Independence and the PYP

It’s a new school year, and our family is in a new school. After being comfortable in our previous school for 6 years, we decided it was time to shake it up. From Japan to Bangladesh, here we are.

We expected the country to be different, and it is…completely. There’s a separate blog coming out all about the experience. Our new school, though, is a PYP-DP school, though, so same curriculum as my previous two schools.

I love the PYP. I’ve been teaching in the program for 8 years and like the philosophy. Throughout the years, I’ve seen students flourish in the educational setting. They are intrinsically motivated, curious, engaged, excited, thinkers and caring people. They are open to new challenges and people and want to help others and the world.

It’s not all the students that are like that, but it’s a majority of students I’ve worked with…at least the last 6 years.

This year’s kids are very typical 5th graders in many regards. They like to play video games and soccer/football. They like pop music, being with their friends, and they still like their family.

However, although it’s only been a few days, I notice a difference. These students feel as if they’ve always been directed. They are already asking me to solve small problems. Today, when given the task to think about what their classroom should look like, feel like and sound like, they quickly fell into silliness.

That quick lapse into complete silliness was yet another indicator that these kids haven’t been in charge of their own learning. It was too scary and a lot to ask. They’ve already told me about behavioral systems that were in place last year. Tidy tables got points that accumulated toward candy. Red, yellow and green cards marked students’ names depending on their behavior for that day. I cringe thinking about it, but I tell myself it’s a different place and culture.

Today students asked me to help them put their water bottle in their bags and to rescue a paper airplane from the top of the cabinets. A secondary student came to me at recess to tell me a 3rd grader had been picking on him. Students came in to the classroom and sat at their desks without much energy.

I had a lot of eye rolling today (in my head) and am settling in to the fact that these students will need encouragement to take charge of their own learning and their own selves. Although I think all schools should encourage students to take charge of their own learning, there is definite justification in a PYP school.

Here are some things I want to do to provoke independent thinking–some questions for the students:

  1. When they start to ask me what I want, I turn it around to always ask: What do you want?
  2. How can you solve it?
  3. When asked if it’s good enough..ask: What do you think?
  4. When there’s been a checklist of things to include, ask them about those things and have them point to examples of when they’ve done those things?
  5. Ask them about their classroom and what they want in the classroom?
  6. What are your strengths?
  7. What are your challenges?
  8. Ask them about how they want to organize their day?
  9. Reflect on each part of their learning and learn from that.
  10. And…questions, questions, questions…They’re asking. The teacher is not answering.

It’s going to be a long road with many of these students, but I feel excited to begin the journey. I think having some more independent thinkers around is a pretty important goal.

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4 thoughts on “Independence and the PYP

  1. Great post, thanks for sharing. Getting used to a new school and structure is always a process, and I wish you all the best. I am a big advocate for the PYP, and it is always interesting to see how different educators approach it.

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