Are (old) school reports useful?

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I was sorting out the filing cabinet at home the other day at the same time looking for that vital form that you need to claim back some sort of insurance.  It is never easy to throw things away and sometimes you wonder why you hang on to random nostalgia from the past, it is as though there is an emotional bond and a difficulty to let go.  So the easiest thing to do is file it away at the back of a draw or at the bottom of a box and ultimately forget about it.  Until you stumble across it again de-cluttering hence I found my old school reports from my days as a student at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

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I quickly flicked through them and then started to read some of the comments reflecting back on my time as a learner at school and the way I must have been perceived by my own teachers.  I enjoyed school and thinking back had good teachers that supported me and tried their best to help me fulfill my potential.  Reading through the comments on the report you can tell which teachers really knew you though and understood your personality, your strengths and also your areas for development.  Being a teacher myself and having written – in fact typed – a great number of reports it is always important to demonstrate the uniqueness of each individual student and make that connection with them and their parents, I believe this provides confidence and reassurance that the learning relationship is genuine and that the teacher is doing the best they can to ensure that particular student succeeds.  Teaching is all about engagement and relationships.

Mr. Westerman, my old Head of Year, obviously knew me well through our learning engagements (he also led the school orchestra – I used to play the saxophone!). Looking back over his comments on my school report I like the way his writing style demonstrated he knew me but is also confident in getting a serious message across.  I am also impressed by his big picture approach with regard to education and learning as he talks about  the ‘package’ that includes good subject passes but also the importance of developing ‘personality’ and ‘appearance.’  How many interviews have you had where the interviewers have asked about your subjects or grades?  They say 33% of bosses know if they will hire someone in the first 90 seconds.

Graduating class from Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Ashbourne, 1995

Graduating class from Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Ashbourne, 1995

What about my peers who studied with me at the same school?  Where have their subject grades, personalities and appearances taken them?  Which one of those three elements has been the most important factor?  Did or do they ever reflect on their school reports and experiences during random moments of de-cluttering?  I hope they are achieving life success and happiness wherever they are.  Maybe one of them will interview me or you one day…

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You may like to read some funny sentences taken from actual school reports in the UK and submitted to the Telegraph newspaper here.  They made me smile and think about the next set of reports I will have to write.

My last reflection is an acknowledgement to Mrs. Forbes who was my form tutor and Geography teacher during secondary school and I guess a big factor in me becoming a Geography teacher.  Looking back at these reports I noticed that her comments and feedback were always personal with serious targets for improvement and written in a confident manner, she was not afraid to drop me down a grade either.  This must have motivated me as from what I recall she was the teacher I least wanted to let down – and I hope I haven’t… thank you Mrs. Forbes for inspiring me to be a geographer and teaching me how to be a better teacher.

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Aware, Able, Act

Have you ever heard a tree breathe?

Have you ever heard a tree breathe?

Aware, Able, Act:  separately three simple words but together they combine to make a very powerful vision.  A school’s curriculum or learning programme (as I prefer to call it) is very similar to this concept.  We constantly use words to describe and explain all aspects of education and teaching, each one with their own relevance to specific students and their progress through school, each one seemingly important in their own right: assessment, holistic, standards, creativity, progress, leadership, independent, collaborative, the list goes on…  These words can look and sound very impressive and you will often see them on most school’s websites, in prospectuses and throughout publicity materials that promote and explain elements of a curriculum.  They mean very little though if there is nothing to bring them together, to link them like a helix that intertwines through everything a school does for its students and make learning authentic.  A really good school will have a learning programme that does this, and will be fully aware of the ‘DNA’ that brings these words and their impact on the students alive.

crushing egg shells for fertiliser

crushing egg shells for fertiliser

Aware:  All schools provide students with knowledge; it is the basis of education and the key objective to passing tests and exams ultimately gaining qualifications to (apparently?) be successful in life.  There is a lot more to life than just passing examinations therefore we want our students to be inquirers and critical thinkers to become socially and emotionally intelligent, not solely to be spoon-fed and reliant upon the passing of information, there is so much more to know, to feel and to find out.  Realistically students today can find the answer to anything without a teacher (my son is forever on Youtube watching National Geographic); the important thing is the process and how to gain the knowledge and questioning its validity.

what a learning environment!

what a learning environment!

