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An educator called Life

Walking down the woods on a learning journey

Back to the future!

Ages ago, in 2012, I wrote my last post

About a relay of equals, a race to the top.

Little did I know then, that the next stop

Would be after having been lost.

 

In the woods of pedagogy and administration,

I lost myself in its ups and downs, twists and turns.

Discovering the faces behind the mask, in return,

Bearing the bricks and bats, with undaunted passion!

 

The walk in the woods was winding and long,

From leading Evaluation to Exhibitions galore,

Moving towards administration of a community of 60 and more,

To discovering new roads, knowing rights from wrongs!

 

As I wander in the woods, in a Frosty kind of way,

Juggling my many roles and sharing from my heart,

I hope to keep the posts alive and make a fresh start…

On the journey called Life and the learning on its way!

 

IMG-20151106-WA0023Abhimanyu Das Gupta

Relay of equals

The crowds are watching with bated breath as the athlete stretches himself waiting for the shout! All hunched and on his mark… and then he hears “Go!”. He charges in the race not noticing that running along with him is himself… in different roles and masks. A charade of clones, whizzing past him to reach the finishing line. In a micro second he notices, through the corners of his eyes, in a moving blur, the faces in the crowd. He knows all of them, again clones of himself. As his body heats up with the running, a realisation dawns on him, that this way or that way, HE will be the winner! But, he knows he is not the clone… and a fresh pump of adrenaline near the last few metres, helps him breeze past the second contender, as he tears apart the ribbon at the finishing line and runs many metres ahead, keeping pace with the momentum he has gained.

That runner was me, for the last year, on the journey of being a new PYP Coordinator. A journey that I look back now in a more relaxed manner, but when I was handed the baton, I not only knew that I had to prove myself, but also, that I had to leap and bound over many hurdles and race ahead many turns, to reach where I am today.

As I refresh my blog, the next few entries, will take you through the last year’s PYP track that I have run on, including the significant relay stops! Hope you enjoy my reflections, as I warm up for the next race!

The Exhitement begins!

After endless discussions and planning, we have finally launched the work for the PYP Exhibition with the students. We have an enthusiastic team of ten teachers including me; some who have experience of having facilitated the Exhibition last year and some who are brand new! We have discussed and prepared a hand book for students this year and are spending the first 2 days to understand and help students absorb the expectations from them. Some of the wonderful aspects of the Exhibition include the fact that it is considered a summative assessment of the entire time a student spends through the programme. An opportunity for them to display all the knowledge, concepts, skills, attitudes and finally to take meaningful action!

Students plan their own topic for inquiry, central idea and lines of inquiry. They also plan their research, field trips and finally present their learning to the school community, including their own parents. This year, the exhibition at Pathways World School, Aravali will be held on 21st and 22nd April, coinciding with the Earth Day! As we the teachers, collaborate in creating learning engagements that will bring out independent student inquiry, arguing and deliberating, agreeing and disagreeing, planning and replanning, here is hoping that the learning is as meaningful and memorable for the students involved!

We have also launched a blog which will document every step of the students’ learning, which can be accessed at http://pypexhibition2011.blogspot.com

CIS is here!

Cathy, Abhi and Neeraja

CIS & CAN

Well, don’t confuse CIS with CSI! CIS stands for Council of International Schools (and not Crime Scene Investigation, you crime buffs!), and the school I am working for applied to seek accreditation to this esteemed international organisation almost 2 years back. Along with 2 other colleagues, I was put as a member of the Steering Committee. More about the process and organisation of the entire process of accreditation can be found in my previous entry titled ‘We CAN!’ which was written exactly 11 months back!

It was so enlightening reading through my last entry, reflecting back on the last year of activities that have finally brought us to the crossroad of the ultimate visit! The visitors are due today, as the ten members arrive from all corners of the world, Fortunately (though, only time will tell), one of the members from the last visit, Walter Plotkin, is the chair of the large visiting team this time around! I am surely looking forward to meeting him again!

Let me also open your eyes and mind to the idea of calling ourself the CAN team! We are a big school and hence, our Steering Committee was a 3 member team. My friends and colleagues on this team were Cathy and Neeraja. So when put together, Cathy, Abhi and Neeraja, we became the CAN team. At the same time, we wished to make a metaphorical statement of our purpose that was larger than the accreditation and its process. It was to enable the staff to feel empowered that they too CAN reflect on the school, its systems, documents and policies and become stakeholders in a moral and ethical manner. The CIS process was a perfect platform for all members of the community to wake up and take notice of what was going right and what wasn’t and to take responsibility for the same. Through this, we hoped to be able to steer a more concerted movement of change, the accreditation thus, becoming merely a technical part of a professional revolution that contributed wholeheartedly to institution building! Thus, we became the ‘we CAN’!

The Visitors

The visiting team is a group of 10 educators who have been working in international schools with rich expertise, from cities across the world, including Copenhagen, Riyadh, Pune and Chennai. They will be allotted to look after each committee and review it with the Steering Committee, Principals, HODs and the Committee leaders. Meetings have been slotted all through the week and they start off tomorrow!

