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IB newsletter

Habits of highly effective teachers and students and the 21st century skills


Current article is written as a cooperation project between three people, two students and one teacher. The article aims to look at the habits of highly effective teachers and students and the 21st century skills from the teachers’ and students’ perspectives.

Tetyana Kasima
I have been working in education for 10 years as a teacher and project coordinator. I am always excited to reflect on my experiences as a teacher but also as a learner.
The idea for this article came to me a while ago. Educators around the world discuss this question and many articles are written on the subject. However, I think that in order to truly process one’s experiences, it is necessary to write about them.  I think this article as well as many other articles can open a discussion on different aspects of education, among them what makes an effective learner and what skills we need to acquire today in order to be successful tomorrow.

Elisabeth Alla
I think of myself as a quite courageous girl who chose to study in the IB Diploma Programme. So far I haven’t regretted this decision not even once, actually it’s quite the opposite, I enjoy the learning process in the IB. For example, I think of this article as a part of my learning process and again it’s something completely different from the usual, but it’s a no surprise for me anymore, most of the tasks you face in IB are like this. I wanted to give this article a bit of flavour by adding my own learning experience.

Max Koshchuk
This year I entered DP1, but I also been a part of pre-Ib program. This means that although I just starting my journey in the DP program I have a lot to share from my pre-ib experience.
What really surprised me in IB program is amount of challenges it’s made me to face. This challenges helped me to grow as a person as an academic learner. For that reasons I decided to contribute to this article as it’s another challenge for me, it’s made me overthink everything I learned so far in IB program and share it within the society.

A love for lifelong learning
This includes teacher’s and student’s ability to connect different subjects. On the teacher’s part to be more interdisciplinary, on the student’s part to look for the connections to understand one subject through another, to look for similarities and discrepancies. It makes your study process fascinating and more holistic. You are not just studying a subject; you are learning how the world works.
As a student, I already know by now that I won’t stop learning after I graduate and start working. If there’s one thing I’m never going to give up, it’s the ability to learn and widen my horizons. In the 21th century where you can’t be sure if what you know today is relevant tomorrow, I want to keep up with this world I’m living at. We don’t have to know anything and can’t know anything, but we should open to new opportunities to learn.

Active involvement in the world around you in order to apply your knowledge in the real world.
In connection with this point, I am lucky to be CAS coordinator at my school, Audentes, which approaches this question through Creativity, activity, service projects. As a CAS coordinator, this is the first question that I need to deal with every time I have to introduce CAS to students, parents and teachers. There is no one way how to introduce CAS, this makes it both challenging and fascinating. Just as there is no one way how to introduce it, there is no one how to do it. So to paraphrase the question asked before, I think it is better to ask: “How do we approach CAS in Audentes?”

CAS stands for creativity, activity and service. In the beginning of the school year, each student makes a list of activities that can fall into either one or all of these categories. This is where the challenge comes in. Where to begin? What count as CAS? I think primarily CAS allows students to stop and think:” What am I good at? What am I interested in? Is there something I have always wanted to try but never had time for or was not sure how to begin?” and many other questions. It is always fascinating to discuss these ideas with students. I never stop being surprised at how many different ways to look at CAS there are. It is inexhaustible! Among my favourites I would name cleaning a local mansion that has been neglected for years, makes you feel adventurous, uncovering long lost secrets, being a judge at the film festival, joining various sports activities such as rock-climbing, diving and Muay Thai, doing a handstand for the first time, creating a website, trying one’s skills at making a computer game… the list goes on and all of this is CAS.

CAS allows everyone to reflect on their talents and skills, think how they can improve them or develop new ones and also how they can contribute with these skills to the world around them. I am happy I can be part of this vibrant community, as the role of the CAS coordinator is to oversee the process by approving experiences and projects and subsequently contribute to the development of future leaders, develop reflective, caring, open-minded people, who are not afraid of taking risks and are responsible for their actions, are culturally sensitive and principled.

Time management and planning
It will be fair to say, that a vital part of the student’s success in IB is his/her ability to properly manage time. By managing and planning your life you’ll be able to make it much more organised and easier. By being a part of an IB system I have to deal with large amount of tasks at the same time, so being able to organize and synchronize all my work with my schedule makes it much easier and allows me to follow my deadlines. So what are the key points that allow me to be an efficient IB student? Well, first thing to remember is to be organised. Here are a few of tips that help a successful student to be organized write everything down, your memory isn’t your best friend when it comes to planning, get a planner, get a folder for everything that is needed to make your life more organised.

