News, Info and IB Student and Staff Blogs

October 28, 2016
by Ann Lautrette
1 Comment

I don’t know how you do it…

A frequent comment today from our very tired Year 12 students after our second ever ATL conference, led wholly by the students. This year our Year 12s prepared two workshops for Year 7s and Year 12s on the ATLS.

The event was part of a three day special programme for Year 12 which included wo20161028_131017rking on the TOK knowledge framework, CAS and the introduction to the Extended Essay. During those days Year 12 learned about the importance of their research skills in producing the 4000 word research essay which lies at the centre of the IB programme. Ms. Duce led students through activities to explore what makes a great Extended Essay title, and I introduced the students to Managebac, the platform we use for monitoring and recording progress with the Extended Essay.

20161028_140843The ATL workshops were a huge success, with feedback from Year 7 students highlighting the interesting, engaging and exciting activities developed by Year 12 to support students in enhancing communication, social skills, thinking skills, self-management and those all-important research skills. I’m looking forward to Year 12 reflecting on the experience through their blogs over the next week, but it was clear today that, although they were nervous, they enjoyed the leadership opportunity afforded to them, as well as gained a new appreciation for how hard it is to be a teacher – hence the title of this post!

The day started out with an introduction from me and a keynote speech from Chiara Wahsono who bravely stepped up to the challenge of speaking in front of her peers and our Year 7 students. The following workshops demonstrated the creativity of our Year 12s – I saw murder mystery challenges, lots of Kahoot, communication games and more. Our students should be proud of their achievements today. 20161028_091522

Some comments from the feedback forms:

‘There was a good balance between presentations and activities, which made the workshop very engaging for the participants.’

‘I learnt to be a good communicator and how to start a conversation.’

‘Helpful tips and tricks for lifehacks! Very likely to be useful in the future’

‘Very exciting and fun, interactive’20161028_104733


February 27, 2016
by Ann Lautrette

Never assume…

So a family weekend away, visits from family, illness and the mammoth task of reading 85 residential reflections (fantastic by the way!) have kept me away from this blog. But I promised I would discuss some of those residential reflections and award a blogger of the week for the best one, so I’ve finally got my act together this Saturday morning.

To be honest I’m still feeling the sting of jealousy over the residential! Usually I would get to go on this one – spend more time with my IB students and watch them come together in tutor groups and as a year group. However, with Mr Lautrette being the tutor for 12B it was important that he go, and so I stayed home to look after my own children this time round.

But, reading the reflections it is evident how much fun students had. Miss Barnard put in a huge number of hours planning the trip and organising safety and security so the fact that the students had such a great time makes it worth it and I’m pleased to see how many students took time to thank their teachers both in person and on their blogs.

One of the things that struck me was the number of students who started their blogs with ‘I wasn’t looking forward to it…’ ‘We’ve been there before…’, ‘My friends convinced me to go…’ and the fact that none of these blogs ended with ‘and I was right all along..it was rubbish..’ Everyone of these blogs said how wrong they had been.

I think this is important. It’s important because it demonstrates the humble skill of admitting you could be wrong – that’s good, that’s reflective and an important basis of successful relationship building. I also think there is a lesson to be learned about assumptions.

When I was a kid, my mum used to tell me, ‘never assume, you make an ass out of u and me’. She thought it was a funny play on words with a little lesson there, but it’s amazing how it has stuck with me as a sort of mantra. And I’ve definitely learned the truth of it over the years!

We learn in TOK about reason and inductive reasoning and the way we essentially generalise from an assumption. Really, this is at the root of stereotyping. We take a look at someone and assume all sorts of things about them based completely on our own experiences and beliefs. A related concept in TOK is the notion of Confirmation Bias. This means that we have a tendency to look for what confirms our own beliefs and ignore stuff that contradicts what we believe or assume.

In asking our students to write about two people who surprised them on the residential, Miss Barnard had them challenge their assumptions and asked then to circumvent their confirmation bias.

If we are to fulfil the mission of making the world a better place, then being cognisant of the assumptions we make and acting to challenge those assumptions rather than confirming them seems to me to be really important. Mr Thirkell talks often about the fact that in CAS our students challenge assumptions. Kids at Sekolah Bisa, no birth certificates. their fate seemingly sealed by society based on assumptions of what poverty entails, and our students act against that, to give them education, health and a place in society. I listened to Lukas and Raven explain to prospective parents about BERTHA this week, and what struck me was the way they challenged the assumption of us at BSJ that the old computers we had were now worthless, and what good their challenge is now doing for the world.

