15-16 Term 3 week 1: Adventures with shopping trolleys..

Last week on Monday we returned to school for the final term of the year. At least my colleagues did; I was hauled up in bed with a stomach bug that I had caught from my 11 month old daughter! When I returned to work on Tuesday I was left feeling drained, washed out and wiped out – a feeling that took a surprising number of days (and early nights) to get over. Anyway this is what happened in my working life last week:

Tuesday:

A hard start to the working week. Seeing as I had missed Monday sue to illness I had also lost the planning time that I was banking on to get ready for TOK. TOK is a new subject for me to teach this year. While I relish the challenge of teaching a brand new subject and I am very interested in the subject content, I would be lying if I was to say that teaching this subject had not put me under a lot of strain this year. Not only is the concept of the subject wildly different to teaching a science subject, the style of teaching needed to make the subject inspirational is very different to what (I think) one needs to bring to a science classroom. It is unusual at to say the least. Basically it has been taking me at least two hours to plan each lesson, sometimes three, sometimes more. But it has been excellent at pushing me to go further with my teaching style; forcing me to make my teaching more discussion based. This week I had agreed with my co-teacher that I would introduce Religious Knowledge Systems as an AOK. After reading the relevant chapters from several textbooks I decided not to reinvent the wheel. After a google search I came across ideas on the links at the end of this post. Using mostly the ideas I found here plus those from the Dombrowski textbook, I created this powerpoint activities:

Download (PPTX, 57KB)

The video that is removed from the slide is religion good or bad can be seen here:

I also taught my grade 10 Biologists. In this lesson we recapped mitosis. I started the lesson with this hook which is essentially a review of the material we had covered at the start of this current unit:

I then had the students review the posters that they had made at the end of last term before working together to piece jumbled images of a nucleus undergoing mitosis together into a coherent, labelled sequence. Finally we completed a wordcloze exercise, summarising mitosis

Wednesday:

Originally I had a trip out this morning with several grade 10 and 11 students to go and hear some presentations from UK universities. However there was a  last minute cancelation which left me having to cobble a two hour DP lesson together in about an hour. This was actually a relief as I was worried about missing my G11 DP Biologists all this week as I would be out on Friday as well. This lesson was a great opportunity to get some review in of the topics covered so far this academic year. We started by brainstorming all the concepts and word related to biology with no filter as they came to our heads. We then quickly placed these into the relevant topics of the DP syllabus on the board. Students then created tedious links – you pick to concepts and have to link them together in a concept map via as many steps as possible. Finally students had to pick one word and definition to write up for the G11 word wall in the lab.

After break we returned to the second lesson where we recapped topic 5.1 “evidence for evolution” before watching the first 10mins of carl sagans cosmos episode 2 – one voice in the cosmic fugue as a hook into the concept of natural selection:

We then moved on to complete the first few pages of this workbook. In our first lesson next week we will carry out a beak finch practical and students will create the natural selection presentations.

Download (PDF, 11.22MB)

In the afternoon I had my first university visit. We hosted members of the European Universities Consortium – EHL; Bocconi; IE and Carl Benz School of Engineering. The presentations were engaging and following from my visit to Esade last week, they added to my growing knowledge of the possibility for studying in English on the continent for an undergraduate degree. I am very much enjoying networking and building relationships with communities outside of our school. I feel a real sense of pride when I meet these guests and give them a tour, while explaining what we are trying to do at our school. I was disappointed by the lack of turn out. We only had three students and three parents, but the universities seemed pleased at the end. I was also pleased to have more options for summer schools for engineering outside of the UK, but still in Europe. After the meetings I had a chat with one of our parents who lamented the fact that some of the parents of our G11 students were not aware that this even was happening. We discussed communication and I wondered what I could be doing better but I do think when it comes to comms less is more. This mum was suggesting further avenues that I could communicate to parents with but I already have four or five chanels through which I send info: ManageBac, Newsletter, Letters home, emails and messages in HR. I conclude that schools need to streamline the information they send out to one or two sources and encourage the teachers and parents to all utilise those. If different groups start using different avenues, information gets lost.

