By Michael Beyer
How do you decide which school is right for your child? As a parent, only you know what is most important to your family and to your child. Occasionally Ogden families consider private school options, and just as often, families transfer their child to Ogden from private schools.
Recently, a parent asked me why my own children go to a private school. The question came up in context of the possible Ogden-Jenner consolidation, and the parent’s assumption was that I did not have faith in the Chicago Public School system, and therefore hypocritical if I were to support the consolidation. This couldn’t be further from the truth, so I felt compelled to explain why my wife and I have not enrolled our children in a Chicago Public School.
Seven years ago, when our son Charlie was nearly three years old we wanted to place him in preschool. We walked across the street to our local public neighborhood school and completed the application. We talked to the wonderful teacher, who we knew from the neighborhood. We learned that most preschool seats at the school would go to “high-need” children, which meant four year-olds who had never been in preschool and who came from high-poverty homes. We were placed on a waiting list and unfortunately never received a call.
Our son was an only child, and my wife and I had no plans for a second child at the time. Our neighborhood didn’t have many young children. All of our nieces, nephews, and cousins were much older than our son. We wanted to ensure Charlie had opportunities to socialize with children his age, which we know is critical in the early years, so we were determined to enroll him in a preschool. We were, and still are, both full time working parents and in need of full day care.
At the time I worked in CPS Central Office so I walked down to the floor that housed the department which handled magnet and options schools. We completed the application and crossed our fingers, but were placed on a waiting list for several schools that again, never called.
There were no promising leads, so we researched and applied to private and Catholic schools. We were accepted to a neighborhood Catholic school and were all set to go when, in the middle of summer, we received a call from a private school. The Catholic school was well regarded in our neighborhood but had a lack of resources that surpassed public schools. The private school had more resources and a much higher tuition rate to match. However it was also a Montessori, something my wife and mother-in-law (a former educator) were very much interested in. My wife went to Montessori as a young child in New York and as we learned about Montessori we saw Charlie fitting in very well to that educational method. It also had full day, after care, and summer options, something we needed since we both work full time. This is what worked for us, for personal reasons. There is no other reason than that.
Our children’s private school is Montessori, and the students stay together in small cohorts for three years. In no time our son went from having no friends to having several close friends. He was receiving the opportunity to socialize that we were seeking. He was also learning and growing in a steady environment and my wife became very active at the school and is now on the board. She will chew your ear off about Montessori if you let her.
Numerous times I’ve proposed placing our now two children in public school, both in our local school, and at Ogden. My first year at Ogden I made the suggestion and my wife, always the wiser one, reminded me how difficult it can be for the principal’s children to attend the same school their parent works. My wife also reminded me about the turnover of administration at Ogden prior to my arrival and replied, “let’s see how long you’re there for.”
There have been times when I have pointed out how much money we could save if we didn’t pay private school tuition, the nicer car we could buy, the longer and better and more frequent vacations we could take, and the amount we could save if we put the tuition in the bank. This last one is almost a no-brainer if you calculate the interest: our children could graduate high school with six-figures in the bank if they attended public and we socked away all that private school tuition. At the time, my wife stood her ground.
Now our son is old enough that I occasionally propose the idea of public school to him, usually when my wife isn’t listening. Inevitably he shoots it down because he knows he’d lose his friends. Keeping him with his friends helps to ensure stability. We know that a child’s elementary years are the foundation for their entire life. Having to change schools, find new friends, and learn a different way of doing school can be traumatic. I know because it happened to me.
When I was in 1st grade my school was closed and my class was separated. Even though I still lived down the street from most of my friends, and about half of them went with me to the new school, I can still recall losing the familiarity of my former school and coming to what felt like someone else’s school and trying to acclimate. Some of my closest friends went to the other school across town. I was shy and introverted, and I’m certain the change set me back in school. It was nothing that I couldn’t overcome, and maybe it made me stronger in some ways, but as a parent, it’s difficult making that choice for your child. My parents didn’t have to decide as it was the school district that closed the school.
