… And the curtains close
Walking towards the SMPR as a 10th grade student with my parents, ready for DP Orientation when the most important agenda on my mind was the Personal Project. Sitting with my parents, the glare of the projector painting the room in an almost otherworldly atmosphere, the tension was almost palpable, even more so than the reality of my graduating to adulthood in a mere two years. By horror stories passed down from sleep deprived, narcissistic and TOK-induced cynical DP students, my vision of my final two years was jaded as I predicted it to be a rocky road to adulting. Not to detract from DP program’s strenuous and tumultuous nature, I can assuredly say that the positive experiences and unforgettable memories that were fostered with the togetherness of the grade overshadowed the stress and burning the midnight oil that accompanied Extended Essay, IA’s and of course the golden jubilee … exams.
Embarking on my CAS journey, I became gripped in a self-imposed prison of fears and insecurity leading me to think that I was unable to manage the stress of the IB, furthered by the false perception of CAS adding to that pressure. However, ironically as I began to reflect and discuss my experiences in the context of the Seven learning outcomes, I began to see CAS as a cathartic experience that helped me to better balance myself rather than a forced chore. Thus shifting my perception of this IB component and my approach towards writing the reflections from contempt to willful enjoyment.
Starting DP 1 and DP 2 I was asked to write my goals for the three components of CAS; creativity, activity and service in light of the seven learning outcomes. I detailed my strengths and limitations while also acknowledging my trepidations of achieving such goals in such a short amount of time. The success and even the shortcomings of my achieving this goals will be explored below under each learning outcome.
- Identify my own Strengths and Develop areas for Growth
I felt as if this particular learning outcome was achieved continuously throughout my DP journey in all three aspects of CAS. With regards to physical activity, my daily activity in the gym and my swimming sessions qualify as an instance of personal growth. As stated within my goals for my swimming journey, my hopes to strengthen my mentality as well as improve my physicality shows evidence of an identification of my own strengths and subsequent areas of personal growth. My favourite pastime being my daily walks in the morning around the neighborhood, I always thought of this time as a period of calming reflection through which I perceive my personal triumphs and battles in new and transgressive always. I also showcased this learning outcome in service, when I recognized my shortcomings in terms of communication with all the students. As stated in the service goals, I struggled to amend my behavior and approach to RCCI students struggling with more reactive communication, hence highlighting an area for growth. However, during my tenure as service leader I worked towards improving the versatility of my skills and reproach to service, identifying my strengths while correcting my weaknesses. Similarly in COMUN, as the Secretary General, my skepticism and reluctance to showcase my leaderships skills shed light on areas for growth and improvement, while my public speaking and team work skillset worked well in ensuring a successful conference, thereby engaging my strengths.
2. Demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process
Accompanying the positive attributes to CAS, all three facets of the program had several challenges that complemented the more positive aspects of the activity. In particular, with regards to Activity, I often struggled to focus and follow the goals that I had set for myself as I was often too immersed in the experience to recall temporarily the premise of the activity. However, during periods of reflection I sought to look at each experience with a holistic light, ensuring that my strengths were validated while acknowledging the challenges and difficulties that were undertaken. Complementing my swimming goals, improving my approach to failing and temporary setbacks have allowed me not only acknowledge that challenges have been undertaken but recognize the new skills that have been developed in the process. Evidenced in the other two facets of Creativity and Service, the manner in which my communication difficulties with the students of RCCI and my initial lack of leadership resolve led to difficulties that stagnated my process was rectified by understanding the skills of determination and drive that were born empirically through this journey. Hence, defining challenges as failures that haven’t quite bloomed yet.
3. Demonstrate how to initiate and plan a CAS experience
Satiating my willingness to experiment and explore various activities and by extension, my enthusiasm to explore the extents of my physical and mental boundaries, I have planned and initiated a plethora of CAS experience. Hoping the design and actualize an equal amount of activities for each of the three facets to ensure a holistic learning experience, I was allowed to practice various skills and approaches to different experience, enabling me to become a better IB world student. This process also prepared me for the real world as it helped me understand the manner in which design does not also result in the intended creation, as the shape and form of the end product can differ drastically to your blueprint. However my experiences, especially my planning of the RCCI first Virtual Meeting, COMUN 2021 conferences and my daily walk have allowed me to understand that the experience; the sentiment and outcomes attached to the experience are more effective learning tools than ones scribbled on a planning sheet.
4. Show commitment and perseverance to CAS experiences
I can say with absolute certainty that the largest factor that somewhat acted as the keystone for my CAS journey was my personal drive and determination to complete the chose activity. However, another equally important but more supplementary factor that aided my personal volition was my need to maintain commitment and perseverance for my activities. Although spurred on by enthusiasm and deep-rooted love for the activity, there were some instances that somewhat tested my resolve. Primarily seen during psychical activity, my resolve to complete the 10 km on the morning walk would loosen as a result of academic stress and as such I would feel the need to give up. However, my persistent feelings of commitment and my need to achieve my goals served as an undercurrent that championed me on in my physical journey as well as similar CAS experience such as my commitment to ensuring a virtual COMUN conference despite great odds. As such, the force that drove me to achieve such feats can not only be attributed to my enthusiasm for the activity but my resolve to stay true to my goals and develop myself as a holistic and principled learner.
