The future-you festival

In my first year at my current school I was one of the grade 10 homeroom teachers. At the time, the grade 10’s were the eldest grade, the school having only opened the previous year with all grades up to grade nine.

That year our Head of School organised for some parents to come in on an afternoon to speak to our grade nine and ten students about their various professions.

The session lasted a couple of hours while different parents rotated in front of our small cohort of 18 students to tell them they needed a passion.

The next morning the feedback in homeroom was less than excellent. The major theme that came across was that the kids would have liked some choice about what they saw and who they listened to.

Later that year I was given the chance to set up the university counselling program and part of that required me to organise careers day.

In the first year I was responsible for it (my second year at the school) my main aim was to introduce choice for students.

That year we held it in May and the event ran from after lunch until 7pm. From 2pm until 4pm we had a series of career focussed workshops. These were bookended by a keynote and plenary session. The latter were compulsory for all students, but, during the time in-between, students rotated through workshops that they had previously signed up for.

After the plenary from 4pm to 5pm we held a short university fair, hosting universities from Switzerland plus a few others.

Following this we hosted an author who spoke about her book and work that supports international students making transitions to study at international universities.

In my second year, the academic year just finished, we moved the date back to March. Unfortunately, with the extra classroom hours I was working, I simply didn’t have the time to organise a university fair – the amount of time that goes into simply emailing contacts is extraordinary. However, we did run an evening event again this year. This was organised by my colleague in the schools marketing department and took the form of two guest speakers, with dinner and wine for attendees. Next year we have decided to call this part of the evening “future-you conversations”.

This year I am hoping to expand what we do slightly with morning skills based workshops on top of the afternoon career focussed workshops. These will be run in conjunction with inspiring futures who offer two days of their advisor time to members. We bought membership for next academic year.

Grade 12 will have a session on interview skills to support students who will have interviews as part of their university applications but also as many of them will be interviewing for jobs in the next 12 months.

Grade 11 will have a session on persuasive writing for their personal statement. This will hopefully provide them with some raw material with which to begin their personal statement drafts later in the year.

Grade 10 will have a session on cv writing as they will be looking for work experience this year as they have a work experience week in June.

Grade 9 will use the inspiring futures career investigator.

Out with the old…in with the new

I started this website and blog in April 2016. Partly, this was to allow me to play around and learn how to set up a website and partly to enable me to share resources for IB Biology that I had created, in the hope that I would find more interaction with other Biology teachers online.

The last academic year has probably been the hardest of my teaching career for a number of reasons. Having a young family with two daughters under the age of two has certainly been a factor but my guidance role very much absorbed my time throughout the year; certainly more than the official 20% time I was contractually obliged to spend on it.

My DP classes have been fairly successful but I just haven’t had the time to devote to my lower grade teaching simply because I was still teaching a new subject – TOK – and becuase I was still setting up the guidance program – working with my first grade 12s in this regard and improving the process for the grade 11s and 10s (2nd year for those cohorts).

As such the website hasn’t developed in the direction I originally planned. I have been finding WordPress a little too clunky with which to build a website dedicated to IB biology. While it is obviously possible to do so I simply haven’t had the time to invest in this project this year between teaching, guidance and family life.

Time constraints considered, I now find that much of my thinking is lately taken up with my guidance program and naturally this means that most of what I want to write about is to do with the issues I face in this area. Writing my blog is primarily a way for me to get my thoughts straight with the added bonus of inviting comment and further discussion from colleagues.

So going forward I plan to:

1) Continue a blog at this website, writing about guidance and education issues as they crop up and time dependent.

2) Stop adding biology teaching resources, plans and ideas to this website, but build a new platform that I can also use for teaching based on google sites.

New google sites was created last year and I first tried using the platform as a wiki for a biology teachers workshop I led. It is super simple to use, although it does have a raft of limitations that I am hoping will gradually be removed over the next few years.

With inspiration from a colleague I began creating workbooks tailored to the IB Biology course for my students in 2012/13. This year I massively overhauled them to bring them in line with the new IB syllabus but also Ron Ritchhardts thinking routines (still a work in progress).

The development of a website feels like a natural extension of this work – the exercises in the workbooks need to be transposed to website form and no doubt this will take time, but I feel that I am getting some clarity on the direction my digital presence needs to take.

 

A list of good open questions for use in teaching…

“A great question is one that gets us all thinking…students questions give us a glimpse into what they are thinking, what issues are engaging them, where their confusion is, where and how are they making connections…where are they seeking clarification?” Richhardt et al 2011

Counseling

  • Why do you think you want this versus that?
  • How will your long term plans be impacted and why?
  • What would you lose if you didnt do that, and why?
  • What would you do if you could do whatever you wanted and why?
  • Write down the first thing that comes to mind when you think of college?
  • If you could say one thing to your parents what would it be?
  • Write down one message to your children?

