North-South buddy-schools

Friday 29 August 2014

So what does that title mean? Let me explain...

During an exchange of emails with Natasha Hanzelic of Carey Baptist Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia, the idea emerged of setting up links between pairs of English B schools, one in the Northern hemisphere and one in the Southern hemisphere. Such a link would make possible a number of benefits of mutual support :-

(i) exchanging exam papers (May papers to the November session school, and vice versa) - which would not only keep each school up to date with the latest exam style, but would also usefully solve the problem of providing mock exams ... just use the latest paper, which your students will almost certainly not have seen!

(ii) exchanging samples of the WA and oral IA assessments, for discussion with students - the school that was 'ahead' (i.e. just finishing the assessment procedures) would send two or three samples of each to the school that was just starting. To illustrate, in April, the May-session school will have finished work on the WA and the IA, but the November-session school will just be getting down to serious work on these procedures. Such samples will have to be of practice, or preparation, work; and should properly be anonymised ... the whole point would be for your students to learn from peer-produced work which can be considered impersonally, without hurting anyone's feelings.

(iii) possibly, exchanging student-based advice - those who've already had to deal with assessment tasks advising and counselling 'younger' students about how to go about the business?? OK, there could be problems here - the school providing such advice would have to be very careful about which students were to advise, and even about exactly what advice was given. The advantage is the old trick of selling good ideas through the fact that students are sometimes more likely to listen to good advice from their peer-group than from the boring old teacher. This advice should probably be done by Q & As transmitted by email - through the teacher's email?

(iv) more generally, establishing student-to-student links, particularly as the basis for class activities. Such activities could be, for instance, conducting a questionaire about student views in the other school / country / hemisphere ... or online interviews ... or writing a shared blog about student life on the other side of the planet ... or ... ? This would surely provide lots of opportunities for engagement in intercultural exploration and understanding.

It would be very important for schools participating in such a scheme to be clear about exactly what level of commitment was involved. Simply put, the four suggestions given above would define the level, from Simple - idea (i) only ... to Complex - all four ideas, if possible. I would also suggest that it is wise to stick to pairs of schools - better to have a good productive relationship with one other teacher, than attempt to satisfy commitments to three or four other schools ... agreed?

How can we get this going? I am happy to act as a clearing-house, to put interested teachers in touch with each other. Once you are in touch with another teacher in another school, you should negotiate personally what level of commitment suits you best. So ...

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