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Clarity begins at home

It’s easy to overlook the role parents play in creating a happy student. These five educators found their own children’s experiences made them aware of the challenges and rewards of having an IB learner in the house.

Clarity begins at home

The home-school challenge

Vani Veikoso Twigg, PYP teacher, Istanbul Community School, Turkey

As an IB teacher with a teacher-administrator husband and two children who are currently studying the PYP and MYP, I’m part of a family of global nomads. We have lived in six different countries, which has been a rewarding and successful experience – thanks to being part of the best possible system of international education.

Although our children may struggle at times with certain academic concepts, the skills they have picked up through their PYP studies – enhanced by teachers who assist them to become global citizens – give them the confidence to become problem solvers. In particular, the IB’s mission to educate the whole child, to “help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect” comes alive through the extended projects students undertake in the final year of each of the programmes. At our current school, the “My Passion” PYP exhibition not only enables our Grade 6 students to seek solutions to some of the problems we face in the world today, but it allows them to connect these issues to their own interests.

There are challenges involved in being an IB parent and teacher, especially when it comes to dealing with what and how they should be taught. Teachers and parents may hold different points of view: open communication, with both your child and teachers, is the best way to overcome this. At home, we try to follow what is happening during school hours, attend conference and write notes. We are also realistic about our children’s potential, and their limitations. Most of all, we have taught them they are masters of their own destiny. With parental support and understanding, we hope they can achieve the sort of life they want.

Learning as a team

José Fernández, university lecturer and father of a student at Colegio La Floresta, San Salvador, El Salvador

The experience of being an IB parent is special because a child who does IB programmes must have parents prepared for the course. At times, the support they have to give is challenging, but I’ve come to understand how to get through the testing times.

The IB Diploma Programme requires intense academic and emotional help, not just in performing tasks, but also in guidance. An IB father must know there will be sacrifices which have to be made – helping to create oil paintings on a Saturday afternoon, or sacrificing a well-earned weekend to help out a child with work that has been put off for a thousand different reasons. She might not have a book, the printer’s run out of ink or she needs to see a friend to discuss a task… The list can be long!

As an illustration of the support required, here is one of many conversations I had with my daughter about the amount of work she had. She would say: “I don’t know if I’m going to get this done.” Our response was always the same: “We’re proud of your efforts. They’re worthwhile and if you do well it will be a plus. “But if it doesn’t work out, don’t worry because we’ve seen the effort you’ve put in, which is just as much of a success.”

After my daughter’s two years studying, she’s a different student. The Diploma Programme has prepared her for university. I’ve been a university teacher for 30 years – I see her grounding compared to other students and I know she won’t struggle with the demands of university life. At the time of writing we don’t know her results – she has just taken her last exam – but her attitude to work and organization has improved immeasurably. If she passes, the satisfaction that the world will be open to her will stay with me forever. But whatever happens, my daughter will remember having a father who always supported her.”

Communication is vital

Daun Yorke, IB Diploma Programme coordinator, visual arts and TOK teacher, Canadian International School of Hong Kong

Becoming a parent is a transformative time in a person’s life. You gain a new view on the world. I have witnessed it often: when teachers become parents, their perspective broadens and every child in their classroom could be “their own child”. Becoming an IB Diploma Programme parent truly expanded my understanding of what students go through over the two-year programme. I had been teaching IB visual arts when my daughter and I started a journey together, she in her first year of the Diploma Programme and myself as a Diploma Programme coordinator at Yew Chung International School of Shanghai in China. It was a rewarding and intense two years, and we learned so much together.

Previously, I’d thought that I was reasonable about deadlines and aware of the demands on students. Having my daughter go through the programme and witnessing her balancing the assignments in the various subject areas increased my understanding as a teacher and coordinator. We used to hold an annual information evening for all parents but after my first year in dual roles, I realized a separate orientation night for Diploma Programme parents was also essential.

At orientation evenings, I now also introduce myself as an IB parent. I talk about the incredible journey parents are about to embark on and the importance of communication. Often parents want to be involved but admit they are not really aware of what their children are going through.

After receiving feedback from parents, we sent home regular IB parent letters and monthly calendars with deadlines and events posted. This helped parents visualize the demands placed on their children. I had been privy to the IB calendar at school and realized it was an important tool for parents. Parenting a student through these last two intense years of school requires a new skill set. Being mother, teacher and coordinator to my daughter over the two years was not easy and I learned as much from her advice as she did from mine.

The benefit of wisdom

Jayne de la Haye, teacher and PYP workshop leader, ABA, Muscat, Oman

I have been teaching at ABA – an IB World School in the Sultanate of Oman for 12 years, during which time I have had two children of my own. Having my sons entering school has made me reflect on what we do as teachers and how we do it.

As a PYP teacher, I am pleased to say the inquiry approach to learning has engaged my children’s curiosity and helped them reach new levels of understanding by making connections to their own experiences. It has emphasized the importance of developing a ‘way of being’ through the IB Learner Profile and means my boys want to go to school and are curious and excited about learning and want us to share in their experiences.

The emphasis on collaborative planning in the PYP has ensured my children have been able to benefit from the ‘collective wisdom’ of all members of their teaching staff. They have from the earliest age been encouraged to look at situations from another perspective and gradually expand on their global view of the world, while at the same time developing a strong sense of identity and self. I do not know of any other curriculum model which is able to combine this consistency and quality of design, while at the same time insisting that it is adapted to the unique conditions of every school.

As a mother and a teacher I want my children to be engaged in their learning and to develop the understanding, skills and attitudes that will equip them not just for the rest of their time in school, but also for life. Our school and the PYP have given my sons the start both they and I wanted. As a parent I recognize the privilege such an education is, and as an educator I am more committed than ever to ensuring the continued quality of the IB.

School is not day care

Mariana Conde, secondary school head assistant, Saint Mary of the Hills School, San Fernando, Argentina

Working in a secondary school for the last 20 years has given me the opportunity to watch almost 20 generations graduate. The many different roles I have played during that time have given me many points of view on the same situation, and I notice that nowadays the relationship between parents and the school – or the educational process – has deteriorated a little and is losing its connection.

Many factors contribute to this situation: on the one hand we have the media – the internet and social networks bring all the information you need in just the click of a button. Students don’t always need to consult their parents any more about their homework, or don’t always need their guidance in looking for information when they are studying. On the other hand, as a result of the global economic crisis,
it is more and more common to find children growing up virtually alone because both parents are working until late at night. For many of those families, dinner time is the only part of the day when they are all together.

With so many worries, some parents no longer have the time, energy or will to accompany their children in the educational process. They delegate the whole task to the school. It is as if the school has became a day care centre – as long as children are there, they are safe. It is our responsibility as educators to bring such parents back to school, using as many resources as we can, such as offering classes related to their jobs, hobbies or neighbourhoods. We need to have meetings with parents, not just when something’s wrong, but to praise their children. We need to ask them for help, to bring together class work and real life.

All of us want autonomous and independent learners, but first we need to work with them, to teach them how to be autonomous. It’s a process: the more an adult praises a child, gives importance to their achievements, or shows an interest in their opinions, the more confident the child will grow up to be.

We need to work together. We can’t forget that home is our first school. There we learn values, attitudes towards others and, most of all, to love and be loved; to take and to be taken into consideration. These are essential skills if we want positive leaders for the future – if we want them to be able to face future challenges, we must work together to face them now.