The Path of Amanda Sandland From Bridgend to Sturgis (Summer 2012)

Faculty Profiles provide an opportunity to learn more about the lives and previous work experiences of Sturgis faculty.

“How did you know you enjoyed anthropology?”

Amanda Sandland

This was the question that led to my first experience of the International Baccalaureate. The question was asked to my next door neighbour in my first halls of residence at University College- London. His answer was that he did Anthropology as his Group 3 subject in his studies for the IB. I was amazed – I am from a small town called Bridgend in South Wales where our school system was really traditional. As students, we chose for our A levels (college entrance exams) those subjects we had already been successful in and when we went to college we narrowed our choice further and did a degree in a subject that we had studied for A level – apart from a few who chose to do the universally accepted law, medicine or accounting.  There was very little imagination involved.

Wales Coastline Close to Bridgend

I continued to be interested in the idea of a wider education and while reading more, I learned about the international schools that offered it. Once I finished my degree, I studied education as a post grad with the aim of gaining some local experience and then leaving to travel and teach around the world. My plan didn’t come quite come to fruition because after my first year of teaching, I met Nick – who is now my husband.  His job placed us firmly in Cardiff – or so we thought. Over the next 10 years we married, had two children and I left teaching to work for the Curriculum and Assessment Centre for the International Baccalaureate Organisation in 1998.  (By the way, when I started

Cardiff Castle
Located in the Middle of Cardiff

organisation was spelt with an s – as time moved on and we grew more international the s was replaced with a z.)  I started in the Assessment Department with the remit of investigating the performance of students in examinations and attempting to find any evidence of bias towards any subgroup. These subgroups were based on gender, region of the world, response language, first language etc. “Were girls better at extended response than boys?” “Do more boys take physics?” I also oversaw the procedures that led to a final grade being carried out and attempted to make sure that proposed assessment models were workable and fair to all.

IB Staff when Wales Won the Rugby

After a few years at the IBO office, I changed jobs and became the Subject Manager for Higher Level Mathematics. This mainly involved leading teams that wrote examinations, and also leading teams that graded and set the boundaries (pass marks). There are many different challenges to writing examinations for the IB – not least of which is that all examinations are written in English and then translated. Not being a linguist in any shape or form, it was remarkable how many phrases are not translatable into French or Spanish – or alternatively when the translation makes the question much easier. Keeping contexts that would be understood by all cultures around the whole was also difficult. One question that caused problems for students that no-one had foreseen was in the Math Studies exam where the students were given various pieces of information and asked to calculate the price of something in pennies. Unfortunately the original information was given in pounds. Many candidates did not know how many pennies were in a pound – nor were they expected to. The question had to be discounted.

Machu Picchu

Peruvians in National Dress

I was also very lucky to attend many different workshops and conferences. I visited Tallinn in Estonia, Atlanta, Barcelona, Lyons, Stockholm, and Lima, Peru. Whilst in Lima, I took a few side days and visited Machu Picchu by train because I didn’t have time to walk the trail – unfortunately.

When I started working at the IB office in 1998, there were about 80 staff members who served less than 600 schools with 30,000 candidates worldwide. Of those candidates, only around 12,000 followed the full diploma programme. When I left the IB office in 2008, there were around 200 staff members serving nearly 1,800 schools, with over 90,000 candidates. Nearly 40,000 candidates were enrolled in the full diploma programme.  By May 2011, there were around 2,300 schools with over 110,000 candidates and more than 50,000 full diploma students. The IB is growing very quickly!

As a result of growth, the IB Board decided to move the offices to a more central European location in The Hague, Netherlands. At the same time, my husband was asked by his company about his feelings of relocation – they wanted a European point of view in their American head office. With our two organizations independently thinking of relocating, it made us as a family consider moving and my old dream of working abroad in an IB school was resurrected.

We decided to pursue the American angle and I left the IB office. My husband’s new job allowed us to live anywhere in North America but they would only pay maximum relocation if we lived within 100 miles of Providence, RI. After investigating the area around Providence, we decided that Cape Cod would do us nicely. The added incentive of Sturgis was a major factor.

I had originally thought I might be able to volunteer at the school, but as is often the way at Sturgis, I found myself offering to volunteer and ended up with a paying job. I started teaching two classes in 2009 and now teach four classes including HL Math – a little different from volunteering as a tutor for a few hours.

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