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!