As many of BSGE’s juniors have recently become aware of, the transition from the MYP to the IB curriculum is a particularly difficult adjustment. Moving up to the eleventh grade not only signals the third year of highschool, but also the first year of IB. The two to four years that these students spent at BSGE prior to junior year are supposed to prepare them for the heavy workload and demanding nature of the IB Diploma Program. Whether student or teacher, many at BSGE realize how intimidating the IB DP is made out to sound – with the more work expected to be done and the seemingly less time that can be put in to work on each assignment.
Two classes in which the transition from MYP to IB seems especially difficult are Visual Arts and English. The curriculum of these IB classes demands something from the students that wasn’t demanded as much in their MYP years. Ms. Connie You, a teacher for both MYP and IB English, says IB expects “independence of thought” more so than MYP does. The transition to English HL for her junior students this year seems more difficult than any year before. Ms. You notes that, “the biggest hurdle is time management.” Many students struggle with the amount of work that is expected to be done by the end of junior year alone. In English specifically, there are two major IB assessments that need to be done in junior year – one at the end of each semester. Ms. You says that “there is no template in the larger culture for what high school in an IB school looks like, so students are completely unprepared and sometimes blindsided” by the shocking amount of work that BSGE students have to do. The lack of any workload parallel in the world outside BSGE also brings up the parents of the IB students who “have no way to truly understand what IB DP is like.” Parents who are not familiar with the IB Program have a greater difficulty realizing how much work their son or daughter has to do for IB.
Lauren Ouaknine ‘14 explains her view about the transition from MYP to IB. Agreeing with Ms. You, Lauren says, “[In IB,] we’re not guided as much. A lot of the work is more independent and rests on our shoulders” compared to them being “babied” in the MYP when they would get outlines and specific instructions for each assignment. Ms. Gretchen McCabe, one of BSGE’s Visual Arts teachers, agrees that the IB DP definitely requires more independence and allows students to be freer in their work. The juniors’ expectation to “express their individual insights” by creating artwork without having many guidelines, according to Ms. McCabe, is “extremely intimidating.” Beginning their independent artwork, juniors have “wide-open freedom” that requires them to develop “their own ideas about the society, culture, and the world, or their role in it.” The freedom, especially in IB Art, is demanding for juniors especially because they are expected to come up with their own ideas while art is very open-ended and almost limitless. Being in Junior Year IB Art will make juniors aware of the possibilities in the IB Art program. Ms. McCabe notes that there is much flexibility for students to “realize their enormous potential” to create their individual artwork.
Similar to the end-of-semester English IB assessments, IB Art students are expected to create 18-24 pieces of art as well as research and write about artists and artworks by the end of junior year. Ms. McCabe defends the high expectations with the fact that junior year projects will “give [students] a trajectory for which they can continue to develop in the 12th grade.” Tahmid Zawad ’14 has become thankful that the IB DP does have such high expectations for its students. He says, “[Students at] other schools can only imagine getting the education we’re getting right now.” He’s very thankful of the hard work that is demanded because it will help BSGE’s students with pursuing their college lives and future careers.
Lauren, whose older sister graduated from BSGE in 2011 and is already in college, seems thankful that her parents were familiar with the IB DP years before she even entered BSGE. She says it is better to have family who already has clear ideas of what IB is because of her sister. Lauren says her parents “completely understand” when she has to sacrifice family time or other plans to work on her BSGE work. She is thankful that for her older sister having gone to BSGE because she knows what to expect. Isaac Farciert ’14 feels the same way; he says, “I just have a sense of what is to come, of what the teachers expect of me, what…things await me” to explain the advantages to having someone else experience IB before him. However, Isaac points out the disadvantages that come with having an older sibling at BSGE. He says, “part of the disadvantages includes others’ expectations of me…I definitely feel bad when I get lower grades than he does.” Even with the “frustration” that comes with being compared to his brother, Isaac notes that the transition to IB – for anybody, not just those with older siblings – “is just learning to be independent.” Both Isaac and Lauren realize that, despite having to follow their older siblings’ performance in BSGE, they have to learn, develop, and mature by themselves. Similar to Ms. You’s explanation of the “independence of thought,” both Isaac’s and Lauren’s explanation of their independence on their siblings is limited. Lauren says, “My work needs to be my own regardless of if she’s done it before.” Isaac agrees and adds, “There are limits to the information I am given, and I am made well aware of what I can and cannot know.”
However, there are more challenges to IB than having high expectations from siblings and parents. Filip Martinovic ’14, who practices for his swim team 6 days a week and attends the Manhattan School of Music, Precollege Division to play piano on Saturdays, anticipates the homework juniors receive will be overwhelming. Even with these presumptions, Filip “loves” his extracurricular activities and says, “I don’t understand how I would manage if I had to quit either [swimming or piano].” Despite his full commitment to extracurricular activities, Filip manages to find time for all school assignments. He says, “I have to constantly assess how much time I have to take to complete an assignment” and decides if he has to skip his extracurricular activities on a certain day. Filip, and presumably as well as other students who have outside activities, has to try hard to fit in homework whenever and wherever he can. To Filip, this means, “in the locker room before ‘drylands’ – weight training or gym time, in the train…or in the car.”
When asked about why the transition is so difficult for students, Ms. You says it is because “the transition is intellectual, social, psychological and emotional.” It is definitely not a surprise to most BSGE students that the IB DP will require time sacrifices from students that their peers from other schools will spend hanging out with friends. Tahmid, who contemplated leaving BSGE and transferring to a different school, is familiar with the appeal of having a social life. He says, “I [initially] did not feel as if I was truly getting the ‘high school experience’ that all my friends were getting at other high schools.” This “high school experience” is what has to be sacrificed by BSGE students however, according to Ms. You, “you get to go through it surrounded by your friends, supported by your teachers and parents.” Tahmid, substantiating his decision to stay, notes that BSGE “ultimately gave [him] the confidence [he] needed in order to achieve academic excellence and strive towards becoming a “college-ready” student with the help of [his] loving peers and teachers.” It is well-known and rightly justified by many at BSGE that the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program is highly demanding and time-consuming for students, but many still do agree that the program is worth it despite the obstacles and difficulties that everyone has to face when going through it.