Bringing IB into my Teaching Experience

Last academic year (2018-2019) I was fortunate to work as a Spanish teacher in three different schools: our own school Washington Preparatory School in Bothell, Soundview School in Lynnwood, and Cedar River Montessori School in Renton. I will let go of the idea of writing about the most efficient way to drive around the entire Seattle area but rather I will write of how I was introduced to the International Baccalaureate Programme (IB, and yes, the spelling is in the British form), also introduced to the Montessori system (another European educational system and philosophy) and about some aspects of IB which I will bring into my teaching at a conscientious and committal level. These are reflection (T.O.K.), independent learning (learner profile), project-based learning and teaching, and the philosophy that all teachers are language teachers.

I have been teaching language acquisition since 1999, and the phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” immediately began applying to me regarding IB.  WaPrep and one of the other schools are IB schools. Suddenly and immediately, my teaching routine had to begin the process of adjustment. Yes, the process, because change doesn’t come immediately, because to be a true educator means becoming involved and loving the process of learning, because my own education and teaching experience were being augmented.

I was coached and assisted with the writing of the IB curriculum for the MYP (Middle Years Programme) because one of the schools was already an IB school. Until this March, WaPrep was an IB candidate school. WaPrep sent me to my initial IB training in Portland which took place in November of 2018. Three of us, Qian Zhang the Mandarin Teacher, Teresa Coggins the Physical Education Teacher and Administrative Assistant and I traveled to Portland together by train. The IB training left me thinking like Socrates, “I know that I know nothing.” I was so confused with acronyms and new ways of assessment and a curriculum form that I had to do and re-do so much, and that, although similar, was not the same as the MYP form with which I received so much help and guidance. This was the DP (Diploma Programme for grades 11 and 12) curriculum form. I began to wonder if I’d ever be able to teach this way.

On January of 2019, one of the school’s had an IB inspection, I was interviewed by phone on account of the heavy snow days. The valuable lesson that I got from this interview was the philosophy that all teachers are language teachers. Well, language I know and with this I began to dive myself into learning the IB way: the theories of knowledge (TOK), the DP (Diploma Programme), reflection and assessment. Of course, there is more but I don’t want to outline every acronym in the book.

As a language teacher my experiences encompass Spanish, Hebrew, Italian and English. While my main focus presently is Spanish instruction, I have taught English to Hebrew and Spanish speakers, Italian in independent studies, and modern Hebrew to private students. Language feeds my soul. In the IB philosophy we learn everything through language. This aspect of IB has been taken in as my own personal philosophy as well.

Reflection and theories of knowledge, “how do I know what I know?” is another aspect of IB that I feel is very important for many reasons. When a person reflects, that person improves what they do. When a person reflects, that person begins to see themselves in relation to others and how their actions affect others. We need as much of this in our world as possible.

Independent learning (from IB learner profile) is by far incredibly valuable. The old saying, “Give a person a fish and she can eat a meal; teach a person to fish and she will have food for a life-time.” (I know, I fudged it a bit.) Likewise, teach a person a technique and that person knows that technique which may be good to do one specific thing. Teach a person how to learn and the whole world is theirs. Along this philosophy is the practice of project-based learning (PBL). In PBL a student begins with questions. These questions lead to research and analysis. The student is led and directed rather than instructed. A significant part of the learning is done by the student. This is an independent learner, a person with confidence and a person who asks questions, studies, analyses and concludes. Couple PBL with reflection and a person ceases to have a stagnant mind.

I embrace IB. Through IB, our school will be on par with any IB school around the globe. Because of IB the assessments that students receive are as objective as possible because the external assessments are done by teachers whom we do not know (yes, I love the correct use of who and whom). By bringing IB into my teaching I will grow as a teacher and learner. With each step of my learning process I hope to open my own mind and assist others in opening theirs.

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