Friday, June 10, 2011

Random news

The school year was ending, has ended.  I haven't written anything for a long time, since these last couple of months have been all about exams and with very little actual teaching. Also, for the first time I've supervised a practice teacher - hey there T. S.! - and thereby had so many good discussions about teaching and learning that blogging seemed superfluous.  Definitely doing supervision again soon. 

Nevertheless, here is a brief update: 

IB exams are standardized, high stakes, and high pressure. I've been feeling very ambivalent about them, not least because I fear that those students who experience lots of anxiety in exam situations are not able to show the full extent of their understanding and skill in such situations. During the years, I have seen quite a few students freeze even during regular in-class exams - students have cried, left the room, or just sat though the full 2 hours and then handed in a blank paper. This time, however, I've noticed that these same students work through their difficulties eventually, and I'm starting to see that these high stakes exams provide a significant growing opportunity for my students. If nothing else, they are learning to perform under pressure. That just might come in handy later on.

The school system has been the focus of much media attention throughout the spring. Dagens Nyheter, one of the two largest daily newspapers, has features a series of articles highly critical of the developments in the Swedish school system these last 25 years. Those targeted in this series are school leaders, but above all unions, city and state government as well as university professors. The picture painted is one of tragic downfall of education quality as well as teacher's resources, status, and salaries.  Sigh. 
Then, soon afterwards, our minister of education Jan Björklund announces that from autumn teachers are obliged to include students' absence in the grades for every subject. Teachers have had no say in these developments, and the ruling contradicts the recommendations of every school agency that was assigned to investigate this proposal. It seems our current government is intent on following old-school US methods, while the US is (hopefully) already moving on. 

Lastly, my school is moving to a much more central Stockholm location. This means that we're likely to see an increase in students applying to the school, and perhaps will be better able to admit only those students who we feel are prepared for the IB program. I've been looking forward to this move for years - it shortens my commute from 90 minutes to 15 minutes each day.


  1. The U.S. is *not* moving on, at least in any useful ways. Your report confirms for me the notion that teacher bashing is meant as a way to break some powerful unions. (Though they weren't powerful enough here to get us what we need for students.) I'd like to hear from teachers in other countries, whether similar things are happening worldwide.

    For students who are uncomfortable with tests, I wonder if they'd find something like my Math Relax audio track helpful. If you think so, I can share with you how I made it, and my script, so you could do one in Swedish.

  2. Huh, Sue, I think I based that opinion about US moving forwards on reading yours and other great blogs, and watching NCLB being bashed on The Wire (season 4). Perhaps not the most representative sources, I know, but isn't The Wire supposed to be Obama's favorite show?

    Funny you should mention Math Relax. I was just looking through your posts for that. I don't need it in Swedish, since IB is in English. Unfortunately Chrome is informing me that it can't connect to the server for the sound file. Is there another way?

  3. >isn't The Wire supposed to be Obama's favorite show?

    I am so not informed about this sort of thing. It would be great if Obama figured this out from the TV he watches.

    >Unfortunately Chrome is informing me that it can't connect to the server for the sound file. Is there another way?

    I think that's a temporary glitch. I believe the computers at my college are down today, and that's where the file resides. Can you try again on Sunday?

    However, I would recommend doing this in your students' first language if at all possible.