5. Demonstrate the skills and recognize the benefits of working collaboratively
Always appreciating teamwork, I was always drawn to the idea of collaborative experiences and fascinated by the manner in which different people can do similar activities but derive vastly different lessons. In the context of service, some may be more emotionally incentivized to take further actions while otherwise may take the more pragmatic approach of an awareness based movement. As such, when collaborating with my fellow services leaders, I understood that our different experiences along with that of the novice service members can merge to create an amalgam of new communicative learning methods for the RCCI students. Similarly this mentality was applied during my tenure as Secretary General, as the arsenal of experiences of my Executive committee coupled with that of Secretariat allowed for me to confer and discuss the possible challenges of hosting a virtual conference and make appropriate preventative methods to maximize success.
6. Demonstrate engagement with issues of global significance
When planning for my activities, I hoped to always connect even the most trivialistic experiences to issues with global significance. Harping on the notion of every action have a deliberate consequences, I hoped to powder the otherwise translucent lines tethering my CAS projects to the real world. Although service by directly tackling issues with the marginalization of communication-challenged people in Sri Lanka had a more obvious connection to issues of global significance, it was evident that the other two facets had as strong connection to the real world, however subtle. Mental illness is often perceived as a stigmatized topic within Sri Lanka, with many, victim to the societal prejudices that are inflicted upon patients. The primary basis for the neglect and scorn that citizens with mental illness receive is the lack of education, inadequate resources and lack of integration into society, to allow for independency. Therefore, to combat these deficiencies normalized within our culture and communities’ overtime, RCCI was used to advocate for these marginalized communities. Thus, as service leader, I hoped to eradicate these prejudices within our close-knit community by correcting the misinformed, introducing those graduating from the school to job opportunities and finally investigating the possibility of integration into the work force. Similarly, I often drew links to the impact of COMUN as this conference served as a resourceful and well-publicized platform that students from around Sri Lanka, especially those with limited access to resources could utilize to the best potential and use as a practice ground for their futures in international diplomacy.
7. Recognize and consider the ethics of choices and actions
Through my personal service experience; Sri Suchariytha 2.0, and after word of my classes spread, the neighboring communities and groups of children in the public-school system began attending my classes on English and basic French. Being a higher – level Lang and Lit student, I hoped to embody not only the CAS learning outcomes but the attributes that OSC has embedded within me of being principled and caring. In particular, I identified my own strengths which proved to me my IB education and developed areas for growth, which revolved around giving back to society, as I felt I was somehow lacking in the ‘service’ department due to RCCI interactions being temporarily halted. One of the reasons that drove me to implement this plan so effectively and quickly was because I felt an inherent obligation to impart my learning and exploit my fruitful learning opportunities on those who could not afford to do so, thereby reflecting on the ethics and choices of my actions. This sentiment was mirrored in other experiences in activity and creativity when I drew parallels from walking to adopting a sustainable transportation method, hence impacting the greater environmental phenomena at play as well as learning how Executive decisions brought about by my position at COMUN greatly affected my peers ( I learnt how to assess the positive and negative extranalities of executive decision making, hence recognizing and considering my choices
I described last year as trying to ride a bicycle. In an effort to specify this generic analogy, I will return to its base interpretation; once I passed the initial glimpse into DP 1 in the first two months, come September I was thriving on the steady influx of assignments that were being scattered across the white panels of a clean Managebac calendar replacing the older greens and pale orange colored boxes into brighter purples and reds. My DP 1 timeline was also scattered with all seven of CAS Learning outcomes as evidenced above. This paradoxical feeling of never-ending exhaustion but also addiction to this frenzied mental state mimicked the panic I felt when first learning how to ride. I realized once I familiarized my muscles with the repetitive and circular motion of the pedals, I would not be able to stop as flat ground started to slope downward and was hurling my bike at blazing speed towards the pit below. However, after crash landing onto the desolate pit, drenched with my fears and insecurities, I weaponized these feelings and placed them in my arsenal of tools for later use. This pit symbolized the hollow mind space and stress I was overwhelmed with at one brief point in my DP 1 timeline. However, I ultimately picked up the tattered remains of my MYP mindset and rode hard uphill till I finally arrived at the finish line. This reflection is proof that I survived.
It is proof that I moved past learning how to ride a bicycle and have graduated to things beyond. As repetitive as this parallel maybe, it is arguably accurate. The stakes are higher, the stress amplified, time drastically limited, although however, the memories and experiences increasingly two-fold.
Most recognize a collective experience and mutual recollection as an effective bonding activity and in this instance, my grade and I completing the IB together, as one of life’s greatest melting pot’s. However this year’s melting pot seemed to also have transformed into a volcano of sorts, the increased work correlating with the rising heat, the stress active in our lives just waiting for a movement to ignite and erupt in a cloud of nostalgia, relief and overall gratefulness.
Whatever said and done, I am unbelievable grateful to have completed this journey, especially with a group of resilient and driven people, guided by Mr. Lockwood. Reflecting on my experience has undoubtedly made me a better student, and the activities that this program encouraged me to engage in has made me a better a person. It has fostered a sense of awareness, of my own skills and strengths and also areas for personal growth, and as such helped to prepare me to face the real world… armed with the incentive to empower!