Friday, July 22, 2011

Pushing my limits

The above photo is one I took of PTIS Campus (Chiang Mai, Thailand) last week while attending an IB Workshop leaders training. The serenity of the location kept us grounded as our learning and comfort zones were pushed beyond anything we could imagine. I have never experienced anything quite like it in my life. We were so focused and so intensely immersed in the training for so long (nearly 5 days). No sessions were optional, and 110% was expected in all activities. There was no slacking off during the workshops from 8:30 - 4:30 each day. But, I have come out of the experience feeling stronger as an educator with a much deeper understanding of the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme and philosophy as well my learning and teaching styles and educational philosophy.

What did I learn that I will apply to my school life?
The following will mainly apply to IB schools, however, the concepts behind the following would apply to any school librarian working under any curriculum.

1. That a school needs to embrace the IB programme completely to really reap the benefits. The IB philosophy, standards and practises need to be a part of the school policy making, discipline, mission statement, action plans etc as well as in the curriculum. In the library I need to re-examine our mission statement, practices, collections, teaching strategies to ensure they align with these important parts of the IB. This is something that all school libraries need to do for any curriculum that is followed.

2. The learner profiles are at the heart of ALL the programs and is the mission statement of the IB. Everything is connected to the learner profiles even in the Middle Years & Diploma Program. They also need to be reflected in the documentation, essential agreements, policies etc. They are an exceptional collection of attributes that cover pretty much every action of humans. I have a much deeper appreciation for them. I need to ensure that my administrative and teaching behavior reflects these profiles and look at how they can be incorporated into the library program without just being meaningless signs. They are actions.

3. In the IB documents, the role of the library is both mandated and supported, and I need to be using these documents much more in my planning, collaboration and teaching of the curriculum. I need to be supporting teachers to use these documents as well, especially those new to the IB.

4. I had reinforced to me that teaching concepts results in much better learning than teaching content. Content will go out of date, concepts do not. I need to look at my own programme and align it with the teaching of skills to learn concepts. What are the concepts (or enduring understandings) we as librarians need to focus on? (I think this will be next weeks post).

5. Learning through inquiry takes time, and unless we as teachers are thrust into the inquiry mode of learning by external forces we really cannot fully appreciate all the factors that come into play when trying to learn through inquiry. Do not rush the students, they need time to get it in their heads what is required, they need to make sense of what they are doing before they begin inquiring. They need some background information to form questions, they need access to information to make sure they are arriving at the right answers, they need to know what the outcome needs to be - what are they trying to learn?

If they are working in groups - do they know how to negotiate, is one person assuming the leadership role without group consenus, are they auditing that they are covering all the bases? Are they staying on track? Do they actually know what they are supposed to be doing? Are they all actually interested in what they are inquiring into? Did they all get their first choice? Who decided what groups they would be in?

So many variables that come into play. Authentic inquiry cannot be rushed and needs to have good scaffolding to enhance the process. If there is not enough time to finish the unit - reduce the learning expectations to the main enduring understandings.

6. I have a much deeper appreciation for the MYP, PYP and DP coordinators at our school and with this new understanding I have I feel committed to support them in whatever capacity they need me to help them. I am now on the same page, and feel compelled to help others 'see the light!'

7. One of the main things I learned from the training was how much I did not know. I am now working through my action plan in reading all the applicable IB documents with the library glasses on trying to make adjustments to what I am doing along the IB lines. I am also looking at the documents with an eye to what is happening in our school as a whole and how this could be adjusted. I am looking at the documents with my teacher hat on, trying to absorb and make sense what it means to be an authentic IB teacher. I am realigning my practice and thinking to the philosophy that our school has embraced in the IB.

8. Another main learning point for me is that as a TL in a school, I need to know and be familiar with all school curriculum, planning and assessment documentation to be truly effective and proactive as a collaborating member of staff.

So, I have three weeks left of holidays, part of the time will be reflecting on practice, policies and programme and adjusting where required. I look forward to the journey, and I hope I become a better educator out of it!


Staceyt said...

Dianne, thanks for your generosity in posting this. I will wait with bated breath for next week's post.
I really think that point 5 . "Learning through inquiry takes time" is something I have to impress upon our teachers and particularly with our EE process, that background development and fermenting time for an idea or question or inquiry is critical (My learning from the EE course). Thanks again

Tom said...


Hi, and firstly, thank you for sharing this. Your reflections are a source of learning and reinforcement for me, and I suspect, for all those who stop by to read these lines.

I especially like your motivation, enthusiasm, and tenacity. There are so many policy manuals to read, digest, and ultimately put into practice. The one constant that makes sense of everything, for me, is the IB Learner Profile. You have rightly discovered that the profile applies to us teachers as well, and not just the students.

Enjoy your summer of personal learning and growth in knowledge.

Best regards,

Thomas Baker
Teacher of English
Santiago, Chile

Dianne said...

Thanks Tom and Stacey for leaving a comment. I have started by reading the Guide to the learner profile and pulling it apart in context of libraries - powerful stuff. Now onto the Standards & Practises, with ICT in the PYP lined up closely behind. Which, after evaluation will become the guide across all programs. I am really appreciating how the IB is pulling the programs closer together to make it clearly one package rather than 3 separate curriculums. There is a lot of work going on there behind the scenes.

Jeff said...


Thanks for the sharing.
Although my school is not under IB programme, I learn a lot from your post.
I am also thinking what kind of concepts should TL forcus on and how to teach it in the limited time of the library lessons.
But my first step is to get more familiar with the curriculums of all the subjects.

Gary Green said...

Dianne - great reflection on workshop training. I agree with all that you have said.

I think the need for us to step forward and engage in learning is such a high priority as opposed to resourcing aspect which traditionally is the is the easier path to tread. Inquiry require leadership and not just support. I think that needs to be programmed into the teacher librarian's DNA!

One of the things that staff need to see is the connection with how PYP/MYP prepares students for DP. I have just written a paper for my staff on this because there is hardly anything published to show these connections. It is an ongoing, connected and cumulative process.

The other key aspect from the training is our coaching role. Interpreting the IB documents and offering a distilled message on what it means and how it can be translated through inquiry in the classroom.

As always, your comments are insightful and promote such a positive and collaborative dialogue with your colleagues:-)

Gary Green

Ngawang Tenzin said...

Hi Dianne,
Thanks for sharing your reflection. Your reflections are a great source of learning for me and your passion towards the profession is a great sources of inspiration.
Your blog is a lot better than reading any other normal book.
Your blog is my daily dose.

Enjoy your summer vacation.

Warm regards,
Ngawang Tenzin