What’s the difference with this PYPx?

This is my 8th PYPx. Every one has been a success in its own way and has provided opportunities for students to grow, learn and celebrate their years in the PYP. But this one feels different to me. It feels as if this PYPx is actually transforming us as individuals and as a community. We’re not ‘doing’ PYPx. Instead, we’re in the middle of a genuine collaborative endeavour to better understand ourselves and to positively impact our community. Over the years, we’ve learned to let go of our preconceived notions about PYPx and the rules and structures we used to think guided it, in order to fully embrace the possibilities and ask ourselves some what if questions. Some 2019 questions: What if there are different ways that people (students and adults) can participate in PYPx? What if PYPx looked different for every student? What if the product isn’t the point at all? What might it look like if PYPx was truly meaningful for everyone? What if PYPx was transformative for individuals and the year level?

To us it doesn’t feel as though PYPx just started this term, it feels as though we have been building to it all year, and this is just a continuation of the learning and thinking that was already happening. When students are talking about getting into flow, the dispositions they’re drawing upon, or the action they could take, these conversations and experiences are not new. Instead, we’re building upon what’s already there and continuing to add depth and layers to their thinking. Our Central Idea (Thinking beyond ourselves empowers us to act) has been part of our learning across the whole year. 

The collaboration that is taking place is authentic. Students are moving in and out of individual inquiries, one on one and group discussions with their peers and teachers, optional additional provocations, tea circles, whole year level provocations and discussions with all of Year 6. There are several layers to our PYPx: what we are inquiring into as a community and what individual students are investigating and exploring. Students will independently step out of their inquiry to join a group discussion about an entirely different thing. Earlier this week I shared a personal dilemma I was facing where I knew there was something I needed to do, but didn’t quite have the courage to do it. From this, it has grown into my own PYPx inquiry around courage and now there are students who will sit down next to me during PYPx not to ask for a conference about their inquiry, but to conference with me about my inquiry. They’re invested in each other and in us. There is heart in what we are doing.

We’re all about the process. We’re still, 6 weeks in, having daily provocations to shift thinking and introduce new perspectives. There are students who have explored 3 or 4 different avenues by now as they better understand their own thoughts and ideas. Not only is that permissible, it is a valued part of the process for us. They’re learning to be flexible and adaptable, to respond to their changing ideas and perspectives. We’re encouraging them to consider looking both inwards and outwards to find their PYPx inquiry. We’re asking them to consider how they could take action to improve our Year 6 community instead of just looking outward.

As I sit and have conversations with students about their inquiries, I’m blown away by their insights into themselves and others, and the questions they have about themselves and others. From the student who has realised that she’s spent this year in her comfort zone socially and is seeking to better understand those around her, to the student who noticed that the gender divide starts in kindergarten and is seeking to change the way that adults and kids think about these issues, to the student who is redesigning our primary school and creating a proposal for how our space could inspire more creativity and curiosity, their inquiries have personal significance and relevance. There are stories behind their inquiries.

To be honest, this PYPx probably feels even sweeter because it hasn’t always been this way. The struggle was real in the first three terms as we challenged thinking, pushed for change within the culture of the year level and promoted a different narrative about learning. Here is what we have learned to do this year: always prioritise our core values. Community, belonging, courage and cohesion are what we value; Ubuntu is our goal. It’s a daily choice to stick to our values. We will stop lessons to address dispositional issues that arise. We will intentionally set aside time for experiences that help our year level build stronger connections and help students and teachers feel as though they belong. We have spent all year noticing and naming dispositions and building student capacity to understand themselves and others. We prioritise community. We purposely share our own stories to break down barriers. We bring up the ‘undiscussables’, and make time for conversations around these. We are intentionally vulnerable and honest, and we’re real about the struggles we are facing. Because at the end of the day, we are all humans.

Our students may not be able to tell you reams and reams of information. They most certainly won’t tell you about a linear process. They haven’t formally written lines of inquiry or selected three key concepts to drive their inquiry. They won’t be standing up with boards at the end. They may not even end up with a product. But what are their days filled with? Taking action in a myriad of ways, thinking and puzzling, considering others and how to positively impact the world, seeking new perspectives on complex ideas, being open to their worldview shifting and moving, investing in each other, inspiring each other, building community, drawing on dispositions and skills, learning about themselves and others, and reflecting on how they have grown and changed this year. And for us, that’s what it’s all about. 

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