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How to be an effective PYP Coordinator

Eryn Wiseman, Leader of the Primary Years at International School Utrecht, Netherlands

Eryn Wiseman, Leader of the Primary Years at International School Utrecht, Netherlands

This article share how one school addresses how much time is ideal for a PYP Coordinator. 

How much time is ideal for a PYP Coordinator? This seems to be a question that many PYP schools are asking, and not just the schools at the beginning of their development. One would hope that there is a clear-cut answer. Here is the IB Answers response:

The PYP coordinator must be a school-based person that is either a teacher or an administrator. Each school must acknowledge that the coordinator will need non-contact time to meet with teachers for planning, to strengthen the implementation of the programme, to carry out administration and to share information with the head of school/principal and parents. This should be clearly designated as non-teaching time in advance. The IB does not recommend or require a set time allowance for a PYP coordinator to carry out the responsibilities of the position as the time allocation will reflect each school’s particular needs. Schools need to familiarize themselves with the role of the PYP coordinator as outlined in the PYP Coordinators handbook and make a sound decision regarding release time for the PYP coordinator.

Most of that is quite straight forward, but does it fully answer our question?

Every PYP school is different and has diverse needs and a distinctive dynamic, so every school coordinator’s job will look different. The most important part for me is the link to the classroom. In order to effectively do my job as a coordinator, I need to know what is happening in the classrooms; I need to feel that connection.

One of my tasks as a coordinator is to help my staff develop their understanding of the PYP. In order to do that, I need to see their understanding in action, I need to be in the classrooms on a regular basis and get a feel for how the teachers and students are experiencing the programme. The obvious answer to me is to teach part-time and combine that with coordinating. Because of various factors, usually student population size or school structure, I have been a part-coordinator in every school I have worked. I have tried many different variations but none of them were ideal, there was always some aspect that I could not seem to get right. This year it was that I never seemed to have the time to really support my staff in their development and understanding of the IB. So, after reflection and with the support of my Head of School, we have came up with a brilliant construct. We created a team teaching system where the two classroom teachers, and myself, as the English language acquisition (ELA) teacher, plan all language lessons collaboratively. We plan two lessons a week where all three of us are working with all of the children in the grade at the same time, usually starting as a whole group then breaking into satellite groups and coming together for a sharing/feedback/reflection session. We also assess the children’s progress together to plan the next lessons. This will place me, as ELA teacher and PYP Coordinator, in each grade twice a week. What a luxury!  I cannot wait.

In the end, the IB Answers response is correct: you will need to prioritize the needs of your school and then decide what structure you need in place in order to best meet those needs. You will need to think creatively and trial some constructs to find what works and how much time is really needed. When you find your solution, let me know!

Eryn has more than 20 years of experience as a PYP educator, both as a PYP teacher and coordinator in different schools in the Netherlands. She is also a former IB employee at the Global Centre in The Hague and visited schools all through Europe and the Middle East to help, guide and evaluate them through the implementation of the PYP curriculum. In 2014, Eryn had the opportunity to help set up a brand new school in Delft. She started working at International School Utrecht at the start of the last school year.