The 3 day event kicked off with a keynote address by Prof. dr Marli Huijer, the first woman to become ‘Thinker Laureate’ of The Netherlands. Yes, her job is to think… to think and to discuss, to think and to problematise, to think and engage educators in debate about the issues facing schools around the world. Her address turned the popular idea of ‘travelling to broaden our horizons’ on its head and made us instead reflect on those who ‘stay behind’. Upon returning home for a visit, most of us teacher vagabonds are faced with questions like ‘so how much longer will you be away?’, yet at the same time, we hope that those who ‘stay behind’ will maintain and protect that culture we remember so dearly in its perfect unaltered state. Does this create a kind of deep, often unspoken, resentment on both sides? Are we trading a gain in global understanding for a loss in local familiarity?
I learnt so much in just three days and I am thoroughly looking forward to sharing some of the ideas with our language department and administration at ISL but two things really stood out for me. Firstly, as language teachers we are lucky that we have one of the only subjects in the school where students can literally do inquiry based learning into anything as long as it is in the target language. We have endless freedom and autonomy and we need to tap into this and allow students to lead their learning through inquiry that compels and interests them, inquiry makes them want to speak about it rather than being forced to.
I think above all, I left with a sense of hope and gratitude that I am in a job where I get the chance to make a real impact on the world every day through the young people I am in contact with. We are the ones, both us as teachers and our students, who have the ability and scope to change the face of modern international education. So enough with all the talking, now let’s get started.