Exactly one year ago, as everyone in my department got ready for the IB re-evaluation visit, we all shared one perspective about this experience: we were going to dig as deep as we could in the archive of learning and teaching experiences we had documented for the last 3 years. It was very clear to us that evidence was found and not fabricated, and therefore we threw ourselves into a historical journey in which we came to see why we are who we are at present.
Coming across the 2010 department’s curriculum map outlook, felt like we had found the origin of our evolution, for each of the years ahead clearly showed a step forward towards the construction of the nicely aligned conceptual map we now have in the MYP Language Acquisition Department. When we looked at the monitoring samples archived, each with its feedback along side, we were able to see how we have truly learned to appreciate processes and not products, for even the samples of student work we have saved demonstrate how sensitized we have become about aspects of the teaching-learning experience such as differentiation, focus on specific competencies, and the exploration of different learning environments.
The report includes praise for the diverse repertoire of ‘ learning territories’ we have explored; for the various processes in which we have shaped the learning experience; for the ample range of teaching and learning strategies we have implemented and fostered; for the attitude towards using authentic resources for each of the languages that we teach; but most importantly, for our approach to foreign language teaching: prioritizing the use of language as a vehicle for learning and accessing information, not just as the accumulation of vocabulary and structures.
While it’s truly gratifying to read this praise, we also need to understand the responsibility it implies. If we have succeeded making this foreign language teaching a lifelong learning experience for all of us, teachers, we must clearly take it to a different level. I am aware of the new opportunities that will unfold thanks to this plateau from where we will take off this year, and it is my belief that this is how the spiral of learning continues to evolve upwards and also enriching itself from the peripheries around it.
Moreover, similar to the experience of recovering from a certain illness, we will need to use this vitality to generate new paradigms in the instruction of foreign language at our school. The idea of ‘this is how we did it last year and it worked’ should only be a consideration and not a formula, for we now have the responsibility of adding a new level to the structure of our learning experience. The side effects of good learning also include observing new understandings that are blossoming as a result of our previous crops, so it is also our job to see them grow fruitfully.
In the Language Acquisition department of Ecole Mondiale, we have learned the value of observing how things are done differently, and how each manner indicates a different path for the learning experience. We are fully aware of the importance of an eclectic array of resources and processes in order for learning to be diversified and to go beyond the walls of our subject. We are now married with a very positive attitude of collaboration: from the moment an idea is gestated in a unit, to the occasions when we start generating resources. But most importantly, despite the fact that 5 tongues are taught in our school, we speak the same language, and are ready to truly live the experience of teaching and learning in a relevant environment where each stage of the process matter for both teachers and students.