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What is your StGIS story? Episode 2

Our stories are an authentic expression of our culture, our values and our mission.

Our stories are our living memories. They are an authentic expression of our culture, our values and our mission. Whilst an organisational mission statement can summarize an approach or an ideal, a story is the embodiment of this. The passing on of stories is one of the oldest and earliest forms of education. Narrated by those who experienced them, we will be publishing a series of videos to capture these stories and provide a unique insight into life at StGIS. 

 

 

Our Teachers’ Hidden Talents! - 2nd Edition

Did you know my math teacher is also a chartered mathematician?

Interview between Eva-Sofia Meindl (Communications Prefect on Student Leadership Team) and Malcolm Williams (Head of Mathematics AND Chartered Mathematician). Mr Williams has been leading the Mathematics department at StGIS since 2016.

Have you heard the joke about the math teacher? Why should you worry about the math teacher holding graph paper? He is definitely plotting something.

This is definitely true for Mr Williams! There is always something exciting in his department; inspiring speakers, mathematics field trips, special mathematics evenings, or mathematics competitions; there is always a new challenge and plenty of support! His passion for education is recognised by his students and colleagues. 

Interviewer: You recently became part of the Chartered Mathematicians. What did getting this qualification entail?
Mr Williams: There are four aspects to it. Firstly, you need to know how children learn. I’ve spent my career working on that. Of course I’ve done teacher training, and how people learn is a big part of that; we’re thinking and discussing it all the time, so I felt qualified for that part. The second part was mathematics. I have a degree in that and I’ve been doing it all through my career, so I felt confident about that aspect. The third part is about experience. I’ve taught in three different schools in the UK before coming to StGIS and I’ve met lots of different students with different learning needs. And the last aspect, CPD, Continuing Professional Development, that’s something I’ve been doing as well. For example, I did a course called Thinking Mathematically with the Open University. I think as teachers we have to carry on learning because there’s always a subject we might not have seen before or an area we could improve on. So, having been confident that I met the requirements, I had to fill out a detailed application and write quite a lot about each aspect, detailing what experiences I have had and how I felt I met the criteria. I also needed two references before I received my certificate. What a ‘chartered mathematician’ really means is that you don’t just have the academic qualifications, but that you also have the experience and you continue to learn about teaching mathematics.

Interviewer: What is the process of continuing to learn and ‘keeping up’ with your subject as a maths teacher like?
Mr Williams: What’s different about maths is that we study things that have been discovered many, many years ago and of course the field is moving on but it’s way too complicated for anything we teach at school. The same ideas and concepts continue to lie at the heart of teaching mathematics, but what does change are the different methods of teaching it. New resources become available all the time. Kognity, for example, which we have chosen to use. You need to wrap your head around everything that’s available, which takes time. Another aspect is that syllabuses change; from September, there will be a whole new IB Mathematics curriculum. That’s something else that’s a part of professional learning since all of us will have to understand the new material thoroughly before teaching it.

Interviewer: How do you manage to balance personal learning alongside work?
Mr Williams: You need to take a short-term view and a long-term view. Some tasks are more urgent; I know I have to mark some things or prepare lessons this week. And then you need to leave some time for more long-term, less urgent but also important tasks. What we do in Maths is we have a department meeting every week. We try not to spend all that time on administration but instead use that time for long time planning and professional learning. Otherwise, everything would get on top of us.

Interviewer: What is your favourite thing about your subject?
Mr Williams: I think it’s really lovely when I come across something I hadn’t really thought about before. Or sometimes a student comes up with a way to solve a problem that perhaps isn’t the standard way or how I would have done it. Something else that’s really lovely is what we call ‘magic moments’, which is when someone works on a problem they really don’t understand and all of a sudden they say: ‘Oh, I get it now!’ That’s something you don’t have so much in other subjects.

Interviewer: What is the worst thing?
Mr Williams: I think the worst thing about teaching math is when people say: ‘Maths is really hard.’ Especially when parents say: ‘I was really bad at maths at school’, which doesn’t really fill their children with confidence. I believe it’s not harder than any other subject. How well a student does depends on their motivation.

Interviewer: Sometimes students are frustrated because they feel like there’s no real-life application for the things they are taught in maths. How do you respond to that?
Mr Williams: There is a sense in which maths is the most abstract of all the sciences. What we try to do is to give maths a context and to show how it can be applied to different situations. Sometimes they can be a bit contrived because really, the situations where you need to apply the kind of math we teach, students haven’t met yet. Giving mathematics a context that everyone can relate to is another challenge of teaching maths.

With gratitude to our talented Mr Williams! 

Our Teachers’ Hidden Talents! - 1st Edition

Did you know my physics teacher is also an award winning writer?

Interview between Eva-Sofia Meindl (Communications Prefect on Student Leadership Team) and Hannah Phillips (Teacher of Physics AND award winning writer). Mrs Phillips has been at StGIS since 2017, and comes with her husband, Jake Lynn (our Interdisciplinary Unit Coordinator) and their daughter Elsie. Earlier this year she was awarded with Kindle Storyteller Award 2018 for her book 'The Afterlife of Walter Augustus'.

Interviewer: Science and the arts are usually seen as opposites. Do you agree? 
Ms Phillips: They’re not opposites! You couldn’t make new scientific discoveries without being creative, so no, I think they are interlinked. 

