Back to School, Back to School…

Well, I thought I’d better sit down and write out a blog post about my new job… because looking back over our last few posts, I bet some of you are beginning to wonder if I am actually doing any work here. The answer is… now I am!

I am now through my orientation at ISB and I have to say I love it here. The administration and teachers (new and current) have been so, so friendly and supportive.  From the introduction on the first day (that I went sprinting out of as the kick-off of a 24 hour stomach bug), I have been slowly sipping the kool-aid and finding myself aligning more and more with the approach and culture of ISB. Some things are the same or similar to my previous teaching experiences and some things are very different. I am embracing both.

The biggest change for me is not having an assigned classroom. The overall feel is more like that of being a professor at a community college. I have a desk in a shared office space called a “Collaboration Room” with the other Foreign Language and Learning Support teachers. Then, for each of my teaching blocks, I rotate between different classrooms based on class size, needs, etc.  The walls here are glass so that learning is always visible and some of them slide open or roll up like garage doors to create new learning spaces. Very different from my cinderblock walls last year!

Testing, scores, and explicitly taught content is not the primary focus here and I find that so refreshing. The school founds its teaching and assessment practices based on Learning Principles such as “Students can learn how to learn” and “Learning occurs in rich and relevant contexts.” There are also 8 Human Commonalities that planning is centered around in order to teach the whole student in terms of character and concepts. Some of these commonalities include living with purpose, our physical well-being, connecting to nature, creatively responding to the world, group membership, and discovering universal laws and processes. It all sounds very heady and ambitious but I appreciate that ISB is concerned with turning out well rounded, thinking, contributing members of the global society rather than good test takers.

One surprise for me is not having a Smart Board or Promethean Board. In a way, I am shocked to not have the technology available to me but in another way, I find it refreshing to be forced to find different ways to teach ELD. The idea is to avoid having technology for the sake of technology which I understand but it will definitely be an adjustment to use a regular projector and screen!

The students started yesterday and I have a primarily Japanese speaking roster. Very different from the 11-12 different languages I had in my classroom last year! I have loved meeting them and am eager to get started on our new adventure together. I also have an advisory period with mainstream students and a service learning project I am to facilitate! For now, I am trying to learn as much as possible about my new school and stepping into my new role as Head of Department. I’ve been told I have big shoes to fill but I am ready for the challenge!

International School of Brussels

International School of Brussels

The rest of my time here so far has been filled with curriculum workshops, HR meetings, a day trip to Brugge, a tour of Brussels, and getting familiarized with the school. We have already made great friends and the feeling that ISB is like family is definitely starting to sink in. We meet these folks for dinners, little adventures, furniture assembling, wine tasting in farmers’ markets, and coffee. Week nights or weekend nights don’t really seem to matter and we are ready to help each other out in any way we can! Slightly reminiscent of our time in the military: genuinely good people willing to be there for anything and everything.

I’ll keep you all updated as the school year gets into full swing with tidbits about my students and my classes. Thanks for all the love and support from afar! Keep your fingers crossed for me next week!