Reflective–We thoughtfully consider the world and our own ideas and experience. We work to understand our strengths and weaknesses in order to support our learning and personal development
—International Baccalaureate® Learner Profile
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Always find the silver lining. A mere sixty days ago, most people would consider these phrases to be slightly irritating courtesies; how often do you encounter these phrases and think little of them? The reality of Covid-19 has, like everything else, called into question our standard considerations. And yet, even in the rough uncertainty, we are finding joyous diamonds: new ideas, old loves, and lots of rediscovery. We are seeing humans lifting each other up as we are collectively navigating uncharted waters, seeking clarity and reflective understanding as we all position ourselves forward.
In education, teachers and administrators have long served as compasses for students and families: striving to create opportunity, mitigate barriers, and empower dreams. The Covid-19 pandemic has only increased these needs. Over my decade working with students across the globe, I have come to appreciate the power of the International Baccalaureate® Learner Profile, and its universal application. While all the learner attributes are valuable during this uncertain time, I want to highlight the ways the reflection attribute is bursting through our students and communities. As I learned about the incredible resilience of our students and teachers across San Antonio, I saw incredible stories of reflection: students thoughtfully considering their experiences with Covid-19 and the ways they are growing, changing, and developing.
One particularly powerful example comes from Ms. Jacqueline P. Gandara-Valderas’ art class at Burbank High School. The students had a simple, yet powerful, assignment: draw an image representing how you feel and then pair it with a reflection. Once posted, comment on two other drawings submitted by fellow classmates.
While some students reflected on their boredom, many drew pictures rife with complexity: they desperately want the boredom to end but understand the importance of staying inside. Some enjoy the opportunity to bake bread and beat new bosses in their video games, while others, like Belen Gonzalez and Juliana Segovia, wonder why there is no toilet paper or disinfectant. Some, like Kenneth Juarez, reflect on how lucky they are. Others, like Michelle Alvarez and Luis Ortiz, reflect on life as an essential employees and students balancing zoom classes and work. Some are reflecting on what is truly “essential”. But most are reflecting on what it means to be a student: the shift in learning when everyone is a screen and everything is recorded, the “invasion” of school into home, and the privilege of having teachers who care about them while so many do not. Some reflect on how hard it is to Zoom all day, while others appreciate the ability to sleep in later. Alyssa Garza and Damon Mendez started out loving all the time at home but are now questioning how long this will last and what to do if no end is in sight. And still, some struggle to find apt symbolism for what they are feeling but are quick to support others.
But the most powerful thing I saw? The student’s own reflections continued to grow as they commented on each other’s reflections; even as the world they know looks less familiar each day, they continue to reflect and grow, driving their own multifaceted development. As students learned of their similar and diverging experiences, I saw the power of their reflections and their determination to continue to grow. These students are truly inspirational, as many of them are also dealing with the worst factors of the pandemic: tightening resources, food insecurity, and disproportionate outcomes from Covid-19.
And still they shine.
These students are embodying the International Baccalaureate® every day, even as they navigate the most unprecedented experience of our lifetimes. And the International Baccalaureate® is preparing them for whatever they choose to do next.