News, Info and IB Student and Staff Blogs

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.

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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!



October 30, 2015
by Ann Lautrette

Claims and cold coffee

TOK is everywhere for TOK teachers. A simple visit to the mall turns Year 12 Cold Coffee experience thanks to Mr Thirkell, who tried some coffee in Bintaro Exchange and decided it would make a great real life situatio20151030_125821n for our Year 12 students.

So today, Kopi Ranger came in and presented their cold coffee product with a fascinating explanation of the way coffee is produced in Indonesia and a taste test of three different varieties of coffee. I learned something – I thought cold coffee was essentially just cooled hot coffee, but no. It turns out that cold coffee is made by soaking the coffee in cold water for 18 hours and this produces a smoother coffee which has less effect on the stomach.20151030_130637

They did make a lot of claims though. The use of Arabica beans, a halal product, different coffee flavours. How do we know any of this is valid? Well, as good TOK students would our students asked these questions and I was pleased to see that they’ve learned not to take claims with a pinch of salt.

We also had Ms. Williams come over to do some live science! – testing the PH values20151030_134327 of three different types of coffee. We’d really like students to reflect on how many different Areas of Knowledge and Ways of Knowing could be involved in what they experienced today:

Natural Sciences: How do the chemical and biological properties of the coffee products affect our sense perception?

The Arts: How does the creative labelling and language used to describe the product affect our beliefs in its validity?20151030_130654

Human Sciences (Geography): Does the geographical situation of the coffee beans influence the way we imagine it to taste?

Ethics: How ethically is the product produced from bean to beverage?

Indigenous Knowledge Systems: How did anyone ever know to make coffee? The visitors today told us indigenous peoples realised the effects on their goats from eating these strange ‘berries’. The goats danced! What would traditional coffee making practices look like versus the scientific process we explored today?

Is there any connection between coffee and emotion? Show any emotional distress in front of a Brit and they’ll ‘put the kettle on’ because we all know that a nice cup of tea makes everything better – is it the same with coffee?

Hopefully thinking about this can be part of a larger process of our Year 12s connecting their thinking in Core to their subject lessons. What kind of claims are made in Biology, in History, in English? And how are they validated differently in the different Areas of Knowledge?

This weeks blog posts have been connected to claims and the validation of them because that has been the major focus of our week. Audrey wrote a lovely post on the realisation that butter may not be bad for you after all (or so says The Daily Mail) and Andrew wrote about how altering pig DNA could provide organs for humans. Rayhan wrote an excellent post abBlog post of the weekout how we might personally disprove claims – even as a young child.

But the Post of the Week this week belongs to Winston for this informative, but highly engaging post about how to validate a claim.

Students, I urge you to read these posts and think about what makes them great: it’s not only the understanding and application of learning that is shown, it’s mainly the style – a blog post needs to be directed towards a reader, it needs to draw you in by talking to you in your own language, by using amusing examples, or things you can relate to. It isn’t academic in style, it’s not an essay. Make it your goal to think about the reader when you write.
Comment of the Week this week goes to Audrey, for reminding Josh that he should award himself Digital Badges! Thanks Audrey!BadgeComment




This week’s Blogger of the Week is Puspa, who not only shared a post about claims but wrote an endearing description of her mesocosm in Biology, her little beanstalk called ‘Jack Frost Anderson’ and posted a wonderful picture of herself proudly posing with her survivor from ‘the middle of the dry dirt and the dirty waters’ of her mesocosm.

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So bloggers, what does next week bring? Where will you push to develop your ATLs? How will you apply TOK thinking to your subjects and life in general? And how will you engage your readers?

Over to you.


October 9, 2015
by Ann Lautrette

A bit of R and R: Rest, Relaxation, Reflection and Review

As the half term draws to a close and we all take a much needed holiday, I’d like to take the opportunity to say a few things to our BSJ IB community. 

Firstly, Year 12. Well done. You’ve survived the transition from Y11 to Y12. It is a leap, we know it, but you’ve stepped up your game, jumped in with both feet and got on with it. I hope you’ve enjoyed the first half term and hope you’re feeling motivated and energised by your subjects. I know many of you are through your reflective blog posts. More on the blogs later.

I also know many of you are tired and ready for a break. And you deserve it. But take the time to reflect also – how did you find the first few weeks? Are you happy with the way you approached your studies? Do you need to change anything next half term? Do you need anything from us to make things better? It would be great to write this in a blog post. We love reading them because we love learning about you all. I may not comment on every blog post you write but I do read them all and I’m always amazed by the variety of experiences, passions, interests and thinking you display.

