Learning from primary principles
Eileen Freely Baker, Principal at Luanda International School in Angola is working to ensure the IB learner profile is involved in all aspects of school life.
There’s a clue to the success we have had with the PYP attitudes (Appreciation, Tolerance, Respect, Integrity, Independence, Enthusiasm, Empathy, Curiosity, Creativity, Cooperation, Confidence, Commitment) in the following statement from Making the PYP happen: “The PYP does not believe it effective to rely on these attitudes being fostered in an implicit way, as some form of hidden curriculum.
It is essential that we address them consciously, professionally and explicitly...”
When we compared the learner profile attitudes and the 12 PYP attributes, we were not sure how to address them separately. However, we realized that if we taught, encouraged and gave feedback on the attributes, we were more likely to end up with young adults who exhibited the qualities of the learner profile.
Probably the most significant decision we made was to report to parents on how frequently the students displayed the attitudes. Teachers immediately realized that they had to explicitly teach and encourage attitudes in order to have data to justify their comments, and parents wanted help in encouraging better or more consistent positive attitudes, as this was now part of their child’s permanent school record.
With attitudes having a high profile, they soon became the language of the classroom and playground. We moved away from classroom and playground rules to essential agreements, and from disciplining students to discussing how to develop more positive attitudes.
Recently, a group of boys were sent to me about making fun of a girl in their class. Our discussion revolved around the attitudes, and they quickly decided that if they had empathized with the girl, they would never have done what they did. Their notes of apology were much more sincere than if they hadn’t made the personal connection, and I would be very surprised if they would repeat this behaviour.
How do I know this explicit approach works? I can see a significant difference between new students, parents and teachers and those who have been working with us for a while. Their language and behaviour tends to be more “me”-centred, rather than the “us”-centred language of the established group.
The culture of the school has embraced the attitudes and the structure for problem-solving they provide.
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Probably the most significant decision we made was to report to parents on how frequently the students displayed the attitudes.