Thursday: 

This day saw me running round like a headless chicken with final preparations for the International Award Bronze Practice Expedition all morning, bar 15 minutes at homeroom time where I ran round, G9, G10 and G11 homeroom to publisce the visit from Westminster College UTAH and their talk on the US Education System. After that and checking with colleagues that they were happy to release kids early for the talk and then firing off a few emails to the spokesperson, I had a contract meeting with my line manager. At 10am I began the process of IA prep – printing off the maps and information for my supervisors and putting the staff briefing in place, before raiding the IA stores and organising the needed kit all into an IKEA shopping trolley so that it was ready to roll on Friday morning’s kit check. This was topped off by a lovely department meeting before lunch.

In the afternoon I taught my Grade 10 again. We began by reviewing the wordcloze exercise before using word, phrase sentence to learn and discuss about chromosome structure.

After the lesson, I had my second visit of the week. This presentation was much better attended and my guest gave a very succinct and helpful overview of applying to the states.

Download (PPTX, 3.9MB)

After the presentation, we had a tour and discussed the differences between teacher and counselor recommendations, and what type of information should be included in each. I thought that next time I do this then I should a) film the presentations to be included on this or another website and b) perhaps record a podcast interview of any specific questions like the difference between counselor and teacher recs.

Friday & Saturday:

International Award Expedition! Met the kids in the morning in the Dining hall at 0830. Collared by parent at 0810 would wanted to ask what happens in a lightening storm (can I have my coffee please!). Kit check and then on to the minbuses to start the hiking at 1000. I was ably assisted by some very reliable colleagues. All in all this was a successful expedition despite a very wet and wild night. I will not forget my G9 students up at 6am in the morning cooking noodles for breakfast on the Saturday morning.

This year we had built in an afternoon training session with the students in early October which I think really helped the process for many of the students.

Challenges for moving forward with award: route planning time (its currently to pressured in school) proposal to use HR time; time to produce presentations at the end of the journey; managing the stores.

Ideas from the week:

  • Next time we have university visitors to the school I will arrange to film their presentations and begin to build a library of these for the school website.
  • I may also arrange to run an interview in the recording studio and make a short podcast. Topics could range from admissions procedures to overviews of the education system in different countries to advise on writing personal statements.
  • The International Award is running well at school but we still need to tighten up a few areas like goal setting with the students and I need to find ways that next year we can do this. A closer working relationship with the CAS coordinator needs to be developed but currently there just isn’t the support structure to make that easy. In particular we need to identify more long term service activities that students can get involved with.

 

@ESADE #Counselorday2016

On a rainy Friday morning in Barcelona a group of University Guidance Counsel(l)ors are shepherded onto a executive style bus. We are heading out of Barcelona to Esade’s campus in Santa Cugat, 25km outside of Barcelona. Our hosts are welcoming and warm in juxtaposition to the uncharacteristically cold weather.

Esade are a private but not-for-profit foundation business school in Barcelona that is consistently ranked as one of the best in Europe. For me, as a new guidance couselor, this is the first campus visit/fly-in that I have been invited to and particpated in and it is a very welcome chance for me to chew more ears about my particular predicament that I face at work, as well as network and get under the skin of a non-british university.

As a Brit, educated in British public schools and university I recognise that my appreciation for other Higher Education systems and establishments is somewhat limited. I began this work mindful of my internal Brit-prejudice, and so coming to Esade is a welcome tonic to this.

Esade operate two campuses – their law degree is taught at the Barcelona campus and is taught in Spanish. Their English taught BBA is based in Sant Cugat but they have plans to make all their programs taught in English over the years.

The drive takes about 40 minutes but we are caught up in traffic. I am assured that students can travel into Barcelona by train in under 30 minutes, so students can live in Barcelona and commute into class, but many opt to stay on campus at the purpose built residences.

The campus is charming and understated. The architecture is modern and functional but quite pleasing to look at none the less, and there is a feeling of togetherness on the campus.

The BBA looks like a very interesting option, that appears to be academically rigorous. We are stressed the need for Maths. IB students need to have studied SL Maths at least and A Level students need to have study A2 Math as a minimum for entry. There is an mandatory internship and international exchange program that students have to undertake in the 4th year of their study, that Esade helps its students to access. Teaching is carried out by experienced professionals who still work in business themselves. 270 faculty members are professionals as well.

The students that we speak to and hear from our convincing and impressive. Clearly they have been hand picked from the marketing department but they respond to difficult and testy questions from counselor with calm and laughter. I am particualrly impressed by one student who, when describing his experience in China for his exchange program and internship, is able to deftly demonstrate one of the benefits of this kind of education. His understanding of intercultural subtleties and a tangible demonstration of international-mindedness through his description of life in China as a French national studying in English at a Spanish University, all of which the people he meets have never heard of is applaudable. It is the type of student I hope to create.

