Thursday, 19 September 2013

What does it mean to be internationally minded?

The concept of 'international mindedness' is a relatively new one in education. It has increased in importance as our world has become smaller, travel more accessible and world wide events having an impact on our daily lives.

In a place such as Hong Kong, a place that we think of as cosmopolitan, with a very wide range of ethnic groups- we have over 50 nationalities in our school, we have the perfect opportunity to explore the concept of being internationally minded and right from Year 1, give our students the chance to see and appreciate a wider world than just their own.

We have had lots of discussion what this means and around how we define this concept. Ultimately, we have adopted the IB's definition, which seeks to promote "intercultural understanding and respect, not as an alternative to a sense of cultural and national identity, but as an essential part of life in the 21st century". The first sentence of the IB's mission statement therefore reads:

"The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

The aim of the PYP is for our students become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right."

Being internationally minded is not something you can teach in a lesson, it is an attitude, a way of thinking and being, of accepting other ways of thinking and doing are equally as valid as our own.
At Bradbury, we teach international mindedness as a concept, it permeates much of what we do as a way of being and thinking. It is my hope that while our students can appreciate cultural differences, they do not use them to make judgements or to perpetuate stereotypes, that they see their fellow students simply as peers and friends.

Last week, our Year 6 students, as part of their Unit of Inquiry, in which the central idea was
'International mindedness can provide an insight into the beliefs and values of others', held an international day, where students wore their national costumes and brought along food from their culture. It made for really fascinating conversation about where food was from (did the pavlova originate in NZ or Australia?), how it was made, and about names of food, for example I learned that round sweets in India are called 'ladoo' because of their shape. The students were asked to reflect on what they had noted about the food- similarities and differences. It was very interesting to see what they said, some of their reflections were quite sophisticated!

Of course, food and costumes are quite a shallow look at cultural differences, the concept is much deeper and richer than that. It includes things such as personal space, the concept of 'self', non verbal communication eg body language, attitude towards elders, ideas around adolescence, the list goes on!

Living as we do in an interconnected world, where global issues affect us all, we need our students to be creative, to be able to see and solve problems from multiple perspectives. As it is our current students who will have to face and solve these problems in the future, we need them to be able to move away from the idea of 'self' to that of 'other'.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Music as a way to change the world!

I recently came across this article about songs that had changed the world.

While I don't know all of the songs, the idea of music as a form of social currency is one that fascinates me.

Of particular interest is the way in which music, both composition and instrumental mastery has become amazingly accessible to our students. When I went to school, unless you could play an instrument, the opportunity to create and perform music was pretty much out of reach, actually, for me, totally out of reach and it was something completely out of my range of possibility. It took me many years before I realised that I could list 'music' as an interest while not being able to play anything or read music fluently.

Here at Bradbury, and in many other schools all around the globe, this is no longer true, thanks to advances in technology. Programmes such as Garage Band allow our students access to a whole world of musical opportunity without the restriction of being musically illiterate. Students can compose, layer, produce and perform music with varying levels of musical competence, producing some impressive material in the process! I will just make the point though, that an understanding of music- phrasing, timbre, rhythm and so on, is still important and is taught still, it is just now that this knowledge can be applied by so many more. I sat through endless compulsory music lessons in high school with absolutely no outlet to apply what I was learning.

Music has always been a form of social currency, used to reinforce political and social messages, dancing its way into our heads with catchy tunes and quietly altering our attitudes as we have sung along. This means that this form of political and social voice is available to a much wider audience at a much younger age. Add to the technologies that make this possible, the social media opportunities and you have a pretty powerful tool!

Our Year 6 students have used their own compositions to reinforce the social responsibility message contained in The Exhibition. They produced their own songs with a passion and dedication worthy of all songwriters. I'm not sure that they realise the power that they have, quite literally in their fingertips, but it is certainly not something that was available to me and, for that matter, for many of us, until quite recently.

Is this a good thing? In my opinion, like many things, it is neither innately good or bad, it is how it is used. What is good though, is that these opportunities are given to our students. They are a reflection of the times we live in and the skills our children need to possess. While I do think it is highly unlikely one of our Bradbury students will produce a song in Mr Clothier's class that will change the world, I do think that the world has changed and in the future...why not?

These photos were taken last year in a music workshop run by Marcel Pusey, who wrote the 'O Generator', which is a computer based composition programme.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Socialising at school

It is the Bradbury School Picnic tonight, an event that I look forward to and very much enjoy. This is when school families come along to school with nothing more than a picnic and a rug, ready just to meet and mingle and get to know other school families in what is a very laid back, easy event. We have live music and that's it! No need to spend money, to bring along or prepare donations of food or goods- the only agenda is a social one.

I very much enjoy the parent body that we have at Bradbury. It is a strong community of people who value education and our school. We do many things that otherwise we would be unable to do- trips, activities, smaller learning groups, without the dedicated support of all of you. So this short blog is a thank you and to let you know that we do not take it for granted. Your support is valued by us all here at Bradbury.

Partnership with parents is a cornerstone belief for our school. I recently came across this article...see what you think!