This is also why I’m sensitive about and determined to ensure the school consolidation is done in a way so that all students feel comfortable and supported before, during, and after the process. When I was a child there was no transition plan to speak of. They simply closed the school and the following year the students showed up at a new school.
My wife and I are both determined to get our children into a public high school, and maybe sooner, but for now, we’re settled.
So what advice can I give parents who debate public versus private?
It’s a personal choice and there is no single right choice. I’m 100% confident our children would receive a strong education if they attended the vast majority of public schools in Chicago. The education might be different, but in the end they’d learn how to read, write, and do mathematics.
One of the most common reasons parents choose private is because of smaller class sizes. In some private schools the ratio of students to teacher is 15 to 1. In some private schools the class “size” is decreased with the addition of a teacher assistant in the classroom. Class size is an indicator parents can understand, or think they understand. Their reasoning is that if there are fewer students, the teacher can devote more time to each child, therefore ensuring they get a better education. Without this becoming a debate over class size, I’ll simply state that education isn’t that simple. The adage that students learn best from their peers is true in both public and private. Humans learn through social interaction. While smaller class sizes might ensure more attention from the teacher, it also decreases the likelihood your child will have a peer they can relate to and learn from. Children learn by sharing knowledge with their peers. Learning is not a rote exercise in which a teacher delivers content and skills to a child’s blank-slate of a mind. Learning is and always will be social.
As a teacher I always liked smaller class sizes as that meant less papers to grade and fewer names to learn, but as a parent is it worth private school tuition? I don’t think it is (and our private school’s tuition is on the lower end, compared so several better known private schools in Chicago). Additionally, private schools don’t require the certification and licensing of assistants or their teachers. In some cases a private classroom might have more adults in the room, but it might not be different or better than having a parent volunteer in a public classroom.
Here are two things I don’t love about my experience in private schools:
The main benefit of a private school for my family is stability, because our children will have steady friendships during their elementary years. If we had found a seat in the preschool in the public neighborhood school across the street from our home, we’d probably still be there. (Side note: This is one way our State could help improve diversity and decrease segregation: fund preschool for all students regardless of need). We have neighbors that send their children to the school, one being a former public school administrator, and they are more than satisfied with the school.
If you ever have questions regarding the choice my family made, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d be more than happy to discuss our journey.
By Debora Land, parent of Ogden 6th grader and parent volunteer
Ogden International School is an International Baccalaureate World School. Our school mission states that Ogden International provides a world-class education to students who will become leaders of change within the global community in the 21st century and beyond. Ogden International is committed to providing a distinctive, high-quality international education which cultivates intellectual inquiry and global engagement.
Simply said, what we really want is for our kids to be able to navigate successfully in a diverse world after they finish their education. They need the skills which will enable them to do whatever their job may be, but equally important they need to be able to work with co-workers, suppliers, and customers who come from different backgrounds, judging them on their abilities and contributions rather than their cultural and family history. (continues below)
How is Ogden International doing in this area? We can look at the Illinois Board of Education data and see that we have a very diverse student body in our Middle School and High School (2016 data shown). We are probably one of the most diverse schools in Chicago.
That part is easy - the kids are here. But in order to look at how we are doing with our mission of creating global citizens, we have to look at how the students integrate together. Teachers can assign a mixed seating chart in their classrooms, but if you want to really see the proof of how well our students have internalized this global culture, the true test is to see what happens in the cafeteria and on the playground when they are not forced by staff to mix.
I have had the opportunity to spend over 100 hours this school year as a parent volunteer working as part of the security team during our lunch periods in the cafeteria and on the playground at the West Campus. You might expect that students would seek out friends based on ethnic background during free time. What I see during my time with all the students during the lunch periods, for both the Middle School and the High School, is that our students integrate themselves, hanging out with a diverse group of friends when they have the choice of who to spend their free time with. Students pick their friends based on shared interests and experiences and not just based on family heritage. The proof is in the pictures - taken on December 19, 2017 during one of my volunteer shifts. These are candid shots, lunch periods 4-7, taken with permission of the students photographed.
