Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer Reading Response

As a history teacher, I have enjoyed reading these selections. Mostly because so much effort in education, at least nationally, is put on math, science, reading and writing. While these are valuable to the core skills of students, it is an understanding of our greater world, subjects best tackled by the history and social studies departments of traditional schools, that ultimately matters most for our global future. I like the idea that Gardner conjures in his foreword that young people by nature look to "do good" but ultimately model adult behavior by what they see adults do around them. That is such a hard thing for young people to overcome. You only have to spend one day in a city like Boston to see people both doing good and bad. It must be hard for young people to find clarity in that. But it was with the other reading, Reimers Educating for Global Competency, that I found greater connection with what I do day to day in the classroom. As a long time history student and teacher, and as someone who has taught and traveled in other countries, I have come to learn how profoundly isolationist our American culture is. It is truly shocking how little we, as Americans, care about the rest of the world. Our government sends billions in foreign aid around the world but it is the common person that really has no idea where that money goes and for what purpose. The study of foreign cultures and languages is not emphasized, nor really is travel for young people. Australians have a national pastime and passion for travel, especially as early 20 somethings, and as a result they, as a society, are far more integrated in world cultures than we are. Yet geographically they are as isolated as we are. But back to more practical and tangible matters: what we can do here at BB&N. For years, I have had my students participate in a classroom blog on current global events. Routinely, they say the blog is their favorite part of the class and that it keeps them up to date with what is going on in the world. That is progress. If I had ideas about how to improve upon what we do in the Middle School, I would take cues from the Reimer reading a suggest that we connect with a sister school in Latin America and exchange curriculum, letters, projects or even work on a service project together. This is an idea I have suggested before and one that would take a serious amount of work. Another, perhaps easier idea, would be to see more integration between the history and foreign language departments in both the middle and upper schools. Ultimately, I do think we at the middle school do a very good job setting our students up to be globally aware. With our 7th grade dedicated to Latin America, a subject rarely taught and our 8th grade focused on current political events, we are doing well. But, there is always something more we can do as educators to create globally competent students. 
Thanks - Miles

Miles Billings
7th Grade Dean, History Teacher

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