Thursday, July 31, 2014

Globalization 101

It has occurred to me that I have not done the rudimentary, basic introduction to that which is the point of this blog- globalization.  I sincerely apologize for speaking a language that has many translations and completely vague interpretations all at the same time.  Allow me to try and clarify the vocabulary that will allow educators to understand what globalized curriculum actually consists of:

  1. Globalization-  The world is becoming more inter-connected economically, politically, and socially (honestly, I feel like a dinosaur even saying that, as we have largely been tied to one another since before WWI).  Its antonym could easily be "isolation."  Many school districts, including mine (Fairfax County Public Schools), recognize that the world has globalized and that our students need to understand why that matters (where we get products from can be connected to wars that we are involved in, learning how to communicate across diverse lines because future bosses and clients may be in Israel or Guatemala, etc.) and how they can make themselves more competitive in the world market.
  2. Global competence- According to Anthony Jackson of the Asia Society (check out his article), global competencies are the skills that students gain in a classroom that will help them be successful in the 21st century world.  More specifically, students investigate some component of the world, understand the varying perspectives on the chosen issue, communicate ideas about the issue in a manner that crosses cultural divides, and ultimately take action.
  3. Project- Based Learning-  According to Edutopia, this is when students learn about a real-world issue  and then ultimately apply their knowledge to a hands-on experience.  Questioning, research, and critical thinking come together to allow students a more rich experience that allows them to apply their knowledge in real world situation.  An example of this- a former colleague of mine had her students build a green roof on part of the baseball dugout because they were learning about sustainability.  This can be a challenge in our test-riddled world (another post to come on that soon).
  4. Collaboration-  Collaboration is, well, working with others.  Sounds basic, but can actually be a challenge in practice, but well worth it when it gets off the ground.  Collaboration can happen in your building among teachers in the same subject, which is good, but is even better when there is cross-curricular collaboration (why not teach the Holocaust in social studies when the kids are reading Night?).  To take it to the platinum level, collaborate with classrooms around the US or the world.  Sites like Global Nomads and iEarn are great about fostering connections around the world.  Check them out.
  5. 21st Century Learner- Understanding how to use technology effectively, being able to dissect complicated ideas, appreciating the roots of varying perspectives, and being able to communicate in a variety of formats all are essential to being a 21st century student.  This ties together all that is a globalized curriculum.
Hopefully this post clarifies some things that I have largely ignored up until this point.  Please check out my resources for teachers.  I am posting materials that are helpful to teachers that want to make the jump into having a globalized curriculum.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Message in a Bottle

Yesterday, it was 91 degrees plus humidity.  The air was sweet and rich, the blooming trees and flowers sloughing off copious amounts of pollen.  It was so humid that you could literally see the air- everything was muted by a white haze of heat.

Why am I describing the beginning of a long, hot summer in Virginia?  Because it reminded me of being in Ghana.  The smell, the weight of the air, brought me right back to Sefwi Bekwai.  It made me yearn for the ability to bottle up the smells of Ghana to bring back for the students.  Maybe, just maybe, that would help me portray what it was like to be in Ghana a little bit better for my students.

That is what I have been struggling with since my return- how do I convey my experience to my students?   How do I deliver my experience in Ghana to the students so that all of their senses are stimulated, enabling them to truly understand what it was like to be there?

Any teacher who travels struggles with this.  If we didn't, there would not be programs, fellowships, and classes offered to instruct us on how to bring our worldly experiences back to the classroom.

Here are some suggestions to bring your travel experiences to kids:

  • "History in a Box"-  Gather "artifacts" from your trip that students.can interact with.  This can vary based on subject and grade level.  My IB Seniors may have very different artifacts from a middle  school humanities course.  One suggestion would be to gather money- kids love that.  Gather dirts samples if you are a science teacher so acidity can be tested.  Bring home clothing or flags.  And always bring home lots of pictures and videos.
  • Make connections with other teachers wherever you travel.  This way you can set up a virtual connection between your classrooms.  You can lesson share, Skype, or work on joint projects (the power of the internet!).
  • Food!  Gather recipes and samples of food whenever you get the chance.  Kids love to see what other people eat.  Better yet, they love to try it.  Bring home little candies, have a day where you cook some food.  There are all sorts of valuable lessons that can be derived from food.
  • Finally, take pictures of toilets.  Kids ALWAYS ask what bathrooms are like, especially when you travel somewhere exotic.
Hopefully some of these suggestions will be helpful!  Please feel free to add comments about what you have done to make your travel more accessible to your students.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Globalization: A New Dawn

I have been back from Ghana for almost three months.  And what I have done with my experience?


