Friday, March 6, 2015

Can'ts into cans; dreams into plans

Artwork courtesy of Page-A-Day Calendar

Our high school is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. Starting overseas, the  IB Diploma Program is considered to be the most rigorous curriculum in the world.  Colleges and universities, especially those with selective admissions, weight high school students earning the IB Diploma more heavily than any other admission criteria.

In their Junior and Senior years, IB Diploma candidates take courses in six subject areas: Language and Literature, Language acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Science, Math and Arts.

At our school, all IB courses are weighted on the 5.0 scale.  In addition, students are required to take Theory of Knowledge, a course that explores the reflection and nature of knowledge; a 4000-word Extended Essay based on a student-driven research project; and a Creativity, Action, Research (CAS) Project, requiring a 3-part emphasis requiring teamwork, personal challenge and reflection.

If it sounds difficult it is.  Ask yourself this question-- if you were a high school student would you choose this amount of work your junior and senior year?

At our school, and at schools around the world, students choose to challenge themselves every day.  Their IB assessments, rigorous examinations mailed to trained IB graders in India, New Zealand, China, Australia and all around the globe are essay-based, requiring deep interdisciplinary thinking, and no multiple choice items that characterize American assessments, including Advanced Placement.

Why do students choose IB?  Are these students only the "brainiacs" of our high school and other global high schools?

The answer is an unequivocal no.  Many of these students are our most unassuming students.  Bright? Yes. Hard-working?  Absolutely yes.  Dedicated to making the world better by examining content from a global perspective?  You bet.

But truly the reason these students are IB Diploma students are because they turned the can'ts into cans.  While other students found reasons NOT to do the IB Diploma these students didn't.  Why?  Because they have dreams, of college and of life, and the IB Diploma is an excellent way of turning their dreams into plans.

Our IB Diploma candidates hold a CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) Demonstration evening to explain and display their CAS projects.  What an amazing evening!

IB Diploma Program candidate explains her CAS project.
One student proudly showed her 4 State Championship (yes, 4!) golf medals, another her Mid-Ohio Food Bank volunteerism and another his youth league participation.  All of the projects demonstrated their creativity in a range of activities, including making jewelry, designing a website or in cooking, a variety of community service projects, and team pursuits ranging from the arts to athletics.

They completed these projects while taking six academic IB courses and TOK and don't forget their 4000-word Extended Essays.  And those rigorous Internal and External exams are stressful!

Could they have found many reasons NOT to be an IB Diploma candidate. Sure.  Do other students? Yes.

But our IB Diploma candidates and graduates are the ones who turn their can'ts into cans and dreams into plans.


  1. My daughter would have loved that kind of a program. It is rigorous and the expectations are high. I'm glad to hear that it's not just the brightest that take on the challenge. We need kids who think and work hard to solve the more typical problems of life too. Thanks for sharing the details of IB.

  2. I am with Lynn. My daughter would have thrived in that kind of environment. I get to watch the process as our elementary school is becoming an IB school. At this moments, and especially after reading your post, I can't see many of my high school students embracing this challenge. I wonder if it is different if the students have attended IB school prior to beginning high school?

  3. I love this growth mindset! Wouldn't it be amazing if more of our students took on those challenges throughout their years in school so that it would be almost natural to do so in high school?

  4. I love this growth mindset! Wouldn't it be amazing if more of our students took on those challenges throughout their years in school so that it would be almost natural to do so in high school?


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