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


October 21, 2016
by Ann Lautrette


As a whole half term has now passed in IB for our Year 12 students, I wanted to take the time to highlight some of the fantastic blogs which are developing.

Remember, the IB blog serves multiple purposes. Firstly, students have to keep a CAS reflective journal as evidence of their engagement in CAS and their development towards meeting the CAS learning outcomes. Students use their blogs for this journal. Secondly, students need to (very soon) keep a researcher’s reflective space as they work through the Extended Essay. Students will use the blog for this. Finally, the blog is a positive digital footprint, a way of sharing your experiences as an IB student and creating an e-portfolio which can be shared with university admissions and beyond. It demonstrates your ability to grow, reflect and communicate – key skills required by employers, but often lacking in students. The blog also creates a ready made personal statement – which will come in handy next year when applying for universities.

So what does a great Year 12 student blog look like? Well there’s Alfred’s highly reflective residential post on his blog, and Chloe’s outstanding blog in which she’s writing book reviews as well as doing what’s been asked of her with flair. Vanessa  has an excellent written style and sense of audience in her engaging blog, and Saskia’s chapter style is an engaging approach to attracting an audience. Kyle is developing a great blogging voice and Zelina has captured the perfect balance of image and engaging text in her lovely blog. Josephine’s posts are thoroughly enjoyable to read and enhanced with photographs. She also created a very well designed infographic about herself and her passions. Michael has a well organised blog, a great blogging voice and is using his blog to talk about his music production as well as his IB journey. Looking forward to that!

These blogs are great examples of how positive the blogging platform can be both for students and for readers. I hope those of you who have yet to change your theme or who have short and poorly thought out posts can take a lesson from the Superbloggers above in how to create great content.

And if you are concerned about how much writing you have to do on your blog, as we’ve told you before, the blog does not always have to be written. A simple ‘talking head’ video, or a Vlog, can do the trick just as well when you don’t feel like writing. That said, it’s a good idea to write sometimes, because the real audience for your blog improves your ability to write – and who doesn’t need that??

Well done to our Top Bloggers – looking forwarding to seeing some much improved blogging in the next few weeks.





October 9, 2016
by Ann Lautrette

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.


September 17, 2016
by Ann Lautrette

2 + 2 = fish

At BSJ our mission is ‘to inspire, challenge and nurture for excellence’.

But what does it mean ‘to inspire’? What is ‘inspiration’? And why is it so important?

What got me thinking about this was actually a lack of inspiration. I try to write a blog post every Friday, but yesterday I didn’t have anything particularly interesting that I felt inspired to write about. So, last night I sought the help of the littlest member of my family…

‘Oscar’, I said over dinner, ‘I can’t think of anything to write my blog post about today. Any ideas?’

And Oscar said ‘2+2=fish’.

Like a good student of TOK I didn’t just dismiss this out of hand. Rather I asked ‘what do you mean?’ And eight year old Oscar took a post it and a pen and showed me that yes indeed 2+2=fish:

Not Oscar’s drawing: From: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-explanation-of-this-puzzle-2-+-2-Fish-3-+-3-8-7-+-7-Triangle

So this inspiration from my son inspired me to write about inspiration. Google’s dictionary defines ‘inspiration’ as ‘being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.’ Now that seems both easy and difficult at the same time. All you really need is mental stimulation – ok that’s the easy bit. But, where do you get that from? And how can school ‘inspire’ you?

Reflecting on this, I think the first step to being inspired is to be aware. You really have to pay attention to what’s going on around you because actually this is likely your source of inspiration. I’m always struck by the frequency with which students turn to the internet when asked for ideas. In literature we give students texts to read and one of the first things they do is look up how someone else has interpreted it, but actually this is really not the point of IB literary study – plus literature is about making meaning for you as much as it is about critically assessing the meanings others have made. Similarly in TOK, we’ve started the essay with our year 13 students and they cannot go online to check what they should write their essays about, they have to use what they’ve learned through both shared and personal knowledge and apply TOK concepts to it. This is the whole point of TOK. In the same way, the Extended Essay requires students to come up with their own idea for a research topic and question – there is no point doing what someone else has already done – that won’t add anything to the body of knowledge already in the world and it isn’t the point of the Extended Essay.

So the IB Core is asking students to be inspired and to have inspiration. As a school then, what we do is create the space and the experiences where inspiration can happen. I’m writing this while watching my older son create an animal which can survive in the desert. He’s writing about how his Sponge Spike Snake is covered in spikes which can soak up and store water when needed, but can also turn into hard spikes for protection and sand-digging. This is his Year 5 homework. And I know that this comes after work on animal adaptation and survival and a trip to Taman Mini to see how animals survive. He’s really enjoying the creative process and so I think that’s the perfect example of how, at BSJ, we create that space for inspiration.

