After three years of globalizing my classroom, what I've learned is that going global is not just another education initiative. It is transformational all by itself. Globalizing my classroom has created a holistic picture of education- students discover themselves as people, their personal and public identities, their strengths and passions, and they begin to envision their role as an individual in a global society. What do they care about? What type of consumer will they be? How might they use their talents and strengths in the world? I believe this should be the purpose of education. Education is, at the core, not just about standards and objectives. It's about growing as an individual and as a contributing citizen. It doesn't get better than that!
I know it's only June, but what a great time to plan something amazing for next school year! I love to take the summer every year and plan one or two really awesome units, projects, etc. This past summer I set out to create my first worldwide collaborative project. You can visit it at: www.beautifulmundo.com. The goal was to develop language proficiency authentically while at the same time developing global competency by recognizing diverse perspectives, challenging stereotypes, and exchanging ideas with other school groups from around the world. The question all participants set out to answer was: "How does our community reflect its diverse identity?" Each class designed a webpage to answer that question, and after viewing everyone's work, we had Skype chats with various classes. I created a step-by-step guide to help you create your own worldwide collaborative project!
We give finals to assess our students' progress toward all of our vocabulary, grammar, and most importantly, proficiency goals. But, how often do we assess their growth in global and cultural competency? I decided to try a new final exam for my mixed level 3/4 class. There was only ONE question: How has your worldview grown because of your Spanish studies? Students received a list of themes covered in the last 1-3 YEARS of their Spanish program. Grammar topics were listed as well. I asked the students to develop a multimedia presentation that could answer that question, while providing examples using the themes studied, and thinking about all of the linguistic skills gained that could aid them in their presentation. Here was one of my favorite videos!
What's the next new social media phenomenon we're going to have to quickly learn how to integrate into our lessons, am I right? It's hard to keep up! I've been looking for a way to integrate Instagram meaningfully, and I'm happy to share this lesson with you. With novice students learning to use the present progressive to express what is happening, we investigated the world in pictures, made predictions about cultural perspectives and products, and threw out our questions on Twitter with a #(country name) so that target language speakers with knowledge would respond and provide us with answers to our predictions! It was so much fun to check Twitter every day and find out if any of our cultural wonderings were correct, and more importantly, to use language with such authenticity. How is this lesson building global competency? Global citizens are curious about the world and they investigate it. They begin to develop an understanding of different cultural practices and perspectives and communicate with empathy and care when engaging in conversations with not only each other but with those people outside of their own practices, products, and perspectives. To develop global competency in this lesson, one needs to intentionally have these conversations as the lesson develops from the investigation (Instagram) to the exploration of ideas (making cultural predictions), to communication with others. It makes for so many teachable moments, and those are just THE BEST!
There are quite a few resources for finding projects to connect your language students with a target language country. But it's actually quite easy to find a partner with the power of twitter! Last summer as I was planning my school year themes, I decided I wanted students to explore the diverse identity of our local community, and compare and contrast that with the identity of other communities around the globe. I threw together a project idea on a web page (www.beautifulmundo.com) and posted the idea on Twitter with the hashtag #globaled and #globaledchat. It wasn't long before more than 20 schools expressed interest in the project from all over the world. Russia, India, Europe, Latin America, North America-- I was amazed! Not all schools decided eventually to join the project, but a number of them did and it was fun to have some Skype chats with different schools and compare our personal webpage class projects that we developed throughout the year. Every teacher was given a page for their community on the main site (www.beautifulmundo.com) with a login and password so that they could edit the page as they wished. I look forward to finding ways to collaborate globally more often in all language levels. It is amazing to be able to leverage the power of technology to foster proficiency and global competence with such meaning and relevancy. I've created a free resource guide for you to get started on global connection!
I love learning new concepts and ways of thinking because there's always some "aha" moment, and then it becomes impossible to turn back to the way I thought before.
As a world language teacher, one could say that I've always taught through a global education lens. Perspectives, practices and products of the target language culture is always something I've considered important to teach about, but after completing the State Department's Teachers for Global Classrooms fellowship program, my lens became magnified.
Learning a second language is not just a gateway to the countries that speak that language, it is a gateway to the world. While I absolutely want my students to gain an understanding of the products and practices of the Spanish-speaking world, I want them to be able to apply the skills they've gained to the world at large (learning to appreciate other perspectives, a desire to understand perspectives different from one's own, and seeing that one's personal way of life isn't the only way).
