Of all the transdisciplinary themes in the PYP Sharing the Planet is the one that brings up a lot of ethical concerns for me as a teacher. This is particularly the case in my context where I teach at an international school in highly developed Singapore.
The kids and I live in a bubble of international school inside the bubble of our country. Inequality in our little corner of the world is something that is a lot harder to see and take action outside of fundraising.
Many schools have quite rightly moved away from bake sales where the consumption of baked goods often obscure the cause being fundraised.
‘Raising awareness’ campaigns in the form of posters end up being just another poster in school.
Service based learning where kids are out doing manual work in communities in need seem better on the surface but is this any better? It makes the kids feel good about contributing but in doing so is their free labour displacing work that could be done by a member of the community?
History is littered with unintended harm that comes when people with money rush into ‘help.’ I think back to Cambodia and the explosion of orphanages in the number of orphanages in 2012 compared t the first time I visited the country back in 2006.
Over the course of this unit of inquiry, my class has been I contact with a friend of mine who works in development in Malawi. The children identified that their perspective of the developing world is limited and they wanted to find out more. I had a connection. After learning more about the country, the kids were quite rightly upset about some of the living conditions and were chomping at the bit to help.
They were desperate to sponsor a child and make games to share their learning.
I felt a bit like Mr Bumble reminding the children that as a class we had only 10 weeks together and they needed to make sure their commitment was one they were going to see through. I also challenged the kids to think really hard about what the purpose was behind their games and what they hoped to achieve at the end of it.
Am I wrong to be putting my own adult considerations on the kids learning?
During this unit I often find myself thinking back to the process of the digital learning inquiry I did with my class in 2012.
- It was low hanging fruit in terms of the potential for kids to make change and influence change.The New Zealand government was looking to make an investment in digital learning and the kids had a lot of first hand knowledge to advise their representatives.
- The class had time, the unit officially ran for two ten week terms but I had the freedom to extend another few weeks for the verbal submissions. That’s nearly an entire academic year devoted to one inquiry!
- That extra time enabled the kids to make connections during their research with other schools and the wider community.
- This was a real world inquiry, the children presented in front of actual members of parliament and the committee made real recommendations.
- Half of the kids were able to see their recommendations when the final report came out the following year because my school was one that looped students.
Before I started teaching the PYP, this part of the programme really excited me. Yet now I’m teaching it I find the narrow timeframes for UOIs constraining and wondering how authentic the current contexts for learning really are.
I’m also wondering if rigidly adhering to the tuning, finding out, sorting out of ‘stages’ of Kath Murdoch’s inquiry model is hindering real true inquiry.
But then I could quite possibly over thinking things.
I shouldn’t compare the teaching I did for a unit which was very much a product of time and space.
Nevertheless, there’s a fine balance between children being aware of the world outside their bubble but also making change in a sustainable and meaningful way.