Starting in September, our Science teacher Gareth will be the Grade 9 form tutor at Avenor International High School. He is very excited to make students feel part of a well-knit team and be like a third parent, demanding but also very supportive. He will continue to teach Science in a way that will allow students to understand the world they live in and how they can change it. He is also going back to school, to improve his Romanian.
You will be the Form Tutor for Grade 9 next year and many of the students who know you are very excited about that. What should they expect from you?
Form tutors are an important figure in the development of the student, they are like the third parent based at the school. They create links and harmony between the parents at home, the management of the school and the academic life of both the students and the subject teachers who deliver their education. The role of the tutor is to facilitate and support the students in their social and emotional development so that they are best equipped to deal with their job of learning. They are the ones that students turn to first when they need help, someone who they can trust and someone they know will support them. The form tutor must set very high expectations for the students both morally and academically.
I have a very close relationship with the students that finished Grade 8. I worked to prepare them for chemistry and physics in the Romanian system, as well as in applied science in the Cambridge system. I taught them more hours per week than other teachers and developed a mutual respect. They helped me and I helped them.
It is important that new students and existing students all feel a part of the Grade 9 team. This will not be difficult since the atmosphere at Avenor is very welcoming and community focused. I’ve always developed very close-knit tutor groups that can rely on each other as well as on me for support. I also have a lot of experience in helping students with the difficulties of growing up and finding their place in the world. It’s a challenging time in the student’s life and the expectations of today are very different. The world is changing so fast sometimes students are unsure of their place in it. There are also the same issues that all teenagers face regardless of school or country like boyfriends/girlfriends, what’s cool, how others perceive their image etc. I will be there for all students any time they need help. My door is always open.
Science is one of the classes Avenor students enjoy the most. How would you describe your Science classes to our new and prospective high school students?
The science programme for the students is fun and develops the key skills of scientific enquiry but also teaches areas that are fun and relevant to students. In addition to the topics covered in the Romanian system, students also learn about renewable energy for the future, drugs, alcohol, and health, as well as new materials that can be used to fabricate the technology of the future.
The science classes at Avenor are based on the Cambridge system of scientific enquiry and problem solving, whereas the Romanian system is based on memory recall. I’ve talked a lot in the past about the differences in the educational systems, but it boils down to a few main points.
- Very few students will actually use science knowledge directly in their future and it’s a waste of time to just remember endless pages of facts (although very good for winning a pub-quiz). It’s the scientific skills that are valued.
- The scientific method of observing something that happened, deciding why it might have happened, researching and testing to see if you were correct and readjusting your ideas/theories based on observable evidence are very important in all areas of employment. For example, many of our students want to work in enterprise and business and the ability to analyse what products have sold, why they sold and develop strategies to increase sales are a form of the scientific method. In short, our science programme teaches students how to observe the world around them and what they can do to change it. This is a very powerful tool to have.
- Finally, having practical experiments for students makes the learning more real and fun. It allows students to relate to content that might not always be clear from a book. As humans, we learn best by interacting with our environment. You could always teach a baby to walk by showing them a formula for balance and explaining where they need to generate force by pushing against the ground, but they will learn best by trying, failing, and trying again.
You are also going to school for Romanian classes. What made you decide to learn Romanian and how is that going so far?
From a practical perspective, it makes sense to learn Romanian to make life easier. However, for me it’s more than this. I am not an international teacher that just happened to come to Romania because there was a job here. I specifically chose to come here. It’s my first international position. I had many Romanian friends at university and visited the country often, eight times in five years, before working here. In order to understand a culture, it’s important to get an understanding of the language. Culture and arts are what make life worth living. I want to be able to have a conversation with an old person about what life use to be like, to read some poetry, or express my views on current political trends or a piece of art. I know it’s said never make politics or religion a topic of conversation, but sometimes it’s nice to break the mould.
I’ve not developed as fast as I wanted to over the last year. I therefore made a decision to improve this over the summer holidays. I’ve attended a two-week intensive course for beginners. Studying in a classroom for three hours each day was quite enlightening since it’s been a few years since I was on the receiving end of education. I also have a better understanding of what people mean when they talk about the didactic teaching methods used in the Romanian state system. You really have to be at the top of the class or risk falling behind very quickly!
The course was aimed at beginners and had a strong focus on grammar, which is actually what I needed. I passed the A1 course with high in each section (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) and I am now looking to take the A2 course.