Spring Fever: How to Stay Focused

Spring Break is fast approaching and for many, this is a time to recharge and rejuvenate. This break is so important because, as we are all aware, when we resume after this break, the pace of activity at school increases drastically. Coming up this spring we have the performing arts week in the Elementary school, the Grade 5 PYP exhibition, language trips, track and field events and the DP exams. During all of this activity, our students have the end of the year in sight, but they still have a lot to accomplish.

The question becomes, how can we motivate them to want to work hard, to want to succeed? Well unfortunately you can’t and neither can we as educators. Only they can motivate themselves. It is our job as adults to give them the best possible conditions to help them with their self-motivation.

The following steps are crucial:

  1. Purpose – if they don’t know why they are doing it they will find it much harder to complete.
  2. Organisation – they must have a good clear study timetable or schedule of when things need to be completed.
  3. Resources – they must have their notes, and other available resources to work from (including the school libraries, the gym and, of course, their teachers)
  4. Environment – for our DP students, during the hours that they are studying in the weeks leading up to exams, all distractions must be eliminated. Take away their TV, internet connection, i-pod and phone. Just while they are studying, once they have finished their study for the night they can get all those things back. It’s OK. It’s not life threatening, and they won’t hate you forever. For students involved in many of the other events and tasks to be carried out, they need to be in an environment where they feel comfortable to ask questions, make informed decisions and learn from their mistakes.

The parent’s role in all this is simply to arrange conditions as best you can to enable self-motivation to occur. As educators, we are always mindful of this, especially at the very busy times of the year, like the one that is about to happen in the final months of the academic year.

Have a safe, relaxing and rejuvenating Spring break!

Scott Jackson

Learning to Fail

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

J.K. Rowling

Dear Parents

Last week Kathleen (MYP Coordinator), Emine (PYP Coordinator) and I had the great privilege to attend a presentation by Lance King, an educator who has done a lot of work focusing on student success. I walked away from the presentation asking myself, as the principal of the school, how does ISBerne teach students to fail well?

Through his extensive research, Lance King found that:

  • Students who fail well do better, much better, than students who fail badly.
  • Teachers who fail well do better.
  • Parents who fail well do better.

He goes on to suggest that the key to failing well seems to be in the reprocessing of failure.
He suggests the following steps:

  1. Get over your emotional attachment to the word failure. Failure is just feedback. Feedback on what you aren’t doing right yet
  2. Second, admit every failure – immediately. Remember that the definition of failure is simply not reaching a goal
  3. Take responsibility for your actions in not achieving that goal
  4. Make changes
  5. Have another go

To help with this, both teachers and parents need to reframe the word ‘failure’ in order to help children understand that failure is a necessary part of growth and learning, and there are two distinctly different ways to fail.

From now on, as a life-long learner, I am going to try to recognize that every task, every goal, every performance has not two but three possible outcomes; Success, Failing Well and Failing Badly, and that two of those are positive. I am also keen to explore this idea with Richard and our Senior Education team. My challenge to our ISBerne parents is to see how this approach might (or does already!) look for them!

Kind regards

You’ve got to use it!

FullSizeRender (1)All too often the success of additional language learning is viewed as a subject area where the end product is the successful completion of a test. The reality is, that traditional academic study can not truly prepare you for the challenges of actually having to use the language, or as educators would say, “learning through the language”.

As I recently carried out a professional appraisal of one of our French teachers, I started to realize the importance of applying the French vocabulary the students had learnt. The scenario involved the students designing their own house. The had memorised the vocabulary associated with their house design (ie: fenêtres, portes , balcon for windows, doors and balcony) and then were requested to draw a plan of their house, all the while engaging with the teacher in conversation about the house; how many rooms the house needed, whether the rooftop would be flat etc., and all in French. For the students, the challenge lay not in creating the house (their designs were amazing!), but in how they engaged with the teacher in French about the design of ma maison.

FullSizeRenderThe lesson for me as a language learner is no different than for our students. How often do I actually apply the German that I am learning in my everyday life here in Switzerland? If the example I observed here at school is anything to go by, the course I am doing will mean nothing unless I actually get to use my German.

Kind regards

Don’t forget, this coming week is Francophone week across the globe!


World Francophone Week at ISBerne


We all know that French has a valued and important place at ISBerne as well as within the general community of Bern where the language is embedded in the Bernese culture. Therefore, along with other French speaking groups around the world, ISBerne will be celebrating World Francophone Week from 16-20 March, in honor of the Journée Internationale de la Francophonie (International Francophonie Day).

Through the PYP and MYP, our French teachers and Grade 10 students will be doing some small but meaningful activities to teach and remind us all of the value, history and culture of French.

For example, did you know that 200 million people speak French around the world? French is still the second most widely learned foreign language after English, and the ninth most widely spoken language in the world! French is widely considered the international language of cooking, fashion, theatre, dance, architecture and the visual arts. French is both a working language and an official language of the United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross and, of course, the International Baccalaureate. After English and German, French is now the third most used language on the Internet, ahead of Spanish. French is a good base for learning other languages, especially Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian) as well as English since about 50% of current English vocabulary is derived from French.

Due to our location, it is not surprising that more students in our school learn German than learn French, but this by no means indicates that French is less important! After all, learning French is the pleasure of learning a beautiful, rich, melodious language, often called the language of love.