But, creating experiences is one part of the picture, the other is the student’s ability to pay attention to those experiences, to reflect on them and to produce something creative out of them.

It’s not easy to pay attention these days. Distraction is everywhere and we are more and more multitasking with technology. How then do we just stop, and pay attention to the world around us? The popularity of mindfulness seems to be a response to this.

So to seek inspiration and to become creative, perhaps practising focus and managing distraction is a great starting point. If we can fully experience what happens around us and stay in the moment we can find inspiration. Perhaps this is something our IB students can think about when they are stuck for ideas to blog about. What’s happened around you? What did it make you think about? Can you apply TOK concepts to it and think out loud in a blog post?

And, if you really get stuck for inspiration, you can always ask an eight year old.




September 9, 2016
by Ann Lautrette
1 Comment

Is all knowledge created equal?

This week we’ve been talking TOK.

Core teachers had two days of training with John Cannings, an IB Core Workshop Leader and co-author of the CAS guide for students. John focused on TOK as the central element of the core, and showed us how we might use the knowledge framework as a way to guide students through the Extended Essay and CAS. John also led a TOK session with all IB teachers – challenging them to identify the Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge, as well as discovering the knowledge framework in their subjects.

Most importantly this week though, our Year 12 students had an introductory afternoon with John where they learned some key TOK concepts such as the difference between shared and personal knowledge, and what we might consider our most reliable sources of knowledge.

What struck me this week is the TOK journey. It’s a scary road for many – a subject no one studies beforehand, which asks unanswerable questions and challenges students to provide an ‘answer’ of sorts. But it’s a journey, and I know this because when asked what was their most reliable source of knowledge, Year 12 students by and large suggested that their senses and experience were it. ‘You can trust what you see’, ‘you’ve experienced it so you know its true’ were typical comments.

But, when I asked this question of my Year 13 TOK class, I got quite a different response. They’re a year down the TOK road, and they’ve learned a few things about sense perception and memory which have led them to question whether we really can trust what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch.

Take this classic illusion for example. There’s a white triangle right? You can see it, so it must be there. Except, it isn’t, there are no lines drawn – but your brain takes the information provided and makes something recognisable to you. Same reason we see a face in this rock. A face, one of the first things you see after birth, something you see close up when as a newborn you can’t see more than 12 inches away, is a high frequency image and your eyes see it where it doesn’t exist.

So, if our eyes can show us things that aren’t there, are we sure this is our most reliable source of knowledge?

How about memory? Experiences? They must be reliable right? Well, are you absolutely sure someone didn’t just tell you that something happened to you when you were small? How would you go about validating that? Watch this little video about implanting false memory. And, think about it, if your memory was so good, why would there be millions of people making money selling you ‘improve your memory’ books and apps?

With Year 13 students we’ve been discussing an Indigenous tribe called the Moken in Thailand. The Moken live on the water and are a nomadic people. They live right in the spot where the 2004 Tsunami hit Asia the hardest – but they survived. They survived because they read the signs in the waves. And because of a story that when the sea draws back it eats people. They ran for the hills before anyone else. Interestingly the Moken can see underwater twice as far as we can – they suppress the automatic dilation reflex of the eyes. So, can we trust in what we see if there is more there but we cannot see it? Human perception is in fact very limited – think dog whistles – so, do we really want to trust in a limited source of knowledge above all others?

You might ask what else we have. Good question. If we can’t trust our senses and our memories, where are our most reliable sources of knowledge?

Some of our Year 12 students said their parents. While that is an admirable response, I’m not sure I want to be considered as the most reliable source of knowledge for my kids. Let’s consider some of the things I’ve said to them already today:

‘Oscar, get your shoes on or we’ll be late for school’ (we arrive at school at 7am every day – late is very unlikely)

‘Max, stop cracking your fingers or they’ll be twisted and gnarly by the time your’re 15’ (unfortunately he caught me out after Googling this one)

And my personal favourite of the day:

‘You didn’t get an automatic Nerf gun for Christmas because Santa didn’t think you were good enough during the year’

Oh dear!

So as we move forward through the TOK course, we’ll try to answer the question of reliable knowledge (although we won’t be able to). We’ll question what we mean by ‘reliable’, ‘trust’ and even ‘knowledge’, and we’ll wrestle with concept questions such as ‘who owns shared knowledge’, ‘is the pursuit of truth always important?’ and ‘is there any knowledge that is too dangerous to pursue?’

It’ll be a challenge and our brains will hurt, but we’ll have some fun too.





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