When learners join a school/program, they arrive as a plant arrives in a garden: with the hope to grow roots; looking forward to belonging; aspiring to blossom in splendorous ways; with a strong desire to be part of a symphony of colors, and shapes; and trusting that [edu]carers will create a safe space for them to be who they are, and not who some people may want them to be.
At school, teachers, administrator, parents, and every member of the community witnesses the learning journey students undergo as they develop and practice attitudes, as they understand and comply with rules, and as they work hard towards fulfilling the standards of any given program. I have experienced how many teachers are always happy to talk about these ‘transitions’, but very few times have I witnessed teachers dialoguing about how we all, at different stages, contribute to the construction of character in individuals as learners and as human beings.
I love transitions, but I have a particular fondness for the transitions that concentrate of building a long lasting, deep bond. I love transitions that focus on building relationships founded on trust, on conversations about the language of kindness, of respect, of embracing different views, of celebrating diversity, of valuing efforts, and contemplating different ways of doing things. I value transitions whose dialogue about self-actualization, ownership, and personal growth occur over and over again.
“The student is at the center of the process” often runs the risk of becoming a cliché, as do differentiation or growth mindsets for that matter, because it’s jargon that is cool to utter in the presence of educators; and because the absence of observable experiences through which this ideal becomes evident makes it hard to believe for some.
I have vastly experimented when creating PYP-MYP transition scenarios. From organizing a learning carousel at International Academy Amman in Jordan, to running a series of workshops about learning skills (Workshop 2) at Ecole Mondiale in India. However, it wasn’t until now that I have walked the road with 6th graders in PYP (last year), and in their grade 7 journey in MYP (this year), that I am fully convinced that students are the best people to talk about what this transition feel like. They have lived it, so they know what took longer to understand, what was the hardest thing to embrace, and what is still difficult to attain. They walked the path that was designed for them and, therefore, they are the most appropriate people to provide feedback on it, to suggest ways to prepare for it, and to make recommendations on how to improve it, we just need to allow them to do it.
Phase 1 of this student-led transition was the ATL-Museum.
Thus, with my grade 7 students, we have taken advantage of the end of the year energy to reflect on what is important to tell, to share, to modify, to improve, and to eliminate. I solely served as a moderator in a conversation in which they brainstormed about what new MYP students should know; I only became an observer of how they prioritized the topics that were worth choosing; and I only served as support with the logistics, making sure there was coordination between the two programs. Each of them took charge of their topic and prepared an information session.
Today we had our preparation meeting in order to see what needs to be improved for the actual PYP-MYP transition fair next Monday. I was not impressed by what I saw my students had prepared- I knew they could do it. However, I was happy to see how they were able to speak about their topic with authority, candidness, and certainty. Most importantly, I was happy and proud to observe the smart choices they made in curating what was worth mentioning, reminding, emphasizing, and differentiating. I was delighted to see how they had prepared to contribute to their peers’ character and readiness for the new program they will join this coming August.
If one has not witnessed the power of inquiry, the value of student-led projects, the meaning of student voice, or the impact of students’ actions, the dedication in students’ gestures for others, I would dare to say that maybe the scenarios for these behaviors to happen have not been generated. How can we possibly expect this from a quiz, from a lecture, or from a learning relationship that is encapsulated within four walls?
Since I can remember, I am an educator who has always been on the side of the learner. I follow the student; I enjoy students’ stories; I try to learn from their dreams; I nurture my views of the world from theirs; I embrace the challenge of teaching individuals whose world moves far more rapidly than mine. When talking about education for these young learners, many people tend to think about their future and how we should make sure we allow them to have a good one, but I insist that we should not deprive them from their present.