King’s College International School Bangkok believes our 3 pillars - Academic Excellence, Co-curricular Programme, and Pastoral Care System - can strengthen and pave the way for all of our students’ futures. For academic excellence, it cannot be denied that teachers are the key to success, so we always select the best people to work with us and the children.
William Byfield graduated from University of Oxford and spent years of teaching Biology at King’s College School, Wimbledon. He has joined us as a Biology teacher and Head of Science in this academic year (2021-2022). We recently interviewed him and would like to share some of his thoughts on teaching and his experiences:
Interviewer: What is your teaching philosophy?
Will B.: I believe independence is at the core of my teaching philosophy. I do not want to just prepare my students for their exams, I want to look far beyond that and prepare them for life. If I just talk at my students and they write down what I have said, or perhaps copy out of a book, do they fully understand what they have written? Could they apply this knowledge in a new situation? I do not believe so, therefore it is my job as their teacher to build each student’s ability to learn independently from being able to assess their own strengths and weaknesses to setting their own short and long-term learning goals. All of this will help to build not only happy well-rounded students but happy and well-rounded adults! Of course, another very important aim is that every student in my class looks forward to their science lesson, whether this be Biology, Chemistry or Physics!
Interviewer: Your teaching philosophy is independence. Why do you think independence is important? And how do you inspire independence among your students?
Will B.: Independence benefits students in the long term. We as teachers must ask ourselves: Are we setting them up to be happy and successful throughout life? Or are we just trying to get them in the door now, with the right results and nothing else? There isn't a limit per sé but in order for them to be effective, independent learners, there are a lot of skills that we need to learn and practice, and these are what I want to be teaching within lessons.
Interviewer: How will science be taught at King’s Bangkok?
Will B.: Primarily, yes, we have to cover content, but what I aim to teach is the confidence and readiness to inquire and explore that content independently. In the future, their jobs and lectures won’t be based solely on someone telling them information; they will be expected to draw on lots of different sources and create something new. So, while giving students the facts and figures might get them GCSE and A-Level grades, they will not be able to adapt and thrive after they leave school. Therefore, teaching them how to learn and discover new things will ensure their success at every stage of their educational journey and life itself.
Interviewer: Senior school students eventually pick a path of what they might want to do in the future. How would you support a student who is not necessarily at the level to achieve their goal - due to relatively low grades or subject choices that don’t align with their future plans?
Will B.: Say a student wanted to be a doctor. I would want to first understand their reasons for this path. If it was just for the title, praise and flashy parts - extrinsic motivation - the chances of them putting in the work, taking all the help required and driving themselves are low. I would discourage surface-level motives and instead bolster students who are intrinsically motivated - who want to pursue it because they want to learn more about and devote their time to it. For them, we will always provide any support possible. We teachers will always do what we can to help a student, whether that be practising more independent learning skills, looking at how a student is approaching that revision and how revision they're doing, we will make sure that the correct balance is struck and assist them as best we can.
Additionally, we aim to show students that there are more routes to the end goal than they may think, and that the school will support them in whatever they decide. Reapplication for university after an unsuccessful try in the previous year is an option or looking into different opportunities to apply for in the next year. If a student misses their grades for, say, Medicine, we will look at other courses within the field which allows them to explore their innate desire to help people. The doors are never shut. As long as students care about the impact, we know that there are so many different careers that will allow them to find fulfilment, and will aid them in finding these routes.
Interviewer: Science information is available everywhere now in places like Youtube, BBC Bitesize, and more, and some students may think that is all they need instead of physical teaching. How do you combat this way of thinking and keep them engaged in day-to-day lessons?
Will B.: One of the skills we need to teach when students practice independent learning is to judge their sources. This isn’t to say that videos and resources online are all wrong or they don't tell you everything, but that when we explore and talk about them, there are often strengths and weaknesses. Not everything on the internet is correct and it is easy to be misinformed. One must think about the motivation behind creating online media - consumption, views, likes, money. Sources are important, and skepticism and discernment are paramount for clear scientific thought, and we try to instill this in our students.
However, it’s not our way or nothing. Those resources definitely have a place in STEM teaching and can help to reiterate our teaching philosophy of independence. Sometimes we will even watch a video in class or, in the independent research tasks, students have access to a huge range of sources online, as they will in university and beyond.
The idea of what a teacher is and what teaching is has changed. Information is readily available now, and this is a wholly positive thing, but we have to remember that the same knowledge was in books 60 years ago. Media is one thing, but there will always be a role for a teacher to clarify, adapt their methods to you, and make your learning journey as straightforward as possible.
Interviewer: Do you think there is a big difference between students here and in KCS Wimbledon?
Will B.: Here, like at KCS, we have students who are eager to learn and engage. Keep in mind: we have been online for the majority of the school’s existence - all senior school students have only ever experienced the school through a screen - and I believe they have done phenomenally well given the less-than-optimal circumstances.
We have cameras on, breakout rooms in session, and people are still talking and getting to know each other, which is huge. Reflecting on when I was their age, if I had to start at a completely new school, virtually surrounded by new people and teachers, I don’t think I would have coped half as well as every single student here. They have done a brilliant job; the students’ resilience inspires us all.
Interviewer: What are your favourite and proudest memories as a teacher?
Will B.: Contrary to popular belief, results days, being admitted to destination universities and academic success, while important, are not my most notable memories. Instead, what I remember, looking back, are the little things. It might just be that someone went into your lesson, not particularly happy or with a lot of things on their mind, but for a couple of hours you gave them an escape, or did something as simple as asking them about their day.
The most rewarding part of my teaching journey has been seeing children’s perspectives regarding Biology change. Some students entered my class for the first time begrudgingly, and I was proud to watch as they started to enjoy and even become excited about the subject which they had hated at first.
In short, successfully creating a happy environment in which students can feel comfortable and enjoy learning is my favourite thing to do.
Will demonstrates great vision, inspiration and spirit - characteristics of all of our teachers and staff. With his strong, consistent efforts to nurture students' independent exploration and learning, King’s Bangkok School truly believes that our students will not just enjoy Biology, but also learn to love learning for life.