Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Keyholders

Written by Alexander Jay Ludington
Class of 2010

I was in the Philippines for three weeks this January. I had heard of this well-known international school in my family's home town of Baguio City called Brent School. What I didn't know was that my family has a history teaching there: My great-grandfather taught there to support his eight children, and now two of my cousins teach there. I was also excited to learn, during my recent trip, that it is an International Baccalaureate school!

Beyond all the incredible things I learned in I.S. and lifelong perspectives it granted me, I think what validated the program's success was the conversation I had with one of those cousins who teaches IB English at Brent School. I had probably met her (Celeste Reyes) once before in my life, and our relationship that night reflected the polite awkwardness that distant relatives often share at such dinners. But once it was established that she taught IB English and I had graduated with a certificate in that class, the rest of the family disappeared from our periphery and all our attention was centered around this connection. We talked about the books that she assigns that I had read, the other classes I took that her school offers, and the overall effect of the IB program.

She was very interested in how my English teacher guided us through the curriculum, and strategies she used to engage her students. Since Mrs. Enochs was one of my favorite teachers, and I often think about the effect her class has had on me, I obviously had a lot to say. Verbalizing my experience in IB helped to shed more light on the incredible program it is. I explained to Celeste the four-part nature of the English department wherein each year would rely on concepts and terms that were expected to have been mastered the year before, and how there was amazing communication (or at least it seemed that way to me) between the instructors of each year. By senior year, I told her, we were able to dissect a page of narrative, rendering it nothing more than blocks of figurative language, themes, imagery, and a touch of authorial intent.

At many points of our conversation about the nature of IB, the Theory of Knowledge class was brought up. This was because we both are aware that this is really the cornerstone of the curriculum. It was then that I realized that what sets IB apart from all other types of secondary education, is its focus on meta-cognition. Instead of feeding the students information to the point where they could recite it to meet standards, IB really instills the value of knowing HOW to learn, and HOW we know what we know! These thought processes are what I will always have with me. This motivation to dig deeper and question everything is what I see as the mark of a true IB student.
The true success of International Baccalaureate is just that: it is international. There are other students being introduced to the joys of learning, and are being granted with the invaluable to synthesize information. As I said, this realization came to me during that awesome conversation with my distant cousin high up in the mountains of the Philippines. Thank you IB!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Unexpected Metamorphosis

Written by Ms. Berman
Dedicated to the c/o 2014
It is widely known that if there is a loss or change in the personal life of a teenager, a resilient young adult will undergo a paradigm shift and alter his/her behavior in order to compensate for this alternation.  But what happens when that change occurs in a school setting, and it impacts an entire group of students, rather than a specific individual?  This question can be analyzed upon my return to SDHS after a six week hiatus, and the results are quite remarkable.
My sophomores in Honors Chemistry, commonly called “the little kids,” began the first week or two of my absence expressing varied emotions, most of which mimicked panic.  Finals were rapidly approaching, semester grades were on the line, and there was a series of substitute teachers coming in to temporarily fill my position.  Every measure possible was taken to offer the students reassurance that things would work out, but with the competitive college application process on the horizon, self-assuredness is not easily maintained.  In addition, Chemistry is a difficult course to grasp conceptually and can rarely be self-taught. 
My peer tutors, known as Science Scholars, offered their support during this tumultuous time, as did their Honors English teacher who gave up instructional minutes during her class to allow for Chemistry tutorials.  This is one of the beauties of having dedicated colleagues working together in a small learning community.   The more important message gleamed, however, is that my sophomores gradually learned to become more self-directed, more assertive, and more willing to have faith that their choices would lead them to the desired results.  I don’t believe, for most of them, that any of this occurred on a conscious level.   I do know, however, that this transformation did occur because upon my return, they were not the same students.
My sophomores have collectively, in terms of sophistication, matured into juniors.  They no longer have the same attitude typical of a group of underclassmen.  There is an unspoken level of maturity that transcends throughout the classroom.   They can form lab groups in a matter of seconds, gather supplies, and get themselves on task.  They know how to ask probing questions, and even if they are too shy to ask in front of the class, they know how to contact me to get the assistance that they need.  They have developed a newfound level of patience and trust with respect to me, as they now understand that I always have their best interest at heart.  They are no longer “the little kids,” and I now look forward to more effective classroom discussions, laboratory collaboration, and test preparation with my students as a result of this unexpected metamorphosis.