These are big examples of something which can also be very small but no less important. What assumptions do we make about others on a daily basis? How often do we believe we know what someone else is thinking, or why they are behaving in a certain way? And, wouldn’t it be better just to ask? To approach others with understanding, to discuss, to listen, but not to assume that what we see is the full story.

And the important thing, kindness costs nothing. 

While Year 12 were away on residential it was ‘random act of kindness week’ at BSJ. Honestly, my first thoughts were that we shouldn’t need a special week just to be kind, but actually throughout that week lots of people did little extra things which really brightened up our days at school. Someone left an apple on my desk with a note that said ‘eat me’. A simple thing, but the fact that someone was looking out for me meant a huge amount. The residential blog posts are filled with acts of kindness: ‘I never knew that Hyo Jun was so positive’, ‘Ji Woo’s painting skills are amazing’, ‘Wilson was so confident and brave in the lip-sync challenge’. I so hope that Year 12 can keep this positive, kind, assumption-challenging spirit throughout the rest of IB and in the years to come!

I want to highlight some posts that stand out of all the residential reflections.

Blog post of the weekRania provides a wonderful dose of positivity and Owen even manages to find a positive memory for Mr Morris and a paintball shot to the head! I loved Audrey’s post which takes post of the week for being reflective, detailed and highly entertaining.


Blogger of the Week though has to be Valerie, who all in all wrote 4 reflective blog posts on the residential, including what she learned about herself and others and plenty of pictures to entertain us. Well done Valerie!

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From what I’ve read, all of Year 12 who attended the residential learned something, GrowthMindsetBadgechallenged themselves and grew together as tutor groups and as a year group. They all deserve a special badge…


I leave you with a link, to 20 things you should never assume. Number 1 I think is a good reminder for teachers, parents and students everywhere. It’s frustrating sometimes, but very true. Number 2 is a big deal. IB students, there is no shame in asking for help – in fact the very opposite is what hurts your credibility. As teachers is is hard to understand – we are here to help you, but not everybody is willing to say ‘hey I don’t get it, help me out’ or ‘I’m struggling, I need some support’. I have daily conversations with students where I ask ‘so, have you asked your teacher about that?’ and the answer is ‘no’.

It is hard to see what good can come from burying your head in the sand…

Number 21: Don’t assume your teachers will be angry if you ask for help with something.


January 8, 2016
by Ann Lautrette

A New Year…A New You?

Or so the headlines scream from women’s and men’s magazines, online and off.

And of course, many of us consider our New Year’s Resolutions: setting goals for 2016 – sometimes realistic and achievable, sometimes not so much…


The start of a New Year does strike us as a time for reflection. The two-faced God Janus: Looking back and looking forward suggests to us that reflection and goal setting is something to do at this time and a few of our student bloggers have done just that.

However, I have to take issue with the assumptions behind the popular notion of ‘New Year, New You’. Actually, I can live with the ‘New Year’ part, it’s really the ‘New You’ which bothers me. And apparently I’m not alone. Basically the implication is that the ‘old (or current) you’ is not good enough, cannot be improved even, and therefore must be replaced with a completely different version of you.

But, when we dig to the bottom of the ‘magazine version’ of this sentiment, we find that really the ‘New You’ simply has to look better. Lose weight, buy new clothes, invest in new make-up, drink protein shakes and you can become a whole new person, and a better person at that.

Now, good critical thinking students at BSJ know that this ‘advertising’ version of self-improvement is a fallacy, because, how does weighing slightly less make a person a better person, never mind a new person? And, why do we all need to be new people, when there is nothing wrong with us in the first place?

Personally, to put it bluntly, I believe that chasing some new version of yourself and hoping that ‘fixing’ superficial elements will make you happy is a recipe for unhappiness actually.

Mr McClure gave a fantastic assembly this week where he explained just what leads to happiness. Two things. Service to others and continued self-improvement. But rather than self-improvement in superficial ways, happiness comes from self-improvement through continued learning, reflecting and adapting.

I don’t believe that a ‘new you’ is possible. Actually, I believe that the sooner you accept yourself for who you the sooner you can get on with that continued learning, and the sooner you can build relationships and improve the lives of those around you. The sooner you can be happier.

