I just spent the last three days at the Category 2 MYP (Middle Years Programme) Head of Schools/Coordinators session as part of a larger IB workshop in lovely Los Angeles. I travelled to LA with 5 of my colleagues from school including another AP as well as some PYP and MYP teachers. Each of us were involved in different sessions. We had lots of time to learn, discuss and take part in some unique learning activities. For me, the best part of a conference is connecting with other educators from all over the Americas. It is interesting to find out how schools are organized and to learn about some of the strategies that are used. It is extremely interesting to hear about the various challenges that administrators are faced with.
So, as I sit here on the floor at LAX waiting for our flight home, I ask myself, “What were my biggest takeaways from the conference?”
1. The IB programme is not an additional thing that you do at your school. It has to be part of the foundation of the school and is an important part of the culture. It should be woven into everything that you do. It gives us a common language to use as we teach our students. This is the same with Catholicity at our school…it is the foundation of our school and it is permeated into everything that we do.
2. It is not about the final product, it is about the learning that happens along the way. I have always believed this but it became particularly evident during this workshop. As an exercise, we looked at a process journal and a personal statement from a student’s MYP personal project and we all decided that this student deserved excellent marks for the learning that she had done. We had not even seen the final product yet! That because, learning isn’t about creating products…it is about demonstrating and being able to articulate the learning and changes that are happening as you work through the project.
3. Collaboration is vital. Administrators, coordinators, teachers and students all need to be part of the program and have their voices heard. This was evident during one of our learning activities this past weekend. We were challenged to design a strategy for introducing a change at a fictitious school. We were given the descriptions of some of the staff members at the school and with only that information, we had to decide (as a large group) how we would introduce the change. During the process, some leaders emerged and some participants jumped on board. Some decisions were made and a final presentation of the solution was given. The facilitators of the session acknowledged that we had, indeed, come up with a solution. At this point, I looked at a couple of other people at my table and we simultaneously said to each other, “What was the solution?” BOOM…I understood the point of the exercise. As a school leader, you cannot force change and push things through. Change is a slow process and must be carefully planned out. Everyone should be able to answer questions about what is going on and the changes which are occurring. How many times does this happen at school? Go to a meeting, decide a bunch of stuff and later you find out that some people have no idea about what is going on. #frustrating
4. Changes in a school will not be sustained if they are flash in the pan, one time only. As I stated above, changes should be carried out with a vision and a mission in mind.
5. Educational leaders need to model what they expect of staff and students. For example, if you want your kids to be good learners and represent the IB Learner Profile…that is what you need to be. In the same way, if we want the kids at our school to be good citizens, it is important to model that and, more importantly, correct and redirect learners who are not meeting our expectations.
6. A program in a school cannot be run by one or two people. Yes, there are a few people who are responsible for organizing and will be held accountable but if a program is going to be effective, each staff member must understand their role and how their role fits into the big picture.
It was a great conference and it provided me with many things to think about and reflect on. It was also a great way to connect with some staff from our school as well as other educators. It is interesting to hear what my colleagues were learning and how it fits with what I was learning.