Year 13. I know it’s been a tough half term. The thought of mocks, university applications, predicted grades. There’s no doubt it is hard. But do remember that this is a short period of time in which you are setting up your path in life. Hard work will pay off and you will look back and decide it was all worth it. But remember too, that the adults around you have been where you are, and they understand. I know you think it couldn’t possibly have been as difficult in our day, but seriously, we didn’t even have Google! Talk to us if you need support. This half term holiday will be a study break, but find some time to rest, read about good study habits and get organised for next half term.

Parents, thank you for all your support, as always. The students we see working hard at school do so because of the education you’ve given them and your encouragement and love. These two years are tough on parents too. You are supporting your children to leave home and head off into their futures – my own children are 9 and 7 and I can’t bear to think about that yet, so I know it must be hard for you!

IB parents, the IB evaluation survey went out this week. It is really important that you give us your opinions through this survey. thank you to everyone who has completed it already. If you haven’t, I urge you to do so. Here’s the link again.

I promised more on our IB blogs. Students have overwhelmingly voted to have the option to make their blogs available outside the BSJ network, so parents, if students wish, you can now access their blogs. Rather than selecting specific posts this week, I’d like to highlight some great blogs which are well worth reading, even if it your child is not the writer.

Lukas has developed into a humorous, thoughtful and extremely interesting blogger. He gets it right with every post and has impressed core teachers so much we all read his posts as soon as they are out.

Arjun is always engaging, often helpful and writes about a range of topics in his IB Survival Blog.

Chris’s reflective blog is varied and thoughtful, while Jasmine’s well written posts cover everything from The Knowledge Framework to motivation and CAS.

Andrew is developing into a prolific blogger, so is Patrick, whose CAS reflections demonstrate the power of the Core.

Puspa’s blog is personal and developing into an exploration into identity, while Anesu is creating a varied and reflective record of her IB life.

There are many more students I could mention. All core teaches are looking forward to seeing these and everyone else’s blogs develop next half term. Students, if you know you haven’t blogged as much as we would like, use this holiday to build your blog.

Have a great break. See you in a week!


September 18, 2015
by Ann Lautrette

The Power of The Group

It’s been a busy week at BSJ. The main focus of it was an inspiring visit by Dr. Sugata Mitra who we were privileged to welcome as he talked to us about his School in the Cloud project.

Of the many things he said, I think the one which struck most of the school was ‘groups of children, with the internet, can learn anything.’

If this is true, and I do believe it is, then this takes the educational focus very much away from content-based instruction to skills-based learning. I would amend the statement he makes. I would say that ‘groups of people, with access to the internet and development of the skills to use it, can learn anything they want to.’

To me, that is what is at the heart of the Core Curriculum at BSJ. The focus on skills of Thinking, Communication, Social, Research and Self-Management is vital to give students the skills to learn.

Gone are the days when the teacher’s head was full of knowledge and the children simply had to go to class and learn it. In those days, sources of information were limited – the teacher expert was important. Now, the teacher-expert is still important but the teacher needs to be a different kind of expert. He needs to be a skills expert. Or a ‘where to go to develop skills expert’. For example, I think I’m quite good at research. I’ve done a fair amount of it over the years, but research methods are changing as technology changes and some of the skills in research I have are probably close to obsolete. Yet, I need to be able to help students develop their research skills in a world which is very different to the one in which I developed my research skills. Luckily, I know how to do that – through connection.

Today’s teacher has to be a expert connector of people. linked-152575_1280He has to be able to put students in touch with the people who know, be they people online or in person and to help students create a network of people who know. The buzz term is Personal Learning Network or PLN. Take my research example. As a teacher, do I need to go out and learn every possible modern method of research and all the facets of it? I hope not! Instead I need to be able to send students to the people who do know. I say ‘people’ and not ‘person’ because if we go back to what Dr. Mitra said it is the group which is truly important.

In this world of overflowing knowledge, no one person can know everything. But when a group gets together to each contribute their bit of knowledge the total is far more than the parts.

In teaching my students how to research I can simply put them in touch with Glenn who wrote a fantastic post on Effective Research this week. But the lovely thing about Glenn’s post is that he starts it like this:

‘If you want to know the basics of research, Jasmine already has a great blog post on how to start off and the main things to consider, and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t, since it won her blog of the week!’

