Over the last several months INTL* teachers have spent a great deal of time in collaborative meetings, close to 16 hours a week. As INTL elementary school teachers prepare for the transition to the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, planning meetings have taken on a whole new meaning.
Each grade level from Nursery through 5th Grade meets for approximately two hours every week with the primary goal of collaboratively planning "Units of Inquiry." Each unit is organized around a broad concept such as "Sharing the Planet," "How We Express Ourselves," or "Who We Are," and they form the basis of the PYP program, helping to organize the knowledge, skills and understandings that our students develop throughout the school year. Collectively, several different units make up each grade’s "Program of Inquiry" for the entire year.
In our collaborative meetings, we have focused on identifying conceptual connections across language programs, critically considering what is essential, and pondering the true purpose of classroom learning. This has at times been a long and arduous process, requiring a great deal of flexibility, reflection and communication. However, it has also sparked a wealth of personal and professional growth. Below are reflections from the INTL faculty.
What have you found most rewarding about collaborative planning?
"I have found it incredibly rewarding to plan collaboratively with my grade level team. We are able to discuss ideas and to think critically about how to successfully implement the PYP into our classroom while still maintaining the parts of our curriculum that we find most valuable and rewarding for our students." –Erin, 5th Grade English
"Je trouve qu’il est toujours très intéressant, inspirant et motivant de partager nos idées pour planifier notre enseignement." (I always find sharing ideas as we plan our teaching to be very interesting, inspiring and motivating). –Anne-Sophie, Nursery French
每一份教學計畫都免不了攜帶了設計者的教育背景和生活習慣。當我獨自一人做教學計畫時，免不了會陷入個人的誤區，甚至有山窮水盡的時候。而集思廣益的會議，會開啟我更多的思考角度，讓我的教學可以有更廣的覆蓋面。(Every teaching plan inevitably reflects the educational background and personal circumstances of the educator that creates it. When I am planning my instruction on my own, I inevitably fall into this trap of being limited by my own personal limits and world view. When brainstorming with colleagues, however, I am able to see things more critically from a wider diversity of angles, and this allows my teaching to have a broader relevance and impact for students). –Stephanie, Fourth Grade Chinese
What has been your biggest challenge?
"Notre plus grand défi a été de présenter dans les trois langues sous un format différent ce que nous enseignions depuis plusieurs années. Par exemple ne plus aborder l’histoire chronologiquement, mais en fonction de thèmes inter- et transdisciplinaires." (Our biggest challenge was to present in three languages in a different format from what we have been teaching for years. For example, to approach history not chronologically, but around inter-disciplinary themes). –Patrick B. 5th Grade French
我覺得很有趣的一個事情是，我們在討論探索單元的時候，我們在想英文應該怎麼說才能很好的詮釋我們的題目，後來我們才意識到我們還需要考慮題目翻譯成法文跟中文後是否恰當。(The most interesting thing that I have discovered is that when we are discussing a unit of inquiry, we have to first think about how our ideas should be expressed in English. But then we realize that we have to carefully consider how the English terms we use should be translated to express those same ideas in Chinese or French). –Ying, Nursery Chinese
How has collaborative planning transformed/affected your teaching and learning?
We used to plan our Chinese grade-level curriculum by ourselves. This year is very exciting because all our grade-level teachers collaborate together to design the curriculum. I work with teachers who come from different cultures, and the diversity is amazing. Each teacher contributes his or her experiences, knowledge and fantastic ideas in the planning time, and enhances our curriculum. I enjoy and learn a lot from this cooperative process. –Shu-Chun, 2nd Grade Chinese
It has been very helpful to learn different techniques and styles from the other teachers. I have become more mindful in how I teach and plan my lessons. I am looking forward to starting this new adventure with our Nursery class in 2017. –Zélie Doherty, Nursery English.
What I’ve found most rewarding myself as PYP Coordinator is being able to see and fully understand the progression of INTL’s curriculum from Nursery to 5th Grade. For example, in working with the concept of experimentation, I’ve seen teachers across grade levels developing a beautiful progression of “How the World Works” units. These units range from inquiries into curiosities and discoveries, experimentation and the scientific process, and the impact that scientific discoveries have made, and will make, on societies. I look forward to more productive collaboration with my colleagues as we continue to progress towards adopting the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program.
*In 2020, the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values.