Crossroads

We are now at the crossroads, with the visit just about to begin. We have been through the ups and downs of the process, with some committee leaders leaving school while some others moving into new roles. At the same time, the committee leaders worked with great focus and determination to examine the school, its systems and practices, in a self critical and yet objective manner, keeping the growth and development of the school over the coming years as the ultimate goal. We even had parents, teachers and students taking part in a survey based on the standards and indicators as prescribed by CIS which are required to be met, to meet international standards. We discovered areas in the school that needed a lot of work and at the same time were reassured of the school’s purpose of existence and the willingness in team members and the management to review and modify their systems, practices and documents. The committee leaders worked day and night to produce a meticulous set of a range of documents which were needed as evidence of the achievements of Pathways. The school buildings too had a bit of sprucing up of its infrastructure, including new displays in some building, better awareness and promotion of safety norms during a fire or other emergencies and the addition of smart boards. The fire drill we had for campus residents on a cold winter evening was quite thrilling while the use of more updated technology in class rooms looks promising!

At the end of the 2 year long journey of self reflection, the school has grown in the process and staff members have also developed a greater sense of belongingness. As we stand at the crossroads of the process awaiting the approval of CIS and further directions for improvement, it is truly a time to take in a deep breath, feel happy about who we are and where we are and then take the plunge to scale even newer heights, by truly becoming leaders in international education!

Abhimanyu Das Gupta,

Member, CAN team

We CAN! A journey with CIS.

CIS accreditation

The experience of having gone through the PYP authorisation in 2008 was one filled with self reflection and learning. Little did I know then, that it would hold me in good stead when I, along with Neeraja and Cathy were given the responsibility of overseeing the school’s accreditation to the CIS. I still remember the workshop that was conducted by Mr. Walter Plotkin, Superintendent, American International School, Dhaka and Mr. Gerry Percy, Director of Accreditation Services, CIS and how most of us were still groping in the dark about the intricate and complex self examination process that is required for successful accreditation!

However, over the last ten months, I, rather I can say this on baehalf of all involved in the process, we have all learned a lot! The CIS process is designed in such a way that it forces a close and authentic self examination, which is targeted at making the school a better place, for all stakeholders.

Areas of accreditation

CIS requires the members of the school community, including academic and administrative staff, students, parents and board members, to closely self examine the existing ethos, systems and practices of the school and identify areas of improvement. The broad categories are Philosophy and Objective, Curriculum, Governance and Management, Staff, Student Support Services, Resources, and Student and Community Life. Different teams of teachers were created to form committees that would look into the self study for these respective areas.

Planning the work

Planning out a schedule and pattern of organising the working of these self study groups was a mammoth task, as the members of Curriculum were spread across the other groups too. Moreover, the group working with reviewing the school’s Philosophy and Objective, needed to accomplish their task first. We also amidst all of this had to conduct an online survey that would reveal to us what different stakeholders of the school felt regarding the standards of each of these committees. Eventually, we had our timeline set and targets identified.

Revelations and Jubilations

The heads and team members of each of these seven committees, ranged from all sections of the school, with varied experiences. Guiding them with the work assigned as part of the self study was exciting to say the least. We learnt together as a team, as we brainstormed on ideas, reviewed existing practices and commended the school for its achievements so far. Pathways, being an ever growing, organic school has its own strengths and weaknesses and as we discovered and recognised both sides of the coin, it was inspiring to see an increasing sense of connect between the staff and the school and a growing sense of belongingness. Some teams had a lot to work towards, from collecting evidences and documents, to reviewing existing practices and systems. Others had a lot of their documentation already organised and thus had a more relaxed timeline. The survey results also came in by November and generated renewed observations regarding the differences in perspectives of the different stakeholders of the school. Above all, the most welcome result of all these discussions was the mutual understanding that grew out of all the meetings. Staff from different sections of the school and different departments, having pored through the Standards and Indicators document together, realised, how within the same school, the indicators could have different implications and how in spite of the hair splitting nuances, a lot of them applied universally across all sections of the school. The best part of the self study according to me has been this aspect of the process, wherein as a large extended family, working towards the same goal, we realised the importance of being united in our aspirations, both personally and professionally, and yet, appreciated how our individual experiences, characters and attitudes, added so much colour and richness to the fabric of Pathways!

Looking forward

Our dates for the Authorisation visit have been finalised for early next year and thus, solidified our sense of purpose with the self study. As we emerge wiser and smarter out of the ongoing self study process, bringing about necessary changes within the school, I am sure that as a team of committed professionals we will be able to make Pathways even better and achieve even higher standards in delivering quality education! So here is wishing all of us an extremely successful and smooth transition into being recognised by the Council of International Schools!

Abhimanyu Das Gupta,
Member, CAN team (Steering Committee)
6th March, 2010

PYP EXHIBITION 2010 – 2011

“The Primary Years Programme (PYP) exhibition represents  a significant event in the life of a PYP school and student, synthesizing the essential elements of the PYP and sharing them with the whole school community. As a culminating experience it is an opportunity for students to exhibit the attributes of the International Baccalaureate (IB) learner profile that have been developing throughout their engagement with the PYP.

