As I re-read the assigned articles this summer and then read colleagues' posts about global competency, I felt inspired, motivated, and excited about the school year ahead.
As many teachers mentioned in their posts, I think we are doing a great job teaching global competency already but agree that we could be doing a lot more- especially in the areas of empathy building and social learning. I agree whole-heartedly with Daisy's post about how "creating a globally competent school culture occurs through systemic micro-actions and habits of global mindedness, as well as larger gestures related to multi-faceted diversity, curriculum, travel, and interaction." I think keeping these small and large goals at top of mind is a perfect start to our global competency work this year.
I look forward to sharing ideas about global competency with colleagues next week and throughout this school year.
Here are some of my thoughts/mind wanderings on this topic-
1. The word "Connections" resonated with me again and again in the readings and postings about global competency.
Connecting fosters communication and problem solving while also building empathy and understanding. As teachers our job is connecting- we build connections with our students, with our students' families, and with our colleagues. We also help students build connections with each other, with their families, with us, and with the local and global communities around them. As these connections are built/fortified- the students learn more about each other, about other people and other cultures, and they start to see the world through different perspectives (perspectives that reach beyond themselves). When students are able to make/experience these local and global connections- they better understand how their lives are connected to the lives of people locally and globally. This leads to a deeper connectedness ("unity within diversity") and students begin to develop/ strengthen their own "ethical compasses" (Gardner) with which to address/ refute biased beliefs and stereotypes. It is important to start developing these connections in the early years and then to keep building on them in ways that are "well-motivated, constructive, and world-building" (Howard Gardner). Building these connections gives teachers and students more opportunities to become active and involved global citizens, who are interested in helping to bring about positive social, political, and educational change.
2. The idea that teacher/learner roles can be interchangeable.
I have been thinking a lot this summer about the role(s) of the teacher in the classroom. I noticed that both Anthony and Dana referred to this in their posts as well. They both talked about how important it is for the 'kid voice' as well as the 'teacher voice' to be heard in classroom; that both voices should 'negotiate and navigate the curriculum' (Anthony). I like this idea. This was something we discussed and experimented with at length in the Design Thinking Workshop I took earlier this summer. Design Thinking, creative thinking-in-action, gives students an active role in their learning. The students work on "passion projects"- developing products for others to help others- while the teacher helps them in a supporting/guiding role. The results are magical. Because the students are given such an active role in their learning- creating their project and then teaching others- they are so much more motivated and involved. In addition, they understand what they are learning on such a higher level. I also like that the teacher's role is to guide the students and support them in their learning; a role that is very different from the traditional lecture style of teaching. I think it is important for students to see their teachers as being both teachers and learners- we are helping them learn but we are also learning right alongside of them. This year, I plan to have the K curriculum be guided more by the students' passions and to make sure I am constantly shifting my role between teacher/ guide/ mentor/ learner.
3. Finding a good balance between using technology and having hands-on experiences.
I just returned home after two weeks on a small island in Maine, an island with only a few cars and no cell or Internet reception. I was there with my family and a few friends- building a small summerhouse in the woods. I spent hours every day doing work I've never done before- sanding, caulking, painting, plastering, building a deck, and splitting wood. I made a lot of mistakes but I learned a lot and was fully immersed in the daily tasks. In addition, I enjoyed how the projects had us work closely as a team- to collaborate, problem-solve, communicate, and take risks. We talked to each other, shared ideas, drew pictures, built models, and tried out different methods. We also laughed a lot. It was such a positive experience to work together and to see the combined results of our hard work. Working on this project made me think about similar projects I'd done in school, college, and/or grad school. Often these group projects (building block structures or forts, delving into a creative art project or science experiment, working on a puppet show or performance, or volunteering/ going on a field-trip) were my favorite, most memorable activities. It is important that children have opportunities during the day to work together, make choices, explore, construct, and experiment. I think there is more time allocated for this in the younger grades (social studies, science, art, free choice, recess, etc.) but in the older grades it is becoming more and more obsolete. This saddens me and I hope that maybe with our new Lower School schedules this might change.
While it was wonderful to be away from technology for two weeks, it was difficult too. You realize how much we are surrounded by it/ how much we depend on it. Within hours of returning to my apartment from the island, I was doing all of my communication and work via technology. I was checking work emails, writing texts, making phone-calls, organizing my Google calendar, paying bills, and posting blog responses. Technology has become one of the main ways in which we communicate/ learn about the world around us. But, it's important to make sure that we also take breaks from technology to 'smell the roses,' to go on a nature walk, and to connect in person. I think a balance between the two is essential. Students who are globally competent, twenty-first century learners need to be able to succeed at both of these activities. They need to be flexible and resilient, able to adjust to different experiences and environments. A child in Kindergarten might go from independently working on an IPAD to leading a group of friends in building a fort outside. Providing opportunities for both of these experiences is important and will make for more well-rounded, successful global citizens.
- Maria(h) B.