals/audit:

I believe I have really progressed in sharing opinions with others because I originally always felt apprehensive to speak out on particular issues or I always felt that I didn’t have a fully formed opinion on my “educational philosophy” because I had only completed one placement. However, working in an international school in Stuttgart, Germany has really shown me a completely different outlook on education and what it means to be a successful school as a whole. It has given me many areas to construct opinions and confidence to share them openly. Not only this, but I have, over my 2 months of being here, been able to work with people from all walks of life and of various backgrounds and languages which has extended my skill in teamwork.

Overall Conclusion:

The placement has been very successful in what I aimed to set out: I feel I’ve improved in my German language knowledge. I have been able to gain firsthand knowledge of the culture of Germany. I have learned so much about the system of the International Baccalaureate and the PYP and I am able to see similarities and differences between it and the Scottish Curriculum, allowing me to form a critical eye on my own educational philosophy. I have also been able to see the progression of an educational system from all grade levels and have been able to teach and observe at different levels also, which has expanded my knowledge of systems that can be used within a school environment later in my career. The skills I have gained will last me a lifetime and I really have learned a lot from going out of my comfort zone.

[744 words]

“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).

Grade 5 Exhibition Progress

It is less than a week until the big exhibition night for the Grade 5s and I want to document some of the progression in their learning towards the night. There has been lots of work towards display boards, websites, interviews, speeches and artistic components and it is all starting to all come together in various different stages.

One of the students has decided to look into the global issue of women’s rights and they have also translated parts into their home language, which is a requirement of all the students to have at least 2 languages shown within their exhibition somehow.

So much hard work has gone into the event and the students are really feeling the hard work, however, they know that it is all worth it in the end when they will complete their presentation on the exhibition night and be able to present, not only their findings, but also their development as learners in an international setting.


Both the display board and artistic component that was completed by the student that is looking into Artificial Intelligence in education – a topic I myself am interested in as it could mean the difference in my future job prospects!

On the 9th of May, the school will be hosting the exhibition night and all the parents and guests of the students will be able to experience the learning in one showcased-event. It also lines up perfectly as being the last full-day that I have at ISS before I make my return to Scotland to end my Learning from Life placement.

The beauty of this project – it gets to showcase the various backgrounds of the student as an individual learner. They get to explore a topic of their choosing and get to evidence it in both English and their home and family language.

The Invitation – Notice the PYP’s Central Idea for ISS’s grade 5s this year was to focus on global awareness and action to establish a better world around us.

We have all worked exceptionally hard and it shows off in the learning that we have gained, emphasising further that we are all learners no matter the stage in life.

Wir sind mit der Arbeit beschäftigt – Week 7 in Stuttgart Reflection

This is now the second week that I have worked with the Grade 5s (23rd of April – 27th of April) at ISS and it has been a week of much learning, reflection and hard work – for teachers and students alike!

Monday was testing because the class teacher was unexpectedly absent so I had to maintain order and structure in the class while she was away. It was very reminiscent of the first few days of responsibility I had with my class last year because, as children like to do, some of them wanted to see how far they could push their limit of slacking off and trying to see if I was going to be authoritative or be dismissive. However, I did not let this deter me and I made sure that ground rules were outlined between us. What I found most beneficial for my practice this day was the break-up with the kid’s specialist lesson. This allowed me more time to be able to plan a more cohesive lesson for in the afternoon if I had otherwise had them the entire day. I could use the same strategy as the class teacher of setting to-do lists on the board so the children know what specific things they need to accomplish whilst also setting up an aid sheet where students could write what resources they needed (this being exhibition time many things need to be printed or sourced). By the end of the day on Monday, I felt it was necessary to get the children to have a self-reflection on their actions for the day – many were able to stay focused and work towards their goals in completing their work for the exhibition, where as others took this opportunity of change to sit back and have too much fun with their friends instead of being able to be productive on top of mingling with their peers. I did not ask for an answer of how the students felt they had conducted themselves today as the purpose of this self-relfection was to intertwine it with the ethos of the entirety of the school – learning is individual.

Before beginning their work in the exhibition, the teacher always get the students to think about and write down what they hope to accomplish by the end of each lesson – I kept up with this practice on Monday when I had the class myself. It also allowed me to practice my handwriting on the whiteboard!

I brought the focus back to the learner profile within the IB and asked, “were they striving towards being the best version of themselves that they could be?”

I ended on a more positive note and emphasised that tomorrow was a new day, a new beginning for them all.

Overall, Monday was a great test of my overall practice because I did not know I was going to be entirely in-charge of the class but I was able to maintain the order that the class teacher normally does. On top of this, I was making sure that students were receiving feedback on their weekly journal entries (a requirement in their exhibition to-do list because they need to also be checking in with themselves regularly on their learning and progress during the run-up to the exhibition night). It was great to be able to take charge of this section of marking because it allowed me to gain a scope into each individual child and be able to gauge where my support would be needed most.