Why don’t you celebrate this language with us? I invite you to visit the Grade 10 French Blog to see what these committed students have been exploring in this rich language!

Je vous souhaite une merveilleuse semaine !

Scott Jackson
Principal at ISBerne

The Power of Language

At ISBerne, we find that children who come to school with a strong foundation in their mother tongue (their fist language or home language) develop stronger literacy abilities in the language used at school. When parents or caregivers spend time with their children, telling stories or discussing issues with them, it helps develop the child’s mother tongue vocabulary and concepts. As a result, children come to school better prepared to learn the language of their host school and succeed academically.

It is important to remember that a child connects with his/her parents, family, culture, history, identity and religion through his/her mother tongue. The first language links the child with the culture and society of his/her origins and plays and important role in shaping his/her identity.The mother tongue is one of the most powerful tools used to preserve and convey cultural ties.

Many children of immigrant families, who don’t know their native language well, often face a crisis of identity. Children who are unaware of their culture, their language, and their history can lose confidence in themselves, their family, even their homeland, and will ultimately seek an alternate identity. A child will identify with the language and culture s/he knows best.

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 10.24.23 AMOn Saturday 21 February, the United Nations invites the world to celebrate the connection of language and culture through International Mother Tongue Day. I invite you to reflect upon the value of language, not just in learning it, but how it enriches your cultural background and the story of who you are. A very interesting presentation by Wade Davis in a TED Talk, exemplifies and elaborates upon this concept in a profound way.

Friend or Fake?

The world of friendship and social status can be a challenging one for young adolescence. Adults often struggle with the question of, ‘Should I intervene in a child’s friendship problems?’ The reality is, kids need adult support and insights when it comes to navigating the choppy waters of friendship, especially when certain friendships turn out to be weapons in disguise.
Using friendship and social status for manipulation is often referred to as relational aggression. Though it can be confusing at first,  kids can learn to recognize it when they see it. By teaching kids that tactics like social exclusion, threatening to take away friendship, and spreading rumors are unacceptable, kids can make a conscious choice to move away from friends who use these behaviors.

As parents, you can help your children by teaching them that anger is a normal, natural, human emotion and how to be angry effectively. By modeling assertive communication skills yourselves and accepting anger when it is respectfully expressed, you indirectly teach your children mature relationship behaviour.

Most importantly, we all need to teach students how to know what a good friend is: talk about how real friends use kind words, help when you need it, and care about your opinions and feelings. Fostering discussions and careful consideration of the values involved in making and maintaining healthy friendships is one of the most important things adults can do to help kids choose friendships wisely.

In support of all of this, and to conclude my series on the sense of awareness our students have of the world around them, Lily, one of our Grade 7 students has created a presentation of poetry which truly underpins what goes through the minds of many of our teenagers here at ISBerne. As with the poems from Oliver and Abby last week, if you know Lily and see her around the school, you might want to thank her for her courage in presenting her inner most thoughts to our community.

Scott Jackson
ISBerne Principal

View Video Here:  

Thoughts from Students

I have the great privilege of sharing two pieces of poetry from Grade 7. Their perceptions of their world (of school and the wider world) demonstrate a level of introspection and reflection that I would struggle to find in many adults. Oliver and Abby, the authors, were kind enough to authorize their poems to be shared with our school community. I ask that you read them and perhaps, put yourselves in the shoes of a teenager living in 2015. We would all like to thank these students for being brave enough to share their innermost thoughts and feelings with the wider community.

Scott Jackson
Principal, ISBerne

Just Think
by Oliver Robertson
Grade 7

The bell rings
out to play they go
again the boy stands there alone
but no one knows his woe
he prays they’ll leave him ‘lone t’day
If only he could stay out their way

too scared to ask for help
he suffers by himself
they call him hurtful names
it’s not good for his health
he prays they’ll leave him ‘lone t’day
if only he could stay out their way

it’s not a good day
they are at school
he receives a piercing blow to head
all against school rules
he prays they’ll leave him ‘lone t’day
if only he could stay out their way

they take his dinner money
he doesn’t dare cry
he suffers in silence
and just wonders why
he prays they’ll leave him ‘lone t’day
if only he could stay out their way

why do people do this
it’s really unkind
it rips peoples hearts out
and plays with their minds
he prays they’ll leave him ‘lone today
if only he could stay out their way

Express Your Feelings
By Abby Cortez

They say we all have the responsibility to tell humanity,
How we feel and what we see.
Officials ask us what they could do to make the world better for you and for me
Then they treat our thoughts like a lion would a cub and a dog would a puppy.

They say tell the truth, but can we really?
People are put away for what they have to say,
By police who watch us like birds of prey
Ask yourself where would you be
If people weren’t heard, like Mandela and Gandhi?

While opinions on food and games are each to their own,
Opinions on politics are like a war zone.
When you are younger you’re ignored even if you shout.
But people will blossom if we just hear them out.

Step back and think are we really free to say what we please?
What about those in poverty?
Because of how they live they aren’t taken seriously.
People throw their opinions away carelessly.

Your thoughts could be gold on a sliver platter,
But if you’re not wealthy does it really matter?
They look at you like you’re a mad hatter.
They think they’re on top but they still have us to flatter.

People express their ideas everyday,
But no one seems to care about what they have to say.
We all have a brain. Why can’t we use it?
You don’t use it you lose it.
So to now conclude it:
Express yourself ‘cause someone somewhere, could use it!


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