Our Administration and Staff have set the tone for fulfilling the mission of creating global citizens. The measure of success is how well our students live this mission as part of our daily school culture. Academics is only one part of the equation for success in life after school. As a parent who has lived and worked in many parts of our country and abroad, I know that the ability to function effectively in a diverse, integrated group is equally important. Well done, Ogden!
*Editor's note: The title of this post is a riff on a well-known book on education, "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations about Race" by Beverly Daniel Tatum. Ogden, like all schools across our country, grapple with issues of bias and we do not claim to be perfect, but we are very proud of the inclusive culture exhibited by our students.
By Ms. Heather Worley
The IB Learner Profile requires teachers and students to strive daily to embody many positive characteristics. However, for IB Diploma Programme (DP) students none are more important than being a balanced risk-taker. On many levels these two disparate characteristics challenge each other, which is precisely their value for a young learner. Our DP students consistently must force themselves outside of their academic comfort zones. No longer is their main goal to always identify one correct answer. A greater value is put on the defense of a claim and the ability to view a situation or concept from multiple perspectives. Often answers lack complete definity. Thus, the foundation of their understanding can feel as if it lacks stability. The strength of their responses depends on structure and appropriate skills of communication. Living academically in a space of wonder and abstract thought often leaves dedicated students feeling ungrounded. Oddly, the realization that intellectual curiosity and exploration is messy and usually nonlinear helps them to find their balance. There is a certain order to the chaos. The IB Approaches to Teaching and Learning support students as they develop the habits of mind and work to achieve mental balance amid so many daily challenges. Here’s what it looks like:
Ogden DP seniors are already beginning to prepare for their exams in May. They are collecting their shared knowledge in study guides, documents they can individually use to renew their comprehension of two years of content. Teachers are helping students to identify patterns in the subjects they’ve studied, so they can synthesize their knowledge and communicate it in a variety of ways. For example, in History, they are organizing the effects of the Mexican Revolution by tracing the positive and negative influences of each leader that followed the writing of Mexico’s new constitution. In Mathematics SL they are building study guides for a unit on vectors and writing their Internal Assessments. In Math SL, each student completes an independent investigation of a subject of interest through mathematical reasoning. Students are investigating subjects as different as the uses of the Chinese Remainder Theorem to the use of differential equations to compare the effects of multiple characteristics of geothermal wells. And seniors in Visual Arts, having just completed their first installation, are now busily creating and refining work around their self-identified theme for their Exhibition in the spring. Senior students demonstrate the skills they have developed throughout the program through a balance of assessments.
Ogden DP juniors are finding their groove in their classes. The first quarter is always an eye opening experience for juniors in the IB Diploma Programme. The intellectual demands and required time management skills test even the most diligent students. The opportunities for independent thinking also require a higher level of personal responsibility. To prepare students for long-term success in the program we start with direct teaching of self-management skills. In fact, much of the first semester in the Ogden Diploma Program is designed to support students through this academic transition to college level work. For example, in their Language and Literature course, students just finished a unit on the nuances of academic integrity. Now, they are beginning a unit on research methods by investigating a variety a perspectives on a social issues in order to write and deliver an argumentative speech. Additionally, in many of their classes, they have been working on goal setting and developing skills to achieve these goals. Students are learning new ways to take notes, and about requirements of essays in their various courses. Balance comes from developing positive learning habits and coping skills for stress management.
By Daniel Stone
Ogden’s Exploring Computer Science (ECS) class is in its second year, and the course is growing! Computer science courses have been identified across the country as being key to future success. In the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field, jobs are in computing account for 71% of new jobs, and computing occupations are largest source of all new wages in the U.S. (Source: Code.org) With computers shrinking in size and growing in number, it’s more important than ever for students to have a solid foundation in how computers work and are applied to solve problems.
Students practiced their skills to do everything from coordinating movement of objects in paths across the screen, to developing looped algorithms to code more efficiently, and even create their own games. Students collaborate to help each other, and challenge each other through games and other work that they do in the course.
