In Our Words

Sharing a Lifelong Passion for Learning
Sharing a Lifelong Passion for Learning

Sharing a Lifelong Passion for Learning

- by Middle School Vice Principal, Susie Clifford

After our last Professional Learning day at YIS, my son asked me "Well, what did you learn today?" and when I told him some of my learning, he asked "And why are you learning about that?" I went on to explain to him that all the learning we do as teachers is to improve student learning. And at YIS, we have authentic and exciting professional opportunities so we can develop, improve and refine what we do in our classrooms every day.

This simple conversation with my son made me reflect: one of our greatest strengths is the expertise we have in our own faculty. Our focus over the last few years has been "Learning from Each Other," and we have intentionally created learning opportunities to draw on the experience and knowledge we have as experienced educators. This has included workshops about catering for students' English language development, led by David Schneer, our MS/HS English Language Acquisition teacher to learning about effective presentations and creative communication from Joe Martinez, our Team Leader of design and visual arts. Our teachers also run sessions within their departments and grade levels to ensure we are regularly having inspiring and focused conversations about teaching and learning. Our trust and confidence in each other means we can be open to challenging, professional dialogue about pedagogy. Conversations take place over lunch, in the corridors, in our meetings and through structured professional learning opportunities.


Making connections in our region is an important part of developing our expertise. We work closely with other schools in Japan to discuss learning, programs, research and pedagogy. Whilst we have a wide range of expertise on staff, we do acknowledge the importance of connecting with those in our shared context and culture. External professional development with others in the region allows us to reflect on our practises and learn from others. We are able to share the cost of visiting experts and examine the latest research on learning with a wider range of educators. We visit other schools and many teachers come to YIS to learn about what we do.. These conversations are essential improving student learning at YIS.

We have Professional Learning systems at YIS that intentionally focus on teachers' individual learning. We work closely with the leaders in our school, as well as in groups to pursue our own lines of inquiry. Based on the needs of our students and our professional expectations as educators, we develop goals, action plans and choose professional development to improve as educators. Author Daniel Pink outlines key factors in motivation to include autonomy, mastery and purpose. The beauty for teachers is that our purpose is clear: we are helping each student to achieve their potential. Providing situations for teachers that give us autonomy in our learning and allow us to develop mastery caters to our intrinsic desire to improve. The Professional Learning systems at YIS are designed knowing we have teachers with a high level of expertise, knowledge and experience and incorporate our understanding of how people best learn.

Complementing our regional and school networks are professional learning experiences throughout Asia and in other parts of the world. Many of our teachers lead other professionals in their development and learning. Recently, many members of our leadership team attended Learning 2.0 in Vietnam where Katy Vance and Adam Clark led sessions. This conference examined the ever-changing role of technology in the classroom, focusing on innovation and creativity in pedagogy. Driven by our Learning Support team, YIS is hosting SENIA (Special Education Needs in Asia) in February, bringing together and facilitating conversations for experts around ASIA. Individuals & Societies Team Leader Rebekah Madrid recently visited a school in Australia to consult and lead discussions around Project-Based Learning. We have many of our teachers presenting and leading workshops at EARCOS and International Baccalaureate conferences. Our teachers share their expertise and knowledge, as well as use these opportunities to continually refine and improve what they do in our classrooms at YIS.

So the next time my son asks about my own learning I can tell him specifically about the conversations we have at YIS to make each student's learning experience the best it can be, and to truly do all we can to help each student achieve their potential. As parents and teachers, we can be wonderful role models. We can show our children and students our passion for learning, the joy we get from becoming better at what we do and the fun we have when we learn together.

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