Anna Nøkland recently became 2IB’s Psychology teacher, her first job after graduating from Oslo University, where she studied Psychology. Most of the curriculum was in Norwegian, with a few classes in English, and so I wondered just how she happened upon the IB. When asked, she said: “I first encountered the IB in tenth grade, on one of those educational events where all the schools promote themselves.” She herself also considered the IB program, but ultimately decided to go to a regular state school.
Even so, Anna has a lot of experience with English. She went on exchange in the UK in 2009 for one year in high school and half a year in 2013 during her university studies. I asked her what she thought about teaching in English. She responded: “I’m an English teacher, but I find it easier to teach English in VG1 than I find teaching IB Psychology in English. Because it’s all about the academic vocabulary and I think everyone finds it a bit harder to speak English than to write it. So it’s kind of a transition.”
The academic level of the IB is one of the characteristics she likes about the program. That as well as the ideology on holistic learning and the fact that we have subjects such as TOK that are focused on improving how we think. She remarked that the IB system is quite different from the Norwegian one and I asked her what might be the difference or challenge with being an IB teacher instead of a regular one? She said: “The challenge of becoming an IB teacher is mostly academically, because the academic level is very high, in the curriculum and amongst the students, and that’s also very rewarding. Students seem to be very eager to learn. That also makes it a challenge as a teacher. It’s a challenge but a good challenge.”
Being a teacher can be challenging, yes. Many don’t appreciate teachers and the hard work they put in. It also isn’t rewarding financially. Therefore, many students don’t go on to becoming teachers, so I had to ask, what was Anna’s motivation for teaching? “There are three main things that come to mind,” she said. “First of all, I really love to work with young people, both children and teenagers. I did a lot of volunteer work when I was growing up, so that was a very familiar experience to me. And then also, I liked school very much, it was an arena where I did well and had friends. The final thing is the subjects. When choosing which subjects I wanted to teach I picked out my favorite subjects from when I was a student.”
Anna mentioned her favorite subjects in school were Social Sciences, English and, only later on, Psychology. When I asked her what drew her to teach this subject and why she liked it so much, she said: “When I chose to do Psychology, my knowledge of the subject was mostly what we now talk about as Social Psychology so I wasn’t really aware of how much the cognitive and the biological approach would broaden my understanding of how individuals and groups act. So what drew me was personal interest in the subject and having the option to teach it, which I thought would be a very interesting subject to teach.”
Do you think your subject is important in a societal perspective? “Very much, both on a personal but also a societal level of course. On a personal level, I think the subject Psychology really broadens your understanding of how your brain works, how you work in social settings, cognitive processes and what can effect that, a lot of things that you aren’t conscious about before you learn the theory about it. And this again has almost like a Domino Effect on society, and you might view conflicts in a different way if you encounter situations of, well… you have the famous example of the bystander effect. Knowing about that effect can change how you behave when you’re out in society and if you see people falling over in the street you might be more inclined to help.”