Additionally, we have had the opportunity to connect one class of students with Big Brothers Big Sisters and provide mentors to students. Mentors are professionals from a variety of backgrounds, and they interact through an online social media platform and in a few in-person class visits through the year. Most mentoring is done as students work through an online curriculum that helps them consider college and career goals and what steps they need to take to achieve those goals.
Students will continue to practice coding and will soon start their own web design using Thimble, and then to more complex block-based programming in MIT’s Scratch coding environment. Ogden’s Exploring Computer Science course will help students understand computers and computational thinking to help them make the most of technology and get an edge in the pursuit of their hopes and dreams!
By Diploma Programme English Teacher Ms. Sara Eisenbaum
This week in my English classes we have the opportunity to work with the Writer’s Theatre. They approached me to bring our students to a matinee version of “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde (1895). Eager to jump at the opportunity to bring learning to life, I happily accepted the invitation and am so happy that I did. Not only do we get to travel to see this play, but the company also has artists in residence who come to the schools to work with the students to engage them in dramatic expression and other significant concepts they will see in the play.
With high school students, it is hard to gauge what their reaction might be to having to act silly in front of their peers, but this was a smashing success. Students were able to warm up their bodies with stretching exercises, they practiced their speech with tongue twisters, they created puns that Oscar Wilde would approve of, and they used their bodies to create tableaus that represented what they were most excited to see in the play. At the end of the day as students were leaving the classroom and I overheard one student say to Mr. Garrett, “You should come back once a week!” This is what every teacher wishes for; students who engage in their learning with high regard and look forward to how it will push them to interact with the world around them. With our artist in residence we engaged in discussions of power ahead of seeing the play so that we could have an initial understanding of why Wilde was so fond of social commentary. The students will continue this critical thinking process after seeing the show as they regroup with Mr. Garrett and use their dramatic exercises to apply knowledge of their surroundings in 2017 to their initiation in a developing historical context.
In my English classes engaging with context is always at the forefront of our minds. If we are to help students to be ready to be productive global citizens, we need to expose them to the world around them. Venturing outside of the building, outside of the normal classroom confines, and outside of the assumed role of education is continuing to push students to not hold back or diminish their opportunities for learning and growth.
By MYP Coordinator Mr. William Campillo
As our students reach the end of the Middle Years Programme at Ogden, we begin the process of evaluating how well students have developed the knowledge, skills and understandings that will help prepare them for a life of learning, acting, and reflecting to make a better world.
The culminating learning experience for this phase of an IB students’ education comes in the form of a self-directed exploration in an area of personal interest. Over a six month period, beginning in October and continuing until March, every tenth grader will choose a topic, research the topic, and work toward a goal or outcome that connects their learning to the world around them.
This Personal Project requires students to self-evaluate their progress as they research a question and strive to meet a goal they have set for themselves. The personal project also provides an important indicator of how well we have prepared our students to be motivated lifelong learners. As the project nears the deadline students will produce a report describing the process and outcome of the project. These reports, along with evidence of the outcomes, are assessed internally by Ogden teachers and are also assessed externally by the IB to ensure a “globally-consistent standard of excellence”.
We are currently at the beginning stages of the project where students must make important decisions about topics and goals. Each student has been assigned a faculty project supervisor to help guide and advise them with selecting topics and setting appropriately challenging goals. The project supervisor has an important role in monitoring student progress toward their goals and ensuring that students complete all the required work of the project.
Supervisors will meet with students at least three times during the span of the project and guide the student through completion of three elements - the product or outcome, the process journal, and the final report. Upon completion of all projects, supervisors will standardize assessment for the project and scores will be sent to the International Baccalaureate Organization for moderation.
In mid-march we will ask students to present their work in an exhibition for the Ogden International community. The exhibition also serves as an example of personal project ideas for our current freshmen as they will soon be asked to go through the same process beginning in the fall of 2018.
By Annamaria Castellucci Cabral
The IB Diploma Programme (DP) Visual Arts course is a two year program that develops the student’s analytical skills in problem-solving and divergent thinking. It encourages students to develop their confidence as art makers, as well as challenge their own creative and cultural expectations and boundaries. Students are expected to engage in, experiment with and critically reflect upon a wide range of contemporary practices and media. The course is designed for students who want to further develop their art skills and/or seek lifelong enrichment through visual arts. DP visual art is designed to develop the student into an independent and resourceful thinker.
