My Take on Amsterdam and the Dutch


After spending a few days in Amsterdam I have some impressions of the city and the Netherlands in general. My son Owen asked me, “Do they speak Hamster in Hamsterdam?”

The biggest impression upon me was the number of bicycles! They were everywhere. At every bus or train station hundreds were parked and as you can see from above, they were also parked in front of buildings and streets. Everyone rode bikes, from grandmothers, to school children. I guess with over 16 million people squeezed in such a small area, bikes are an efficient manner of moving around. I rented a bike and rode for hours both Friday and Saturday evening. They literally have bike paths on every road and canal in Amsterdam.

The Dutch did display that famous tolerant temperament. They were friendly and were willing to help me when I got lost. I was surprised to see a large Islamic population as well as many blacks from Surinam. The canals and old buildings were absolutely stunning. The Dutch themselves look Scandanavian with a British flavor. They are very tall and light skinned. There are beautiful views almost everywhere one looks. I did see a bit of the tourist “red light” district and some of the famous cafes and prostitutes in the window. That part turned me off. I heard that in the warmer months there are many more tourists, although I did see and hear quite a few American college kids around the city.

I would like to go back again solely for the biking! I would like to go on a longer bike ride between cities with my family. I would also like to visit the International Court of Justice in the Hague. I also learned the official name of the country is the Netherlands. Holland is the name of two provinces, not the entire country. It was difficult to take good pictures as I was biking around and the light was not great. 


The Amstel River At Night
The Amstel River At Night

The Golden Age of Dutch Painting



Yesterday I visited the Rijksmuseum here in Amsterdam. The museum holds a very large collection of paintings from the “Golden Age” of the Netherlands. This was when the Netherlands was the richest country on earth in the 1600’s. They did it through military conquests, battles with Spain and England, and through trading. Amsterdam was the New York of its time and the beautiful canals and buildings I saw over the weekend are from that era. 

I was particularly interested in beside the master Rembrandt, paintings of people involved in the Dutch East India Company (VOC). This was the publicly traded business (equivalent of today’s multinational corporation) that went all around the world buying and selling goods for incredible profits. Being an expatriate in the “Golden Age” of the USA, I can relate to the Dutch that lived in various parts of the world.
Pictured above is a Dutch family in Batavia which is today’s Indonesia. The painting is from 1672 and it is by Jacob Jansz Coeman. It features a portrait of Pieter Cnoll and his family posed in their tropical villa. You will notice the two servants in the far right. Cnoll was the head accountant of the VOC in Asia and his wife was the daughter of a VOC official and a Japanese courtesan (a high class prostitute).  Sounds much like Thailand today. The two children are truly TCK (Third Culture Kids) and they seem to be well off. Of course, I am a teacher and not a businessman and not as well off as that family was, but I can totally relate to them. 
The rest of the museum is absolutely fantastic. There are huge oil painting from the era depicting daily life three hundred plus years ago. It felt like I was there, the works are so realistic. The master Rembrandt’s paintings were very impressive. I have limited appreciation of art, so I judge works that I can’t personally do (realism) as great while abstract works that I could do as not so great. There were also lots of pieces from the naval battles with England and Spain that I particularly liked. I highly recommend visiting the museum when you go to Amsterdam. 

Another VOC Merchant in Batavia
Another VOC Merchant in Batavia


MYP Introductory Conference – Day #3

Teachers Recording Student Assessment Data

School A: There is a single storage database with all of the student’s assessment results.  The table has the criteria and whole mark. We need to make sure we are recording the data as the IB asks for. For example, you do not put an % point. Also one needs to put the clear evidence.

A)     Teachers are telling the students the criteria against which they are being assessed.

B)      Teacher need to give some understanding to students on how to get to the highest level. It can be verbal or it can be a detailed rubric.

C)      When the work is assessed, the students are to be shown what the criteria is.

D)     Teachers are supposed write the points scored in each criteria. They can add them up and convert to number 1-7

A school gradebook will look like this…

                                Task  1                           Task 2


Cr A

Cr C

Cr. B

Cr. C

Student Name






·         Not all tasks or assessments need to be graded using the MYP format.

·         One school has a sheet for each student to go in the file. It lists the criteria, marks on each task whether it be formative or summative assessments.

·         It is very important to educate the parents on the assessment practices.

·         “levels” not grades or marks during the semester, the final 1-7 are the “grades”

Report Cards

·         You must be reporting against the criteria. It could be a comment or a number.

·         What happens if all of the criteria are not marked for a grading period?  Some schools do not put on final grade, some use “very good” others put a final grade but with a comment explaining why the criteria is blank.

·         What happens when a student enters mid-year? Case-by-case

·         We have four quarters, and then with mid-term progress reports. That is eight times per year that teachers need to make them.

·         Good idea to put on the AoI, even some schools put on Learner Profile. One school has Learner Profile and AoI in the teachers hands while doing the marks.

 Interdisciplinary Units

·         Earlier, there was an over-emphasis on these units and schools did too many of them. Today, it is important to do less of them, but to do them to enhance the learning for criteria within the disciplines involved.

·         Best way to find ways is Teachers Lounge –

MYP Coordinator

·         should have a minimum of 1/3 of their time to coordinate the program.

·         All paperwork and orientating new teachers.

Interdisciplinary Unit Practice

Unit Question – What sort of story may be revealed by a graph?

Concepts – Human activity is affected by population fluctuations / Graphs express rates of change

AoI – Environments – how human actions affects the environment

Another example of a good unit question is How is our future written in the stars?

Unit Question – How does binge drinking affect your social and personal well-being?

The effects of drinking on your body and social life.

