IB @ WMS Building Students' Character

The IB MYP (Middle Years Program) strives to educate the whole student focusing on intellectual, social-emotional and physical well-being. According the the IB website, “The IB aspires to help schools develop well-rounded students with character”.

The IB Learner Profile is a list of attributes beyond academic success that IB schools strive to instill in their students. In order to prepare students to be responsible members of their community, the profile aims to develop learners who are: Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced and Reflective. These attributes are reflected in the WMS mission statement discussed with all students and visible in every classroom.

Focusing on these attributes helps build the overall character of the students. WMS teachers and administrators have the opportunity every day in every subject to contribute to their students’ character. Two classes in particular that focus on this task are the Westlake Foundations seminar and the Health course.

Building Foundations

Westlake Foundations is a semester long seminar facilitated by English teachers that sixth graders attend every other day. A key part of the curriculum focuses on social-emotional learning. Topics include important life skills such as self-advocacy, problem solving, stress reduction and mindfulness. During this time in the classroom, teachers focus on developing the student’s EQ (emotional quotient) to help build mental strength. They encourage students to internalize positive behaviors and value strong character traits.

In a recent lesson, WMS guidance counselor Tania Greco, visited a Westlake Foundations class. She guided them through a meditation activity to encourage mindfulness and the power of positive suggestion. With the lights dimmed, students focused on deep breathing and complete relaxation. They were encouraged to imagine themselves being successful in school and in relationships. When students were brought back to attention in the classroom, they reported feeling calmer and ready to take on their next class. The positive feelings within them have profound effects on how they view and treat others around them, lending to a positive school environment.

Conversations in Health

The lessons of building strong character continue when students attend their health class. Also a semester long course, health is offered to sixth and seventh graders. They cover topics such as digital citizenship, cyber bullying, stress reduction, and service learning. Health teacher Claire Ianonne states that students often lead the conversation after she introduces a topic. They work together to encourage others to think about what defines good character and how to make good decisions in all areas of their life. Conversations are often lively and productive, allowing students to hear from many who might think differently from them. In the end, the goal is to encourage students to be empathetic and open minded.

In today’s world, it is important not only to teach students how to read and write, but equally important to teach them to be good citizens with strong character. The IB learner profile encourages just that and WMS has made it an important part of the curriculum.

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