IB Learner Profile Exploration Series – Session 6: Risk-Taker

In February, IB learner profile attribute was “ Risk-Taker”: people who approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies.Fittingly, the month’s highlight has to have been our terrific Spring Festival celebration in which, amongst the many performances, some students participated for the first time. They took risks and were wildly successful. Chara B. in Grade 12, for instance, hadn’t studied Chinese classical dance or music before, but when the teacher picked her for the fan dance, she did not refuse. Instead, she rehearsed diligently, ultimately being part of an outstanding classical performance with her team.

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IB Learner Profile Exploration Sixth Session: Risk-Taker

MYP Coordinator Mr. Terry Linton explains, “ Risk taking here at BIBS is mostly defined as taking academic chances. This is when you are not sure of if your answer is right or wrong, but you still try. Risk taking is about taking chances, about putting yourself out there, about not worrying about people judging you. It is about trying new things and owning the consequences, but not being afraid of what people think.”

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Karen C. in G10 has been following the IB Programme for 6 years now, starting from PYP in Grade 5 to MYP in Grade 10. She is a risk-taker. She participates in different activities that she has never done before, and meets strangers in the process. She told me one story of her impressive experience as a risk-taker. Last year, she participated in a program called the International Awards, in which students are required to do sports, a Service and Action activity and to learn a skill for half a year, a year or more depending on the level of program people joined. Fifteen year olds are only allowed to join the Bronze level (meaning?). At a certain time of the program, they begin an “adventurous journey”. “The trips were long and hard” Karen explained. “We were asked to carry our own tents (which are huge as they are designed for 5-6 people), our own huge amount of food because it has to last for 3 days, our pots and stoves, our clothes and lastly sleeping bags. All these add up to more than 10kg of weight. We had to carry these and trek 10-12km everyday in the jungle and under the hot sun. There were times I complained in my heart for joining this, but when I think back about it I am glad I took the risk for joining this program. When I am encountering difficult problems I can always ask myself that, if I have trekked for more than 10 km with more than 10 kg of stuff, lived in the jungle for 3 days, made my own meals in hard conditions and I survived it, why can’t I do this?”

Karen believes anyone can become a risk taker at any time of any day, and that it is important for students to take risks. “When you take risks, you gain courage and confidence. No matter what the result is, you will learn things and gain experience during the process that will help you in your life.”

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So, how do our teachers encourage students to be “risk-takers”? “It is most important that classrooms are safe,” says Mr. Linton, “that students can take risks without being made to look foolish or stupid. That teachers reward students who take chances and encourage others to do the same. As well we teach students by showing that we are not infallible, that we make mistakes, that part of being human is learning from our mistakes. We also inform them that sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than from our success as this is where personal growth takes place. Part of our units involve reflection both as teachers and as learners and this reflection is where we can look at our own personal risk taking. ”

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The first week after we came back from Spring Festival holiday, BIBS Shunyi campus had a total of 34 new students. Some of them come from Chinese schools and one of them – Phoebe S. in Grade 9 in particular is not only coming to an international school as a new student but also staying at the BIBS Homestay for the very first time. Ms. Silvia Venegas, MS/HS counselor adds “Being new to a school is basically like being a risk taker. You don’t know how the school is going to be or who they will meet but they are taking a chance to succeed academically and emotionally in a different school. Risk-taking is an important quality for IB Learner.”

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An old Chinese saying asks “How can you catch tiger cubs without entering the tiger’s lair?” The metaphor suggests that without risk-taking, there can be no gains.”Confucius said: “The good never worry, the wise never puzzle, the brave never fear.” He regarded bravery as one of the three qualities of a gentleman. A leader in bilingual education, BIBS has, for many years been risk-taking; we have been challenging the norms incorporating Chinese culture within the IB framework – and we have done very well. We have seen the benefits of risk-taking. As a school we have also learned from the IB, and one of the many reasons we stand behind it.