The Ogden International High School has the benefit of being in a central location of the city which affords us the convenience of taking field trips at least once a year that supplement topics discussed in class such as the Chicago Imagists (Roger Brown Study Center), printmaking (Spudnik Press) or Scientific Illustration (Museum of Surgical Science). These invaluable opportunities not only extend far beyond the reach of the classroom but also give us the benefit of meeting, speaking and on occasion working with Chicago artists. Our visual art students have gone on to enroll in programs through Marwen, After School Matters, Gallery 37, IntuitTeens, Arte Vida and even intern with local artists like Tracee Badway.
The intention of this course is to encourage a love of the visual arts, a respect for the process and further develop a learning that pushes boundaries and ideas. This course, although fun, does entail a series of written comparative, sketchbook documentation, development of a theme and the expectation of developing a solid body of work upon the completion of the course. The course has some high expectations and it does require a good work ethic and strong commitment to completing assignments. The Visual Arts course is weighted just as heavily as all of the other Diploma Program courses and because of this, prepares the student for not only college level courses but a genuine appreciation and understanding of the arts.
The Diploma Programme aims to encourage students to be knowledgeable, inquiring, caring and compassionate, and to develop intercultural understanding, open-mindedness and the attitudes necessary to respect and evaluate a range of viewpoints. The Visual Arts course embodies this being cross curricular and tying into all of the other required course including Theory of Knowledge (TOK), advancing skills and finally, exploring rich cultural surroundings through field trips and/or internships.
This rigorous course that promotes art analysis, questioning and development concludes in a final senior exhibition which is also the class’ final culminating assessment. At Ogden International we celebrate the students’ two years of hard work by promoting the event and inviting the outside community to the exhibit. These students have been fortunate enough to showcase their work in the public exhibiting in venues such as SIP coffeehouse, West Town Public Library and Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art. This course and these students are truly amazing!
By: Sara Ivory
What do you get when you mix IB’s student-centered, inquiry-based curriculum with Ogden’s brand new Drama and Dance classes? You get students asking their own questions, writing their own scripts and choreographing their own movements for our incredibly exciting first Showcase of the year scheduled to take place on November 30th from 5:30-7pm in the East Campus Gymnasium.
The second Unit of Inquiry for Fifth Graders at Ogden will begin in mid-October and serve as the inspiration for November’s 5th Grade Showcase this year. The Central Idea is The evolution of technology impacts us. In Drama this week students watched a short video about the use of projected images and video sequences to create digital sets and characters. This video clip was used to provoke their thinking and questioning about this Central Idea. The questions that the students came up with will drive upcoming discussions in Drama that will ultimately lead to script writing and dramatic performance. Here is a sneak peek at some of their questions:
In Dance, these lucky students have been exploring forces, pushes, pulls, and counterbalances through movement. They will be putting this learning together to create “machinery” that will be exhibited at our Showcase too.
Join us on November 30th to see what our inquirers come up with. We can’t wait!
By Principal Michael Beyer, Ed.D., NBCT
Every now and then Ogden administration receives questions and concerns from parents about teachers’ grading practices. One common question asks why teachers have different grading practices, such as the frequency of when grades are entered in Gradebook, how many grades should be entered, and the weight of the grades.
Admittedly, we only have two local policies regarding grading practices at Ogden International. The first is the weighting. For example, in grades 6th-8th, formative assessments can count for no more than 35% of the final grade. Homework can only count for up to 10% or less, participation 5%, exams (or summative assessments) 20%, quizzes 10%, and projects 25%. The total is actually 105%, but this is because these are maximum amounts that can be assigned to each weight. However, this policy does not mean teachers must give, for example, quizzes. Teachers have a wide range of discretion in what they can assign and grade.
