IB @BSJ

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June 19, 2017
by Ann Lautrette
3 Comments

Over and Out!

And so we come to what really does feel like the end of an era. My family and I have been in Jakarta and at BSJ for 7 years but this is our final week. It’s rather surreal to think that once we get on the plane on Saturday morning we won’t be coming back but with every door that closes a new one opens up and we look forward to change ahead.

I wrote a post a few weeks back about identity and how where we live becomes home and I reflect on that as we leave Indonesia – home for the last 7 years. Jakarta can be a rather crazy place, but I’ve grown to love it (except the traffic of course – that’s impossible to love!). I’ll definitely miss the often bizarre sights on the road that have just become normal to me. Motorbikes carrying blocks of ice in 30 degree temperatures, children’s entertainment vehicles, oversized costumed puppet-like figures gliding down the street (I still don’t know what these are), and the way the motorcyclists don’t seem to understand that if you block up the whole road, no one can move anywhere. At least being stuck in traffic is interesting if we choose to look up from our smartphones and out of the window.

So what would be my advice to newcomers to Jakarta? I think, ‘take it as you find it’ best sums it up for me. Yes the traffic is frustrating, but you can either spend hours in an annoyed state in your car of just accept it as a fact of life and relax. No, everything won’t just work the way it does ‘back home’, but that’s ok. If you want everything to be like your home country when you travel, why even bother to leave? Make the most of every difference, notice the similarities, relax and make your time here happy. In the end happiness is not a place you live in, but a state of mind. You get to choose whether to be happy or not.

To the Year 12 (soon to be Year 13) students I leave behind: Remember that your life is a journey – quite a long one in some ways but mostly just very short. Your two years in IB are really not very much of your life. Make the most of the opportunities presented to you at BSJ. And best of luck for next year and your exams. You CAN do it!

To any parents and colleagues reading this: Thank you for your support over the last 7 years. I will miss this school and everyone in it.

Have a wonderful summer, and good luck to all of you moving on.

Over and Out!

May 12, 2017
by Ann Lautrette
1 Comment

Where are you from?

Those of us who live outside of our ‘home’ countries are family with the conundrum presented by this question.

For my part the answer is relatively simple. I say ‘well, I’m from England, but I live in Indonesia’. It’s simple because I have a defined ‘home’. I was born in England to English parents, and (apart from living in Oman between age 6 months and 3 years) I spent my formative years growing up in England. I went overseas to live at age 24, so by then my ‘Englishness’ was firmly established.

My children, on the other hand, have a much tougher time answering this question. Their responses (if they are honest – which sometimes it is easier not to be) go along the lines of ‘well, I was born in Saudi Arabia but my mum’s from England and my dad’s from France, and I’ve lived the last 7 years in Indonesia’. Complicated, but an answer typical of many students at BSJ.

So when my kids ask me where they really come from (and they still aren’t sure about this one) what can I say?

I could say ‘you are third culture kids’ and then explain the well-known definition of kids living outside of their parents’ cultures becoming more like one another and so creating a third culture. Or I could say ‘you are international’ and leave it at that. But neither of those answers would satisfy the curious ‘where are you from?’

And of course, it is much more important than being able to answer the question of where we come from. Because where we come from is so tied up with our identity. It is part of us and we are part of it. Being English is something I share with a few million other people and although living overseas may have changed my experiences, it hasn’t changed my fundamental ‘Englishness’. But, my children share their origins basically with each other. Or at least, they haven’t yet met another half-French, half-English, born in Saudi, raised in Indonesia friend. On one level that makes them unique, but on another it can be the source of an intense loneliness of not being able to connect on this level with anyone else.

But that can’t be changed, so how do we define ourselves and form an identity and affiliation with social groups without this sense of national identity?

I think in part we have to redefine the concept of ‘home’. Home can be where you are, where your family is, even temporarily. But I think about this as I reflect on our Year 13 students – about to complete their exams, about to graduate from BSJ and head of to universities and places that are not ‘home’. How can they find their groups? It seems to be that international students in universities tend to group together and that third-culture kids tend to find their best friends in other third culture kids. But I think it’s important to remember what we can learn from the cultures we move into and rather than to be fearful of these differences and seek solace in those like us, to embrace the enriching experiences we can have with those who haven’t lived the international lives we have.

So Year 13, as you prepare to leave us, go with an open-mind. Find out about the cultures you are moving into by interacting with people from all walks of life and all places. Ask questions, be curious and don’t be afraid of ‘not knowing’ the way things work or how people are. Know that your lives and your experiences as an international school student are incredibly interesting, but then so are the lives of those who have a firm national identity, who have lived all their lives in one country. Embrace difference as a learning opportunity – you’ll meet all sorts of people and can be friends with those you would never imagine, as long as you are open to it.

When you settle in to a new place, ‘culture shock’ is inevitable. Recognise it and recognise that it is temporary. And then get on with making your ‘home’.

