Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Parents Learning the PYP

One of this things I love about the PYP is the emphasis on community learning. Personally I am continually developing in my understanding of the program and am fortunate enough to be in a place now where I can pass on what I know to others. The teachers in my school are learning all the time and sometimes when I see the lessons they do I am blown away. In the past two weeks I have seen lessons varying from students dissecting organs to a music provocation where classes visited an organ being installed in a concert hall. It should go without saying that the students are learning, but this blog post is to share the success of the learning journey our parents have been on.

I remember when I took my first PYP coordinator job a couple of years back. We were in the process of authorization and our incredible consultant Di Fisk advised us to create a newsletter and to schedule regular parent information sessions. We got to work and I did what I knew to do, created lovely presentations and presented to parents about the history of the program and used the resources available from the Digital Toolkit. These were a wonderful resource!

Later after I had been to my second workshop the penny finally dropped that the work shop leaders were modelling how to teach in the classroom. And, I can tell you I have studied under some of the best of them. A shout out to Kathy & Kathy! It was during their PYPC workshop that they explicitly told us we could use their strategies in our classes and staff meetings. I immediately started to change my staff meetings to be more collaborative but it was not until later that it carried over to my parent information sessions. 

Over the past couple of years I have led parent coffee mornings on the five essential elements, concept based curriculum, ATLs and assessment to name a few. My own learning and development can be clearly seen in the way these meetings played out, from that first presentation in the auditorium to the most recent workshop on the five essential elements. During this session I started with the provocation, "What do you want your child to learn?" I had the parents share this in groups and provided large sheets of paper and pens for them to draw with. I told them that afterwards they would need to present in any language or in any form. I did not get any singers yet!
Their combined responses, some of which are below blew my mind. From those early days when parents were asking me for more homework and if there was a textbook they could photocopy:) to this, the development is incredible. Themes like: "learning how to learn", "appreciation of art" & "care for the environment", really showed me that we are starting to get it. Not that they are starting to get it, that we are starting to get it. I am so proud of my students:)

So here is a suggested way to plan a parents coffee morning. Send out the invitation to all parents and ask for RSVPs. Also ask them that if they have any questions about the programme to include them. I have had turnouts of 2/3 parents so DO NOT LET THAT DETER YOU! The numbers will grow over the years you invest in your community. Have the tables set in groups as a class would be and have large sheets of paper and markers on each table. I start the meeting at 9:00 am but tell parent they are welcome for coffee anytime after 8:30. During this time you can chat and it is very interesting what comes up. Any principal will know how valuable this is;)
For the first few minutes I sound like a salesman for the PYP and I joke about that, as I introduce the 5 essential elements or whatever the theme is. After that I have a provocation. During this meeting I asked parents the question, "What do you want your child to learn?" Then give as much time as is necessary for parents in groups to share their thoughts and write them down. If you are in a school with a large number of parents who do not speak the language of instruction then have a translator at their table to help out. This last time, this part of the workshop was incredible and is what I mention above. Next I ask each group to present and reinforce their awesome points, like "We want our children to learn how to learn." I kid around too by going over to someone if they are talking and say sorry but which of our ATLs do you need to practice? The communication skill of listening. After this I do my teaching but always coming back to their ideas and connecting them to the theme of the workshop.

I cannot stress the fact that where we are at now did not happen over night. It has been two years. If I can be of any help getting your community going with the PYP don't hesitate to ask and.....keep learning!

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