7 Key Areas of Focus for IB Coordinators
You’re busy preparing for a curriculum review session, and there’s a knock at the door. Your grade-7 teacher is here to report on a tough parent, and just as you’re finished reassuring them, your phone buzzes about the administrators meet-up you need to be at. You pack your files, get ready to leave, and on your way out, you notice you’ve got a class scheduled in the next 30 minutes.
As an IB coordinator, you wear so many different hats everyday, sometimes every hour. You’re a facilitator, a mentor, an inquirer, an administrator, a teacher, a role model…simply put, you’re an incredibly capable human being with the will to serve. The Peter Parker of the IB, if you will. 😇
But even our beloved Spidey was often stretched between multiple tasks, wasn’t he? Dealing with a teenage love affair, a friend who suddenly goes dark, a Domino’s 30-minute delivery deadline – all while trying to save the world is no easy feat!
It’s times like these that we realise that even superheroes – whether they walk on walls or run a school – could use some help with multitasking.
That’s why, in this article, we’ve condensed your several responsibilities as an IB coordinator into 7 key areas of focus. In each area, you’ll take away a better understanding of the role you need to play, self-reflection tools to assess the progress you’re making, and some snippets on how Toddle can support your journey.
for IB Coordinators
- Focus area 1: Ongoing professional development
- Focus area 2: Building deep family connections
- Focus area 3: Collaborative curriculum planning
- Focus area 4: Documentation and evidence collection
- Focus area 5: Curating analytics on teaching and learning
- Focus area 6: Technology integration
- Focus Area 7: Self care
Focus area 1 – Ongoing professional development
The IB designs hundreds of high-quality workshops to help you and your team deepen your understanding of the curriculum, connect with educators around the world, exchange resources and learnings, and grow your practices.
Add to this, the tons of other interesting PD events, resources, and communities that you and your team discover on the internet.
There’s so much to learn, and so little time!
How do you as a school leader, as the lead-inquirer of your team, get strategic here? How do you identify the PD resources that best suit your team’s expertise, knowledge, professional goals, and circumstances?
Well, a good way to begin would be to first understand the culture of PD at your school, and here are some reflection prompts that will help you do just that!
It helps to keep in mind that truly effective professional development is just as much about execution as it is about learning, so make sure that your teachers get enough opportunities to express and reflect on their learnings. Here’s how Toddle helps your teachers put their learning to action as they go about their day-to-day work:
Focus area 2: Building deep family connections
Your ultimate goal in this area is to reassure families, as often as possible, that their children are growing safely and happily in your presence.
Although, sometimes, we get so caught up in sending perfectly crafted reports, sharing announcements in time, and so on – that we don’t pause to observe whether families are able to receive and act on the insights we’re sharing with them. Check out these reflection prompts that will help you think more deeply about how involved families actually are:
As you start working on your areas of improvement, it’s also important to make sure you don’t strain your teachers in the process.
Consider these 6 ways to build deeper connections with families while also saving your teachers time.
- Make your reports meaningful : Progress reports are the tried-and-trusted way to communicate with families. So start from the ground up and help your teachers align on the true purposes of report writing. Then discuss what your teachers should and shouldn’t include in their reports and how to best structure comments. Getting some perspective on how other IB schools are creating reports can also help.
- Communicate more frequently : Don’t wait until the end of the term or year to showcase your students’ special learning moments. Use digital tools like the Toddle Journal to automatically share day-to-day happenings with families and give them a more transparent view of your classrooms.
- Make learning visible : A picture is worth a thousand words! Support your grades and comments with visual evidences like photos, videos, audio-notes, and sketches of your students’ work. Actually showing families what our grades represent can go a long way in building trust. Here’s how an IB coordinator, Mary Kay, used Toddle to build such visual progress reports at her school.
- Build knowledge of the programme : Ever had parents get back with several questions on the terms you’ve used in your reports? Share resources like Introducing the PYP to families and Introducing inquiry to families, to help families understand the IB, its vocabulary, and more importantly the role that they need to play in their children’s learning journeys.
- Encourage accountability : Especially in the higher grades, help families share responsibility for the academic integrity of their children’s work. This could be by getting them to sign forms, clearly communicating learning instructions, explaining the relevance and importance of each submission, and by providing space for 1:1 chats with subject teachers.
- Address fears and concerns : Make yourself available to families as much as possible. Conduct frequent family sessions. Get candid and encourage families to ask questions about the programme, your school’s practices, and their children’s progress.
How Toddle helps you bridge the gap between school and home
Focus area 3: Collaborative curriculum planning
Ensuring the balance of your curriculum is one of your key responsibilities as a coordinator, and that begins with ensuring seamless collaboration between teachers across disciplines and grades. So, bring your team together more often for collaborative sessions and use the time to draw connections between and beyond subject areas, and even across curricula. For higher grades, also reflect on ways to closely integrate the taught curriculum with other aspects of the programme like personal/community projects, ToK, and CAS.
Make sure your teachers are able to go beyond making occasional edits to each other’s planners. Get them to ask intriguing questions about each other’s subjects or lesson plans, review each other’s units, and exchange resources. Plan the focus areas for each collaborative session well in advance, and recommend that your teachers come prepared with relevant resources or challenges that they may be facing.
For starters, a focus area for your next collaborative session could simply be on how to collaborate better. And here are some reflection prompts you can use to get this conversation started.