Interviewer: Is that why the two seem to harmonise in your life?  
Ms Phillips: Yes – I think they do in everyone’s. Anybody who is artistic is also scientific and methodical in the way they go about improving their own work. If you aren’t analysing and evaluating what you’re doing, which are the key ideas behind science, then how do you progress as an artist? I don’t think you can. It bothers me when people categorise themselves as either ‘scientific’ or ‘arty’ – you can be both.  

Interviewer: Is the process of writing similar to how you would approach a problem in physics?  
Ms Phillips: When I write, I plan before I start and then spend a long-time editing, or ‘evaluating’ it, when I’m finished. Both involve a lot research, so there are a lot of parallels you can draw between them. 

Interviewer: You received the Kindle Storyteller award, how does it feel now that more people seem to be aware of your writing? 
Ms Phillips: People aren’t really more aware so it’s fine. *laughter* The award is fantastic but fortunately, my books are still very unknown. I think when you do win something, you are judged much more harshly. 

Interviewer: What was the process of receiving the award like?   
Ms Phillips: It was a bit scary – I didn’t really know what was going to happen. The other competitors and I had to be interviewed by the press and we then we had our photos taken. I didn’t really think I was going to win because the others were full-time, professional writers and I’m a physics teacher. Winning was a bit of a surprise. 

Interviewer: When do you find the time to write? 
Ms Phillips: Every morning, from 5:30 to 6:30. I don’t really do ‘free time’ so writing is my main hobby. 

Interviewer: You wouldn’t make it your full-time job? 
Ms Phillips: Not at the minute. I did my degree in physics and music because it gave me balance. Having more than one aspect in your life means that you can always switch off from something that might be frustrating at one point. Having the ability to move between writing and school helps to keep me sane – I use that term loosely.   *laughter*

Interviewer: Has teaching and the variety of people it exposes you to influenced your writing? 
Ms Phillips: I see a story in everyone. If I were to see a random person with a dog, I would wonder where the dog came from and whether it’s always belonged to them since it doesn’t seem to like them very much and so on. 

Interviewer: What are you currently working on? 
Ms Phillips: Like I said, the stories come to me endlessly so I thought I would work on a young adult novel but I don’t like sticking to genres. That’s probably why I’m not massively successful writer. Most authors, especially those who self-publish, only write thrillers or only young adult, for example. That’s how they build a fan base, whereas I just like to write stories. If I have an idea, I’m not bothered about what genre it fits into or whether its marketable. I had an idea for a young adult novel but I also feel that Medusa was treated unfairly in Greek mythology. I think she deserves  a retelling. 

Interviewer: Are those the two things you’re focusing on at the moment?  
Ms Phillips: No, there are lots of things I’m working on. I have the second book in a series coming out in December and the third book of that series now needs to go into editing. Medusa is planned – mostly in my head – even though I’m only about 20 000 words into the first draft, but I also have another idea I want to do. I pretend that I will definitely commit to one project but secretly, I work on whatever I feel like. 

We wish Mrs Phillips all the best for her future of inspiring young scientists, and inspiring young readers!

Class of 2017-2018 IBDP Results

The IBDP results are one measure of excellence and just one small (but important) story our students will tell as they continue another step along their path of excellence and onward with a lifelong love of learning.

We are extremely proud of all of our StGIS Graduates from the class of 2018. In addition to a full life at StGIS, packed with challenge, creativity, adventure, culture and fun, they have also completed one of the most rigorous and demanding educational programmes in existence: the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP).

The IBDP results are one measure of excellence and just one small (but important) story our students will tell as they continue another step along their path of excellence and onward with a lifelong love of learning.  

We are pleased to share with you the following wonderful news.

  • Of more than 150,000 IB graduates from around the world, 10 Diplomas, and 14 Bilingual Diplomas came from StGIS (pass rate significantly higher than the IB World Average at 96% and our highest in the past four years)
  • Our students achieved an average point score of 32 (higher than the IB world average)
  • 7 of our students earned an IBDP point score of 35 or higher out of a possible 45 (placing them in the top 25% of all graduates world wide) 
  • 2 of our students earned an IBDP point score of 40 or higher out of a possible 45 (placing them in the top 6% of all graduates world wide)
  • Our students secured places in some of the best universities in the world. Some of these include; University College London, UK; King’s College London, UK; Cenral Saint Martins, UK; IE University Madrid, Spain; Medical University of Vienna, Austria;

Statistics based on the ”IB Diploma Programme Statistical Bulletin: May 2017 Examination Session”

While there are many wonderful individual efforts in the IBDP, we would like to take this opportunity to recognise the family effort required for students to achieve their goals. Everyone, including parents, teachers, administrative support teams, maintenance crews, boarding teams, housekeeping staff, and technical support, plays a critical role in helping our students achieve their best. This is the StGIS way.

Finally, a challenge for our graduates: we are proud of you all for what you have achieved here at StGIS, for how you have grown, and for the young men and women you are today. You leave with an IBDP ranking number, but you must never forget that you are more than this number. What you have achieved today is only a fraction of your remaining potential to achieve excellence in the next eighty years of your lives. Today you have taken one step in a thousand-step journey, what lies ahead is up to you. Be curious, be courageous, be brave, be caring, work hard, be just and honourable and stay in touch. You always have a home at StGIS.