Able:  Education is not from the neck up!  It is important to allow our students to learn in the ways that best suit them, to use all of their senses, emotions and skills, to be able to learn outside of the box.  A good test (for the students and teacher!) would be to observe a class with no teacher and to see what the students would do?  Giving children the knowledge and making them aware is important but a good programme will also ‘equip’ them, give them the tools and the confidence to use their knowledge, to be independent learners and to share it with others.

we dance together

we dance together

Act:  Too many people make the mistake of jumping straight into action.  Without real awareness and the vested time in life skills, cultural awareness and confidence building then this can be a negative experience rather than a proactive one and in the long-term this can be quite damaging in many ways.  With accurate and detailed knowledge and a confident skill set young people are empowered to make a difference, and they will.  This is not a powerful vision but a reality.

going above and beyond for learning

going above and beyond for learning

The Global Citizenship Award realizes this reality and helps young people graduate from school:  Aware, Able and Acting.  You to can also be part of this learning experience and make the most of your potential as a global citizen.  Choose an Identity, set yourself a challenging target and get reflecting – we look forward to hearing from you soon.

The Michigan Difference

Contributed by Brittany Tang

Michigan

After spending three weeks at the University of Michigan, I am starting to feel the energy in the air, the buzz of academia, the passion and excitement of being part of what is essentially a small city. The first week I dipped my toes into the academic pool of my classes. I got used to what was expected of me and how to succeed. After I felt sufficiently settled and comfortable with my studies I started searching for leadership positions and community service based clubs to join.

I ran for and was elected President of the Events Planning Committee (EPC) for the HSSP (Health Sciences Scholar’s Program) community. As the President, I help facilitate weekly EPC meetings, I design agendas and communicate with the representatives from each HSSP committee. I am also a member of the HSSP Community Service Committee. Myself, along with others in the committee plan service endeavors for the HSSP community: volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House for families with children in critical condition, volunteering at Indian Trails Camp for children and adults with disabilities, ect. I recently received an email from a 4th year MD PhD student who is working to establish an NGO to help provide health care for people in Uganda. A group of  students including myself, will be establishing a sister program for the undergraduate school to raise awareness for the NGO Progressive Health Partnership (PHP) as well as raise some funds. The link to the project is as follows: Progressive Health Partnership | People Helping People. I am also part of an organization called the VIEW (Volunteers Involved Every Week).  The mission of this organization is to “empower students to become educated leaders and create social change in partnership with local organizations and communities”. This club in particular, stood out to me because of its emphasis on global citizenship and community service. I am very excited to be part of the team!

Finally, from a more academic point of view this past week has been extremely busy because I am in the process of searching for undergraduate research opportunities. I sent out multiple applications for multiple research projects and I have had lots of very educational interviews. I am really enjoying the entire process of finding a project I am interested in researching to securing a place on the research team. I have yet to commit to a particular project, at the moment, however by next week I will have my research position. Overall, I think the most important thing to remember is that balance is so incredibly important. Attending university has really challenged me in a positive way and has allowed me to grow into the individual I endeavor to be. I hope to continue down this path of leadership, service, academia and research and I am very excited to see how this first year turns out!

To read more posts by Brittany please click here.

Ending Gender Inequality

Contributed by Anita van Dam

Anita on the beach with a student from the Camillian Centre

Anita on the beach with a student from the Camillian Centre

As part of her Global Ambassador Award submission Anita included this article that she wrote on Ending Gender Inequality as part of the Academic Achievement Identity.

Ending Gender Inequality

Did you know that two thirds of the world’s working hours are done by women, but they only earn 10% of the world’s income? Or that 60% of 77 million children without primary education are girls?

Research says that woman own less than 1% of the world’s property, and that out of 876 million adults worldwide that cannot read or write, two thirds of that are woman. 

