One of my most profound schema pops occurred when I was preparing the reflection questions for my Grade 5 students, who had just finished presenting their Exhibition. I was working in an all girls school and it was the first time I’d been involved in Exhibition. Going in I was excited and anxious. Was it going to work? Were we going to have something to share? Would it be any good? How were we going to manage all of these projects at the same time? We had two grade five classes and the girls created groups of 2 to 5 people, based solely on their interests.
It was phenomenal – seriously one of the proudest moments of my teaching career. The creativity the girls showed, their commitment to their learning and willingness to work hard and long hours, their resilience when things didn’t work out the first (or second or third) time.
As I drafted their reflection questions, I reflected on all the girls had done and worked through and “POP” – I saw it all! Transdisciplinary skills, attitudes, the learner profile, knowledge, concepts, action, authentic learning, following a passion, collaboration, a learning community – there it was. I really understood for the first time how all the elements of the PYP worked together. And how powerful the process was for all my students, their parents, and for me as a teacher and learner.
This experience brought together all three of the threads I’ve been weaving. We were able to create an environment that gave these girls the chance to argue over how they wanted their product to look, and yet still be friends at the end of the day. We worked alongside them as coaches, mentors, facilitators, encouragers, mediators, but never as judges or arbitrators. Finally, they once again surpassed what I thought eleven years olds were capable of – the depth of their understanding of some very complex issues, their ability to see the different perspectives, their empathy and compassion, their creative expression of their learning. They humbled me.
Thanks to those girls, I’ve never looked at a unit of inquiry the same way again. In each unit is the potential for all the splendour of that Exhibition.