Mind if I learn?

This year the Swiss Group of International School (SGIS) Annual Conference will be organised by La Côte International School. This two-day event will see a wealth of international keynote speakers take the stage and address exciting subjects revolving around the power of the brain, the benefits of mindfulness or strategies to shift mindsets. We asked this year’s hosts, Wendy Ellis, Principal, and Alison Piguet, Director of Primary to share their thoughts as they put the final preparation touches. 
Can you tell us what role La Côte International School plays within the SGIS and how you came to host this year’s conference?
Alison Piguet
Alison Piguet (AP): La Côte International School is an active members of the SGIS. I personally joined the SGIS committee in 2013 and together with my colleagues from other International Schools we strive to support International Education in Switzerland and provide professional development opportunities for teachers. The SGIS committee has been able to secure a number of leading experts in the field of education for this year’s conference. The line-up reflects how much more we can achieve collectively.
Wendy Ellis (WE): We are honoured to be hosting this great event here for the first time and we look forward to connecting again and sharing views with colleagues and delegates coming from all over Switzerland and beyond. We value our being part of a fruitful network such as SGIS. As a fast growing school, part of fast growing group (there are now 42 schools part of the Nord Anglia Education family) we are keen to work with our fellow International School colleagues to keep raising the standards of our sector and tackle the challenges of international education together.
What do you think educators will get out of those 2 days?
WE: This year’s superb conference embraces the best of what research have brought to bear on educational practice around the topic of the brain. Educators will be exposed to a rich array of pedagogical strategies that will enhance their everyday.
AP: The conference is a great opportunity to collect in a relatively short span of time a lot of actionable insights. It will not only highlight innovative teaching methods in theory, it will also tackle some practical hands-on approaches. Consequently we will have a better understanding of how children learn and we will be equipped with practical tools to use immediately in the classroom. Networking is the other important component of this meeting. There is no better place to meet your peers, exchange views and share best practices and theories with colleagues from different establishments facing the same challenges and changes.
There is something for every educator at this conference. What excites you the most about this year’s line up?
WE: This year’s conference revolves around topics related to the mind: mindset, mindfulness and more generally how the brain can influence learning. Over the last 20 years we have learnt more about the brain than we had in the previous 200 years and that research continues. Educators and neuroscientists have been using and updating this knowledge to understand the learning capacity and skills of young people and improve classroom practice. I think those 2 days are going to be mind-opening. Pun unintended.
Wendy Ellis
AP: Ten leading experts will share their views on how to best support students on their learning journey. It is going to be very intense and I look forward to listening to the latest findings, possibly hear some competing views that will challenge us all and come out of it inspired. 
The topic of “mindfulness” was considered mystic not so long ago. Do you think mindfulness has a place at school?
WE: Mindfulness has gained a lot of momentum in the recent years. The technique of mastering “living in the moment” is believed to help combat distractions in a busy world. In that sense, it is an ancient spiritual technique with laic modern-day relevance. Students are immersed in a multifaceted and fast paced world where gaining their attention and keeping them engaged can be tough. As educators, it is our mission to challenge the status quo and use every knowledge available to help students grow and make sense of the world around them. Numerous studies have shown mindfulness to be beneficial and help focus attention. As a matter of fact, we are offering our students to explore the benefits of mindfulness for themselves this year.
AP: We have been practicing yoga with both Primary and Secondary students for some time, involving breathing exercises and body stretching. After a yoga session we see the students refreshed, full of positive energy ready to be channelled into their next task. We have now a dedicated mindfulness room within our facilities. A bright, airy and welcoming space where students have a chance to practice mindfulness and take it further if they want to. It’s also worth pointing out that teachers and students go through this hand in hand. Before we can expect children to be mindful, it is important that we ourselves are mindful.

This year SGIS conference in a nutshell
The SGIS conference this year entitled ‘Mind if I Learn’, is intended to offer practical strategies and tools that will allow educators to improve the teaching and learning process. Central to this, is understanding the connection between the brain, cognitive development, learning experiences and the environment, in the development of the mind of the future.
It is important for teachers to know how students learn, and what they can do improve their learning, so SGIS has tried to focus the programme on issues that have a direct impact on the student in the classroom whatever their age, ability and background. Our experienced educators and speakers will challenge your thinking in a variety of ways, and offer tools and strategies for curriculum and lesson design.
Practical Information
What: SGIS Annual Conference
Where: La Côte International School, Chemin de Clamogne 8, 1170 Aubonne
When: 11-12 March 2016
Who: All schools are welcome. SGIS members enjoy a special discount.
Information and registration:
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