I need to celebrate a pretty monumental career achievement. It’s not as if I finished my Masters Essay (which I did 7 or 8 years ago) or a book (which I want to accomplish someday). It’s not that I simply finished teaching a school year (I’ve done that a few too many times for it to feel like it is a big deal anymore) or my Peace Corps service (which was a big deal, but different because, frankly, I wasn’t necessarily ready to finish my Peace Corps service and move on). This milestone doesn’t appear to be that big of deal on the surface because it coincides with the end of just another school year. However, it is a big deal.
While my Peace Corps Volunteer service on Antigua teaching Language Arts may have been the toughest job I will ever love and my Peace Corps work as a Regional Recruitment Representative was probably my favorite job, these last 18 months of being an International Baccalaureate Coordinator at a neighborhood Chicago school have been something else! This position might just rank up there with being the most challenging of my career, requiring me to call on all of my skills and experience to reach an end point.
And while I haven’t reached the actual end of my job (at least I sure hope not!), we did actually hit a huge milestone that needs to be celebrated. That milestone? My school’s inaugural IB Diploma Programme Senior Class–the Class of 2017–graduated last month.
I was the 6th IB coordinator at my school when I started in mid-October 2015—the 7th according to a couple of people’s recollections; however, if there was a #7, I haven’t found documented proof that she was at the job long enough to leave documentation, so she doesn’t really count. So, I was the 6th coordinator in less than 3 years, the 4th in 2015 alone.
Think about it. 6 coordinators in 3 years. That kind of turnover doesn’t create a stable program. It gets a program authorized by IB, teachers trained, and students recruited in to its program, but it does not create a program that is going to last. Maybe it creates a viable program on paper. Maybe. However, if IB is going to work, there has to be relationship building and networking and buy-in of the staff, administration and students. When I arrived in October 2015, none of that was happening and the program was headed downhill in a hurry!
As I said, I had to tap in to all kinds of prior experience to make this work:
- IB experience in NOLA–which taught me how valuable IB can be to a student’s high school experience–and how much of a process it is to build a functioning program. It also gave me empathy for what IBDP teachers go through. I get how hard it can be.
- My five years as a Peace Corps Recruitment Representative–since students are much more mobile, with many more choices, and so individual schools in CPS have to aggressively promote their campus and programs.
- My experience living in different places–global-mindedness is a big focus of IB.
- Editor and primary writer experience for NMU’s Student Activities Office Newsletter–see recruitment and promotion of a program above.
- Coaching and being on a team–encouraging students to take risks and grow as learners while building a team of teachers with shared goals was not an easy task considering how many other coordinators had led the program.
- Event planning coordination–a big component of building our program has included hosting High School Investigation Days, Information Sessions, and DP (Diploma Programme) Cafes.
- Teaching Theory of Knowledge in NOLA…because I had to step in and take over TOK as well as my coordination responsibilities.
- Working as an Academic Advisor at the University of Southern California and PC Recruitment on college and university campuses throughout the Midwest means that I have a unique ability to mentor and guide high school students on her/his post-secondary path. IB=post-secondary opportunity and I believe in it whole-heartedly.
- Adjusting to new work environments–adaptability was key to adjusting to this new school and community and my prior experience was crucial.
- Building bridges–I like bridges and the connections they create. Being able to create connections through this position was essential.
When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, I visited fellow PCVs on St. Vincent and got talked in to helping chaperone a hike up St. Vincent’s La Soufriere Volcano. I remember it being an exhausting hike–mainly because I wasn’t used to hiking on mountainous trails after more than a year living on the rather flat island nation of Antigua, but also because it is a challenging climb for even those in shape. I also remember it being disappointing: when we got to the top, we were lost in fog and cloud cover. I wasn’t able to see the breath-taking views I had been promised. Not cool. This experience in Chicago as an IB Coordinator, on the other hand, has been incredibly difficult and challenging, has required sacrifice, stubbornness, tenacity, and resilience–but despite all that, I’m not disappointed with the end results! I can see from the top and I’m pleased.