The drive-in movie for Homecoming, the option between at-home or in-person learning, and new procedures for Friday night football games are just a few of the changes to the new school year. These changes due to COVID-19 apply to most students, but there is a smaller, overlooked part of the student body that is also affected in a few unique ways: International Baccalaureate (IB) program seniors who are at-home learners.
The IB program at AHS is known to offer the most rigorous course to students, and is completed after two years. Many IB students are fueled by their small community to continue learning and working for the IB diploma. With COVID-19 projected to continue in 2021, the IB program won’t be entirely the same as last year, and the seniors in the program will have experienced it both pre and post-COVID.
“While we are able to move at a more relaxed pace and take advantage of more home resources during this period, there is no way to ignore that the discussion based methods we are used to are being challenged,” senior Huy Truong said. “In that way, I think because we aren’t able to have those same discussions to the same extent, things are more difficult. The teachers are doing a wonderful job to make do, but I think we all know it isn’t the most ideal situation.”
The IB program utilizes its smaller community to have students support each other to get through the heavy course load, and that’s one of its features that sets it apart from other programs. With at-home learners, some aspects of that connection were lost.
“It’s harder to ask questions, and I don’t feel that same connection because there isn’t a physical presence in front of you,” senior Ellis Chong said. “I was already prepared for the workload from junior year though, so the only difference [between workload] is that I’m taking more complex and demanding classes.”
One of the most anticipated aspects of the IB program are the exams, which are administered at the end of the student’s senior year. With COVID-19, those exams have gone through a few minor changes. According to the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) has removed some of the components from the exam, such as some writing components from certain exams, as well as listening components from certain language exams.
“In some ways, this reduces what we have to learn, but this also means that each part of the exam weighs more,” senior Rebecca Huang said. “This definitely changes the way I’ll have to study because I’ll have to concentrate on different aspects more.”
According to Truong, Allen’s IB teachers have a “great philosophy of teaching important things even if they aren’t required for the exam,” which should adequately prepare students for what may come. Troung also notes that Allen’s IB Program produces successful learners that are ready for college, studying abroad, or beyond. COVID-19 has brought a few challenges to the traditional IB learning environment, but it has also shown that the community aspect of IB is fundamental, and won’t be lost despite the challenges it faces.
“COVID might make it more difficult to interact with my classes in the same way, but technology bridges that gap a little bit,” Truong said. “I do think that not having the structure of moving classes has made time management more of an issue, but we do have our teachers and a wonderful support group to help with that.”