In the students’ final year of the PYP, which occurs in some schools at age 10–11 and in others at age 11–12, there are five units of inquiry and the exhibition. The exhibition unit takes place under any transdisciplinary  theme  at the discretion of the school. Students are required to engage  in a collaborative, transdisciplinary inquiry process that involves them in identifying, investigating and offering solutions to real-life issues or problems. The central idea selected  must be of sufficient scope and significance to warrant a detailed investigation by all students. “


An excerpt from “Exhibition in PYP” published by IB.

Our school authorised in October, 2008 and we hosted our first trial exhibition in May 2009. It was truly a learning experience. We were able to refine our practices further last year, when we hosted our PYP Exhibition last year in April 2010. This year will be our 2nd official Exhibition and it feels exciting to be able to drive that process with teachers and students.

Our planning began last INSET when we all agreed to use Sharing the Planet, as our TD Theme, and select the strand, “Struggle to share finite resources” as the sub topic. An Exhibition requires total involvement of the students from Day 1, be it in the planning of the details of the unit, finding resources and identifying places for conducting field trips, to actually researching, collating and presenting their findings in a variety of ways! The IB PYP requires that students include all four kinds of presentations, namely:

  1. Oral Presentations
  2. Written Material
  3. Integration of Technology
  4. Performances or exhibition of visual art

This year, we did a lot of ground work to develop students’ understanding of the basic structure of a unit, as well as the five essential elements, from day 1 of the academic year! Thus, while they inquired into different cultures, they also learnt in depth about the 6 TD Themes.

We have also created a larger team of teachers who will act as mentors and guides to the students throughout the learning and preparation process. Next week, I will be meeting with the group to brainstorm on how we want the Exhibition to look and feel! What kind of grouping do we want to follow? What kind of provocations do we want to use? And above all, how can we make students more independent and responsible about their learning, through the process. I am also looking forward to hear the reflections of teachers, who were involved last year with the Exhibition, as well as some fresh insights from teachers who are new to PYP and the Exhibition!

I am sure, in the true spirit of collaboration, we will be able to come up with an inspiring plan, that will send the students in an upward spiral of inquiry, concern and compassion! Here is wishing us all the best!

A new beginning!

I have been working with PYP for the last 6 years, as a Home Room teacher and a Grade Level Coordinator. My personal beliefs about education are in close alignment to that of PYP and hence, it is a programme I am best suited for! Thus, when the role of a PYP Coordinator was offered to me, I was delighted. I had to fill in the gaps left by our previous Coordinator, who had a sudden move in her life and had to leave mid year, with the Evaluation 6 months round the corner! Thus, I made a new beginning with many challenges.

Having recently participated in the online Pedagogical Workshop, I set myself an Action Plan to implement as a Grade Coordinator, dying to review and change existing practices in the school and to inspire and train teachers to a greater degree. Thus, the new role empowered me to channelise my enthusiasm and learning from the workshop into practice.

The last 2 weeks as a PYP Coordinator, has been a challenging one! With an impending Evaluation visit in September this year, a lot of documentation had to be reflected upon and updated. One of the first things I did was to critically analyse our POI and tweak fine details to make it as perfect as possible. Sharing my ideas with my Principal and other Grade Coordinators helped me consolidate and apply my understanding of the programme. We also were able to display the new TD theme posters in our school building, which had been ordered by my predecessor! Thus, we even colour coded our POI according to the colours used by IB for the posters! Small details, that an obsessive perfectionist like me, couldn’t overlook!

We also had to get our Self Study going. The INSET at the beginning of the school year saw us successfully complete our ratings for all the standards, again a process my predecessor had ably initiated and implemented. Seeing the team’s sense of ownership of the school, its programme, its curriculum and above all its students, was a satisfactory experience and I felt privileged to be a part of the team and grateful at the opportunity of being in a pedagogical leadership role at the helm of the team! At the same time, we had almost 80% parents submit the Self Study questionnaire and methodically compiled by a parent representative. It was up to us to assess the survey and share its results with all stake holders.

The other challenge that I also foresaw was the profile of our existing team, with an unequal balance of old timers and beginners in the programme. A major task was to bring everybody’s understanding to a certain common level, wherein each member would feel a professional connect with what we were doing and reflecting upon! With the help and support of my Principal, the Grade Coordinators and I began the year on a positive collegial note, sharing good practices. A high point was an hour long session I facilitated on the Inquiry Cycle in a workshop mode. The teachers enthusiastic participation and thereafter, their positive feedback, was extremely gratifying for me professionally and personally. My biggest challenge of being able to connect and build a collaborative rapport, was accomplished opening out a meaningful journey ahead! In tandem, we also began work with the PE teachers to review their practices and content, in alignment with the new PSPE scope and sequence. Again, the response and eagerness in them was behumbling!

A long To Do list awaits me, as I prepare for the visit, but I feel empowered by the strong backing of the management and staff in us sailing through it! We are not perfect and neither is PYP about being perfect. This journey is all about self discovery and new learning. A journey well begun and hopefully which will yield great results! It will be interesting to reflect back after ten months, as we will then anchor our ship at a new port!

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