I think this independence partly stems from the fact that the school is an International Baccalaureate, which encourages student to take charge of their own learning and be self-motivated. There are ten descriptors of the 'IB Learner Profile' which serve to outline the sorts of well-rounded people the program is trying to promote; these are to be inquirers, knowledgable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, reflective. These descriptors are posted around the school, in every classroom, even sand-blasted into some windows. I think this sort of constant conscious and subconscious input is certainly going to have an effect!
In IB schools, teachers are required to use 6 transdisciplinary themes. Already, I can see the potential benefits of such a program. The themes allow students to see broad, 'big picture' ideas play out across subjects, while the subjects themselves (language, social studies, mathematics, arts, science, and personal/social/physical education) still have continuity throughout the course of the year.
I think this would be easier to understand by using an example. Right now, we are moving into 'Sharing the planet'. Therefore, all subjects must tie into the idea of 'Sharing the Planet'. In Food Technology, students were growing their own plants and considering how using home gardens rather than mass-produced food from supermarkets is healthier for both themselves and other species on the planet. In science, students are looking at how overpopulation and urban development affect native populations and the planet as a whole. In language, students are practicing debating. The other day, teams formally debated on the topic 'making the world a smaller place'. There were excellent arguments on each side. Some argued that by being more connected, humans could unite to find cures for various diseases or create feasible renewable energy sources. Others argued that increased travel would produce more greenhouse gases and that native languages and cultures are quickly dying out. And so on. I had great fun, and want to jump up there myself 😊
The one thing I do not like, and I sincerely hope that anyone from ANI who reads this will not take this the wrong way, is the size of the library. Apparently it has downsized hugely in recent years in an effort to encourage students to access information via the technology that will undoubtedly be a part of the rest of their lives. However, I simply love books too much to see them go. I love my memories of hours spent before school devouring books. I love the feel of pages turning beneath my fingers and the smell of an old book (although not too old, or it will give me allergies...). I also love the browsing capability of a library. When searching online, it is almost necessary to have a starting point, but with a library you can simply got to a section and pull books at random because a title or picture or graphic catches your eye. You read the back; hmm, not quite what you were looking for? Put it back and try the next one. Perhaps what is lovely about browsing in a library is the size of the collection; big enough to offer a breadth without overwhelming.
The staff have been so welcoming and inclusive - one even agreed to host me, and gave me the run of her house for my first day while she was still on holiday. Other staff members have answered my questions patiently, asked me about home, and overall made me feel comfortable in a new environment. Today I got to observe (and even moderately participate in) a Te Reo Maori lesson, which was fascinating. I loved how aspects of the culture were explained through on-the-fly translations because Maori and English are so completely different that cultural values must be explained for the words to make sense! The students have shown themselves to be curious, intelligent, cognitively and physically active (both the boys and girls soccer teams just won a national competition for school teams in their age-group) and fun-loving. A bunch of boys tried to trick me by switching names. I was suspicious to start with, but when too many of them tried to get in on the joke and started tripping each other up, it just got hilarious.
I should go to bed now - I have school tomorrow and 2 gladiator trainings, so I need my beast sleep. 'Till soon!