The students are in full swing at ISA. Planning and teaching lessons, organizing small group work, attending grade level and team meetings, participating in professional development days, enjoying special events such as the PYP (Primary Years Programme) 3rd-5th grade spring concert, football (soccer) games, "Cake Friday" and "TGI Friday Happy Hour" on campus are just a handful of the activities our Elmira College Teacher Education students are experiencing. Let me expand a bit further...
All of the pre-service teachers have been given the opportunity to teach a lesson or two at this point in the term, at least to a small group of children. They have been fully emerged into ELL (English Language Learners) curriculum as well, as several of the students in each grade level speak little English. This poses new and exciting opportunities for the students to work closely with the Language teachers and allows them the opportunity to "soak in" teaching techniques unique to the wide cultural diversity at ISA. The teaching techniques for each classroom teacher also allows our students to see a new and fresh perspective to teaching, unlike the traditional school in the USA. Inquiry based learning is, in my opinion, a complete program - allowing the students to think for themselves, think deeper, and learn problem solving techniques. The students KNOW why they are learning what they are learning, as opposed to learning the information simply to regurgitate the information back for the test, only to forget 80% of the material the next day. Its impressive to see how the teachers maneuver, plan, and execute their daily lessons...and it has been even more exciting to watch the EC students perform in this manner as well.
The school day usually begins at 8:30am, but on Friday's the school day begins at 9:30am each week. This time is set aside for teachers to attend longer grade level meetings, follow-ups on conferences, book-talks and other Professional Development meetings. A few Friday's back, we were invited to participate in the Professional Development morning, complete with breakfast consisting of freshly made pastries, bagels with cream cheese, a variety of coffee and teas as well as freshly squeezed orange juice, a favorite of many of the EC students. The menu of events was impressive...cohort groups included sessions such as "Google Docs - How It Can Be Used in Planning for the Classroom," "Reader and Writer Workshop - A Lucy Calkins follow-up (from Columbia Teachers College in NYC)," "Sensory Disorders - Recognizing the Symptoms in Students," etc, etc, etc. The professional resources at ISA are incredible.
Friday's are special days in more ways than one...especially for the MYP (Middle Years Programme) Humanities Department... for Friday's mean "Cake Friday" at lunchtime. Each week, a new Humanities Department Teacher brings in a variety of cakes, eclairs, and other treats for the Humanities department to enjoy. But, in the true nature of teachers, this is not just your average "bake goods" display...oh no! They take their "Cake Friday" quite seriously - including a 7 point assessment rubric for each week (all in good fun, of course). The criteria is steep and taken seriously (all in good fun, of course)...from the arrangement and display of the cakes, to the variety of the cakes, the amount of the cakes, etc. All I can say is - the cakes have been nothing short of DELICIOUS!
But that doesn't conclude a typical Friday - because come 4pm, all the teachers and staff roll into the large faculty room and outdoor patio to enjoy the full open bar and snacks for TGI Friday Happy Hour. The students, and myself, were speechless when we realized that there was a full functioning bar at ISA. The idea is not new to ISA, or even to the International School Program, apparently. The philosophy is "we worked hard all week, now we will celebrate with an adult beverage or two." And that is exactly what everyone does - celebrate. For 2-3 hours, the staff relax, unwind, talk, laugh, eat and drink...with their peers and their families, effortlessly moving around the room and patio. Its a natural networking time...and an opportunity to to meet professionals from literally all over the world - New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland, Ireland, USA, Canada, Taiwan, etc.
ISA continues to impress and amaze us...we may never leave! :-)