Once in a while, it also helps to zoom out a little and look at how other IB schools around the world are building units. Check out some of these resources we’ve built to help you widen your perspective on curriculum planning:
Focus area 4: Documentation and evidence collection
All teachers surely know the importance of documentation in the IB. However, to make documentation a healthy routine (rather than a last minute task before IB visits) make sure the process you follow is visible and seamless.
1. Making documentation visible: It is important that your teachers know what each document is, why it exists, where it can be found, and when it should be updated. Take out some time and use the prompts below to reflect on how to make this process more visible for your team:
2. Making documentation seamless: We’ve seen that schools manage over 500 folders of evidence (and −7,000+ documents) in their drives. And so understandably, teachers put off opening up these folders until the very last minute.
Instead, use IB-specific evidence collection tools – like Toddle – so your teachers can collect, organise, and review evidence on the go. As and when your teachers create a unit, lesson plan, or an assessment, they can add it as evidence and tag it to the relevant S&Ps at the click of a button. Open up the tool a few weeks before your IB visit or self-study session, and you’ll find all such evidences automatically organised based on standards and practices.
Here’s how PYP Curriculum Coordinator Shelley Charanduk (also an IBEN and an IB evaluator for over 10 years) used Toddle’s evidence collection dashboard to breeze through her school’s accreditation visit.
You can read more about how Shelley’s school aced their accreditation visit here.
And once you complete the visit, make sure you create a sustainable action plan that you actually unpack and work on every year! Keep in mind that the key to successfully executing an action plan is actually thinking beyond it.
Focus area 5: Curating analytics on teaching and learning
Teaching-learning analytics are the most reliable source of feedback for you as a coordinator. They help you identify curriculum gaps, support differentiated instruction, establish better grading systems, plan budgets, understand family involvement, and get a bird’s eye view of your school.
The question then remains, how do you decide which analytics to track and when?
Here’s a list of important numbers to track organised based on the different aspects of your role. Note that this list, while thorough, is not prescriptive by any means. It’s only a summary of our interactions with IB coordinators from around the world.
- Curricular insights – Which learning outcomes, ATLs, and learner profile attributes are being planned for which units. For higher grades, which assessment objectives are being planned for which units?
- Classroom analytics : Which of the above ATLs, learner profile attributes, and assessment objectives, are actually being touched upon in each learning experience. Helps draw connections between planned and taught curriculum.
- Assessments and student progress : Class-level analytics on how students are performing across disciplines/themes/subjects
- Evidence collection : Number (and quality) of evidences collected against each standard/practice.
- Family communication: How often families are engaging with your announcements, portfolios, and reports
Another challenge that coordinators face in this area is actually putting these metrics together. We’ve seen coordinators spend over eight hours every week manually counting the curricular elements covered in each unit, tracking assessment objectives and project deadlines, and updating all of this data into complex spreadsheets. And then several more hours helping their teachers understand the structure and terminology of these spreadsheets. Eventually, they’re left with very little time and energy for the very purpose of this tedious excercise – deriving insights and making enhancements to the curriculum.
Here’s how Toddle saves your teachers’ time by curating such analytics automatically:
Focus area 6: Technology integration
Integrating technology (and doing it wisely!) is one of the key steps you can take towards the long-term well being of your school.
However, we’ve seen that the marriage between technology and IB schools is not as seamless as it should be, and here’s the biggest reason why.
The IB curriculum, by nature, requires deep connections between unit plans and daily lessons, assessments and portfolios, portfolios and reports and so on. However, most schools use 3-4 standalone tech platforms to manage these functions, and tend to land themselves in quite a bit of chaos:
- “I’ve got my curriculum goals on one platform, unit plans on another, and daily lessons on yet another. This means my students hardly ever see the ‘why’ behind what they are learning.”
- “I have very limited visibility over evidence of learning while planning units. Makes the process a lot less meaningful!”
- “I’m trying to create mid-term reports and can’t find our sixth graders’ portfolios anymore. They were in Anna’s drive, and she has moved to a new school now!”
- “We maintain hundreds of spreadsheets to track Internal Assessment requirements of our students, and so uploading their information onto the IB portal becomes such a tiresome process”
Clearly, there’s a need for IB schools to do away with multiple tech platforms and adopt an all-in-one platform instead.
But what should that one platform look like? What are the functions it should offer? What are the integrations it should support? Well, each school’s needs are unique, but here’s a cursory checklist that experienced IB educator and co-founder of Toddle, Misbah Jafary, has created for you!
Focus area 7: Self care
There is always more you can do, but stay balanced and schedule time in your week for YOU. To recharge yourself emotionally and professionally. Here are some self-care routines not for the coordinator, but for the caretaker and the lovely human in you!
- Celebrate the “small” wins – budget meeting went well? Student conference a hit? Celebrate! Whether that means partying or cuddling up with your favorite book.
- Journal to collect your thoughts – being the peacemaker between teachers, students, and families can be emotionally taxing. Journal to collect your thoughts and reassure yourself of the incredible job you’re doing.
- Teach classes (only if you don’t already!) – go back to where this beautiful journey started for you! Nothing soothes a teacher’s heart like being among their students.
- Get feedback from your team – occasionally, take out a few minutes during your team meetings to find out how your team feels about you, what’s working, and what isn’t.
- Network with fellow leaders/educators – join local networks, online communities, and workshops to widen your perspective and grow professionally.
- Engage in all other activities that remind you of how precious you are! 😊