Ever thought how gender inequality is stopping these beautiful humans from being treated fairly with respect and pride?

Gender inequality is one of the Millennium Development Goals that is considered heavily on and thought carefully through about how we can make every human being have equal chances, an equal say and equal opportunities, especially women and girls so they can be treated fairly. Girls should have a chance to learn to read and write and finish their schooling fully instead of being taken out in the middle of education to help their parents with work to allow their male relatives to learn. According to the United Nations Population Fund women who are educated are more likely to have fewer children, become pregnant at a more appropriate age than woman who were denied schooling and will have healthier children too. Most important, they are more likely to send their own children onto full education.

Furthermore, promoting gender inequality will have a positive effect on reducing poverty, another MDG that is extremely important and thoroughly thought through. When women get their healthy dose of education, they would be able to think carefully before doing something for example, they wouldn’t have more children than they can afford to take good care of. They would also be able to get a better and higher wage job which will also bring more respect to women throughout the community. With women getting more wages and fewer children, they would be able to take care of their family properly thus they would be free of poverty and reducing it.

Women with a voice make great role models in our human society with more ideas, ways to solving problems and are represented like the source of light in a dark atmosphere. By giving women a chance to vote and a chance to have a say is like allowing a hermit crab out of its shell and when that time comes, the Earth would become an unfolded map full of information.

Thailand has a few societies/foundations that help and encourage women to become brave and independent people who can express whatever they want, whenever they want and wherever they want. A very powerful person who believes in women and a book with unread mysteries is Khun Mechai. He believed in “giving women a choice” and made sure that women know how many children they’re going to have and that they and their children have a higher chance of good education and by that, you reduce the chance of a family not being able to care for their family and also increase confidence in women. Empowered women ultimately lead to an empowered community.

To conclude, I would like to say that I do believe that women need to be equal. We must have a say and equal chances and gender inequality must be stopped. We should also advertise about this so it becomes a well-known issue and everyone can help to end this. Remember, “If you educate a man, you educate a person but if you educate a woman, you educate a family.”

Thank you for reading,

Anita van Dam

The Transition into University

Brittany on graduation day

Brittany on graduation day

Contributed by Brittany Tang

After taking the IB exams and graduating from high school, I was left with a lot of valuable time on my hands. This past summer has really given me the opportunity to reflect on the past few years, on my accomplishments and my failures and has also given me the insight needed to create a trajectory for my future.

What a great idea for university - a quilt made of all your old t-shirts!

What a great idea for university – a quilt made of all your old t-shirts!

I will be attending the University of Michigan this fall and will be studying at the college of Literature, Arts and Sciences. To keep with my childhood dream of becoming a doctor, I applied to be part of the Health Science Scholars (HSSP) living and learning community. To me, attending the University of Michigan is a huge change from attending other smaller international schools in the past. I am prepared to be outgoing, confident and diligent in my studies. I will be participating in psychology research as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). In addition to this, my classes consist of organic chemistry, calculus, 2nd year French and a health science seminar. I think that it is really important to get involved in extracurricular activities as well as seek out leadership positions during your first year of university. For me, keeping my mind busy with school work, service and intramural sports is integral in making a smooth transition into university.

I am very excited to start class, to be a part of open discussion sessions and to take detailed notes during lectures. Although the rigor of the school work is intimidating, I do believe that persistence and commitment can help one achieve ambitious goals!

Thanks for your post Brittany and good luck at university, we look forward to hearing all about it.  To see more posts by Brittany please click here.

Pom and Kong – future leaders of Thailand

Pom

Pom

Kong

Kong

How long have you studied at the Mechai Patana School for?

– Kong has been at the MPS for fives years and remembers Goldfish PLC, a Regent’s School business and social enterprise group that visited the school a few years back.

– Pom has been at the school for two years.  They are both in Grade 11.

The natural environment

The natural environment

Why did you come to MPS?

Pom – My mother told me about the school and when I came to visit I liked the natural feel to the school and how the students were learning.

Kong – I liked the school environment and the fact that the school focused on project based learning and gave the students many different experiences to learn from.

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

What is your favourite thing about MPS?