Glenn is demonstrating the power of the network. Combined knowledge, built upon and shared.

And that is the fabulous thing about the BSJ blog network.

It is a pooled resource of student knowledge, collected, stored and at your fingertips. A blog works best when you are posting or commenting because you are building on what someone else has posted or commented. The power of the group at work.     


This week Core teachers have been so impressed with the quality of student blogging that we’ve decided that the Blogger of Week award is not enough. So we’ve added a few more categories.

Students have begun commenting on each other’s blogs – a vital part of the blogging experience because that is what builds the power of the group. A good comment is one which refers closely to the original post, ask questions, adds thoughts and reflections and maybe challenges the post. A good comment may provide links to further reading whichBadgeComment the original poster might not have seen. The Comment of the Week this week has got to be Bryan’s comment on his own blog, in reply to Mr Thirkell. Not only does he challenge Mr Thirkell’s points but he makes a statement which had Mr Thirkell and I discussing the nature of emotion, bias and reason on Thursday morning in the office. Thought-provoking stuff!

There have been some great posts this week and choosing the best one was difficult. Phil wrote a Maths post which made my brain hurt, but was so well designed with video enhancements that I thoroughly enBlog post of the weekjoyed reading it. Chris wrote a reflective and thoughtful explanation of his change from Computer Science to Chemistry. His big take-away is that you need to follow your heart. I couldn’t agree more Chris!

But you’ve probably already guessed that the Blog Post of the Week belongs to Glenn. It was so good I needed to email it to the whole year group immediately. Well done Glenn.

bloggerofthe weekbadgeBlogger of the week this week is Lukas. He is writing fantastic posts which manage to be both humorous and serious at the same time. His post about commitment to activities was right on the mark with reference to students who sign up for things to fill a space on a CV rather than because they passionately believe in something. The Eco-Committee is certainly lucky to have Lukas with his passion for the environment. Lukas is developing into an all-round blogger and network builder. He leaves thoughtful comments on other blogs, as well as sharing my posts on Twitter! Thanks Lukas.

If you’ve been featured here, don’t forget to blog about it, and host your badge. Don’t be shy to show what you can do. Everyone else… keep going, and you’ll be featured here soon!

And students, if you have suggestions during the week for Post of the Week, Comment of the Week or Blogger of the Week please let me know.

September 16, 2015
by Ann Lautrette

Take risks, blog and learn

I’ve spent a good part of the evening clicking on student blogs at random and reading their posts. It’s left my mind a little bit blown by the sophistication of some of the writing; like Nathania’s reflective book review on ‘Circles’ by Dave Eggers. She writes so eloquently about the comments the writer makes on our modern, social media driven society. 

Arjun writes passionately about Bromo house and why he wants to be a house leader. He shared a video he aired in assembly this morning which made me giggle, and proud of his communication skill.

I can see TOK thinking creeping into our Year 12 students and some of the blog topics demonstrate deeper thought process and a new perspective on life. Patrick manages to turn inspiration from an Economics lesson into an assessment of happiness. That’s the real essence of what the IB Core should do: both take from and add to the subject areas, and give students a means by which to reflect on the interconnectedness of the disciplines.

The concept of a ‘comfort zone’ was a bit of a theme this evening, or maybe my discomfort at being attacked by mosquitoes tonight has heightened my attention to comfort! Hyo Jun ruminates on the connection between comfort and study – redefining ‘comfort’ in various situations, which shows a real understanding of the lack of fixed knowledge and fixed definitions as we’ve been discussing in TOK. Megan took a different approach; suggesting that magic happens when we take risks and step outside our comfort zones. A good mantra for any IB student or teacher! 

Another thing which impressed me tonight is the quality of the academic discussions which are taking place over the blogs. Bryan, Mr Thirkell and now me, are having an interesting discussion about the nature of listening, emotion and assimilation. Bryan is self-studying linguistics and using his blog to summarise his learning: an impressive feat for a 16-year old. In this case, I have to agree with Sugata Mitra who is currently spending two days at BSJ with teachers and students: learning does happen when you get out of their way. All we did was give Bryan a blog, and pretty much left him to it.

These are fantastic examples of how a blog can be a catalyst for learning, a place for reflection, a way to develop superb written skill and a way to communicate with others as part of a learning community. I urge other students in Year 12 to build their blogs and develop an understanding of what a good post, and a really good comment is. Blogging is simple as a learning tool: what you put into you will get back.


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