The streets of Taipei were animated last weekend, as households all over the city welcomed their deceased relatives back for Ghost Month. I hope all of our Taiwanese community enjoy the festivities that the month will bring. The food and joss money offerings to the visiting ghosts of relatives are a sign of the respectfulness inherent in Taiwanese society, and they remind me every year of how lucky I am to live here among you.
Not being by any means a specialist in local customs, I will now return to discussing subjects I know a little bit more about! Those of you who visit the primary campus will no doubt have noticed that our CP classrooms had a dramatic facelift this summer. While it is true they look very pretty, as you can well imagine, there is a lot more to it than simple aesthetics; everything about the classrooms has been overhauled – how we teach within their walls, and especially how we learn there. CP seemed like a good year group for us to start with, to bridge the link between infant and junior schools and to continue the learning stations method the children are familiar with from PS, MS and GS.
Our starting point was this: in our classrooms, we would like to see the children busy at work, not the teachers. In order to do that we decided for example to imagine fewer chairs in the classroom than students, so that the teacher would not find themselves “giving class” in front of 20 passive children, supposedly listening (the fewer chairs idea was nothing to do with budget cuts as certain jokers have insinuated!).
Sarah Corsin and Andria Spring, the two CP teachers, accompanied by Carine Capel designed geometrically different classrooms, with modular furniture that can be adapted to teaching objectives. Students rotate from activity to activity – each one a different format – individual, with a partner, in small groups, in large groups – sitting upright, standing, lying, sitting cross-legged, crouched up high, rotating on specially designed stools and lightly bouncing on yoga balls. In classrooms like these, the role of the teacher is different – symbolised by the lack of the usual imposing teacher’s desk. The teachers now accompany children through their activities, guiding them from one station to the other. They literally have more room to move around, to check in with each student and give them individual feedback on their work.
Learning to read is a crucial aspect of the year in CP, in French and in English. We want reading to be something our students enjoy – not just when they start to learn, but for the rest of their lives. That is why, both of the CP classrooms have specially designed, fun, comfortable reading areas where the children can dive into books and learn to read for pleasure.
We will be assessing the outcome of the project over the coming months. It’s a big investment – the FSPA made a substantial donation to help with it this year – but if the feedback is positive, we would like to extend the transformation to the rest of our classrooms – in primary and in secondary, where the construction of phase 3 of ESC will allow us to rethink classroom spaces.
The first impressions, after only three weeks are clear and positive: more space to move around the classroom, greater opportunities to work in learning stations, and aesthetically pleasing, welcoming learning spaces. The CP children already feel perfectly at home.
The only downside, if one has to be found, is that some of primary teachers are bickering over who gets to be next (and some of the students are too!).
Have an excellent weekend!