Three Years Later…
I opened my email a little while ago to find that I am now an official IBDP Examiner for English A. So much has happened in the last three years that as I sit here on a lazy Saturday morning, coffee cup in hand, I cannot help but look back and reflect on my foray into teaching the IBDP.
As the year draws to a close I find myself thinking ‘we’re almost done!’. It’s the final stretch before my IB seniors go off and activate ‘studious beast’ mode, in a lead up to their examinations. Right now they’re finalizing their IA’s for submission, adding the spit and polish to their 4000 word long extended essays and certainly feeling the pressure as they refine their Theory of Knowledge presentations. They’ve had quite a year – to say the least.
Three years ago I was lurking around the edges of the IB classroom. Watching. Learning. Waiting. When the opportunity arose, I dipped my toes into the IBDP pool and there was no turning back. Diving into the IBDP and groping around to make sense of things had been an enormous learning experience. There’s so much value in what I now refer to as ‘purposeful floundering’ – learning by observing, by reading, by asking, by doing and by making errors.
So what was the outcome of year one? Well to be honest, it was pretty good with the entire class scoring in the 5, 6 and 7 range and making meaningful progress right through the year. The students and I enjoyed the units, conceptual understanding was achieved, and learning experiences were meaningful and deep. What more could I ask for?
In my additional role as Extended Essay Coordinator I was fortunate to meet people from all over the world with a wide range of IB experience. What makes any new learning experience more meaningful is the willingness and help on offer from people around you. There’s an incredible sense of community within the global IB faculty and meeting them and hearing their stories and ideas was an incredible insight into how passionate they are about the course content and how they transacted it.
Just look at my social media feed and you’ll see that I practically live online. On the internet I found that I wasn’t alone. There is an entire tribe of IB professionals making connections, sharing resources and just being there for each other. Twitter revolutionized the way I interacted with other educationists and gave me a network of professionals to connect with who are incredibly committed to nurturing an online community of learners who will impact their classrooms positively.
Teaching the IB curriculum has been more than just a change from a content to skill based curriculum and approach. It has been a paradigm shift in thinking and transacting new ideas. I must give a shout out to all the people I have met, spoken to, interacted with or tweeted over the last three years. While voices and faces are sometimes a blur, what remains clear is their incredible support, willingness to share and their genuine interest to learn.
Now, with my second batch nearing completion and a third making confident strides forward I am so much more confident as raring to go. The IB changed me as a learner first and then as a teacher. It made learning so much more stimulating. Knowing new things gives you more to think about and more to wonder about. How could you not be inspired by a course that is designed to make you ask questions about everything around you? One that sparks an interest even in areas of knowledge that you were pleased to ignore previously?
That being said when the deadlines are imminent and the paper work piles up, perhaps it’s not always easy to see the bright side of things. But, at the end of the day I believe most IB teachers will tell you how much fun it is and how the process enriches you professionally and personally too.
Sydney Michael Atkins