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Lower School Wonderings

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a blog series by Lower School Principal, Mrs. Trina Haygaru

As a personal goal during my time at the International School, I’ve sought to increase my level of communication.  I’ve thought a lot about how to do that and have gotten advice from our marketing and development departments, teachers and parents.  In response to this advice, I’ve started a blog called Lower School Wonderings.  Very often in my communication with parents, I hear, “Ms. Trina I was wondering about…”  I thought if one parent is wondering then there are probably more parents with the same question. If you have a suggestion for a Lower School Wonderings post please let me know and I’ll add it to the list of ideas.

 

Post #2, April 12, 2018

Dear ISI Families,

I hope you had a lovely Spring Break. The children have had lovely stories of Disney, cousins, airplanes and spending time with loved ones. Many of the stories were set in much warmer climates and it made me a bit jealous, as I was in Madison, Wisconsin with snow and ice. I spent the week at the University of Wisconsin – Madison attending a training at the Center for Healthy Minds.

Since the vision of the center is “A kinder, wiser, more compassionate world”, they are the perfect partners for our work with the International Baccalaureate on the development of a Compassionate Framework in our Units of Inquiry. Larissa Duncan is one of the staff chairs at the center and was here at the International School of Indiana in August with Mette Boell conducting training with our teachers.

The center sponsored a week-long training with Claire Petitmengin on Micro-Phenomenology. Ms. Petitmengin is Professor Emeritus at the Institut Mines-Télécom and member of the Archives Husserl (Ecole Normale Supérieure) in Paris. Her research focuses on the usually unrecognized micro-dynamics of lived experience and micro-phenomenological methods enabling us to become aware of it and describe it. The training focused on how to do interviews with people to gain more detailed information about their experiences. The interviewer helps lead the interviewee to find out why and how they do things. This has many wonderful applications for learning. One of the goals of education is to help children develop metacognitive skills so they are aware and in control of their learning. As educators, we have very few strategies to help us with this lofty task. Micro-Phenomenology could be very useful in this pursuit.

I first met Claire and started learning about Micro-Phenomenology in the fall of 2017 at MIT. The first idea I had regarding the application of this method was with the way I speak to children when they have had a conflict. I’m sure you can all relate to this conversation;

Student: “Ms. Trina! Ms. Trina! Betty hit me!”
Me: “Ok tell me what happened.”
Student: “Well I was just playing by myself and she came up and hit me and said she wasn’t my friend anymore.”
Me: “Do you know why Betty hit you?”
Student: “No, I didn’t do anything.”

While this scenario can happen, it is usually not the case. In most of these situations, both children have played a role in the conflict. The student will describe everyone else’s actions in clear detail and have an extremely hard time focusing on their role in the conflict. This is why you can ask a million times, “What did you do?” and a child will say, “Nothing.” Or you will ask “Why did you do that?” and your child will answer, “I don’t know.” I’m sure at some point in your interactions with children you have had one of these frustrating conversations.

After starting to learn about Micro-Phenomenology, I changed the way I ask children about behavior. I still start by asking them to tell me what happened because they are often in an emotional state and they need to feel heard and have an opportunity to express the distress they are feeling. After they have had time to tell me about everyone else in the situation, I start to ask them questions about themselves that help them remember and focus on their own actions. I may ask them to tell me what they were doing just before the incident happened, where they were, what were their hands doing, what were their feet doing, were they standing, sitting, running, were they saying anything? These types of questions allow the child to think about a less emotional time since it is immediately before the incident. They are able to focus on themselves. I have found children are able to identify their behavior in this way and we can start to work through the situation.

I believe the interview method also has a lot of potential to help children reflect on their learning. By asking the right questions, children can be guided to understand how they learn a skill, how they know they have learned something, and how they learn best. Too often our assessments of student learning come in pencil and paper form. If we can find effective methods that help us discover how children think about their learning, we have a wonderful opportunity to help them become deeper, more critical thinkers. I’m looking forward to sharing what I have learned with the teachers and the students.

