Creating a Culture that Cares – a response

Tiffany Eaton articulates a strong personal statement of support for  new educational thinking in her post Creating a Culture that Cares at TimeSpaceEducation.

Her starting point is the stark contrast between two different types of experiences we have from one day to another as teachers. One is the moment when you look at a bunch of slack-jawed, apathetic kids and think, “What’s wrong with them? Why aren’t they interested in learning?’ And come on, we’ve all been there. Don’t lie. At these times you might sympathize or feel frustrated – probably a mixture of both. As Eaton puts it,

Surely kids are not innately programmed to sit on a dirty patch of carpet, cold flooring or at rigid desks and listen to us lecture about stuff that, quite frankly, they’re not interested in learning.

You get that – they’re children, not robots. But part of you still thinks, “Why not? Why hasn’t someone programmed these kids to sit on a patch of dirty carpet and be interested??’

And then there are those other times – perhaps rare, perhaps not, when it just takes off, and you can’t believe how independent the students are being, how passionate they are, how they’re organizing themselves and actually thinking… how at this moment you could just saunter along to the lounge, get a coffee, have a chat with a colleague, and they wouldn’t even notice you’d gone.

Hopefully we’ve all been there as well. If only, we think, it could always be like this. Or we think,

That’s it! I’ve made a breakthrough with these kids. From now on it’s going to be like this EVERY DAY!

And the next morning you’re back to the whole slack-jawed dirty-carpet scenario. Continue reading “Creating a Culture that Cares – a response”


TOK Inside Out

images-19I’m told the Theory of Knowledge course was not originally intended to be delivered by a separate TOK department in an IB school. It was intended to be delivered by everyone. (And still is).

Of course, no TOK department is separate – it consists of teachers most of whose time is spent delivering other Diploma courses. There are no specialist TOK teachers, because TOK is not a specialism. It doesn’t exist without (or outside) the Areas of Knowledge. It has a framework, but no content of its own. The course guide emphasizes that no TOK course can be comprehensive or should try to be, and teachers are encouraged to be selective and build their own distinctive courses.

When I started teaching TOK, the approach to the course in that particular school was rather compartmentalized, though probably pretty standard. Each TOK teacher was expected to spend several weeks dwelling on each Way of Knowing and then each Area of Knowledge in turn. While there is nothing wrong with a science teacher leading discussion on the arts, or a literature teacher sharing a perspective on science, constructing a whole course like that is pretty challenging. Every TOK teacher is going to be more confident working with some Areas of Knowledge than others.

You become a TOK teacher and you get some insight into what elementary teaching must be like – suddenly you’re the fount of all knowledge?

Continue reading “TOK Inside Out”