But I also believe that each of us is a ‘work in progress’, and I think that new colours, new textures and new techniques will enrich us throughout our lives. Will there be a day when that work is complete? I don’t believe so, but there will come a day when each of us has to put down the paintbrush and say ‘well, that’s that’.

So, the important question really is: what picture do you want to look at on that day? Celebrated works of art are praised for their depth rather than their superficiality and for their impact on others. What is your depth? What is your impact on others?

Don’t try to make a ‘new you’, you’re amazing as you are. Instead reflect on how you can improve yourself: not superficially, but deeply: how can you become a better communicator or thinker? How can you manage your time and emotional state better? How can you develop your ability to relate to and support others? How can you improve your research methods so as to be more effective and efficient? What significance for the world will your Extended Essay have? How can your CAS projects be more rewarding, both for you and everyone else involved?

This term in Core we continue to develop our Approaches to Learning, our ability to think critically in TOK and our impact on others in CAS. And we continue blogging. Remember to reflect through the blog: on CAS, on your learning, on your thinking. Putting your thoughts and ideas into writing and sharing them can be challenging, but can also have a huge impact on others and help you to become a more precise communicator.

Some students who have been putting their thoughts into words are our Year 12 bloggers. Hyo Jun  has been Blog post of the weekquite prolific recently and is developing a good blogging style as he discusses the Extended Essay and that is our Post of the Week: being timely and reminding us of the importance of a good proposal.


Chris takes Comment of the Week with this gem: “I could die in 80 years, maybe I’ll die tomorrow, but as long as I know that I’ve pushed myself then I’ll be happy.” which I BadgeCommentthink exemplifies what I’ve tried to say in a metaphorical and long-winded way in this blog post.

Marcus met a friend of his dad who helped him reflect on the reasons for CAS, and then followed this up with a detailed, well thought out and engaging CAS audit. For these two posts he is our Blogger of the Week. Well done.

bloggerofthe weekbadge

So bloggers? What’s next? What are you aiming to improve this year? Remember, if you share your targets, you become accountable for them, and you are more likely to achieve them. Looking forward to another term’s blogging!



December 4, 2015
by Ann Lautrette

IB students – Uni ready

The focus this week in Core has been on Research. 

Just in time too, as students are beginning to think about the Extended Essay.

4000 words: It sounds a lot to some, and to students who have probably never written that much before it is a lot. However, in relation to an undergraduate thesis of 10,000 words, or a master’s degree thesis of 20,000 words, it isn’t really that much.

Actually though, it isn’t the words which matter. Rather, it’s the skills the students develop.

One of the reasons universities love IB students is the Extended Essay. They know that students have had to carry out a piece of research, structure a lengthy research paper, cite and reference, write an abstract and justify their essay in a Viva Voce.

These are all vital skills for success in university and IB students come with them pre-loaded.

Just after the holidays students have to submit two proposals to two subjects. From there, faculties will decide whether the proposals can be developed into good Extended Essay topics or not. Once the subject is determined students will be assigned a supervisor who can proved them with 3-5 hours of support throughout the research and writing process.

The big thing about the Extended Essay though, is the independent nature of it. Supervisors are just that: supervisory. They won’t tell students what to do, edit essays, conduct research etc. They will simply advise based on what the student brings to the table. Which brings us back to why universities love that IB students do an Extended Essay – it shows that they can work independently, which is, of course, the most important skill students can possibly learn.

Our bloggers have demonstrated independence again this week, as again we haven’t assigned a post.

We’ve got very good CAS reflections from Prannay, Ayumi and Sarah.

Nathania shared an article she has written for Young Global Initiative.

Special mention for the title of the week goes to Larasati for ‘Spurious (CORE)lations‘. Very clever!

Blog post of the week

Post of the Week goes to David, who used the IGCSE certificate ceremony as a catalyst to excellent reflection on his own progress and goals.

Comment of the week is not actually a comment on someone else’s blog, but we had to give it to this one: ‘Now I realise more preparation is needed to produce an exciting yet educational 45 minutes workshop. I can’t imagine how teachers do this everyday for their lessons! Respect!’

‘RespecBadgeCommentt’ will get you everywhere Megan! Thanks. Yes teaching is an extremely challenging and exhausting job – but we love it!

And this week’s Blogger of The Week is Rania, who has reflected on the ATL workshops, helped us out with procrastination and even taken us into a time-lapse of her CAS activity!