Teaching

Questions need to focus on learning and not on work, using the language of inclusion (we not I or you)

Give praise for the effort not for the outcome = growth mindset.

  • I was wondering if…
  • Can you say more about that?
  • Im not following you can you explain that in another way?
  • Questions that model an interest in ideas
  • Questions that construct understanding
  • Questions the clarify and facilitate thinking
  • What makes you say that?
  •  What does that tell us?
  • What questions are surfacing for you?
  • What do we see?
  • What do we think we know?
  • What else do you notice?
  • Can we explain this?

Listening List

This is a list of Podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis. You can add to this list yourself and/or download a copy here.

15-16 Term 3 Week 2

Monday

An early start 0630 into school, after washing the minibus in order to bring the IA kit back into school. Much time spent hanging up tents and re organising the kit store, making a list of items that need to be re purchase. My G10 lesson was swapped with English (I will have it back in two weeks) which freed up much of the morning for planning the next stages of the IA as there is another expedition leaving at the end of term and this time we are taking students to an area that we have not used before. Therefore maps need to be purchased, campsites booked, checkpoints identified, photographed and recced. I also used this morning to put an impassioned plea to SLT about need for support for IA to be protected next year. I am still awaiting a response…I also managed to discover and book a new campsite in the Valleé du Joux for the G11 Focus week happening this September. This place seems quite exciting as it is a tipi village and looks like a great place to take the kids to have fires, marshmellows and BBQs in the late summer for one night. I have also made some progress in planning that event which happened quicker than I thought.

Just before lunch my line manager and I had training with BridgeU, the new university guidance platform that we will utilising as a school going forward and the upshot from this is that we have arranged a session in May to roll this out to our student group in grade 11.

In the afternoon I took my G11 Biologists. We ran the following practical before the kids began preparing presentations on antibiotic resistance in bacteria and the changes in shape of Finch beaks on Daphne Major.

Download (DOCX, 37KB)

I took these videos of the practical in action

Tuesday

Tuesday morning was spent primarily on planning G11 and G10 Biology. I produced this workbook for DP Biology:

Download (PDF, 6.85MB)

I then went to a TOK planning meeting with my co-teaching colleague to plan the structure of TOK up until the bank holiday.

After lunch I taught TOK and G10 Biology. In TOK we continued with our investigation of religious knowledge systems; the students giving their presentations, before breaking out into a discussion that compared various features of the religions in the presentations.

In G10 Biology we recapped meiosis and homologous chromosomes before beginning to look at monohybrid crosses and simple patterns of inheritance.

Wednesday

In the morning I had a short cover of G7 French class before my colleague arrived. After that I had a two hour Biology class. Here we finished looking at Natural Selection. I opened the class by looking at the next 20 mins of Carl Sagan’s cosmos episode 2 (I had shown the first 10 mins in a lesson described here.)

Students then delivered their presentations that they had prepared in our previous lesson before break. After break we reviewed the exams that students had taken last Friday. Students used the rubric to review the questions they got wrong and to develop a strategy for revision before I went round and addressed individual concerns.

Download (XLSX, 13KB)

After this I had another cover lesson but after 15mins of waiting for the class I discovered they were actually having map testing and so there was no need for the cover…

In the afternoon I carried on planning DP Biology and created a workbook for topic 5.3 and started on one for 5.4.

Download (PDF, 47.24MB)

Thursday

On Thursday morning I finally finished packing up the dried tents from the international award expedition from the weekend before.

I spent most of the morning on administrative tasks: a little bit of time was spent on finding out about using BBC Horizon programs in my teaching. I have a lot of this digitally and I currently store them on a hard drive that I bring into school, however I would like to get them onto the internet so that I can share them with my students and I wanted to know how I could do that because all BBC Worldwide videos are blocked on YouTube. A short telephone call and I had an email address. I think that this may be possible if I have a password protected website.

I am also in the process of organising the schedule for a Dance production that will be shown in school the week after next. Well, I was under the impression that my role was simply to organise the schedule for classes to come and see the dancers performing a piece about the action potential in neurones and the affects of motor neurone disease on those neurones. However I seem to be the go to person for any questions about this event. I think it will be a great production but to be honest with everything on my plate at the moment in terms of international award, careers guidance and university guidance, I just don’t have the energy to bring to this task. I started the ball rolling this year, as I was involved in it last year, but other colleagues I would have expected to be more involved with it than me have been absolutely no assistance mainly because they are organising their own festival that is happening the day before, so I don’t blame them – but there is only so much I can bring to this production myself. Anyway some of the scheduling needed to be changed because some performances were clashing with the whole school photo because, despite approval for this event being given by the Head, no one placed this event in the school calendar. Basically its a mess, and I have to salvage what I can and move on.