Tuesday brought about some more normality as the teacher had returned and was feeling better. She was impressed that I was able to keep everything organised in the same manner that she would and thanked me for being able to keep the class on task and not lose out on a day of learning.

This meant I could continue my work with the German specialist class on the Tuesday. The class were tasked with memorisation games to introduce the learning for the lesson and get everyone warmed up to work in German again. The rules were quite strict in that, in order to gain a point, the student had to not only remember the word in German, they also had to spell it correctly, remember the article (der, die oder das) and remember capital letters (the topic was still die Gebäude – buildings so they are nouns and require a capital letter). This then shows the students the importance of learning a word and its article, which is a great way in introducing them to the many grammar rules that German holds. It is also good for me to see the progression, not only between the grade levels, but also across a singular grade level’s learning process. I’ve been planning with the German teacher and she hopes to then lead this vocabulary into experimenting with sentence structure and teaching particular points of grammar. This approach will facilitate the introduction of skills needed to communicate in the language of German. It also makes the language more “user-friendly” instead of putting grammar rules in front of them and forcing them to re-write them and just try and memorise them. Actually playing with the language and being corrected along the way makes it more fun and engaging for both students and practitioners.

I have also discovered this week some difficulties that can occur with the inquiry-based approach to learning, particularly when great amounts of responsibilities are put upon children. Although it produces autonomous learners who strive to learn for themselves, there can be problems that occur (like any approach to learning). For example, this week the grade 5 students were required to bring back their display boards they had taken home to mount with new paper, however, some students forgot their board and were unable to continue with putting their information on the display boards. This then led the students to take up the idea that, because they did not have the resources, they could easily sit back and do nothing. This then led to distractions occurring and many students were then taken off-task by their peers who did not have the resources they needed. Children had things left at home, needed technology, had to do certain tasks that required resources that they didn’t have at that time, therefore, it pushed them to think they had nothing to do. It places a lot of responsibility on students to a point that it could be detrimental when they fail to meet the expectations. On the other hand though this could spark learning experiences in itself because the exhibition results are a reflection of the capabilities of the student not on the practitioner because they have provided the prompts, they have provided the skills to accomplish the task they have set and they are there to support. Reflecting on this, I think if I was ever to conduct a project in this way, I would make it a priority that resources are left at the school because taking things home then causes an issue of things being left and people straggling behind, however, it has also shown the students that they need to be prepared and organised in order to gain the most from their learning… It is all a learning experience.

Wednesday was also interesting as during planning meetings I discovered the teachers need to organise when they are doing the MAP tests. This was interesting because the International Baccalaureate outlines that standardised testing is not in their educational ideology. MAP tests stand for Measure of Academic Progress and it is an online assessment for literacy, numeracy and reading. Some give multiple-choice questions while others ask for more analysis in regards to an extract to see if a child is capable of recalling what they have read and being able to make sense of it. This will take up a whole week of learning because of the different times of classes, specialists and the timing of their class trip. The teachers also told me that the results of these tests are shared with the children and their parents – something that is a little different from the standardised tests I remember doing in primary school where the information was purely for the teachers to see where their children were at. My particular class teacher mentioned that many parents come to the class and are worried by the change in results by these tests and the practitioner has found there is a correlation with the lower scores lining up with the students completing the assessment the quickest – proving that they probably just click whatever answers they are given to finish it instead of actually being examined for their true mental capabilities.

Mathematics has also been a different setting from the other grades. The grade 5s are nearing the end of their measurements and grid topic and are working on consolidation through textbook work. Now, this is another opportunity for the students to be independent. The practitioner always states that the students should work on areas they need the most work on and shouldn’t just do every question in the book. Each student has their own checklist of chapters that would be beneficial for their progression in mathematics. Furthermore, if they feel they are doing well in a particular section and are getting all the questions correct and feel confident, they can move on. On top of this consolidation work was more fun activities such as grid plotting images.

Here is an example of the end result of a grid plotting activity – the students were really focused and it required their skills to be tested in order to complete each section using the correct co-ordinates. A great consolidation activity.

As the week was coming to a close, it was time to organise the roles that the staff members would have in preparation for the exhibition night. The teachers had totally forgotten that they must also make a video documenting the learning of the students so I felt it would be beneficial for me to take up the responsibility for preparing and making the video for the night. We have picked particular students that have progressed well in their exhibition and are able to take time out from their work to be a part of the video which will document their overall learning in the scope of the learner profile. We made a sheet up and gave it to the students to think about over the long weekend and we will begin recording on the Wednesday back from the bank holidays here in Germany.

Overall I have really enjoyed this week because it is giving me more responsibility with the classes of Grade 5 because I am working with them for a longer period of time. Next week will be a shorter week as we begin back on Wednesday, which gives the students even less time in class to work on their exhibition topic. I hope to come back refreshed from the longer weekend and be ready for more learning and responsibility ahead!

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.