Well done! bloggerofthe weekbadge





November 6, 2015
by Ann Lautrette

Taking risks, adaptability and survival

It’s been an extra busy week this week, with Year 13 learning reviews taking place. It is so interesting though to talk to Year 13 about their aspirations, targets, university destinations and strengths and weaknesses. As teachers we found it very useful – hopefully students feel that it was worthwhile too, and that they can really focus on their targets to achieve the grades, places and futures they are hoping for. 

Whatever the case, I think our students are incredibly lucky to have such wonderful support here at BSJ. Each student has their tutor, their Head of Year, possibly their mentor, their 7+ teachers, the IB leadership team, Secondary Leadership team, university guidance counsellors, school counsellor and school nurses looking after their needs here at BSJ. That is a huge support network really. Personally, I went to a Sixth Form College in the UK to do A Levels where you turned up when you had a lesson, went home when you didn’t, if you didn’t work no one minded, you just did badly and that was your fault, and no one really asked how you were as there wasn’t any pastoral care system. That might sound like freedom, and it was to an extent (and good preparation for university I suppose) but it’s also nice to feel like if you fall down someone will catch you! 

How though, in this supportive cushioning environment, do we make sure that our students are ready to fly the nest, stand on their own two feet and become independent? Because we have to do that. We know that, university or otherwise the next step is ADULT LIFE, where usually, you have to become part of the support network for someone else.

I think that’s where the Approaches to Learning come in. If you can communicate, think, research, manage yourself in terms of organisation and emotion, and have good social skills, then you are pretty much ready for The Future. You will be able to take whatever someone throws at you and do it.

The ATLs make you adaptable. 

I used to teach a novella to my IB Literature classes called ‘Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s basically a story of survival, the kind of story we admire and are fascinated by. I spent some time reading about survival and why some people are more likely to survive disastrous events than others. I think the best explanation is by Laurence Gonzales in his book Deep Survival. He says it basically comes down to adaptability. People who survive read the new reality quickly and adapt to it. The implication of this I think is that change is good, change is important and being in situations where things are new and different and you have to adapt makes you a better survivor. Perhaps this is what ‘risk-taker’ means in the IB Learner Profile: pushing yourself into new territories in order to learn to adapt quickly and easily.

So how could IB students apply this?

Well, the first step is doing the unusual…

– There’s an opportunity to give a Keynote speech at the ATL conference – a scary thought for most people. How many of you pushed yourselves to take the risk, become better communicators and adapt to a new reality?

– There’s the opportunity to really develop your critical thinking skills through TOK Knowledge questions and reflective blogging. How many of you are taking the risk to go beyond the same style of blog post week after week?

– You have the chance to build discussion and comment on each other’s blogs. How many of you are pushing yourselves not to give in to fear that someone won’t like your comment and interact with others through the blogging platform?    

-You have the opportunity to write for Quite Magazine and see your work published. It means taking a risk that someone won’t like what you’ve done. How many of you are challenging yourselves to improve your writing and worrying more about how you improve than what others think?   

You have so many opportunities at BSJ. How many of you are taking a risk and challenging yourself to become adaptable?

Some students who are definitely challenging themselves are our mentionable blog posts this week. Its been varied; from Manuel asking some fundamental questions about the universe, to Jenny writing about Human Blood Feeders!

That’s the joy of TOK and Core – one minute you can be talking about life without technology and the next reading about whether Ghosts can photobomb.Blog post of the week

Our Post of the Week this week is Ryan’s Chemistry post because, after a reluctant start, he impressed us with a fantastic understanding of claims, questions and Chemistry in one post. Plus, he managed to make it clear enough so that even I understood the Chemistry – now that’s an achievement!

BadgeCommentThe Comment of the Week belongs to Mr Sparrow. Some of you may remember him. He wrote on Puspa’s blog all the way from Switzerland, truly demonstrating the power of a Personal Learning Network to connect people.

And finally, Blogger of the Week. It’s a difficult one this week because there’s been a lot of blogging and a lot of good stuff – my Core Class particularly have had a great week of CAS reflections, claim analysis and knowledge question posing. But with an excellent and thoughtful review of the claims made in her CAS project and a super-helpful how do you formulate knowledge questions post (which I urge you all to read), the Blogger of the Week is Matilda.

bloggerofthe weekbadge

So next week we are preparing for our student-run Approaches to Learning conference, including choosing our keynote speaker, which is exciting!

Have a great weekend.


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