Back to School Learning at ISE: Prep Week and Käsmu Retreat

Part 1: Teachers Back To School Prep

A week before the students returned, ISE faculty and staff were back at it, preparing for the school year through a series of collaborative activities led by our Principal Coordinators, our Learning Design Coach and our new Director, Mr. Don Payne.

Happy ISE teachers ignoring the presentation up front in order to take a selfie.

The week started with Mr. Payne asking us all what we wanted to “Stop, Start and Keep” as a school. During the activity, ISE teachers found out they clearly thought more alike than different and several issues were quickly decided upon for housekeeping.

As the week progressed, activities addressing key issues were highlighted each day, including:

  • Tuesday: Stop Start Keep, 6 Things Every Child Should Hear on their First Day of School
  • Wednesday: The Teacher as Self-Directed Learner
  • Thursday: Classroom Prep
  • Friday: Baby, Bathwater, Fresh Water (click the link for a review of our activities) 

Our final group activity was led by me as Learning Design Coach. When planning, Don and I realized that we had similar activities in mind for kicking off the year, so I bookended his “Stop, Start, Keep” with a similar individual activity, “Baby, Bathwater and Fresh Water”–a slightly more complicated way of expressing, “Stop, Start, Keep.” Teachers reflected on their personal practice and decided that they wanted to maintain, change and refresh in their own practice. My example can be found below.

Screenshot 2018-09-02 17.50.12
My 2018 edition of “Baby, Bathwater and Fresh Water”



Käsmu Retreat

The following week, the upper school was off for our annual opening retreat at Käsmu where the teachers turned over the reigns to the Student Council who did a phenomenal job of breaking the ice with the entire MYP and DP divisions through a number of bonding activities and sporting events.

The DP students couldn’t run the entire event, however, because they were occupied with the major part of their retreat which revolved around a DP CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) & TOK (Theory of Knowledge) introduction/refresher led by me, our new IBDP Principal Coordinator, Ritu Dubey and our new CAS Coordinator, Rae Hoff.


Introduction to CAS

The result of DP1 and DP2 student brainstorming CAS ideas for the coming school year.


Ms. Hoff conducted a one hour session on CAS requirements where students focused on brainstorming not just ideas for CAS projects, but the best ideas they could imagine. Ms. Hoff keenly pressed the students to dig deeper and us their imaginations to devise the best project ideas possible.

Introduction to Theory of Knowledge (ToK)

If you know any of my DP1 students, please ask them about the “London School of Economics and watch them either smile or grimace before, if you press them, you should hear:

the London School of Economics Is Really Interesting For Me

Which is not a a new college path for the students (although it could be: the LSE’s a fine school), but stands for:

  • Language
  • Sense perception
  • Emotion
  • Imagination
  • Reason
  • Intuition
  • Faith &
  • Memory


And now that you know that, you can start asking your student how they know what they know–the question at the heart of their Theory of Knowledge course. These “Ways of Knowing” (WoKs) formed the basis of my introduction to ToK for the DP1 students–as well as the basis for the broader course.

Ms. Dubey, on the other hand, spent most of the retreat refreshing our DP2 scholars on the discipline of ToK as a whole. Our DP2s will soon start working on their ToK essays–a key assessment in their IBDP Program which comprises 50% of their ToK grade. Both Ms.  Dubey and I were extremely pleased by the students’ progress, and student feedback was positive as well.



All in all, it looks like teaching and learning are both off to a great start at ISE this year. Please let us know what other aspects of Learning Design at the International School of Estonia you would like to hear about in our next post. 

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