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Making the Future at Milan’s MITA Conference

Now in its third year, MITA challenges over 140 teachers from 25 schools in northern Italy to “Make the Future” and “Become More”
By Sara Griffith
Making the Future at Milan’s MITA Conference

On 3 February 2018, more than 140 educators representing 25 schools in northern Italy gathered at the American School of Milan (ASM) to share teaching philosophies, stories, inspirations, and techniques. In its third year, this unique Saturday conference for professional development is called MITA, the Milan International Teachers Association. In her opening remarks, Maureen Madden, ASM Director, welcomed the group and congratulated the teachers for wishing to Become More by seeking new ideas and inspiration from one another. “As teachers, we are agents of change. Don’t wait for others to make change. You hold magical keys to inspire a new generation of learners.” And speaking of the next generation, Matt Bowman—Physics teacher at the British School of Milan—explained how he uses “thinking and linking” exercises with students to create better critical thinkers and encourage high-level “what if” thinking in the classroom. For his part, Ohad Ben Shimon, IB Theory of Knowledge, Business Management & IGCSE Global Perspectives Teacher at the St. Louis School, presented on transformations in the job market and key competences for future success. He purported that “creativity is one of these, and a journey of experimentation must be encouraged in the classroom.” “As educators, we are part of making the future... we need to be examples of what needs to change,” stated the final morning keynote speaker, David Youngman, IB MYP I&S and IBDP Business and Economics teacher at the International School of Monza. He encouraged teachers to be future-minded and relevant by teaching students about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Created in 2015, these 17 goals are designed to help end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all; each item includes a series of objectives to be achieved over the next 15 years. “Pick one to show, demonstrate, and give strength to in lesson plans to do your part in helping to make a better world tomorrow.” MITA’s format of brief plenary keynotes followed by targeted workshops and job-alike sessions allowed both general and more targeted professional development for primary and secondary school teachers across disciplines. Workshop topics ranged from app smashing with Seesaw, successful peer feedback strategies, moving from math problems to rich tasks, learning support, differentiation in the secondary classroom, and creating with Canva. Job-alike sessions covered diverse areas as they relate to different age and interest groups, including early childhood, primary years, secondary physics and chemistry, secondary humanities and literature, university counseling and library development. The afternoon keynotes expanded on ideas presented in the morning and rounded out the day, sending participants off with positive messages and laughter. Agata Bogdanska advised teachers about the image they project to students in her talk titled, “Teacher Self-Perception and Student Motivation.” She joined MITA from both the European School (scuola Europea) in Varese and the Polish School under the Consulate of Poland in Milan. The American School of Milan’s own Stephen Reiach, Director of Technology, used the warning from a conversation between Egyptian deities Ra and Thoth to demonstrate the need to prepare students for a world that will look very different than ours today. Thoth desires to give humanity the gift of writing, but Ra warns him that humans will no longer be able to remember on their own and will live in an altered reality. Reiach linked this warning to the state of today’s teenager, surrounded by nearly every fact and scrap of information known to humankind and yet evolving in a classroom that relies on a model better suited to an agricultural or industrial society. The idea for MITA was devised by ASM teachers Christopher Briner (IB Biology and TOK) and Emily Laninga (Grade 3 elementary). “We wanted to forge connections amongst teachers, to get them talking, sharing, inspiring, and even commiserating,” explained Chris. “As a young teacher, I benefited greatly thanks to advice and techniques shared by colleagues and mentors, and that spurred me to brainstorm with Emily and hatch MITA. Now in its third year, we couldn’t be more proud of the continued interest and success of this initiative.” MITA is supported in part by the Fund for Excellence at the American School of Milan. Explained Laninga, “We’re so pleased with the growing attendance and success of MITA. We’re thankful for the ASM administration and Fund for Excellence for allowing us to connect, learn, and grow.” ASM is already looking forward to next year’s event!

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