In addition to this and a much higher priority in terms of my role at the school, I am organising a careers week for G10 and a careers afternoon for G8-11. I have had some parents offer their support and this week I started to pull on the university contacts I have and so on Thursday morning I began the process of contacting these universities.

I also spent a lot of that time this morning also finishing the IBDP Biology 5.4 workbook on cladistics as well as a powerpoint, shown below, which I will be teaching the week after next.

Download (PDF, 18.57MB)

the powerpoint:

Download (PPT, 12.56MB)

I have subsequently found a clip from BBC Inside Science about the Kakapo which I will use to introduce the topic of biodiversity and cladistics

In the afternoon I drove over to College Du Leman to attend an admissions talk from Oxford University. Here were my notes:

Oxford

No 1 in Europe or no2 in the world after caltech

Do they have a course that is right for you – got to be something you love and are passionate about

8 weeks. 40% more work – academic challenge are you ready for the academic challenge

High predicted grades

Academic and theoretical courses

Broad and compulsory courses at the start then students have more choice becoming more specialised

Joint courses are also available although not pick and mix

Normally these add on languages

Course vs career

60% of jobs do not specify the types of degree  you need

Careers service website

Tutorials the heart of the Oxford learning experience

Supervision at Cambridge

Weekly meeting – tutor talk about what you have read and essays that have been written. Got to love your subject. You have to talk and have to do your reading.

Choose course first, choose college or open application. Start UCAS application early deadline 15th October test registration written work and tests. 2 weeks notice for interview. Usually first 2 weeks of December results announced in January. Choose firm and insurance choices

Looking at possible academic ability and potential. Genuine subject interest need to be demonstrated outside of school and a suitability for chosen course

Don’t look at particular students or schools or don’t look at irrelevant extra curricular activities don’t look for well rounded individuals just in relation to the course unless it’s super curricular those that demonstrate subject interest

38-40 depending on course 6or7 in higher level subjects these are minimum requirements

Personal statements

Plan it over the summer first

Sell yourself

Check spelling

Check grammar

Be honest

80% academic – what have you done in school and out of school to demonstrate your subject interest

Work experience, future plans, extra curricular should focus on transferable skills

Tests stretch and challenge you used for interview shortlisting.

May want to see some written work to

Practise the past papers tests are timed

Interview lasts 2 or 3 days can be 2nd 3rd or 4th.

Test self motivation and ability to think independently. Tutorial rehearsal. Want to see how they problem solve. Practice thinking out loud. Speak about why they think certain things. Practice expressing thoughts verbally.

Everything is looked at as a whole. Engage and explore your subject. Listening to podcasts, reading and watching.

After the admissions talk I drove back to school for a meeting with my line manager and programme coordinators to discuss the school policy for allowing students time off lessons to attend visiting university presentations and days off to attend open days.

Friday

Earth Day. A humiliating start to the day when at 0805 a senior colleague frantically runs over to the coffee machine as myself and another colleague are helping ourselves to the days first beverage and says “We need to turn this off; we are sending a terrible message to the kids”. I assume that they were talking about the electricity the machine was using and not the fact that we were guzzling coffee before we could even greet each other in the morning…

Today I introduced my grade 11 DP students to microbiology and aseptic techniques. I used the following protocols taken from the nuffield foundation website to run the practical:

1st An introduction to Aseptic techniques

Download (PDF, 331KB)

2nd An introduction to making streak plates

Download (PDF, 229KB)

We didn’t actually use any live bacteria in the practical but my technician had prepared a pretend inoculation mixture of sterile water.

Students were able to follow the instructions for the first part very well but when it came to streak plating they showed a reluctance to read the protocol (an ongoing phenomena I have observed this year – I don’t think I have ever taught a class so resistant to reading and following instructions).

The protocols could do with modifying to make them more student friendly.

After this the rest of my day was spent on international award planning. This time, I was checking and recce’ing the routes and checkpoints for our bronze qualifying journey as it will be in a new location this year. Last year we took the students to Verbier, but the terrain was far too difficult for this level and the team ended up very demotivated. So this year we are taking them to the Valleé du Joux in Vaud. I spent most of the day in the area, hiking up to checkpoints I identified and photographing them.

Back at school around 3pm I was able to upload the pictures and prepare the checkpoint handouts that we will give to students along with the maps and route cards so that they can plan their own routes through the checkpoints.

With the campsite for the expedition now booked all that remains is to give the materials to the students and create the actual checkpoint cards, with the photographs, so that we can give these out to our students.