How many Interdisciplinary units per school year?  – each year group should experience one interdisciplinary unit per year. This must happen however and it is important. A fundamental concept in MYP is collaborative planning. St. Dominic’s has a structure in place where the teacher leader of AoI also is assigned a grade level. They are to do two projects per year. The new guide however says to scrap this and go away from unifying themes. It is better to go for small collaborations.


Guiding questions are not the same as unit questions.

A long project (5 – 15 weeks) can easily address all of the criteria and objectives. I might not be assessing all aspects of the criteria. In technology it almost has to with the design cycle. The individual tasks within the objectives.


·         an optional process where students can earn MYP certificates. Today just under half of students undergo this process

·         a second reason is to have the IB assist you with maintaining academic rigor.

·         Bundle up one task, 8 samples and send away in March to a moderator, who is a practicing MYP teacher, who re-marks the paper. They are looking at some things like “Is this task a good one?” “Does this task demanding enough, can students reach beyond level 4” “Is the school setting standards too high or too low”

·         Next a senior moderator looks at it and then it goes to Cardiff where it is further analyzed.

·         In June all of the students grades are sent also to Cardiff and a report is issued in September

·         One drawback is schools want to avoid getting a moderation factor that will lower the levels

·         IB is looking at the revising the process;

·         The record of achievement will be lowered if the teachers are not being too rigorous

·         Most of the problem is bad tasks, not the teacher marking. Many do not allow higher thinking.



Fees for the MYP program

·         one teacher per subject group do the MYP subject specific training; this applies to all schools

·         a large school would send 1/3 of all teachers to one of the three workshops

·         typical costs are 2000 euros

·         on-line training doesn’t count for required PD



International Baccalaureate Conference Day #1

The MYP Concept
The MYP Concept

I am attending an introductory conference to the Middle Years Program (MYP)  (grades 6-10) of the International Baccalaureate (IB). It is being held in the RAI Convention Center in Amsterdam, Holland. I am in the Introductory Workshop for Administrators. The conference is open to schools from Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

This post are my notes and reflections on ideas I have learned from the conference.

The keynote speech this morning was by Tristian Stable, the head of program development for the IB Diploma.

<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–> The point of the presentation is to show the relationship between the MYP and DP program.

The Big Ideas

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>There is a coherence of the MYP / Diploma continuum

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Creative Teacher Professionalism

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Curriculum is an on-going process

coherence = balanced

consistency = skills & ideas are sensibly arranged and ordered; for deep understanding, they have to experience repeatedly

My goal: Identify three leadership and three management strategies to improve practice and plan for their implementation in your school.

Curriculum defn –

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>What the students experience not the intended curriculum

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Should be what we value, but in many schools instead it is what can be assessed!

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Too much content and it is bad if it is driving the curriculum

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Transmission of the culture – IBO is very geared towards the USA/UK/Australia universities

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>What skills and ideas do they need for their future – “Does it equip students for life?”

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>You don’t need the same curriculum for all levels at the school –

Teachers are trusted to implement, develop, and deliver the curriculum (creative teacher professionalism). Administrators are there to support, develop, and holding teachers accountable.

IBO is Euro-centric, Western, for example “inquiry-based”; but it is good in that it encourages students to experience the thinking and feelings of others;

Theory of Knowledge – supposed to be the “glue” that sticks the different disciplines together, not a single subject

It is important that students take formal exams and students learn how to cope with stress and test-taking strategies.

Scheduling is critical; strong leadership is huge because of the teacher independence;

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1) <!–[endif]–>Clearly defined roles (job description)

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2) <!–[endif]–>Prioritize

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3) <!–[endif]–>On-going curriculum evaluation [look at every program every year to critique]

<!–[if !supportLists]–>4) <!–[endif]–>Have all three Student / Teacher / Parent Profiles

<!–[if !supportLists]–>5) <!–[endif]–>Day Two<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>

Introduction to the MYP Workshop

Do we give each of the eight subjects equal time in the 5 years of the MYP program?

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Technology is a key issue and the only subject that can be integrated into the rest of the subject areas. Rarely is it integrated properly.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Minimum number of hours per subject is 50 hours per school year

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Physical education different from extra curricular sports program, the sports does not fulfill the physical education criteria.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Find the MYP technology curriculum for Paul, our new Technology Coordinator for PK-12 next year.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>I need to look at the Design & Technology curriculum and ICT curriculum; the huge idea is the design

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Every year they need to do all eight subject areas.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>It is okay to for IEP’s and ESL to put in extra classes and take away from other areas, because the students are in the center of the octagon.

The MYP Octogan Points

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>The Areas of Interaction (AoI) are the context in which the students learn the subject areas and they are the “glue” or links between subjects.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>The AoI are different colored lenses; and they see the same subjects through a different color as you move the wheel

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>AoI are the whole world issues that give relevancy of the subjects to “real” life

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>The Learner Profile is wrapped around the student/ teacher / parent in the middle

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>What are the student learning outcomes, as regards the areas of interaction? Someone needs to write the specific student outcomes under each area for each of the 5-year MYP programs – it is all explained in the MYP From Principles Into Practice

The Standards of MYP

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>New standards are coming out in March 2010 – they will be streamlined and examples of evidence

At the end of the MYP experience, students can get two certificates:

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1) <!–[endif]–>The regular certificate of completing the entire program; you have to do the last two years at minimum, plus score a minimum on the personal project;

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2) <!–[endif]–>Record of achievement – this gives a listing of classes and the grades

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>PYP (doesn’t matter) MYP (4 or 5 years) DP (2 years) – work backwards from start of university

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>MYP can be 4 years, as long as it is the last four years before the DP.