A common question I receive among parents and other community members is what IB looks like after they leave Spicewood Elementary. And while IB, at the DP (Diplomma Program) level, looks different than at the PYP level, it consists of the same core Learner Profile values and approaches to learning. Two Westwood High school seniors, Ishaana and Madalyn, began an after school club right here on campus last year, inspired by their exposure to the DP programme at Westwood High school. I was able to connect with them last week and ask them about their experiences with IB and how they feel its impacted their learning.
As both girls shared their experiences, it’s hard not to feel inspired and motivated to continue to share with others the long lasting impacts that IB has an those who are able to experience the programme. At the end of our interview they left me with a few last words…”IB is so worth it!”. Knowing how much intention, thought and careful planning our teachers put into our planners to do what’s best for kids, I couldn’t agree more.
When did you IB education begin?
(Ishaana) Westwood. I didn’t go to an IB elementary or middle school. I went to Laural Mountain for a year and finished up elementary school within AISD where my mom worked, before going to Canyon Vista Middle School.”
(Madalyn) I also went to Canyon Vista.
Since you both went to Canyon Vista (which is not an IB campus), how do you think you were prepared for the IB programme at Westwood?
(M & I) The teachers at Canyon Vista all have high expectations. That’s one thing that’s been really important with the IB programme at Westwood. All of the teachers are also really flexible. They treat us like people and let us make mistakes.
Why did you choose to be a part of the DP programme at Westwood?
(Ishaana) I was first told about the IB programme at an information session conducted by other IB students from Westwood during my eighth grade year. It sounded interesting and I knew I had a few years to think about whether or not I wanted to commit to the program during my junior and senior years. You get to have a “taste” of the rigor and approach during your freshman and sophomore years. I LOVED my junior year literature class. It made me want to pursue social sciences. I love the tight knit community of IB. The teachers are also so amazing!
What do you enjoy most about being a part of the DP programme?
(Madalyn) I love the tight community. My favorite class is Theory of Knowledge. The teacher is fantastic! We get to be really reflective, have open discussions and its a safe place to share ideas and opinions. The teachers teach us to look at the significance of things and how to view things with different perspectives. Our teachers often tell us that the process is more important than the product and I can see how that is really true. (Ishaana) The IB programme has influenced me and what I want to study in college. It’s given me great communication and writing skills. You are able to explore ideas without limits. During projects, teachers give you the freedom to do what you want. Since the IB students are such a small community you really get to know one another and work really closely with each other.
The IB programme usually involves lots of risk taking and collaboration. How do you perceive shy, introverted students responding in this type of environment?
(Ishaana) I think that since our classes are less restrictive and there are lots of open discussions, shy kids feel comfortable and will share. They might not share as much as others, but they are open to communicating their ideas and the teachers encourage that. The teachers are not always grading and since we have lots of open discussions its a safe place to make a mistake. The teachers are all really encouraging as well. As a student you know that what you have to share is valid for what it is and you are not judged. Since it’s a small group we are close with our classmates and although some students have strong opinions they express, there is always fairness and justice in our classes.
In your opinion, what exactly is an “IB Student”?
(M & I) The Learner Profile! At Westwood, an IB student is mature, appreciates education and is enthusiastic. We all appreciate the transdisciplinary approach to learning. Its a student who is committed and can collaborate. We all take part in projects without the teachers having to tell us what to do. We want things to be fair and divide up the work so everyone has a part.
Action plays a part of the IB curriculum framework and encourages students to take action based on their learning and inquiry in the classroom. What types of actions have you been inspired to take?
(M & I) We’ve always known we wanted to do something. After our first information meeting in eighth grade we knew this was a project we could do with IB. It gave us the push to try and do something for the community. We created the Kids for Kids Club at Spicewood last year to connect with the community. The teachers also always inspire us with their enthusiasm and our classes. They give us a vocabulary to share and explain our new knowledge and thinking. We get to take action in our Theory of Knowledge class by sharing our ideas and feelings during our class discussions. (Ishaana) I know that when I went to visit India with my family my thinking was affected by the things I had learned at Westwood. I see things as less black and white and am more open to listening to other people.
A big THANK YOU to both Madalyn and Ishaana for sharing their experiences at Westwood with us. If you are interested in researching more about the different IB programmes offered at RRISD please be sure to check out more information on the district’s website.