Shouldn’t we all be International-Minded? #pypchat

Public schools have an obligation to educate all students to be “international-minded” citizens. In the International Baccalaureate (IB) Organization, “international-minded” students are defined as demonstrating all of the “Learner Profile” attributes. These include being open-minded, caring, reflective, principled, balanced, knowledgeable, inquirers, thinkers, communicators and risk-takers. Imagine if all students left elementary schools with those attributes. Students who demonstrate these characteristics feel a need to change the world for the better. They understand that students across the world are similar in some ways to themselves. At my school we engage our students in global awareness through global stories, news events and communication with other students around the world. All schools should follow an “international-mindness” philosophy enabling the world to become more peaceful through our students’ interactions.

As a society we can learn from our past mistakes and make the world a peaceful place. When I was growing up, in social studies classes we talked about the “Us vs. Them” mentality. Our teachers did not have the resources to show students that the “them” is a Skype call away and not as different as young students may think. Conflicts arise when we do not understand our differences. One of the issues is that many teachers are struggling to cover the standards required by the state. The teachers do not understand that the standards can be covered in multiple ways through global projects. For example, Colorado fourth graders study the Colorado gold rush and California fourth graders study the California gold rush. This year, we connected two schools to discuss the similarities and differences between the two gold rushes. Our students learned deeply by this interaction because they had to explain what they learned. They also learned from the discussions that in Colorado there were more sophisticated tools, i.e. technology had evolved. In another project, we were working with a school from Ukraine. We had a difficult reaching them when the conflicts in the Ukraine started. Our students were worried about the students there because of the connection that they had. If we weren’t working with that school in Ukraine, would our students have been conscious of the conflict there?

As the IB model teaches, teachers should inspire students to take action regarding the social injustices in the world. At the primary grades, students question how the world works. The next step is to take action on their passions. At IB schools, the Exhibition is a culminating group project that our fifth graders present in order to show their knowledge and take action on their knowledge. Students are allowed to research any topic that interests them that has a problem to solve. Students always being challenged to serve their communities allows for these students to become active members of society willing to serve their communities. Being a liberal, I believe that citizens are here for society, not the other way around.

The political implications for the IB methods are vast. When I taught in Shanghai, China, there were no students from China in my school because all students had to  hold a foreign passport to attend. When parts of the world are close-minded to new or different ideas, this can stifle community building. If all would open their minds up to new ideas, even if they were not agreeing with these ideas, at least students and teachers around the world could explore their similarities and differences.

Growing up in the 80s most schools were starting Title IX programs for equal rights for girls, but the philosophy that boys sports were more important than girls was still prevalent. The issue of inclusion makes sense to all students. All students have different skills and those skills should be celebrated and supported. In the book “The School Leaders Our Children Deserve” by George Theoharis, Theoharis states that social just leaders spend hours and resources on making the schools inclusive for all students. That may mean after school programs are on a lottery system to ensure that all students have access or fundraising in order to take all 5th graders to see the new “Harry Potter” movie. The steps to inclusion looks different at all schools, but it means equal access to all students.

Theoharis also lists the first of the seven “keys” to accomplishing being a social justice leader as to “acquire broad, reconceptualized consciousness/knowledge/skill base”. My passion in education is global communication and collaboration through global projects. Working with teachers across the globe, we feel it is our duty to flatten our classrooms for our students. These global projects engage our students to have multiple interactions with a variety of cultures. The teachers and students acquire a broad consciousness of the world by interacting with each other. By using the philosophy of international-mindedness to teach our students, teachers and students can connect through global projects and help develop global citizens in us all.



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