The advantages of having an internship as part of your degree aside, Esade has an impressive rate of recruitment from Business. Some business, it seems only recruit from Esade and one other University in Spain. Students are recruited directly into Business and from the marketing it appears that Esade students are respected and sought after.

Esade has a global scope with a large number of nationalities making up the student body, plus roughly 150 exchange students at anyone time. This academic exchange in compulsory, as well as the academic internship; students have to go out and make a real connection with the business world. There is also an optional Summer University Development Service where students can undertake voluntary service in Latin America for a summer.

Esade BBA Course Structure

Picture1

One of the additional strings to the Esade bow is the focus on language learning. Students are required to study Spanish even though the course is taught in English, as well as a second language from French or German. They receive official recognition of their proficiency in these languages as part of their certificate. Thus students become equipped with language skills that open the door to working in businesses in the Francophone and German speaking world and either french or german. As an institution they aim  to guarantee the language abilities to the graduate market.

Team work

During the course there is a specific focus on developing practical business skills. Team work is explicitly taught for example.

A final aspect that I thought was really cool and that I had overlooked initially was Esade’s Associations. These are sort of like clubs and societies but with a business twist. Students have to apply to join them, and they have entrance interviews. Each association has a marketing and HR department! and they are often linked to entrepreneurial ideas. One student stated that her DP CAS program taught her all the skills she needed to succeed in the wider life of the school.

Admissions requirements for BBA

Mathematics is essential. Students need to have taken maths during every year of high school and then Maths A level or SL and up for DP students.

There is no need for IELTS test if final two years of school are 100% classes in English. IELTS from 7.

Selection committee meets in January. Decision based on predicted grades. 1 out of 3 applications are rejected. Conditional admissions on passing the school leaving exams.

Deposit only refundable if they are not admitted.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Average scholarship 9,500 – 58% of Esade students receive it. Not a loan, this is a grant. last year 1.7m euros in the budget.

Awards for academic excellence – 100% and awards for academic merit  – 2,500 euro – first year only.

Talent scholarships – need based 50-70 or 90 of tuition. Good academic record. all 4 years.

Housing scholarships covers 50% of the cost of the residence.

Unibudy & BridgeU

I have only been a “guidance counselor” for eight months now am learning a lot about this side of the education industry/vocation/profession. One of the things that seems to be the perception of guidance counselors outside of schools is that they are the gatekeeper to the organisation that they work with. Recently, every week brings an overwhelming, inundation of emails from companies toting the latest innovation that they inevitably believe is the greatest opportunity that my students shouldn’t miss out on. Everything from summer camps and tutoring companies and new #edtech online platforms keep regular contact with me, pulling at my paranoia that I must pass their information on, otherwise my students will suffer.

For one, working in start up school I am just to busy to prioritise these emails, dealing with companies outside the school is the last thing that needs to happen when you are trying to teach, plan, assess, write the curriculum, take a school through authorization and accreditation. Add to that you are having to learn the ropes of a new job (university guidance) to present parents and students with their possible future options, with little to no real experience in “counseling” and from starting with nothing in place; no program, no relationships with universities or other schools, little internal support (everyone else is far too busy setting up their programs to help), all the while trying to convince your colleagues that the role is vital to the success of school when they query why you aren’t teaching as many periods as them. You can see why I don’t have too much time to spend on junk mail: pas de publicité, merci.

While my school is very small with a cohort of only 13 in grade 11 and no grade 12 until this September, the students are diverse. Not a single one of them is the same in terms of their background, passports held, and aspirations. While the majority of students want to apply to the UK some are considering Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands,  Australia and the US. I even have one student trying his luck with the NCAA for a basketball scholarship. While my experienced colleagues in schools with larger cohorts will say “so? our student apply to those places too”. While this is true and you will certainly have more applications to process next year; just walk in my shoes for a while. Imagine that you didn’t know anything about counseling students, about helping them identify choices, imagine that the terms NCAA, CEEB code, personal statement, common app, were all new to you. You were a Biology teacher, who suddenly had to learn all about the different systems for applying to universities in different countries, about applying for visas, about funding, about the NCAA, forge relationships with universities across the world and suck in as much information as you could about where to apply and best-fit as you could all the while trying to engage and guide young people. Do all this and teach a subject you know very well but learn a new curriculum and start teaching a new subject, assist with CIS accreditation..the list goes on. Oh and did I mention that I have a child under one. You see my predicament.

