Approaching the Future by Reflecting on the Past

The following post was contributed by DFHS IB Coordinator Marion Halberg (@MegHalberg) following her recent attendance at the IB GIBS conference in Rochester, NY. 

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.–Frederick Douglass

WWIBSD? That’s how outgoing Guild of IB Schools president Art Arpin opened the GIBS Northeast (@GIBSIB) annual conference last week. He spoke in terms of our country’s media frenzy on the eve of an historic election and in terms of negotiating the world at large: What Would an IB Student Do? When I took my seat a few minutes prior to Art’s opening words, I thought I was here for the information I would gather to bring back to my administrators about the regional organization in which we participate and to engage in the Approaches to Teaching and Learning workshop to turnkey what I learned with my colleagues back at the Dobbs Ferry MYP and DP programmes. But that simple expression, WWIBSD, really got me thinking on a different level. It made me reflect on the vast responsibility I hold, that all of us educators hold, to engage and help form young people who will aspire to be all those things that we hope the IB Learner Profile inspires us to be. But, I thought, how does that happen? How do we engage students to be caring, thinking, mindful, principled? How?

This year’s conference was held in Rochester, NY most famous for being the home of two extraordinary people, Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. I reflected on the the IBO’s ultimate mission, “to create a better world through education”. Amazingly, both Douglass and Anthony, in the 19th Century, were able to work together and collaborate for the rights of Blacks and women. Although the fact that the final adaptation of the 15th Amendment did not include women created a rift between them, they later were able to overcome their differences and continue to fight for the right for women to vote which neither of them was alive to witness with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

And that’s where the IB’s Approaches to Teaching and Learning (ATL) comes in. Although I had attended an excellent ATL workshop in May with several of my Dobbs Ferry colleagues, @KateHebdon’s workshop for most of the session on Friday was an important refresher and reinforcement of the power of how we approach teaching, how our students (and ourselves) approach learning and what is it, in reality, that we are teaching and what, in reality, do we want our students to learn. As Dr. Falino (@johnfalino1) has written here so many times before, we are living in an ever-changing world. We don’t have any idea how much it may change in just a few short years nor do we have any idea what kinds of jobs our students will have or what skills they will need for those jobs. But we do know some skills that they will, without a doubt, need no matter what job they may one day have. You’ve read this before but you can read it again:  400 USA top corporate recruiters look for:

1) Oral and written communication skills

2) Critical thinking and problem solving skills

3) Professionalism and work ethic

4) Collaboration across networks

5) Ability to work in diverse teams

6) Fluency with information technology

7) Leadership and project management skills

Knowledge of mathematics came 14th on the list just ahead of science knowledge and foreign language comprehension. (Wagner, 2010; Trilling & Fadel, 2009)

How amazing, despite all the changes in our world, those seven qualities were exactly the things that Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony possessed (information technology was newspaper print, pamphlets, and stump speeches in their day). And it’s what we still value and need.

As Will Richardson (@willrich45) reminded our district faculty this year at our opening day before our students even arrived, most have all the answers they need in their pockets. Content information is readily accessible. What our jobs as teachers have evolved to, in many ways, is to be those who help facilitate how to access and discern information. And, dare I say it, to be those who spark the desire to learn that content information and to use those 21st Century skills to make sense of that infinite information. But the skills that Douglass and Anthony had, to engage with people, to think critically and beyond their own lives and experiences, those are invaluable and absolutely essential.

So, how do we do that? It seems easy, doesn’t it, helping students understand, negotiate and hone those thinking, social, communication, self-management, and research skills. Those are the ATL skills. That’s it. We can create activities and drill them and practice them and test them. And then they’re learned, right? Not so fast. No, not really. It is our job as educators to facilitate the experiences that will develop these skills and determine what is better time spent together. Do we practice and encourage talking with one another, understanding diverse perspectives,  or do we demand regurgitation of content knowledge? I think you see where I’m going. Our students have to be adaptable and reflective. I look forward to continuing these discussions and learning with my colleagues how we approach our teaching and facilitate our students’ learning. What will Dobbs Ferry students, all of whom are IB students, do when faced with all the challenges of the modern world including continuing the work begun so long ago here in New York by Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s