Category Archives: International Baccalaureate

View from the International Baccalaureate Nest

I had the opportunity this week to sit down with two girls enrolling in the IB Diploma Programme, a chance to talk about how they view their strengths and challenges as students, about where they see themselves in relation to the IB learner profile, and about why they’ve chosen to pursue the IB diploma. We took as our starting point the written reflections each diploma candidate submitted as part of her enrollment process.

As their current English teacher, I know both girls well as readers and writers, but this was an exciting chance to talk about learning free of content.  Indeed, this is one way to describe the Theory of Knowledge seminar that is at the heart of the Diploma Programme: an investigation not of what we know, but what it means to know and learn.  Our individual conversations underscored the exciting differences in perspective that Stoneleigh-Burnham students bring to our moments together.

Tillula sees the IB Diploma as an opportunity; one, in fact, in life’s string of opportunities that can either be met as productive challenges or wasted.  In light of her high standards for herself, she has “the determination to challenge [her]self” in this and “other things in life along the way.”  I was most impressed, though not at all surprised, by her self-awareness in assessing her weaknesses.  Tillula spoke and wrote about how hard it has been for her to speak up, and how hard she has worked to find her voice.  We talked about how far she has come just this year, both in joining the classroom conversation and in advocating for herself as a learner, seeking out help and clarification.  In one moment, she and I each saw the same light bulb go on above the other’s head: this was all the same conversation.  She was rising to meet this challenge every day, taking the opportunity to speak and be heard.

Anna surprised me when she identified the IB learner’s characteristic that posed the greatest challenge to her: risk-taker.  Here is a thinker who delights in making surprising connections and unearthing subtle meanings for all to share.  She is a powerful presence in every setting, and I struggled to imagine her reticent.  Anna, of course, knew herself better than I: she explained her “tendency to hang back and assess” rather than “leap in and try.”  She spoke of the importance to her, both socially and in the classroom, of using opportunities to understand and synthesize before venturing forth.  And suddenly here we were again, seeing the lines between strength and weakness blur before our eyes.  She was describing her remarkable aptitude for comprehensive critical thinking!

It is indeed special to be in a position every day to teach and learn with these outstanding young women.  This particular shift in context afforded us the opportunity to join in brain work, thinking about thinking, talking about learning, and experiencing the academic synthesis that defines the IB program and in truth all that we do in this powerful learning community.  It was heady stuff.  Not bad for a Wednesday.

– Alex Bogel, Stoneleigh-Burnham School English Department

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Filed under In the Classroom, International Baccalaureate, On Education

Anticipating the IB Diploma Program

As we near the end of February – months since my last entry (I note with chagrin…) – we are waiting impatiently to receive our official authorization to open as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School next fall.  This is without doubt the biggest initiative in my three years of headship, and we have worked hard to establish this status.  What will it mean to Stoneleigh-Burnham when all is said and done?  A lot, including:

1) SBS will be the first girls’ school in New England to go IB.  We will be the third private school in New England and the third girls’ school in the country to incorporate this program.

2) As a small school, we afford ourselves connection to a worldwide network of other schools and educators with whom we may share ideas about curriculum and experience with the IB Organization.

3)  We will allow any motivated student to shoot for the IB diploma, not just those who have been highly successful beforehand.  [This is a particular favorite of mine.  Young people come into their own as students at various times in their development, and it is gratifying to offer an inclusive opportunity for those who are just picking up steam halfway through high school.]

4)  Our teachers will share a common professional development experience, having been trained to teach in the IB Diploma Program.  To date, all those who will teach an IB course next year have been trained; our goal is to train everyone in the school so we are all conversant in its philosophy and goals.

5)  Our students will be exposed to a solid, multicultural curriculum that has room for differentiated challenges. What we have understood from IB students interviewed at other schools is that they would never change their choice to challenge themselves to complete the requirements for the IB Diploma.  According to them, it is meaningful work that is worth pursuing.

6)  Our students will feel proud of the level of commitment they make and rigorous challenges they work to meet. The Diploma Program  offers a much more integrated, and therefore potentially more meaningful, way for students to understand the world than the AP Program.

7)  Our Senior Project Program will be enhanced by the IB Extended Essay; our Community Service Program will develop more depth by virtue of the IB CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) requirement.

8)  We are continuing our own commitment to internationalism and multiculturalism, creating a clearer vision for the future and securing this perspective in all disciplines.

9)  We will establish a smoother segue from our Middle School to our Upper School as our program for older students necessarily becomes more student-centered (like our Middle School already is).

10) While not all students will strive to complete the diploma requirements, all students will be necessarily affected by the IB as a part of SBS.  We will be changing the way we teach, asking students to write more, think more critically, and process their learning along the way.


– Sally Mixsell, Head of School

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Filed under In the Classroom, International Baccalaureate, Thoughts from the Head of School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School