Close to the International Airport in Bucharest, you pass Mark Twain International School, located as if it were more than ready to help its students fly off and show the whole world how wonderfully bright they are. And they are really amazing, from their seven year olds, who speak English fluently and accurately, to the high school students, sitting reverentially at their desks, engrossed in reading the worksheets meant to help them prepare for writing their DP Extended Essay.
What is incredible about this school and what makes it unique in Romania, and it is unique not only because of the completely different system of teaching and learning, but because of being so devoted to their aims, therefore, what makes it so special is neither its lovely campus, nor its brilliant students, but its wonderful people, highly professional, committed and very friendly, which can be sensed in the relationship they have with their students.
Another striking difference lies in its paradoxical simplicity and by this I mean the fact that their classrooms are very personal, you can notice the contribution of all students in the works hanging or stuck on the walls, from the tiny diaries of the 1
Grade Dreamers to the huge posters showing the Sorrows of Youth of the 11th graders who were obviously more than familiar with great literary works such as Of Mice and Men, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary.
Sophie’s birthday party in the kindergarten, surrounded by all those happy faces, mesmerized by the actors who staged a play from which the students were supposed to learn that they shouldn’t be afraid of spiders, because they are a part of the world we live in and all they really do is to remain in a corner and work on their web, being completely harmless to people. This made me think of how deep the message was and to connect this approach to the neuro-linguistic programming, meant to help them overcome their possible phobias.
To conclude, as I do not want to sound flattering, I must say I admit that no one and nothing is perfect, but whatever it is, if there is anything like that, it must be insignificant, compared to the amount of work, commitment and joy these people and students show while sharing knowledge and concepts, so useful and so important for their further development. I find myself feeling happy for having had the chance to take part in this programme, visiting such a place and meeting such wonderful people, but unfortunate at the same time, for not being able to work exactly in the same way with my students yet. At least, I will certainly try to use some of the new things I have learnt from the project and from MTIS, and which have already been extremely useful in my activity throughout this year.
Maria Dobrinoiu -
English Language & LiteratureTeacher, Emil Racovita High School, Galati, Romania
Dear Mrs. Sava,
After having experienced the visit at Mark Twain International School of Bucharest, I now have a full impression about a well-organised educational system put into practice.
As an English teacher, I was interested in observing students' ease in using English as a tool of communication that they handle remarkably well from kindergarten up to high school (from the PYP, through MYP, up to the DP). It was impressive to see how tiny 5 year olds mastered complex lexical and grammar structures related to the main IB concepts, skills and attitudes. Words such as: "improvement", "reflection", "risk-takers" were used naturally and fluently by 1st graders in lessons about environmental concern, healthy lifestyle, wild habitats, not to mention their teachers who were kind-hearted and preoccupied to assist their students to learn in an appropiate environment, achieve all the given tasks in due time and follow the unit plans whose contents referred to real world contexts and focused on students' personal abilities and talents.
Another aspect worth mentioning is the team spirit that was sensed among all the faculty members and the principals who collaborate closely to the benefit of the students. The teachers' hard work was visible during the classes I attended, as students proved to be used to sustaining their ideas with reasoning, to being good listeners, to respecting each other's opinions, to working in groups and to acting as critical thinkers who were able to reflect on a given topic. I noticed all these aspects during an 8th Grade English class, an 11th Grade DP1 Romanian class, as well as during 12th Grade DP 2 Environmental Studies. Moreover, the habit of exibiting students' drawings, sketches, drafts, tables and grids or posters on the walls of the classrooms and on the corridors is really important as they can review the main ideas and concepts they learn throughout an entire unit. I was told that all these materials were changed at the end of a unit and replaced with new ones.
To conclude, I consider that the inner rules and philosophy applied by Mark Twain International School are a way of being and living for both teachers and students, who are given the opportunities of practising meaningful concepts that count for 21st century requirements in terms of communication, collaboration, organisation and reflection.
I am looking forward to hearing from you soon and I want to send you my best regards and warm thanks for this useful experience of allowing us to observe your school practices during the project.
Mihaela Sandu - English Language & LiteratureTeacher, Emil Racovita High School, Galati, Romania
Dear MTIS IB Co-ordinators, Dear MTIS Team,
Warm greetings! Allow me to convey this feedback as a half-formal and half-informal letter addressed to all of you.
The visit to your school during the TLIP project was a confirmation of my expectations, formulated for the first time in June 2010, and likely to be satisfied only when or if my personal dreams came true: finding an interested investor who would help fund an IB school in my city, where I could work as part of a team of the calibre of the MTIS team, and where my 13-year-old daughter could be a student.
During the October 2010 workshop, by lunch time on Day 1, I was already telling Melania, one of our facilitators, that all I wanted was to become an IB teacher. The three days spent visiting MTIS were also so overwhelming that I would need more time to process all the information and emotion. The activity I witnessed was so well organized, the process of education, so bright and easy-going, that teaching and learning seemed to occur naturally and holistically, without any coercion, centered on the students’ needs, competences and attitudes.
Isn’t this what we ultimately want for our children – the development of flexible skills and responsible attitudes in a changing world? I appreciate the IB investment in human and material resources, since they felicitously complement each other. Beyond that, however, there is an IB spirit, a cultural, educational and formative force of this programme that truly supports a culture of critical thinking and flexible action, adapted to our current milieu. WHAT IT IS, WHY IT MATTERS AND HOW TO GET IT.
With the hope that I was able to express my thoughts with coherence, lucidity and passion, let me close this (pseudo) assessment report,
Mirela Rapotan - School Leaders’ Project Section, Deputy Director, Aurel Vlaicu College of Galati, Romania