I would be really interested in comments on this from the student or parent perspective. How do you address the question of where you are from? What do you find helps in forming your identity when you aren’t sure of the answer to this question?

November 16, 2016
by Ann Lautrette
0 comments

How to never miss a deadline…ever

As I was away from school last Thursday and Friday I’m quite late with my post. I like to do the round-up post on Fridays, but last week I just couldn’t manage it. But, since that’s a self-imposed deadline, it’s actually ok if I occasionally miss it.

And that’s a self-management trick right there. Rounding up the week should be done before Sunday, so I set my deadline as Friday. That way, if anything comes up – like this week, I’ve got a couple of buffer days. This, students, is the way to ensure you never miss a deadline:

ALWAYS AIM TO COMPLETE SOMETHING EARLY.

And the larger the piece of work, the earlier you need to complete it. Writing a blog post takes about an hour, so the day or two before works fine. If I have to push it to the last minute I only need to find an hour. If I have to reduce sleep to get it done (not advisable – sometimes unavoidable) it’s an hour.

A 1500 word essay though, that’s probably a good 3 to 4 hours work or more – So I would make my internal deadline at least 4 days before the actual one. Then if I don’t make it at least I can spread the time over the days I’ve got left. (Cutting 3-4 hours sleep on the deadline day is not going to make the work any good and it is going to write off the next day’s efficiency and effectiveness – no matter how much you like to say that you can manage perfectly fine on 3-4 hours of sleep…you can’t.)

So hopefully none of our Year 12 students are sleep-deprived since work has not yet really built to the heights it will. The last few weeks of this half-term will be a little busier as each week goes by students go deeper into the IB programme. Falling behind is not an option.

I’m going to take this opportunity to remind Year 12:

Year 12 matters!

Your predicted IB grades will be used to apply to your universities of choice and those grades will be established in October next year, because the deadlines for university applications are between October and January 1st. (For the vast majority of students.) You’ve just had a few tests and marks in your subjects – are you happy? Do they reflect your effort? Why? or why not?

Next term you’ll get report grades and those grades will be on your transcripts, as will all of your Year 12 grades. Your Year 12 grades + End of Year 12 Exams + the first 6 weeks of Year 13 will equal your predicted grade. So, Year 12 matters. You can’t take it easy. If you’re effort leaves something to be desired you need a plan to improve that – right now!

You should also have analysed your Approaches to Learning Skills. You should know by now which areas to improve on, and we’ve put lots in place to help you…

-The ATL Flipboard magazines on this blog’s home page

-These blog posts usually contain ATL Tips

-The blog posts your peers write which can be really useful and I highlight them here.

-Callido

But you know the expression ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’?

No one can make you improve your Approaches to Learning.

No one can make you learn.

No one can give great effort for you.

No one can get great grades for you.

And importantly no one ‘gives’ you grades. We hear this all the time…’Mr x gave me a 4′. Actually you ‘earned’ that 4 with what you did or didn’t do. And you’ll earn your final IB score.

So what you earn is up to you…we’ve provided you with a whole bucket of water, how much are you going to drink?

 

October 9, 2016
by Ann Lautrette
0 comments

r u ok?

It’s been a busy three weeks for our IB students, what with Year 12 residential, International Week and RUOK? week. We also launched our upcoming Approaches to Learning conference. Some of you might remember the resounding success of last year’s conference led by our current Y13 students. Well, we’re doing it again with Y12. They become workshop leaders for the day as they lead sessions with Year 7 students on the five Approaches To Learning which are so important for school success: Communication skills, thinking skills, self-management skills, social skills and research skills. In teaching year 7 ways to improve these skills, year 12 will not only contribute to the growth and development of our younger students but they’ll also need to call upon all of their own ATLs to run successful workshops. Looking forward to it already!file_004

The point of today’s post, however, is to reflect on our week of RUOK? If you were in school at all last week you couldn’t have failed to notice our Year 13 students in their bright yellow t-shirts. RUOK? is a well-known Australian initiative in response to rising levels of suicide. The focus is on having meaningful conversations and staying connected with others. Our students have spent the week raising awareness of how some mental health issues can be helped just by being present and supportive of each other. It’s a bit of a social nicety to ask ‘are you ok?’, but how often do we actually stop and listen to the response? Where I come from, a common way of greeting each other is ‘alreet?’ (English translation for non-Geordies: ‘are you alright?’), yet this isn’t a question that requires a response and is often said without stopping for a conversation at all. RUOK? week was about cueing in to physical and emotional signs that people need some support and learning how to listen in a non-judgemental way. One of our Learner Profile attributes is ‘Caring’ and Year 13 demonstrated their ability to care for he school community by leading this initiative.

Thanks go to Ms Barnard for leading the planning and organisation of the week, as well as the footage for this superb video made by Mr Eaglestone:

And so it’s a well deserved week off school for all of us. While IB students always have work to do, it’s important to take the time to relax as well as to look out for those around you. All of us need to be asked ‘RUOK?’ at times, and have someone really listen to our answer. Try that this week.