If you would like to read more about Micro-Phenomenology please visit https://www.microphenomenology.com/home.

Thank you for taking the time to read my second blog post. I’m really enjoying the writing and have created a long list of topics I would like to share. Next post will be about Emergency procedures and drills. I’ve had several questions about those things lately and I thought it would make a good topic. Please email anytime with your own wonderings and suggestions.

All the best,
Lower School Principal
Trina Haygaru


Post #1, March 29, 2018

Dear ISI Families,

If you ask any teacher “What is one of the things you dislike about teaching?” many of them will reply, “Preparing Substitute Teacher Plans.” Teachers will drag themselves to work with a fever, rearrange doctor appointments, and put off going to the dentist for months to avoid writing sub plans.  I hated them myself as a teacher and can definitely sympathize. But as much as they try to avoid it, eventually a teacher has to be out of school.

There are basically three types of teacher absence, short-term middle of the day for appointments, internal meetings, staff development etc.  The second one is the planned, know about it way in advance leave, for out of school professional development, family business, maternity leave etc. Then the last kind and the trickiest, last minute illness, child illness, family emergency etc.

Finding a teacher to cover a class looks a little bit different in each of the three situations.  For short term, middle of the day coverage we often try to cover for each other. Teaching assistants may cover a class, Diana might (she has a degree in early childhood), it might be me, Stacy or Nella. Basically, we are all the children’s teachers and we move in and out of each other’s classrooms with the spirit of collaboration. Coverage for the planned absences are the easiest and if they are for more than a day or two we are able to notify parents and let you know who will be your child’s substitute teacher and for how long.  Then, of course, coverage for the last minute absence is the hardest.

Teachers who need to be absent at the last minute send a group text to Diana and me.  Diana goes through our list of substitute teachers and starts calling people to see if they are available.  Before our February break when we were passing around a stomach virus and the flu, our phones would start dinging at about 7:00 at night stop at about 10:00 pm and start again at 6:00 in the morning.  Then the fun would really begin. It is like putting a puzzle together. You think you have it all sorted out and another teacher calls in. We do the teacher shuffle a lot on these days and try to have the best-suited substitute teacher cover a class that matches their skill set.  

The first preference for a sub or for class coverage is to select a fully trained teacher who also speaks the language of the class.  As you can imagine this is also the hardest to find. Our second preference is to have a substitute who has experience working with children and speaks the language of the class but may not be a fully trained teacher.  It is important for the students to keep up with their language immersion and I believe it is more beneficial for them to be able to keep the language component going than to have a fully trained teacher who doesn’t speak the language.  The third preference is for a fully trained teacher who speaks English. We work very hard to keep a steady supply of substitute teachers employed. I recruit for these positions up to three times a year. Each candidate goes through an interview with me and completes a full background check.  The candidates then go through an orientation with Diana Torres and Mark Powers. After their background check has cleared, they spend a day with our teachers so they can evaluate their effectiveness and help to teach them about the routines of the school.

Our current list of substitute teachers:

  • Alicia Justice – Bachelor of Arts in Clinical Psychology.  Currently, a Butler student studying to become a School Guidance Counselor – English
  • Olivia Leigh – Bachelor degree in Languages and Intercultural Studies from Strasbourg University France – Bilingual English/French
  • Margarita Molteni – Masters degree from Instituto Universitario ESEADE, Buenos Aires, Argentina – Bilingual English/Spanish/ conversational French
  • Sandra Schwier – Studied at Universidad Juarez del Estado de Durango, Mexico – Bilingual English/Spanish

Recently some parents expressed the desire to be notified when their child has a substitute teacher.  This sounds like a wonderful idea and will work for the long term, planned absences. However, for last minute placements, it is not practical for us to notify parents and it would probably be well after school started before we would be able to get that information out.  I’m hoping by providing this information and giving the names of our substitute teacher pool, you will feel more comfortable on those occasions when your child does have a substitute teacher.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns please contact me.  

Warm regards,

Trina

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