Monday 18 January 2021

Guest Blog: Navigating this Pandemic

Middle Years IMYC Virtual Learning

Written by Rico Chow, Principal of Secondary at Verita International School in Romania

“We’re building the plane as we’re flying it”, “This is an unprecedented year”, “Mute your mics”, I’m sure you’ve all heard of these phrases countless times in your staff meetings, school newsletters, PLCs, and so forth. But we keep saying these cliche phrases because it really has been and still is a crazy year for education! As educators, we were trained and signed up to teach in the classroom. Sure, we’ve been taught to integrate educational technology into our classes, but to teach in a hybrid or completely virtual setting, and to this extent? This is indeed an “unprecedented year”. Apologies. 

The fact is there’s no playbook for teachers or administrators in terms of how to teach online and during a pandemic. This has never been done before. Everyone is figuring it out as they move along. Cut yourself some slack, there is no “right” way to do things at the moment!

As I share my experience as a secondary school principal and how my team has been delivering the IMYC virtually, I want to stress the importance of context. Context is a critical element we, as educators, must take into account when aim to elevate the teaching and learning in our schools.

Virtual Learning

In my own context in Bucharest, Romania, we have been completely virtual since mid- October and will be all the way through to mid- January. For our IMYC students, we focused on a flipped learning approach. We initially started with five 30 minutes lessons daily from 9:30- 13:30 and independent learning/ teacher office hours from 13:30- 15:00. As we moved forward, we found 30 minutes to be a bit too short, even for a flipped learning approach. We have since adjusted it to 40 minute periods and this has been a much welcome addition for students, parents, and teachers. 

In our virtual learning program, we mainly use the G Suite for Education (Google Classroom, Google Meets, Hangouts, Google Calendar, etc.). Students have their live classes in Google Meets, complete their work via Google Classroom, and schedule one on one appointments with their teachers in Google Calendar. Despite being online, our students and teachers found the office hours to be of most value. The fact that teachers can now spend time meeting with students on a one to one basis has helped a lot in delivering the IMYC.

Upholding the IMYC and the Big Idea

One of the core reasons we are still able to deliver the IMYC in a virtual setting is through consistent communication and collaboration between teachers. Utilising horizontal unit planning and an IMYC committee was also key to still being able to do entry points and exit points in a virtual setting. 

The great thing about the IMYC units and the curriculum, in general, is the flexibility of it. We were able to adapt the units we had planned to an online setting quite effortlessly. Perhaps one of the best things about the IMYC is its focus on the Big Idea. The Big Idea really allows teachers to seamlessly modify and accommodate the current landscape of education.

Exit Points

Exit points were something that we omitted last year as we did not feel prepared to do it justice in a virtual setting. However, we have since learned that exit points do not always have to be big and extravagant, in our own context at least. We found a way that worked for us this year, which was seeing it as work in progress of adapting it virtually, rather than finalizing a specific structure.

For our first virtual IMYC exit point, our IMYC Coordinator, Georgeta Gherghinoiu, and the committee decided to keep it simple. Students reflected on the big idea in their IMYC reflection journals and utilised this entry to create their own exit point. Students were assigned a mentor who met with them virtually to check-in and provide support each day. In the end, all of their exit points were posted on a Google Site our IMYC Coordinator put together for an asynchronous presentation! Please find a few of the exit points below!

Year 7- Adaptability

https://drive.google.com/file/...

A student decided to create their own guided meditation to help people adapt during this difficult period.

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Year 8- Relationship

“This is the drawing that I did for my IMYC exit point. It represents the relationship between a dog and a girl that both have heterochromia. Heterochromia is a condition where you have 2 different coloured eyes. In this drawing, you can clearly see the relationship and bond that the owner and the pet have, but also their similar appearances.”- Year 8 Student

A Year 9 student who decided to create a brochure on unhealthy relationships to raise awareness, especially when everything is now virtual.

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Year 9- Responsibility

https://drive.google.com/file/...

A humorous infomercial a Year 9 student-created to highlight what they’ve learned during the Responsibility unit, utilising the persuasive language they’ve learned in English and video editing skills in ICT. 

This was a Manga story, which the student both wrote and drew herself to highlight the theme of responsibility. Here is a backstory of the artwork and story. 

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Find out more about the International Middle Years Curriculum