Not a thing.


Fortunately for me though I have people holding me accountable- namely my students.  Which is awesome.  And annoying.

So, what to do with this experience?  Here are several options:

1.  South Lakes High School (the school I work for) can fund raise for Sefwi Bekwai Secondary High School. They need things- legitimate things- like computers and internet access, books, better pay for teachers, the ability to finish a building that has been standing empty because corrugated metal is protruding from inconvenient places.

2.  I can lesson share with my host teacher- Alex Dadzie- throughout the course of next year and set up some sort of correspondence between his students and my students.  That would be cool for the kids.

3.  I can create a rich sister school partnership in which multiple staff members communicate with one another, thus allowing more students to participate globally with the rest of the world.

4.  I can do nothing (well, not really nothing- this plan would have me sitting by the pool getting tan and not worrying about this responsibility).

Ultimately, I like option 3 best.  It takes a lot of work, time, and patience, but the end result is amazing.  It will involve some of option 1 and 2 if I do it right.  It will culminate in our school culture gearing itself towards a more global awareness and connectivity.  We are talking Nobel Peace Prizes.  Or, maybe just a shout out in the Reston Times.  Either would be good.

Please watch this space for more posts, more links, and more resources.  This blog will fundamentally alter the teaching for anyone who reads it.  We are talking big changes, people!  Or, maybe you will at least get one cool lesson out of it.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

To be continued

We are six hours away from flying time. We are all mentally exhausted.  The simple act of trying to understand accents, trying to blend in as much as possible, has taken its toll.  

The last few days have been phenomenal, with the highlight being the visit to the slave castle at Cape Coast. I will write more about this later. For now though, know that I am happy I came, but I am happy to be coming home.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Now What?

As of today, I am officially done with the placement at my host school- Sefwi Bekwai Secondary High School. (It is located in the Western region of Ghana, for those of you who need a visual.) The question that looms before me is:

Now what?

Over the past week, I was able to visit a mine, a cocoa plantation, and several schools, co-teach five social studies classes, and eat Ghanaian food with families around the community who were gracious enough to invite us in. I have established relationships with some amazing teachers who I would like not to forget or ever lose touch with. I have become smitten with this community (not a village, but definitely not a town) and am already looking forward to going back. It has been a fantastic trip.

But how do I capitalize on this experience in the classroom? This is the million dollar question.

I have been lucky to be part of a sister school relationship in the past with a school in Uganda. I learned some very important lessons, namely that it needs to be a RELATIONSHIP.  Too often, these types of partnerships between schools turn into a lot of fundraising but no cooperative learning or connection of students.

In addition, how do I balance the legitimate needs the school has with the concern of creating a dependency on our fundraising? This is the most difficult aspect of creating a partnership with another school half way around the world in an area that is largely being robbed of their natural resources while development is squashed by the economic powerhouses and the international free market.  While I am not opposed to charitable giving, I do worry that the relationship could turn just into a fundraising relationship without the globalized aspect appearing in the classrooms at my school.

These are the questions I need to work out.  But I do hope that we actually can create some sort of permanent presence in one another's schools.

For your viewing pleasure, pictures of when I gave away soccer balls are posted below. This was a BIG DEAL. I knew that soccer balls were the equivalent of gold on this continent, and Ghana in particular, but I did not realize that schools would host school-wide assemblies to accept a few meager soccer balls!  It was so much fun to be on the giving end. I wish the students who had donated the balls were there to see it with their own eyes.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Puppies and Unicorns

If the title of this blog post alone does not warm your heart, perhaps these pictures will. We visited a primary school and these kids were so ridiculously cute.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 24, 2014


The internet is terrible here. However, it is somewhat working now and I wanted to upload a photo to prove I am actually here. So, here is me doing my thing.
Notice the uniforms. They are so amazed that my kids do not have to wear them.
They are also amazed that we do not cane our kids when they are bad.
So it goes.

Also, here is some pictures of the rainforest. Before and after. I mentioned that in a previous post.