Positive attitude
It is said that attitude controls your life, but the good news is that you can control your attitude. Attitude determines the world you live in. It is the foundation of every success and failure you’re going to experience in life. The same applies to school life. It can be even said that positive attitude equals to positive results. When coming to school, it’s hard to look how most of the students shoulders are sagging, they are staring at their toes and you can’t catch a smile from anyone. What makes it even sadder is the fact that they will go the class the same way. I love to see these few rays of sunshine, who come to school with a bright smile on their face. I try to be one of these persons, it makes me feel like I can face anything and to be honest, I can. Even when I’m having a disastrous day, not letting these events have an affect on me helps me concentrate in lessons, participate in discussions, be active and that has lead me to many positive results. We all face something negative from time to time, but the key is how you process it. We have two options: whether we let it settle as something negative and let it have an affect on us or we turn this into something positive and look at it as something to work on and improve. It is necessary to understand that we fall on our knees sometimes, but we can always get up, sweep the dust off the knees, take it as a lesson and move on. It seems simple, but this can be achieved only with positive attitude.

Needless to say that two heads are better than one. However, is it always true? It is not enough just to get together in order to start working on a project, a certain organisation and a plan is essential in order to achieve a desired result. In this respect both students and teachers will benefit more from the teaching/learning experience if they talk to each other more openly. Favouring student-centered classes over teacher-centered ones is a way to give students initiative in their own learning. It makes feel students feel responsible for their own learning as well as feel more motivated to achieve more.

In IB, most of the students have one goal: get the diploma. You can see students constantly working for this major goal from day to day. Each person’s “IB journey” is so different and can’t be compared with each other. Some have it easier and some don’t. Every day you confront someone’s success and also failures. Sometimes you wonder, what this magical force is that keeps the students going. It’s perseverance. The more perseverance the student has, the smoother the “IB ride” is. I find, that in IB it is essential to be on track all the time. Fall back on something and then you’ll experience the true struggle of extra work. This is something every IB student knows in his/her subconsciousness, but tends to forget from time to time and it is okay. As long as they have they don’t give up on their biggest goal and continuously work on it, but taking small breaks from time to time, everything is under control. Perseverance is what keeps you close to your goal.
I believe that it is easy to start a certain task but not always easy to finish it. It can happen to everyone and it has nothing to do with the skills you have. I think in order to cultivate perseverance, it is essential to help students along the way, break the task into stages with manageable amount of work, set realistic deadlines and help students review their work along the way. This contributes to the overall satisfaction of getting the work done, reduces stress and helps students to enjoy the learning process.

Being Reflective
This is not coincidently, the last point, as mentioned above we learn through reflecting on our experience and I think it is very important to give yourself and break and reflect on how you are learning, what you are learning, what the best ways to learn are. In the world where information is becoming more and more accessible such skills and evaluating, processing and organising information become more and more important for both students and teachers. These are some questions that help me reflect on how I learn, I hope they will be useful to you as well. While teaching and talking to students, I often use the following questions in order to reflect on different experiences. I find the following list helpful not only to be used at school but also and it seems to me more importantly outside of school when you are experiencing the world and learning from real-life situations. I also believe that the following list helps you to consider your study choices and ultimately life choices. What I know for sure that it does generate an interesting discussion with my students.

●    What would be a meaningful choice for you right now in your learning process?
●    What coaching/instruction would be helpful to you at this moment?
●    What support do you need right now to be self-directing in your own learning?
●    What do you notice about your own thinking?
●    What study patterns do you notice?
●    What do the patterns tell you?
●    How has your thinking changed about an idea or topic? What impacted your thinking?
●    Based on changes in your thinking so far, how might your thinking change in the future?
●    What might influence that? (What happens if you don’t know?)
●    What control do you have over the influences on your thinking?
●    Under what conditions can you trust yourself to fail?
●    How might failing be useful?
●    What is most worth doing?
●    Where might you go to find interesting people, intriguing thoughts and boundless creativity?
●    About what things do you deeply wonder?
●    If you allow your mind to wander, can you follow the journey of where it takes you?

By Tetyana Kasima, Elisabeth Alla, Max Koshchuk.