Quite often I am more than a little embarrassed and feel slightly encumbered by my job title: Head of Global Understanding. On first hearing this, casual listeners may well conjure up the picture in their mind of me as some Bond-type villain in the midst of a chair-swivelling rotation as I stroke a perfectly groomed white cat. Cunning plans to take over the world drift tantalisingly across my mind …
OK, so that’s global domination, but we are talking here about global understanding.
If there is one aim that I have, it would be to bring the world to the attention of our students – (no small task then). I believe it can be done. It does not require compulsory far-flung expeditions to tropical climes (although the recent Ghana trip was a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience for staff and students alike https://trekkiep.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/out-of-africa-reflections-on-ghana-2013/)
What it does require is creativity (as advocated by @lancslassrach http://musingsfromtheisland.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/spoon-feeding-no-thanks/) and no small amount of planning.
So, what are the keys to success?
1: Pick a global event and run with it: Every 2 years, the World Cup and the Olympics come along, regular as clockwork.
For the World Cup, for example, each class draws a participating country on the same day that the actual World Cup Finals draw itself takes place (6th December 2013 is the next) From then until the tournament, tasks are regularly released and points awarded for the best entries. Categories include designing a new country logo, song, poem, research into language, culture, history etc. The key though is to make it global by inviting schools from around the world to take part. See http://elanguages.org/64994 for how it went in 2010. All the research and planning culminated on the day of the first match with an exhibition in our main Hall where each class displayed the findings of their country. All other participating schools did the same and we had pictures appearing on the elanguages web site throughout the day from all over the world of the different exhibitions. We had a live Skype link with a school in Spain. It was genuinely a ‘tingly’ day. Even when the touranment was on, we set up rooms where classes could go and watch ‘their team’ in action, which resulted in many students displaying unexpected passion for a country that six months previously, they would not have been able either to pronounce or find on a map.
(I have already set up a project page for the World Cup 2014 – sign up now at http://elanguages.org/185935)
2: Collaboration – touched on already, you need a forum whereby you can work in partnership with other schools and communicate and share effectively and efficiently. http://www.edmodo.com/ is one possibility. I have created a page hosted by Edmodo for our work with our Ghanaian partner school. Both sets of students and teachers have the access code for the page. I am waiting to see how this progresses.
3 – Meet and Greet: Having said all this though, there is still no substitute for face-to-face, first-hand encounters with new cultures. It is only now that the students who were fortunate enough to have gone to Ghana are starting to share and show what the whole experience has taught them. We have a Global Enterprise Day next week set aside for Year 7, 8 and 9 when 600 students will be designing, testing, making, selling and buying bracelets made from beads purchased in Ghana. The proceeds will go towards our partnership. Although we couldn’t take the whole school with us, it is one way of sharing something of what we learned with our school community.
Being a languages teacher, harnessing the global perspective and sharing it with students is already something that I have a passion for. I’m sure you do too. So together, we can bring something of the world inside the four walls of our classrooms (and learn many life-changing lessons in the process)