I recall a time when in my middle school English classroom, I used the term “current events” when teaching students about the world. I used to regularly assign my students the task of bringing in a newspaper or magazine clipping of some event taking place in the community, the country, or the world to share with the class. After devoting a tiny segment of class time to that endeavor, it was forgotten about until the next current events assignment. Here’s the question—Is that what I was offering my students to provide global education? If so, it was totally unintentional.
I am privileged to be able to use this space to articulate the difference in my approach now, to help others see that intentionally integrating global education in the K-12 classroom doesn’t have to be painful. It does require you to be passionate and informed, deliberate, and involve the wider school community.
Be Passionate and Informed
My global education journey began when I started researching things for teachers to do over the summer. I love, love, love to travel. I also love traveling with a purpose; I am a perpetual student, and find it near impossible to be out and about without thinking of how I can use this or that in the classroom. I began fine-tuning my summer travel scavenger hunt to search for “free travel opportunities for teachers.” Low and behold, I stumbled on a lottery. The amount of opportunities out there for us teachers to take advantage of is vast. To date, I have been lucky enough to have participated in the NEH’s (National Endowment for the Humanities) Zora Neale Hurston’s Jump at the Sun Summer Institute, a year-long fellowship as a Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) participant, and involvement in Primary Source’s Nature and Nurture in Japan Summer Institute. Through these experiences, I have been able to deepen my development as a globally aware individual, broaden my own competencies, and become part of networks through which I can engage in continued learning. Perhaps most important, I have also been able to tap into a wide array of resources – from articles to fully developed lesson plans I can use as is or tweak to suit my population’s needs. My passion for global education drives me to seek opportunities to become informed, and thereby learn all I can in order to help my students grow into twenty-first century global learners.
Becoming more informed has helped me become more deliberate in incorporating global education in the classroom. I teach thematic global units built into the curriculum through two of my Language Arts sections using a curriculum for middle school students called Global Scholars. The organization Global Cities spearheads this curriculum. Part of their mission is to “Provide and evaluate cross-national, internet-based global awareness programming for middle school students.” For the other sections, I have learned how to infuse information on global issues into their regular lessons, and deliberately present them with opportunities to broaden their thinking about global issues through discussions and more. I seek articles, audio, and visuals that have international themes, and engage students by connecting texts to their personal experiences. For example, we read an article about the expansion of the Panama Canal. We then viewed YouTube videos to learn more about the issue, and read comparative articles that explained the need for building of the canal in the first place. The joy of all this is that I have students whose background is Panamanian; it was heartening to see their pride in having an important piece of infrastructure from their home country being studied. Orchestrating all of this in the classroom is challenging. In the high stakes testing climate in which so many of us operate today, how does one find the time? For me, being deliberate helps make it happen: deliberate in my communication with my principal, deliberate in my communication with my kids, and deliberate in planning my lessons.
Involve the School Community
As with anything taking place on a school campus, rallying the troops, gaining support of colleagues, selling ideas to kids, and showing both excitement for and the benefits of the initiative are what collectively drive global education efforts along. At the end of my TGC fellowship, I went back to my school campus and formed an international club. We are called, naturally, G.L.O.B.E. Club (GlobalLearningOffersBroadExperiences), and have accomplished some exciting initiatives. I consider all my students club members, and they are encouraged to participate in activities such as making morning announcements to inform the student body about News Around the World and engaging in Skype sessions with peers from other places, both nationally and internationally. We’ve run an international book drive, started an annual Fundraising Yard Sale, and hosted our first Annual International Festival and Fashion Show to celebrate our campus’ cultural diversity (funded by a TGC Alumni School & Community Grant). As I write, we are putting arrangements in place for this year’s festival and fashion show.
All of these initiatives call for school-wide participation, involve our larger school community and even district personnel, and therefore foster a sense of pride across campus. Club members do their own taping and editing for their News Around the World segment. It’s a fun endeavor that brings about lots of laughter as they make decisions about what information to share with schoolmates over the air. Producing the festival and fashion show is a monumental task that involves students as models and stagehands, as well as teachers who serve on the planning committee, help with the program booklet, act as MCs, and provide live music synced with each model’s cultural background. Parents too are involved. They assist the models with getting dressed, applying makeup and donning spectacular costumes and attend the function. Their sense of pride in seeing their children involved is palpable.
Overall, my inroad to global education began with my love of travel. I travel to learn, and I learn so I can teach global education ….and more. I encourage you to find your own inroad; take it and run with it. Enjoy the ride as you see your students opening up to new understandings about the world.
Sandra Brown, M.Ed. is a Language Arts and Global Scholars Curriculum instructor at Apollo Middle School in South Florida. A National Board Certified Teacher and Teacher for Global Classrooms Fellow, she consistently brings innovative ideas to her department and her school. She satisfies her appetite for learning about people and cultures by traveling at every opportunity she gets. Through her efforts to engage in a variety of global education initiatives, her love of learning, and her travels, Sandra Brown brings the world to her family, students, friends, and colleagues, willingly sharing all that she learns. Follow Sandra at lotustravels.tgc.blogspot.com and sandraforglobaled.weebly.com.