The second local policy is that Ogden teachers are required to enter in Gradebook at least one grade per student per subject/course every week. This is a low number of grades, considering many schools require three to four per week. Best practice suggest teachers should enter more than one grade per week, but in my experience, mandating more doesn’t change a teacher’s practice. When I was a teacher I had colleagues who would simply add fluff grades to achieve the quota. We want grades to mean something, and quotas won’t guarantee that.
Teachers at Ogden are also undergoing a transition. We have a small but dedicated core that are experimenting with criterion-based grading. This is similar to standards-based grading, but criterion is the IB parlance.
What is criterion-based grading? First, let’s understand the traditional way teachers have typically graded student assignments. On an assignment with ten questions, and the student answers eight correctly, this would translate to an 80%. On a ten-point scale that is the grade of a B. This is a simple way to grade, but it does not tell us if the student has mastered a skill or concept, because each of the ten questions might align to a different skill or concept. The student receiving this grade simply knows they answered 80% of the questions correctly. What does the grade tell them? Essentially, “Do better next time!” Not very useful.
Even if all ten questions align to one skill or standard, if the assignment entered into Gradebook is titled “Mice and Men Quiz”, or if the student is never told what skills and concepts are being assessed, again, the student won’t know what they need to do better next time.
Sports are a good analogy to compare best practices. Imagine if a baseball batter has an average of .250. Every fourth at-bat they get a hit. They want to improve their hitting, but how? All the batting average tells them is what the end-result is, not what is causing this result. An effective batting coach, like a teacher, will give the batter feedback on their swing, stance, and dozens of other factors. Each factor could be individually assessed and graded. The batter then knows they have to focus more on their stance, whereas their swing might not need additional attention. That is criterion-based grading.
With criterion-based grading the students are informed of the skills and concepts they have to master, ideally at the start of the unit. Students receive a rubric that describes what is required to show mastery of the criterion. The teacher, maybe with the help of the student, grades the assignment using the rubric. Lastly, the assignment is entered into Gradebook with a name such as “Compare and Contrasting Characters”, or “Solving variable equations”. The student and parents can then look at Gradebook and know specifically what skills and concepts the student needs to work on.
This is a significant transition that takes several years for a teacher to develop. It requires a lot of preparation and planning, along with a deep understanding of the content being taught and how to assess the content. If teachers are given different courses or grade levels to teach every other year, it isn’t likely they will develop this expertise.
Criterion-based grading is also a mind shift because students are given additional opportunities to demonstrate mastery of the criterion. With the traditional approach to grading, students have one shot at the assignment. Even if they demonstrate mastery of a skill or concept later in the semester, that earlier grade remains, typically preventing the student from achieving the highest grade possible.
As an example, imagine if a student began the school year in a world language course and did not know any of the language. The student struggles more than their classmates, and fails the first assessment. Then, the student improves their study habits, receives tutoring, and masters the world language at a level higher than all other students in the class. Unfortunately, their final grade will be lowered due to the earlier failure. With traditional grading, we have seen students give up because they know they can’t pass because of early failures. We have also seen students who know they can’t achieve an ‘A’, so they skate by, forced to be content with a ‘B’.
We want students to continue to learn and improve their skills, and criterion-based grading enables a growth mindset, whereas the traditional grading is a system of compliance and completion.
This is all to say that we are encouraging our teachers to experiment with criterion-based grading so they make this transition. Mandating the same grading practices will likely turn off many teachers and, while they might seem to comply on the surface, they won’t adopt the philosophy required for this new grading method.
Regardless of a teacher’s grading practices, there are three questions students and parents should ask about grades.
Is it fair? Does the student agree they deserve the grade? If not, has the student asked the teacher to explain why they received the grade? If the teacher can’t adequately explain in a manner that helps the student understand and agree the grade is fair, a parent-teacher conference might be warranted.
Does it inform? Grades aren’t simply measures of a student’s ability, they are also road marks indicating where they are in the course, and what they need to do to improve. If a student receives a grade and can’t explain how or why they need to improve, there is probably something missing in the grading process. Often it is the lack of a detailed rubric.
