Saturday, August 17, 2013

Is it Authentic?

On a recent trip to the Mall of Arabia in Jeddah my family and I accidentally found a New Zealand Natural Ice Cream parlor. I say accidentally because we found this shop on the bottom floor of the Mall next to shops we never knew existed. When you are living overseas you really appreciate the simple things that remind you of home and we were very excited about our find.  Initially, we were slightly skeptical because we've tasted food that can be purchased from home and it didn't taste quite like we are used to.

My first thought:

Is it authentic? suggests that authentic means not false or copied; genuine; real.

Yes it was! The ice-cream tasted exactly like the type we would get in New Zealand. There's something quite unique about New Zealand ice-cream especially in comparison to ice-cream in Saudi Arabia (and other countries). New Zealand ice-cream tastes full and creamy and the texture is smooth. This experience got me thinking about authenticity in the classroom. I've been reading up on the PYP Program of Inquiry, the curriculum approach I will be using in my role as Kindergarten Teacher at TKS.

I've come across a number of quotes that have jumped out at me, resonated with my personal philosophy of teaching and very close to what I hold dear in my teaching practice. The most challenging thing I have had to get used to in my new International Teaching context is the break up of the day. The children have single-subject classes. They have two sessions a week outside out my classroom and attend another class such as Arabic, Islamic Studies, Physical Education, Performing Arts, Library and possibly Art.  How wonderful to have a teacher who is passionate about Performing Arts working with your class and sharing with them the important aspects of their subject. The only thing I find difficult about this type of programme is the number of times I have to 'stop or interrupt' the child's play and the 'managing' of transitions.

At Play and Learn (where I worked for ten years) we really valued offering a programme that limited the interruptions to children's play sessions. Children were encouraged to engage in experiences that they were interested in, they had the choice to be inside or outside when they chose (even in the rain as long as they were dressed appropriately), they were encouraged to self-regulate their eating and sleeping habits. They ate when they were hungry and slept when they were tired (often monitored by adults by way of suggestion e.g. you look like you could use some energy, perhaps you should eat something) . Children were asked to take responsibility of their learning areas so when they had finished they were asked to tidy up. Teachers facilitated learning alongside them and observed children's interactions, very much like the quote below encourages us to do. In essence, the days were not formally structured - we did not stop for mat-time, lunch time or any other times.
"analyse the interactions within a group, discover the student's strengths and difficulties, and reflect on the effectiveness of the practices used to implement the programme of inquiry and other classroom experiences" - excerpt from Making the PYP Happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education, p.47.
As I prepare for my new class and a new timetable of classes I have the notion of 'uninterrupted play' in mind. How can I make the most of opportunities to 'observe and discover children's strengths and difficulties' and how can I use these observations to inform my practice and curriculum. How can I ensure that my programme is authentic and conducive to their interests - not what I think their interests are? Here's to an interesting year ahead.

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