It’s a big world at Alcuin College

G6 in Stanley ParkOn any given school day, Alcuin College students can be found out in the community, inquiring, exploring, experiencing, discussing and reflecting.

Students are frequently off site, learning from the real world, in the real world. We collaborate with businesses and professionals who voluntarily share their knowledge and skills to educate our students in situ. This provides context and skills in ways a classroom cannot, and enriches our academic programs.

We are fortunate to have many opportunities readily at hand in the Lower Mainland for students to truly engage with their learning in a variety of environments. Teachers actively seek destinations where students can engage intellectually, emotionally and physically to further their learning in a highly personal way. Recent activities include our grade 5/6 students participating in a wilderness survival program at Stanley Park, as part of an interdisciplinary unit tying together elements of studies in literature, science, outdoor education and aboriginal culture. [pullquote]On any given school day, Alcuin College students can be found out in the community, inquiring, exploring, experiencing, discussing and reflecting.[/pullquote]Under the umbrella of Habitats, our grade 3/4 students travelled to the Wildlife Rescue Association to experience the impact that society has had upon local animal habitats, and to speak with people who are passionate about their mission. Grade 7 students visited a game development studio as part of their literature study of Heir Apparent, a science fiction/fantasy novel. Investigating deep sea environments and robotics, students from grades 3 to 11 toured Nuytco Research to hear first-hand from lead scientists who shared their excitement about their projects. In all field experiences, students are encouraged to pose questions, construct meaning and reflect, to personally synthesize their learning.

Going beyond the four walls of our school is integral to the educational program at Alcuin College. Student interest helps guide our teachers in seeking authentic learning experiences both locally and abroad. We are looking forward to our next destination!

On Pedagogy

I have known some teachers who, without realising it, saw their classroom as an accident of location. There is a classroom, in which there happens to be one knowledgeable adult amid a group of ignorant children. It almost goes without saying that these classes were as much of a burden to the students as they were to the teacher, and in them I learned precious little. By contrast, I have also known some teachers who consciously view their classroom as a place of relationships, in which there is a teacher in the midst of a group of students. These classes were a delight, and I carry much from those classes with me in my mind and in my heart to this very day.[pullquote]So essential is this deep thought and tender care to the teaching profession that it has its own name, that of pedagogy[/pullquote]

That which separates these two extremes of a poor experience and a very good one is this: the first teacher acts as though ‘teacher’ were merely his job (or, worse, his burden); the second acts as though each relationship between him and a student is significant and important. The former does his work grudgingly; the latter, with much thought and care. So essential is this deep thought and tender care to the teaching profession that it has its own name, that of pedagogy.

As a student of language, I cannot help but go in search of the root of this word. It is, in fact, the Ancient Greek word for education, and is formed from the two root words παίς, (pais, a child) and ἄγειν (agein, to lead); thus, it may be said that one who practices pedagogy is one who leads children. Similarly, the word ‘education’ comes to us from the Latin verb educare (to raise a child), which is itself from the verb educere, to lead forth. So a good education involves being led … but whither? The answer is sweeping in its implications, for he is being led into adulthood, and into the future.

Marcus Cornelius Fronto (tutor to Marcus Aurelius)

In his classroom, a teacher demonstrates love for his students and for his field; a teacher demonstrates thoughtfulness in reading as well as in writing; a teacher demonstrates honesty in academics, and in life generally. In short, in a world that has the technology we have, and in a world that relies as much on skills (as opposed to knowledge) as ours does, it becomes imperative that the teacher be more than a mere transmitter of information. It is crucial that the teacher model how a scholar and a human being thinks and behaves. For it is becoming increasingly clear that all of the planet’s resources are finite, and that there is no way that the cutting-apart of our home will cease nor that poverty and violence will be acted against unless the academics, activists, politicians and citizens of the time to come are filled with passion and compassion, with thoughtfulness and honesty.

This, then, is the great and noble work of the teacher: to lead, with deep thought and tender care, the young ones entrusted to him into the future with the skills and moral resources they need, that they may play their part in the betterment of the human race and of the little planet they inhabit.

Tony Macoun: An Apology on Global Citizenship

An Apology{{1}} [[1]]defense, explanation. [[1]] on Global Citizenship is offered in response to an article Does “Global Citizenship” really exist? by Mr John Godfrey (Head, Toronto French School), which was presented at the IB Heads World Conference in October 2011 in Singapore.

We are truly honoured to welcome one of the most significant educators of our time as a guest blogger on, Mr Tony Macoun (former board member of the International Baccalaureate (IB), President of IB North America, regional Director of the IB for Africa /Middle East).

I have been asked to share my perspectives on the interesting paper written by John Godfrey on the appropriateness of including “Global Citizenship” in our schools’ objectives.  Although I recognise that he makes many good points, I would like to hear what the classroom teachers, who have to deliver this program of “Global Citizenship”, have to say.  They work with our students on a daily basis to cultivate ideas and develop perspectives which later will give them the power to act and bring about change. Developing civics programs and creating a better understanding of political power could be part of this, but does such a program give a lasting sense of responsibility and duty to our young people to act?  [pullquote]Knowledge is one thing; the determination, will and duty to act is so much more powerful and needed![/pullquote]

We live in fascinating times in education (and in the world at large). More than ever, we are preparing young people for a fast-changing world and, of prime importance must be the training we give them in taking responsibility for the world they live in; be it local, national or international.  This means they must learn how to understand that world and its peoples and to accept responsibility through their lives for its future. We must make sure that they do a better job than their parents!

For me, the use of the word “Citizenship” gives a framework for acting responsibly. Conversely, I am unhappy with the lack of rigour that comes with the phrase “international mindedness”.   I was interested to learn that in the computer age some people are now talking about “Digital Citizenship” in order to encourage the development of responsible protocols for the digital world we live in.  In this digital world, a “citizen” must understand and accept the rights, privileges and duties inherent in being engaged in that world.

How we deliver the ‘Global Citizenship’ message is in the hands of our teachers and their daily interaction with our students.  It is their interpretation of the duties of ‘citizen’ and ‘the importance of citizenship’ which will be carried away by our students.  As a school administrator for more than 30 years, I suggest this debate be given as a challenge to our teachers and their students.  All of us engaged in the IB see our schools as vehicles for encouraging intercultural awareness and understanding and, hopefully, therefore creating a better and more peaceful world.  We encourage respect for others and collaboration, and all of this is embraced in the phrase ‘international mindedness’.  But this does not demand of our students that they act as citizens and engage them in identifying their obligations, duties and responsibilities. An active “citizen” will, and must, work towards the betterment of their community; local, national and international.

Tony Macoun

About the author

Tony’s career in the International Baccalaureate (IB) spanned no fewer than 37 years.  He served as teacher, IB coordinator, head of school, board member of IB North America (President for three years) and as Regional Director for Africa/Middle East.  In these capacities he has worked with world leaders who have done much to change the face of education around the world (such as Queen Noor of Jordan and Mr Nelson Mandela).
Tony is a humanitarian, inspirational leader and a principled educator.  When asked, he simply calls himself a ‘school master’ doing “what is best for students”.  He has been doing exactly that since 1970, and ongoingly  beyond his retirement in 2010. Born in Kenya, educated in Britain and having worked in numerous diverse locations around the world, Tony is a global citizen by his own definition.  Read Tony’s full biography here.

The Macouns with Queen Noor of Jordan and Queen Sonja of Norway