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Same Same, But Different

Edna Lau, PYP Coordinator December 8, 2020
Same Same, But Different

I have two boys.  My older one, Taite, is serious, thorough and assertive.  Academically, he has been the consistent achiever with solid grades.  Taite graduated HS with honours as a Scholar-Athlete and finished university a year early.  My younger one, Josh, is the goofball with the funny antics.  He loves to cook and spent weeks experimenting on how to make the perfect onsen egg.  Josh’s spelling was inventive all the way through primary, and he didn’t pick up a book of his own accord until middle school.  I would often get emails from his teachers sharing their concerns about how he was behind in so many areas.  Josh graduated HS with honours and is getting excellent grades with his engineering studies.  They have both grown up to be very responsible, independent and caring young men, and I am incredibly proud of them.  Bragging rights aside, if two boys from the same family and upbringing can be so different, imagine a class full of children.  Nowadays, teachers have to contend with a room of children who not only span the spectrum of learning readiness but also cover an array of diverse cultures, backgrounds, interests and personal experiences.  

As part of the IB Programme Standards and Practices, teachers are expected to remove barriers to learning to enable every student to develop, pursue and achieve challenging personal learning goals. Here is how we do it at GEMS:

Teachers consider learner variability when planning students’ personal learning goals

Teachers take into consideration a range of approaches to learning, appealing to a range of interests and varying the pace of instruction along with different degrees of complexity and support.  Modifications may be made on content (i.e. different reading texts), process (tiered tasks or scaffolds used to support or extend alongside flexible groupings) and product (informational report vs video presentation).  What is not varied is the expectation that all students can learn.  The bar is set high, and the floor is set low for accessibility, and our job as educators is to ensure all our students can grow.  

Teachers integrate prior knowledge into the curriculum to aid and extend learning for all students

I know this already = boring = disengaged.  

I have no clue what you’re talking about = too challenging = disengaged.

Diagnostic pre-assessments, whether it’s a discussion, a written response, a provocation or a game quiz, are key to determining the goldilocks entry point.  This is especially important for our cohort of students who come from different countries, different school experiences and different life experiences.  What is the same for all is that we respect and value every student as who they are and all that they bring with them.  

Teachers use IB-mandated policies to support students

From another angle, a school needs to have clear policies and guidelines in place to create a school culture where all students can thrive.  As a school, GEMS has developed and implemented the following:

  • An inclusion policy that creates cultures which support all students to reach their full potential
  • An academic integrity policy that creates cultures of ethical academic practice
  • A language policy that helps to foster intercultural understanding through communicating in a variety of ways in more than one language
  • An assessment policy that helps create a culture of continuous learning and growth

Teachers support language development with consideration for the language profiles of students

The beauty of international schools is the rich intercultural learning our families bring.  Did you know that we have over 70 nationalities here at GEMS? We recognize multilingualism as a fact, a right and a resource for learning.  Students learn languages, students learn about language, and students learn through language.  It is a powerful vehicle that connects us, bringing more significant perspectives and appreciation.  Hence at GEMS, we focus not just on developing English which is our main language of instruction, we also place great importance on learning additional languages and the development of the mother tongue. 

Teachers use multiple technologies to aid and extend learning and teaching

Technology is not just the iPad, smart board, gadget or app. To enhance learning, technology can be used as a substitution or augmentation of a particular product or task.  However, the transformational power is realized when technology is used to redesign or even redefine the task, allowing for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.  Who would have thought that the Grade 1 students could be coding Beebots to travel from Point A to B as part of their inquiry into how signs and symbols are used to communicate information and express ideas?  Technology opens up so many other possibilities and is another way to reach and support learning for our students.   

We recognize that every child is unique and that no two learning journeys will be exactly the same, regardless of them being the same age or being in the same class. The tenets of differentiation are clear: Diversity is normal and valuable, every learner has a hidden and extensive capacity to learn, it is the teacher’s responsibility to be the engineer of student success and educators are champions of every student who enters our doors.  Our mission at GEMS is to empower an inclusive international community of happy learners who aspire to positively impact others.

 

Edna Lau
PYP Curriculum Coordinator

 

 

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