Many of us in the northern hemisphere are gearing up for a new school year so I thought that it might be a good idea to offer some thoughts on items that you will find helpful. Some of these things are very pragmatic, others a bit more philosophical.
- Always have a pen that works. History involves a lot of writing – taking notes, writing essays and doing a number of tasks that will help prepare you. When you arrive in your class, you should have a functioning pen (or pencil) and paper to write with. If you are in a school or class in which you use your laptop, then ignore this and instead have …
- A fully charged computer. If you are going the laptop route, please come to class with it fully charged. There are only so many electrical outlets in your classroom and there are likely more students with laptops than outlets, so be prepared.
- Legible handwriting is important for IB history. Unless you have been given special dispensation you are going to have to hand write your IB exams. Handwriting might seem so 20th century but it is still a necessity. The clearer your writing, the easier it is for the reader to understand you. If your writing is messy or difficult to read, you may not get credit for your thoughts no matter how brilliant they are.
- Come to class with an open mind. One critical component of IB history is the ability to formulate arguments and support them with relevant factual information. However, both the history course and – more generally – the IB mission statement discuss the need to respect that the opinions of others may be equally valid and supported. You may have been taught history from one perspective; be open to considering different viewpoints which can be supported by evidence you may not know or had not previously considered.
- Geographical context is very important in history. When you enter an IB classroom you may not need to know the location of all 194 (plus or minus) countries in the world, but you should have a sense of place. Take some time to look at a map and see where the Ottoman Empire is – and French Indochina and Uruguay. Look for historical maps so you can see the geographical contexts of the era you are studying. Looking at Europe in the Middle Ages the following is very useful:
- Your teachers do not mark 80% of the IB assessments if you are HL, and 75% if you are SL. Your teachers want you to do well and they will choose assessments to build you into the best history student that you can be. They are not responsible for your IB grades – you are.
- Your classmates are not your adversaries. The IB marks on a criterion-referenced basis, not norm-referenced so, hypothetically, everyone in your class can get a 7. There is no point in competing with one another – you can collaborate so that you all do well together. Maximize your resources – without committing malpractice of course.
In my next post, I will begin to break down the different parts of the curriculum, so that you know what it is that you need to know. Included in that is TOK, which means we will also discuss what you don’t know.