During all of this, two of these emails that passed my inbox in the last six months did catch my eye for long enough for me to dig a little deeper and pursue them and I am so glad that I did! In this post I will briefly outline who these operations are.

BridgeU

For a while I have been trying to build a case to convince my senior management that having a platform to help students identify matching universities globally, to help them develop what is known as a “list” based on their criteria. This platform should also make it easier for me to manage their applications, to track where they have got to so that I can assist them better. I am a firm believer that often what is in the best interest of the student is to have a teacher/counselor whose bests interests in doing their job are met.

Initally Naviance was the obvious choice. This is the system I first heard about and everyone I met seemed to know, use and love, which is unusual for a piece a software. Normally there are a handful of people that don’t like it, or at least find it cluncky. This seemed to be really positive thing – I wanted it. At least until I learned a little bit about BridgeU.

Naviance uses lists and drop down menus to filter data in a database to help students identify potential matching universities. It is also heavily US focussed. While it does have information about UK and other universities it appeared to me to be certainly focussed on the US market. Students can also apply through the common app through Naviance and so it offers definite advantages to managing student applications. It also had a huge price tag which just wasn’t economical with such a small number of students.

I will start working with BridgeU this month but what I know about them already has obviously sold me and I am excited to work with them. They seem to approach the problem of university choice a little more intelligently by matching students with universities based on an algorithm that maps their interests, skills etc. Now I anticipate that this won’t be perfect initially – they are a small and new company and I am sure that there will be bumps in the road on this front but the vision is there; the vision to do things more intelligently and more student-centered.

BridgeU’s outlook is truely global with a focus currently on US, UK and Canada they will also be adding soon, universities in Netherlands, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore which for me means that they will be able to help me advise a very diverse (although tiny) student body, and hopefully I will learn more along the steps of the process.

So far the service appears to have the personal touch, BridgeU is also a small start-up and they have promised flexible and responsive support as they cater to a small number of schools. This remains to be seen and I wonder how they will keep that promise if the platform grows.

Finally, aside from being an offering that is able assist my students select opportunities across the globe the platform also promises to be able help me support them through collating the schools’ grades and references by bringing my colleagues comments etc into one place where I can access them.

These are the things that have sold the platform to me – oh and the price which was competitive to say the least when compared with a giant like Naviance.

Unibudy

Yesterday, on a bustling busy street I made my way into the Starbucks of Plainpalais in Geneva, where I had the pleasure of meeting with Unibudy another company that had even persuaded me to take time out of my Easter holiday to meet them. I was a little skeptical initially over their intentions and the product they were offering but it really did not take me long to see just how exciting their product could be for some of the young people I work with.

Unibudy are essentially building a platform that will allow young people between the ages of 16-19, or in final stage of pre university education to find a mentor at a university that they like and ask that person questions. The mentor would be a current undergraduate at the university of choice and questions could be about anything, but would ideally focus on the structure of the course and the real time experience that the mentor is having. It struck me as a simple way to help to make what could be quite a daunting (and exciting!) prospect for a school student, leaving home, leaving school, going to a new country and a new learning environment a little easier to manage. I can’t think why students would not want this. The only issue is that they would have to pay for their talk time. Although the prices seem to be quite reasonable. Mentors are rated a bit like rooms on airbnb and students have the ability to filter mentors based on university and degree course. Currently it is only being developed for UK universities.

The platform is still in its infancy, or yet to be released but Unibudy also have other plans for content that would be free. This would include webinars about courses and universities from academics at those universities where students could sign up to ask questions. They also have plans for forums where students could ask general questions and dicuss their answers for free.

For students coming from a small school like mine who may not have that much to offer in terms of an alumni network this is almost like an alumni network in a can. For a little bit of cash you can get access to students studying the course that you want to apply for at the university you want to apply to. You can get the inside track and perhaps begin to break down what can seem to be a paralysingly huge change in your life into something that is a bit more manageable.

Conclusion

Both Unibudy and BridgeU are new, fresh and offering something that is a little bit different. Certainly as a counselor who is new to the game, they offer solutions that are complimentary that I can see would certainly benefit the students I work with. I am looking forward to working with both and I shall keep blogging about my experience with them over the next 12 months.

PosScript: I did want to ask Unibudy why they weren’t spelt unibuddy, why drop a d but I didn’t dare.