March 14, 2013

More Reflections - The IB and other Things

Moving back to greener pastures.

Next year I'm returning to my previous school. Leaving an overseas post, a great pay check and a school that I perceive to be in a pretty deep rut.

[Insert self-pitying rant on the failures of my current school].

This is my third school... I'm burned out. Tired. Frustrated. And still loving it when the light goes on and my kids get a tough concept.

IB it's not you. It's me?

With a senior class who doesn't have a single IB student likely to score above the world average and 25% of whom are likely to fail the diploma...  reflection comes quick and often. 

Looking over past posts as reminders of what went well (or not so well) I came across this at the bottom of a post about the unit circle.

Reflections: To be honest I don't know where the stage for this success was first set [...]. While having all the mathematical tools needed [...] is necessary I don't think it's sufficient. Two more pieces were needed:
  1. Students feeling the freedom to tackle a problem with different methods, thus allowing them to see problems in the context that is most natural to them. 
  1. Students being trained to solve new tough problems not simply repeating steps that the teacher has demonstrated on a whiteboard. 
A year after teaching that lesson on the Unit Circle I still believe those two pieces were the key to one of my most successful class periods in 10 years of teaching (and most other successes I've had).

Those two pieces seem to be in stark contrast to the demands of the IB and  other standardized test based programs.


  1. You and I have been having a lot of similar thoughts around the IB program. There are aspects of it that I love, and there are other things that I wish we could change. I've been a radical at my school and suggested that we should develop a locally developed math course at our school and pick and choose which parts of the IB diploma programme that we actually like and think work for our students.

  2. I'd agree that there are some great parts to the IB program. Though my school is so "score" focused it feels like nothing but tests matter. After an IB training last year in Berlin I don't think my school is the only one that has gone over to the dark side of the IB. The new Math IA seems to walk away from the cookie cutter nature of the past IA's but the idea that math should be creative and exploratory is completely missing from the other 80% of the student's grade.

    I didn't feel any of this negativity at my last IB school. All the same I'm looking forward to getting away from the IB for a while.

    If you do manage to start creating a local math program I hope you'll share the work and the results.