Saturday, August 17, 2013

The IB Learner Profile: Principled

Long ago in this blog I started writing a series about the IB Learner Profile and discussing some of the attributes.  I wrote about being balanced and being a risk taker, being a communicator and being caring.  I wrote about being reflective and knowledgeable and being an inquirer and a thinker and I've written about being open minded.  Some of these attributes I've posted about more than once.  Yet strangely I've never yet written a post about being principled, so I guess it's about time to do that now and wrap up the series.  This one is the hardest one for me to write, simply because being true to my principles has, at times, appeared to have negative consequences.  Refusing to do something that I knew was wrong (for example refusing to use unlicenced software), led to extremely difficult conversations where I was told that I had to follow a direct order from a senior leader of the school.  In a situation like this, when the principals were themselves unprincipled, the only good option, of course, was to leave.

As I have re-read Stephen Covey's book about the 7 habits of highly effective people, I'm now reading it as a different person than the first time around.  I'm thinking of it in terms of how these principles apply to schools and not just individuals and I'm also thinking about how this time around different passages in the book jump out as being more important because of the experiences I've been through since my first reading of it.  For the past couple of weeks I've been mulling over the idea that our security comes from knowing that correct principles do not change and that we can depend on them, simply because they are deep, fundamental truths.  Covey writes:
Even in the midst of people or circumstances that seem to ignore the principles, we can be secure in the knowledge that principles are bigger than people or circumstances.  Even more important, we can be secure in the knowledge that we can validate them in our own lives, by our own experience.
We never know what life will bring us, and a path that we thought was a good one can change overnight and we find the things we thought were important to us really count for nothing.  What I have found is that it's very easy to get rid of things, it can also be easy to walk away from people, especially once we come to realize that those people are bad for us or for those we love.  The things that remain are core values and principles, things you don't want to compromise on.   Covey goes on to write:
The personal power that comes from principle-centred living is the power of a self-aware, knowledgeable, proactive individual, unrestricted by the attitudes, behaviours and actions of others, or by many of the circumstances and environmental influences that limit other people.
Amen to that, I say.

This is how the IB defines principled students in the Learner Profile:  "They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them".  Actually it is not just students who should be striving to embody the Learner Profile in an IB school - it is everyone in the school (teachers, administrators and so on).  As a PYP workshop leader I once did a diamond ranking activity in a workshop with all the Learner Profile attributes  Of course the participants had many different ways of ranking them, and the conclusion we came to at the end was that all are important.  For me my ranking would always have principled at the top, even though I have written about it last.  As Stephen Covey would say:  put first things first.

Photo Credit: ViaMoi via Compfight cc

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