Friday, August 23, 2013

The Journey

As the traveler who has once been away from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate (more) lovingly, our own. (Margaret Mead, 1901-1978)

Education as conscious evolution must aim at making this wider patriotism (global citizenry) as common a possession of the individual as the narrower patriotism is at present; and teachers who would work for lasting security can make the most effective contribution by conceiving of their work of teaching in world terms. (Andrews, 1915, Teachers College Record)

Before the world of Internet and cell phones, 9/11 and even WWI, educators and scholars discussed the importance of cultural competency and of global citizenry as a means to achieving international peace and security. Today more than ever, teaching global values and cultural literacy will provide "deep knowledge and understanding of topics such as health, climate and economics..[enabling students].to think critically and creatively about the complexity of  current global challenges." (Reimers, 2008)

Our work addressing this global education initiative impacts how we teach, assess, communicate with and engage our students. The work also requires that we reflect and question our own perspectives and understanding of how the content and process of BB&N's program should be tweaked and adjusted through collaborative and at times experiential methodology. It is an evolution of process, not a revolution of thought or program content. This is the work, we as dedicated educators do each year-do you ever teach a lesson or unit the same way twice? Similarly, as our world changes and the demands and resources shift, so does our approach to meet the changing, shrinking world in which we live, or support and understand the student population each year.

Remember multicultural education? Global education is neither interchangeable nor replaceable for the cultural fluency that comes from multicultural-rich lessons.This approach affirms the students in our classrooms, as well as prepares them for those individuals they have yet to meet. Starting with the teacher and student, acknowledging their biases and different viewpoints, then widening that lens is at the heart of one of Reimer's three interdependent dimensions, a positive disposition toward cultural difference and a framework of global values to engage difference.  What Reimer refers in his affective dimension is the work that multicultural practitioners have done for decades, toward the same humanistic (not economic) objectives of human rights, equality and mutual respect. The outcome, to paraphrase Reimer, will be world citizenry where students are globally knowledgeable and empathetic.

Empathy comes not only from understanding cultures, the historical and economic underpinnings, but also from the ability to communicate effectively and authentically. Both in Reimer's writing (the action dimension) and the Asia Society piece, second language acquisition is an essential component of global education. As a former middle school world language teacher who switched from a career in international marketing, I shared with students the benefits and value in language proficiency from both employment and personal angles. Former students, now in college and beyond are using their languages in the workplace, and studying to teach languages. One recent graduate heads to Georgetown University this fall to major in Mandarin and Chinese history and politics. These Vineyard students studied Spanish from kindergarten through middle school, with limited language options at the M.V. Regional Public HS. In the U.S. there seems to be reluctance, especially at the earlier elementary grades, to devote time to teach a second language. (in part due to parents' generational experience or lack there of?) The foundation and exposure, the attitude toward world language at earlier years can not easily be caught up by middle school years. I found students at times learned more grammar (for their native English) in my class than their ELA/English class. In fact, I collaborated with the MS English teacher on a poetry unit, timing a Neruda Autorretrato poetry study to coincide with an "I am" unit of similar objectives. By working together, world language and English, history, all teachers can enrich the students' experience on multiple levels. Reimers refers to this as the academic dimension.

We are at a crossroads, here at the corners of Buckingham, Sparks Street and Gerrys Landing. We can cover our ears and shout la-la-la-la-la! hoping this "initiative" will go away, or we can embrace and acknowledge that this is simply good teaching practice, best practice in fact, which encourages us to communicate, collaborate, innovate, and grow, both individually and as a professional learning community. In the process, I believe as we learn from each other, and hopefully learn more about each other, as we travel?!, explore, and open our minds, we will open the minds of our amazing, inspired students to the possibilities of a future even we can not yet imagine. I look forward to our dialogue and remarkable journey ahead.

Rebecca G

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