Taking Inspiration from What Ed Said

As I was planning for a parent workshop on “Why is the learner profile important to us“, I read, and was inspired by @whatedsaid‘s post called An Open Letter to Parents. With Edna Sackson’s permission (I do love being able to connect with my PLN on Twitter!), I used the blog and the questions for parents as the basis of my workshop. I was surprised by the response and just how successful the session was.

Some Background

None of our parents are ‘native’ English speakers and therefore neither are the children. None of our parents experienced education like their children. This means that they can be ill at ease here and they, like many of the children, are worried about getting things ‘wrong’ and they want to ‘please’ the teachers. Our parents are getting more comfortable with opportunities to come in and ask questions and experience learning like their children do. I think sometimes they think the children aren’t challenged as we don’t have lots of memorisation and testing so I used this as an opportunity to get them thinking, talking and sharing their understandings. I used thinking routines and the parents had to step out of their comfort zones.

The Workshop

Prior to the workshop we had an assembly where the children presented skits, songs and reflections on why the Learner Profile is important to them and how it helps them as learners and people. At the start of the workshop the parents tried to list the attributes and prioritise the ones they felt are important for their children.

Here are Edna’s first set of statements that I asked them to sort out – I gave them to them in English, Chinese, Arabic and Korean which made them more accessible. To be honest I thought that when I gave these out they would all tell me they want their children to get good grades, excel at sport and get loads of homework. This is the impression we teachers often get from them. I was wrong.

Some statements: Which of these do you most wish for? Put them in order of importance.

Materials in Korean
  • My child succeeds without struggle
  • My child is above average at school
  • My child is admired by others
  • My child is well behaved and works hard to get good grades
  • My child excels in sporting competitions
  • My child produces impressive work at school
  • My child is extended by her teachers
  • My child’s class gets homework to help them do better at school
  • My child is popular with his peers
  • My child is always happy at school

Every one of the parents highlighted the last one as the most important statement for them. The others were barely discussed.

I gave them the next set of Edna’s statements and the parents prioritised them and matched the LP traits to them. We had a rich discussion about how all of the statements are important and how all the traits support them. The parents were able to understand why we place such importance on these attributes and see their relevance to the children’s lives in and out of school.

Now Consider these statements:

  • My child is valued as an individual
  • My child  feels a sense of belonging
  • My child’s strengths matter more than his weaknesses
  • My child is intrinsically motivated
  • My child forms meaningful relationships
  • My child experiences personal growth
  • My child contributes to the community
  • My child loves learning
  • My child has ownership of her decisions and accepts the consequences
  • My child is allowed to fail and learn from his mistakes

To put them in the position of being a learner we had started with the ‘Think, Pair, Share’ thinking routine. Parents were less comfortable with the sharing part of this, in large part due to the language difficulties. This got me thinking about many of our students who would also feel this way. At the end of the workshop we wrote headlines, again using the thinking routine Headlines. The parents found this really challenging as, for them, it is a different way of thinking about things and in the end we wrote one together.


The Learner Profile makes the whole child learn to be a better person

One version of the Headline

The parents were really happy with the session. Linking the LP traits to Edna’s statements made them real and gave us a great basis for discussion that went a lot deeper than matching definitions to words and doing something like a diamond ranking. Providing multilingual resources and facilitating discussions in different languages made them more at ease. The parents were so positive about the Learner Profile and what we are doing as an IB Continuum school I wish I had recorded them for my colleagues to hear! They all left asking when the next session is.

Thank you for the inspiration Edna!

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