 

June 10, 2016
by Ann Lautrette
1 Comment

Only the tip of the iceberg

I have been asked more than once over the past few days how the school supports students who are feeling stress in the IB programme.

We do support them of course.

Especially in the run up to the end of year exams we focused on stress-management techniques and affective self-management. (Managing moods, emotions and state of mind).

One piece of work we’ve been doing with students over the course of the year is based around the Iceberg Model:

The model has been used in various ways from Sigmund Freud to uses in describing behaviour, culture and systemic thinking for change.

For our purposes, we used it as a personal reflection tool to try to understand why we behave in certain ways. What are our mental models? What do we believe about ourselves as people? Does this influence the systems we put in place? Do we like systems which help us challenge or reaffirm our beliefs? Can confirmation bias be at play here? We do like to prove ourselves right! It was interesting to explore the beliefs students have about themselves as students, about their study habits and about their beliefs towards things like deadlines and being on time.

http://donellameadows.org/systems-thinking-resources/

http://donellameadows.org/systems-thinking-resources/

 

What we learned was that mental models, both positive and negative are at the root of our actions, and that we tend to be self-reaffirming. So, take the student who believes in the importance of meeting deadlines, who doesn’t want to be seen as unreliable. He puts systems in place to ensure that he doesn’t miss deadlines – he uses a calendar or a scheduling app, he sets himself earlier deadlines and creates the ‘buffer zone’ I described last week. Because of these systems, he doesn’t miss deadlines, reinforcing the belief in himself that he is the kind of student who meets deadlines. He feels good – he is right.

On the other hand, the student who believes she is easily distracted puts systems in place to reinforce that belief. She studies with music on, or her phone next to her, or social media open and on. Throughout her study she checks her phone, she procrastinates and ultimately reinforces her belief that she is easily distracted, and so, in fact, she feels good to be right.

Where things become difficult is when we want to challenge those beliefs – that is a lot harder than reinforcing them because it means recognising that we may not be right. Change theory using the iceberg model says that you have increased leverage when you change things at the lowest levels of the iceberg. So, how do you change mental models? Well, you can start by changing the systems. If the student who studies with distraction puts away those distractions and uses the Pomodoro technique or an extension like StayFocusd, and then is able to be less distracted, does she, over time change the mental model that she is easily distracted? And in turn does she begin to reinforce a positive mental model?

Of course, you may be wondering what this has to do with stress management – don’t you do work on mindfulness (a hot topic in education)? Or on the importance of balance?

And yes we do.

Before the end of year exams Sian our school counsellor ran a session with Year 12 on mindfulness and in Core we explored a number of stress-management techniques. Here are our slides:

But despite doing this important work with students, the thing I’ve been reflecting on over the past week is the sense of inevitability behind the question: ‘What do you do to support students with stress-management?’

The assumption is that students will be stressed and we will need to teach them techniques to cope with it. And this does seem to be the case. But, given that generally prevention is better than cure, the bigger question for me is, ‘how can we reduce the amount of stress students are under so that they don’t need to manage it as much?’

When IB students are stressed, it’s usually blamed on IB workload. And, it’s very true that there is a lot of work. However, IB workload is out of our sphere of influence or control. There are assessments, there are IAs, there is an EE, there is CAS and TOK, there are exams, and to attain an IB diploma you have to do those things. I manage the calendar as best as I can and try to keep things manageable but that’s about the best I can do about workload.

So what is under our control? As teachers, parents and students?

Firstly, good study habits and organisation. Work piling up, lack of organisation, in trouble for missing deadlines, spending hours studying with inefficient, ineffective study habits all add to student stress. So, as Core teachers, we teach them to be organised. We teach them strategies, techniques and tools. Here are our slides:

An important note however. We can only teach and provide these strategies – we cannot make students use them. If the mental model is ‘I don’t believe that will work – I have my own methods’ as it so often is, then it is hard for us to change student habits. But we do try.

Another source of stress for our students is expectation. This is usually connected to grades and is a huge weight on the shoulders of many of our students who feel they have to attain a certain level all of the time. In fact, the happiest students are usually those who aim for balance and enjoyment and decent grades, not those who have to get 38 points to go to (insert prestigious university) and become (insert prestigious career). As teachers, and parents, I think we are often guilty of adding this burden of expectation to students, perhaps based on an erroneous mental model that high grades are the only route to success.

So, while we can, and do, teach stress-management techniques, maybe as students, teachers and parents we can all ask ourselves, what are our mental models? How do they affect our behaviours? Do we reaffirm negative, unhelpful mental models just as much as positive, healthy ones? And can we change the systems to change beliefs? Even the belief that stress in an IB programme is inevitable?

Parents – many of you work in highly stressful careers. I’d be interested to know what strategies you use to reduce and manage stress. What strategies do you encourage your children to use? Please do comment.

 

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