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The journey begins with fascinating dialogue

The International School of Como’s Deputy Principal Jane Whittle reflects on the skills educators need to master when teaching remotely and her experience hosting a virtual practicum for student-teachers in partnership with the University of Dundee.

The journey begins with fascinating dialogue

To learn more about the impact that the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is having on education, we connected with educators, student-teachers and schools.  You can find more perspectives from this series here.

Has COVID-19 (Coronavirus) changed the way you train and hire educators?

Jane Whittle: It has been very interesting hearing from candidates about how their establishments have approached virtual learning and how each candidate has personally adjusted to a new way of teaching. While we, at  the International School of Como, have not changed our hiring process, we have ensured that educators have a reasonable grasp of technology and can align to the IB philosophy as well as our philosophy on virtual learning. During our orientation period with new staff, we will train educators on our virtual learning systems and work together as a Primary Years Programme (PYP) team on three aspects―considering lessons learned from virtual school, understanding what can be brought from virtual school into the classroom to enhance teaching and learning, and ensuring we are prepared for any possible re-entry into virtual school.

What additional skills have become important to look for in an educator?

Flexibility is always a key skill, but it has become more important than ever. Within this, the ability to adapt teaching styles and reflect on how to bring the PYP to life in a virtual setting is essential.  We have also looked for educators with a passion for or experience in outdoor learning as we aim to be outside as much as possible.

Would you consider hosting student-teachers again in a virtual setting?

“I was thoroughly impressed in their formative assessments of the students and their support―they really did become part of the school community”.

Most definitely yes! This was a unique and fascinating journey for all members involved. The students adored having new audiences in their Zoom lessons and always wanted to give their best. As one of the teachers being observed, I also had to think very carefully about the teaching and learning strategies I was demonstrating to ensure the student-teachers saw good IB practice.

For the student-teachers, I think the dialogue that came about after lesson observations was important in terms of reflecting―they often noticed things I missed, and this was an invaluable formative assessment. The help the student-teachers gave in finding online resources was also very important, as this was a very time-consuming part of virtual school.

We now have these resources in our planners for future years. Ensuring the student-teachers were part of the planning process was also important for them to understand the context of each unit. I was thoroughly impressed in their formative assessments of the students and their support―they really did become part of the school community. The parents also responded positively to the experience and all teachers involved were very happy to have new energy and ideas within our community. This opportunity taught me so much about how technology can open so many more opportunities to demonstrate the PYP, develop dialogues and foster stronger relationships with researchers, such as those at Dundee University.

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Jane Whittle is the deputy principal at the International School of Como. She also serves as the head of primary and the Primary Years Programme (PYP) coordinator.

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