What 10th Graders Say About the Personal Project

Many of us have heard about the stress and hardship grade 10 students face during their task of completing their Personal Projects. But what are facts and what are simply myths?

Since June of 2016, this year’s tenth graders have been working to complete their Personal Project, a self-directed assessment comprised of a product, a process journal, and a final report. The possibilities that students can pursue in their projects are endless, and this year, we have seen projects ranging from study guides for high school students to violin compositions, original novels, and musical fundraisers.

This year-long work is a weighty project for Grade 10s, and some students cannot deny that the pressure was challenging to overcome. Grade 10 student Thanh Le said: “When the deadline was close, it haunted my every waking moment. I had a nightmare about me losing all my sources for PP. I lost my focus for some classes … which led to me being unproductive”.  

Another Grade 10 student Jason Jolink said: “The inescapable antagonist of this long-term project, like any other, is procrastination”.

Annika Moore said, “In the last few weeks before the final deadline, I had very little free time and wasn’t able to relax during the weekends.”

While the Personal Project brought severe stress to some students, others have wise words to share about their success in time management. “The Personal Project didn’t affect my grades too badly – it was all just about time management,” said Bea Campilan. “I worked on it a little bit week by week, and if I had nothing else productive to do, I’d focus on getting a lot done.”

Other students used their time during summer break to get work done. Max Knight said, “I completed my project largely during the summer break, and was thus relieved from the pressures of juggling schoolwork and the PP”.  

Students were free to create any kind of product they wanted. “My Personal Project was about providing music as a form of relaxation for those in Vietnam who might not have easy access to music or chances to unwind. I decided that this would be my topic because of my passion for music and performance. I wanted to give others in the Hanoi community a chance to experience the health benefits of music that I had experienced,” said Mikaela Fenn. On the other hand, Annika Moore said that: “For my personal project, I wrote a study skills guide for students entering high school. I chose this topic because I had some experience with the problem. I was also really interested in the science behind thinking and learning, so it was a good way to explore that.”

The Grade 10 students were also assigned supervisors to work with throughout their project. Supervisors are teachers who have the role of giving students advice and guidance through some of the obstacles that students face, while helping their learning as well. Many students agreed that their supervisors were helpful and supportive. Annika said: “My supervisor was really helpful. I was able to get answers to my questions and have someone to support and guide me through the project. Because I had never had a project this big before, it was really helpful to have the support of my supervisor throughout the whole process.” Her thoughts seem to mirror those of other students: Jason said, “my supervisor was quite helpful because he didn’t ‘sugarcoat’ things and was blunt which allowed me to have an easier understanding of where I was and especially what I needed to do to be successful.” Not only did the supervisors provide help but other teachers also offered assistance and guidance when needed. Totti Ybarra said: “My supervisor was quite helpful, however; he was not my only support system. Other teachers were able to give me advice and help me improve.” Max also said, “My supervisor, Ms Wells, was extremely helpful, even enlisting the aid of Mr Robinson; together, they read through my second manuscript, providing invaluable comments and suggestions. They both often helped me with the report and getting through the process in general.” It seems that the overall experience of working with a teacher was positive; Mikaela said “[My supervisor] helped me succeed.”

I was lucky to have the opportunity to visit the Personal Project exhibition where I saw students presenting their final products to parents, teachers, and peers, passionately explaining the work they had done and how they had created their products. As a grade 9 student, I will soon embark on my own Personal Project journey so I found the advice of grade 10 students useful on how to do well during the stressful PP months. “Don’t be scared of your personal project,” said Mikaela. “If you are a hard worker, reflector, and are open to trying new things, you will be fine. If you work on your project a little bit every day, seek help when you need it, and have fun, you will succeed.” Max said “Pick something you enjoy. If you do not enjoy that which you will spend a long time working on, you may be unhappy. It’s a bit like that Confucius quote, “choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”… The same applies for this.”

Lastly, Bea said: “You may hear this so many times, but please, please, start early. You don’t have to do everything within the first few months, but it does help to try and get your product done before December. I had friends who were scrambling to finish their products the day before everything was due.”

Armed with inspiration, passion, and determination, the Grade 10 students have successfully completed their Personal Projects, and are ready to move on into their next phase, DP and the Extended Essay. But for now, all is good, and it is the Grade 9 students who should get ready as they prepare to take on Personal Projects of their own.