Since the Teachers for Global Classrooms program has ended, I've expanded my teaching to exploring the whole globe, in Spanish. Recently, students were learning how to describe daily routines (getting ready for school, the school day, and afternoon and nightly activities). Each student investigated daily life in any country in the world, and presented to their classmates what life was like for a teenager there. We learned about daily life in various countries within Africa, about daily life in Afghanistan, Brazil, Australia, Norway, Ireland, and Indonesia, to name just a handful. Actually, out of 55 students or so, only 5 or so picked a country where the official language was Spanish! I think that's quite telling as to the curiosity of these teens. Music from the country was featured during the presentations, and in many of them, we learned about typical lunch and dinner dishes. We also sometimes were able to explore gender differences. The presentations led to many conversations outside of just vocabulary and grammar. If it weren't for all the snow days lately, we could have done even so much more.
In the past, I think education has been thought of as a preparation for the world after graduation. I think it's time to re-frame, and grow. Why only prepare students for the world in 18 years? We must bring the world to our learners, today.
Since 2008, I've been bringing the world into my classroom through small lessons, side projects, community service, and international trips. Since I teach a world language, culture is a part of everyday class, and I always found kids to be curious about the world. However, there were always the themes of the book to make sure I was getting through, sometimes irrelevant vocabulary lists, and fill in the blank homework sheets to pass out. The students I've had in my first eight years of teaching have generally been all middle class. They, for the most part, enjoyed school and similar lives outside of the school day.
Now well past one decade of teaching, I am in the most diverse teaching environment of my career. About forty percent of my high school's student population is Hispanic, forty percent are white, and about twenty percent of the students come from other diverse backgrounds. We have a high free and reduced lunch rate, but are also home to students from quite wealthy backgrounds as well as the middle class. I've never had such socioeconomic diversity sitting in one classroom. It certainly has changed the classroom dynamic.
My first two weeks of school in this district were full of excitement for me as I had always wanted to teach in a school with such ethnic and racial diversity. I eagerly played the Spanish music videos that had always appealed to my students in the past as this new group walked in the classroom each day. I quickly learned it bothered most everyone other than my Spanish-speaking students. After a full two weeks of playing music popular with teens in Spanish-speaking countries to no avail, I decided to ask a nice sophomore student in one of my classes what she didn't like about this fun, upbeat music. "I'm white" she responded, in a very innocent, yet matter-of-fact voice. "Wow, do I have my work cut out for me," I thought to myself.
The first semester I spent slowly integrating culture into my classes. We used the grammar and vocabulary of the textbook to learn about Peru and Costa Rica from a vacationing perspective. I taught them a new dance every month from the Spanish-speaking world. Slowly, some students began to gain interest in the music, and started to ask questions that really mattered. Questions like, "Why do people in Mexico worship Mary so much, and why do they call her Guadalupe?" Or, very generally, "What is life like in Spanish-speaking countries?" I began to see a small shift in thinking.... a very small shift. The students started to wonder about people and places different front them.
At the end of the first semester, I surveyed students. I wanted to know, outside of Spanish, what were they curious about in life? What did they want to know more about? In regards to Spanish, what did they want to continue to learn? And what did they want to discover about themselves? I was SHOCKED and EXCITED by the responses. Over and over and over I read, "the world," "other cultures," "what it's like to live in a different culture," "why not all Spanish-speakers look the same," "why are there different religions." What did students want to learn about themselves? "How do I fit into the world?" and "How I can overcome hardships like other people?" and "What I am good at?"
I feel as though I am on to something. Although these kids hesitate to interact with each other, don't talk about their differences both in heritage and socioeconomic circumstance, and often see each other as "other," they are curious about one another. And they are curious about their world. They want to learn about life and how they will integrate themselves into it! And for this, THE TEXTBOOK JUST ISN'T GOING TO CUT IT. Students will learn about themselves, life, and what it means to be a global citizen, in Spanish. In the process, I hope to see them finally come together as the familial unit I'm accustomed to so easily creating in my classroom. I hope they appreciate one another in a new light, and leave the judgements and stereotypes at the door. I hope they come together to make their school, community, and world a better place. I hope, above all else, they feel they have grown as a person after being in my room.
I confess. I am absolutely without a doubt, an idealist. Recently, I took a silly facebook quiz about what decade I should live in, and it reported back the future, because I'm a forward thinker with my head stuck in the iCloud. I laughed, and then shrugged my shoulders. In the words of Jackson Kiddard, “Instead of making up excuses for why something is impossible, it’s far better to come up with reasons why it could be possible. One reason why is more powerful than all the reasons why not.”
And the possibilities are endless.....
I have been a language teacher for fifteen years now and I am intensely passionate about language learning and helping students grow as global citizens. I'm so happy you are here!