Is it timely? If a teacher grades an assignment long after the assignment was turned in, it is likely the student won’t remember what they did on the assignment, so it won’t mean as much if they received the grade within days of completion. Similarly, if a teacher enters critical grades a couple weeks before the end of the semester, the student is not given a chance to improve. This is difficult to rectify, since most teachers give end-of-unit tests, which can drastically affect grades for the better or worse. Yet, if the assessment is fair, it should align to how the student had already been performing. In other words, if a student has an average grade of a B in a course, but then fails the final test, were the assignments given throughout the course assessing the same skills and concepts on the test?
Grading is an imperfect science, but at Ogden International we are always here to help students and families understand how their child is learning, and how they can improve.
By Cara Kranz, Sara Schneeberg, and Michael Beyer
We’ve heard parents share they don’t understand what makes our school “IB”. Sometimes when new families join Ogden, they don’t know anything about IB, and their kids don’t come home talking about IB. As a parent, you might ask yourself, “where is this IB?” “How do I know IB is central to my child’s learning?”
IB, or International Baccalaureate, isn’t something students “do” in the same way they “do” art, music, math, or reading. IB, or International Baccalaureate, is more of a philosophy of teaching and learning than it is a specific activity. There are frameworks for what is expected of students at certain stages, and ways teachers are expected to teach, all of which can be found in the various documents published by the International IB Organization. However, these tend to be technical and generally used by educators, not parents. And they certainly aren’t things a child would answer to a parent when asked, “What did you do at school today?”
The hallmarks of what makes an IB school IB is that education is constructivist and student-centered. Constructivist learning states “learning is a self-directed process—knowledge is constructed rather than directly received; instructor as facilitator; learning as a sociocultural process.” Student-centered learning is “creating multiple experiences for knowledge construction” and “creating authentic and complex sociocultural learning environments to mediate learning.” In simple terms, we want for our students to direct and engage in their learning in ways that help them develop as individuals.
It also might help to describe what IB is not. An IB learning environment does not have the teacher as the center. The teacher does not act as the gatekeeper or owner of knowledge. The teacher does not tell students what the “right” and “wrong” answers are. Instead, the teacher guides the learners to discover the correct answers through an inquiry-based process.
That’s why at the beginning of units you’ll often see classes creating anchor charts of what they know, what they want learn and how they plan to get there. It puts the student in the driver seat, instead of being a passenger.
Another key concept to an IB education is transdisciplinary learning. This can be frustrating for IB parents, because it often leads to students learning science and history without teaching those subjects as distinct classes.
For example, in a first-grade PYP Unit of Inquiry about light and communication, students might begin the unit with a provocation that leads them to ask questions about whether we need light to see or not. Then they might design scientific investigations to answer their own questions. During these investigations students apply their mathematical skills to collect data, organize it at a class and interpret their results to make meaning. After testing various materials and attempting to block out all the light from their classroom, the teacher might ask students to think of places in the world where the light is completely blocked out. From this conversation students might become interested in caves and whether they could see in caves or not. The teacher could then bring up cave art examples from history and ask students whether they would be able to see the art on the cave walls if the entrance were blocked. Students decide to make their own cave art paintings and design tests to find out. They use what they previously learned to block all of the light from their classroom and test what they might see in a cave with the door open, door closed and using a flashlight. This investigation might get students interested in caves paintings and lead them to design ways to learn more about the history of cave paintings. They might also read books about caves and write about their tests or experiences in dark places themselves. Through this example, students construct new learning opportunities in science, math, history, art, reading and writing. This is called transdisciplinary learning in the PYP because the learning transfers between the traditional discipline boundaries to make learning more meaningful.
So, even though your child may not be talking about IB specifically, they should be talking about their learning experiences at Ogden. If you hear your child talk about making choices and decisions, using materials in flexible and imaginative ways, initiating inquiry and asking questions, working collaboratively with others, finding an interest and developing their knowledge, you know IB is alive and well at Ogden.
This blog has contributions from a variety of faculty and staff at Ogden International.
Principal: Dr. Michael S. Beyer
Heads of Schools
East Campus: Cara Kranz
West Campus: Dr. Stacie Chana