Views & Opinion

The power of magic in a world of dreams Comment by ALICIA BLANCO-BAYO, Early Years teacher, Kirkham Grammar School

Over the past few months I have had many opportunities to search for a definition of learning that moves away from the traditional interpretation of ‘what goes on when children start school’. I have come across particularly interesting perceptions which have varied according to the background of the professionals I talked to. Interestingly, I was left with a perspective that referred back to the basic principles of Vygotsky – the acquisition and subsequently application of concepts can only occur when children are developmentally ready. Since each child develops at a different pace, physical and emotional development must be taken into account when the learning environment is created.

Let’s believe in magic

Since it is in the Early Years world that I spend most of my working life as a teacher and as a researcher, I am therefore entitled to believe in magic. I have permission to use strategies

teachers in other Key Stages wouldn’t, because formal testing comes into the picture and there are ‘units of work’ to cover. I can enter the children’s world and play a part in their dreams, which makes my journey as a teacher the most amazing experience ever.

The first few days of term are meant to be the days where magic happens. They are meant to be the days where we start a journey together and discover what it is that makes each of us shine. It could be anything from a Duplo tower, a playdough cookie or even a snake made out of paper clips. What matters is what it means to the child and how I use that magic to support future learning opportunities. One particular day some counting sticks were inserted into the screw holes in the workbench. I observed the child who was doing this and entered her world as she demonstrated how it made total sense to her to make a pattern using the counting sticks which happen to fit into each hole. The aspect I found fascinating was

the fact that, without direction, she led her own learning and was able to create something that was totally hers. If I had given her direct instructions, I would have discovered how well she can do what I think she should be able to do. However, because she led her own game she showed me how far she could take her own thinking. Although it might seem very basic to those who view teaching from a more traditional angle, in my opinion this was a magical moment. I now want to know more about this child because her sense of curiosity is leading her learning and she wants to explore what’s available to her.

I have not yet come across a baseline assessment that can offer me enough information about a child that I can make learning magical. Therefore, an initial analysis of where children are at is not necessarily realistic. It is perhaps more appropriate to analyse how each child explores the world and brings magic to life.

The importance of international-mindedness Comment by JANE DRAKE,

Head of Curriculum Innovation and Alignment at the International Baccalaureate (IB)

How do today’s students understand current affairs? They hear daily analyses of the actions of governments across the world, the plight of international refugees, terror threats, and environmental challenges. If they are being exposed to these events and current affairs for the first time, perhaps they are able to question why and how something is being represented in the media as it is, and to critically analyse news for themselves. Or do they find themselves uncertain and unable to uncover truth from spin? After all, that is a skill we can all find difficult when immersed in the daily clamour of our media. How do we help one another to approach these issues with both clarity and compassion? To strive to understand the complex systems within which our actions unfold and live compassionately in the choices we make? As educators, it is our job to nurture these capacities. The discussion around what makes for an effective education has been debated for decades but few would dispute that across the globe we need to raise young people who are well prepared for life in an inter-connected 21st century, able to contribute to a better, more peaceful world. This is the driving principle behind everything that IB World Schools do: ‘education for a better world’. The IB aims to develop young people who not only have the capacity, but also the motivation, to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and, even more importantly, respect.

Today’s students will be the global leaders of the future. They will require insight into people and cultures across the world, and an unprecedented concern for the well-being of the world community. Thankfully, many

September 2017

educational systems around the world are gearing themselves up for catering to a greater global consciousness – but there’s still a long way to go. The key will be to develop international-mindedness. International- mindedness is a world view in which people see themselves connected to the global community and assume a sense of responsibility to its members (humans, other living things and the planet). It is an awareness of the inter- relatedness of all nations and people, and recognition of the complexity of these relationships. Internationally-minded people appreciate and value the diversity of cultures in the world and make an effort to learn more about them.

Schools that have a rich tapestry of cultures are uniquely positioned to be role models of good practice to other schools, by taking the lead in setting an example as to how to educate students towards international-mindedness; through an education that reduces ethnocentrism, increases knowledge of other cultures, and promotes a concern for global environment issues. Evidence suggests that a generation able to apply knowledge to challenges and think laterally to find solutions will achieve this vision. Curricula designed to offer a holistic education is an optimistic alternative to most educational offerings. Education really is the world’s global language; a unifying thread that brings individuals and countries across the world together. Syllabi should be relevant to the student’s local context, but curricula should all share a common goal, too. The world is crying out for an approach to education that is in tune with each child’s unique needs and skills, and one that prepares the child to become a well-rounded adult and global citizen. 13

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