Continuing our series of blog posts following four schools at different stages of their IB journey, as they share their experiences and approach to understanding and implementing PYP: From principles into practice, in their own context.
We were officially authorized February 2020! We have been waiting for this moment for the past four and a half years. We planned a big celebration with t-shirts and certificates for all the staff, brag tags for each of the students and a balloon drop to put the icing on the cake. There have been local news spotlights and we have a beautiful sign that adorns the building. The excitement still hasn’t worn off, but we know that the hard work is just beginning.
I participated in an IB Workshop at CASIE (Center for the Advancement and Study of International Education) entitled Building for the Future. The network of educators that I worked with those three days help me develop a reflection question that stated, “How might we develop systems and practices that develop agency for the whole school community?” that I wanted to bring back to our school. I knew that I wanted to develop agency throughout our school community. Having reflected on this question, I designed professional learning for our pedagogical leadership team that would foster agency in everyone at the table.
The pedagogical leadership team is participating in some professional learning that I designed to take an in-depth look into our action plan to prepare for the next visit from the IB which is to happen in five years’ time. I know it may sound crazy to be taking a look now but this professional learning is designed to take a closer look at our recommendations from our verification visit last Spring, decide what action to take on these recommendations and to decide whether the recommendation is a short term goal (1-2 years), long term goal (3-4 years), action that needs to be ongoing or if we doing a particular standard well and it needs to be maintained.
Looking at our action plan this way helps us to plan out exactly what we want to do and the timeframe in which to do it. This professional learning has sparked us to look more closely at our collaborative planning time with our specialty team, to give our teachers the opportunity to open up their doors to share how they foster the essential elements of the PYP and how to be more intentional about exploring ways to allow for more meaningful student action to be part of our written curriculum.
All of this work lends itself to fostering the enhanced PYP in several areas pertaining to the learner in the following ways:
Agency: We will take more meaningful and intentional action and support voice, choice and ownership for everyone in the learning community. We do a great job of planning school wide action. We are now taking a look at each of our individual planners to make sure that the inquiry lends itself to provide the opportunity for student-initiated action.
The Early Learner: Our Pre-Kindergarten classes use curriculum that is great for play as the primary vehicle for inquiry. The next layer for us is to include more interactive learning spaces for play in our Kindergarten classes and more symbolic exploration and expression. Our school community as a whole has strong student and family relationships that translate into the feel of family among our student body.
Learner Profile: We use the learner profile attributes to choose our Learners of the Month every month. The students talk about different historical figures from the lens of the learner profile trait the figure portrayed in certain situations or in general. We will explore and share ways in which we can develop, appreciate, monitor and demonstrate the learner profile in action. Collaboratively, our team will share ideas of how they individually foster the growth of the learner profile in our students.
A sample of brag tags students can earn for living the learner profile.
Action: We need to foster different forms of action as a school community. The possible types that we will take a deeper look into are advocacy, social justice, social entrepreneurship and life choices. Our students participate in school wide action initiatives, however another layer to add is for the action to become second nature and we must grow this integral part of the learning process so that action can arise at any time instead of it being structured.
Exhibition: At the moment, our Exhibition is guided. We will look at moving towards the exhibition being student led. As we learn more about the exhibition and our students grow and understand more about transdisciplinary learning, social issues and making a difference in the world around them through their voice, choice and ownership, the exhibition will evolve for our school community.
The professional learning centered around our action plan has been very beneficial. The conversation has been rich and very informative and has helped us to determine the path to take and the timeframe in which to do it. The next layer is looking at budgetary implications and dates in which we will complete our action items.
Read more from Burgess-Peterson Academy
Tracy King has a total of 24 years’ experience working with elementary students and teachers. She has been the IB Coordinator at Burgess-Peterson Academy since 2014. The school is focused on becoming an IB World School. Tracy supports teachers in improving the quality of inquiry-based lessons. She is a proponent for promoting student agency by leading a group of IB Student Ambassadors who are a representative group of students serving as the student voice of Burgess-Peterson Academy. She is passionate about the overall well-being of all students and providing them with an equitable, high-quality education on a daily basis by supporting, assisting, inspiring, motivating and preparing teachers to be catalysts for change. You can follow her on Twitter @IBatBPA.