Kong – opportunities, e.g. the one term exchange with Regents School in Pattaya.

Pom – Learning to play the ukulele and having a ukulele band at the school, I like to learn about music and love playing it.

What do you want to study at university and what career would you like to follow in the future?

Pom – I would like to study languages and work as a guide, possibly have my own business for travellers.

Kong – I would like to be a linguist and have my own translation business.

Another one of those messages

Another one of those messages

How does the MPS help the students become global citizens?

Pom – The school focuses a lot on business and social enterprise and we learn how to give back to our communities.  We are also expected to be tour guides to visitors who come to the school and to think outside the box.

Kong – The school has taught me to be sharing and caring.

A future MPS student and global citizen?

A future MPS student and global citizen?

If you were a teacher what would you say is the most important thing about teaching young people?

Pom – It is important to teach young people how to help themselves and how to help others.  Most teachers in Thailand only teach about the subject.  At MPS we learn how to help ourselves and especially how to help others.

Kong – To teach the young people how to be a good person and how to share with each other and to care for each other.

Khop khun krup Pom and Kong.

 

Amazing Achievements…

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Helen Keller, Samuel Morse and Christopher Columbus

Jonah, who is seven years old, came home from school one day last term and told us that he had to choose a person that had done something amazing in the world as part of his Amazing Achievements project.  He then had to research this person and put together a presentation for his classmates, their parents and visitors to the school in a few weeks time.  Bringing this task to the dinner table was interesting because as parents it is important to show an interest and to fully support your child in their school work but not to impose your own thoughts and ideas on the learning process.  It was vital that Jonah ‘owned’ the process and had the passion and enthusiasm to research and present on someone that he really aspired to.

Who would you choose for your amazing achievements project?  Who is your hero?

 

 

 

Of course my emotions and initial instincts tempted me to suggest the likes of: Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Aung San Suu Kyi… but I resisted and we took the approach of brainstorming his interests and things he likes to read and find out more about before making a decision.  His list went something like this:

Inventing things, science, poetry, animals, helping people…

After taking these ideas on board I did publicly suggest my ideas around the table, ‘wouldn’t it be great to do Charles Darwin, Dr. Jane Goodall or even better Wilfred Owen – it is the 100th anniversary of WW1 – what a great connection.’  After explaining who these remarkable people were and why I thought they had contributed amazing achievements I was not getting much enthusiasm from Jonah.  Jonah’s mother then suggested that he actually think more locally and choose somebody related to Thailand and possibly someone that may even still be alive and could be involved in the research process (a great idea).  So we then considered:

Khun Lek (Elelphant Nature Park), Nancy Gibson (Love Wildlife Thailand) and Khun Mechai Viravaidya (The Bamboo School)*

*Posts to follow soon on each of these inspiring people and speakers

Jonah started to show more interest and liked the idea of being able to actually meet the person he was researching and presenting on and having primary information – possibly even involve them in his presentation as well!  By the end of (an extended) dinner time we had discussed a wide range of ideas and possibilities and left him with the weekend to make his final decision and to come up with someone who he wanted to do his project on.

With a little help from the iPad, Jonah finally came up with Samuel Morse as his amazing achievements person.  He was intrigued by Morse code and how it works, why it is used and how and why and when it was invented.  It had really caught his imagination and the more he read and the more he inquired the more he realised that Samuel Morse met most of his interests and passions.  I must admit at first I was not that impressed with his choice of person but soon realised as Jonah used his research (including an e-mail to and a reply from the Samuel Morse museum in the UK) that this was somebody that achieved a lot more than invent the Morse code, that there was a personal tragedy that motivated and ultimately urged him to help others and improve the world that he was living in at that time. I enjoyed learning through Jonah and being part of his amazing achievements project and was an immensely proud father when I got the chance to see his presentation.

This type of learning draws on personal emotions and encourages intrinsic drive and outcomes – ultimately creating amazing achievements for the young people that have been involved and supported through the process.

Click here to see Jonah’s blog about his amazing achievements project.

Click here to see a video of Jonah’s presentation.