Tag Archives: inspiration

two roads

Here are a few words about the many roads I’ve been walking on for the last 15 years or so. It’s more than a justification of a resume that jumps contexts and continents. It’s my way of reflecting upon and consolidating a personal narrative that sometimes reads like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. It’s a celebration of the current situation I’ve wandered into as a volunteer at Green School in Bali – a place where, as I say in the poem, “the divergent converges.” And it’s an affirmation of the value inherent in the many roads my generation is walking down.

So to all my fellow travellers: keep walking, keep wandering, keep weaving your way down these many roads, and find your own way to make all the difference.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood”

I gazed down one and then the other

Asked my father and my mother

Google mapped the road ahead

And waited for the answer to load

And while the rainbow pinwheel spun I asked myself:

Why not travel both?  Continue reading

thoughts on global education

Features of an effective Global Education program

Our educational endeavours should be culturally responsive, embedded in real world events, and mobilized to enable students to act in and upon their worlds. My former boss at PANIM, a non-profit educational organization had a 5-pillar approach to getting teens involved in public issues: inform, empower, inspire, motivate, contextualize. I believe that these can be applied to an effective Global Education program for secondary schools.

First, inform students about world issues. While today’s youth have unprecedented access to information, it is the job of educators to help students see the forest for the trees. By providing them with reliable, age-appropriate information about global issues like climate change, AIDS, child labour, and foreign aid, we can help them understand the big picture and begin to break down the details and make the information relevant to their lives.

Second, empower them to act by pointing out examples of individuals who have brought about change and by giving them the tools to act. This could mean starting a service project in class, giving students access to resources outside of school, or connecting them to organizations already doing the kind of work that students want to get involved in. It also means nurturing the habits of mind that make a good global citizen, including open-mindedness, critical thinking, and inquisitiveness.

Third, inspire them by being an active global citizen and modeling the sort of attitudes and behaviours that students can incorporate into their developing sense of identity.

Fourth, motivate students by making global issues real. For adolescents seeking meaning, this means putting a human face on injustice and promoting empathy and moral outrage. I believe that the intrinsic motivation for global action can best be achieved through experiential education, for example, cleaning up a local riverbank or meeting a Sudanese former child soldier.

Finally, contextualize Global Education within not only curriculum expectations but within the students’ personal value systems, showing them that learning about the world is not about getting good marks but about making a commitment to real change.

Thinking deep global thoughts in Algonquin Park

In practice, the most effective forms of Global Education are cross-curricular and multidimensional. This entails both looking closely at possibilities for global education within curricular objectives and going beyond them to incorporate Global Education wherever possible. Global Education is multidimensional in that it both opens students’ eyes to the realities of the world and opens their minds to the potential inherent in each of us to change the world for the better. A cross-curricular approach to Global Education teaches students about the world they live in and helps them to articulate their views on world issues. It also educates them about their rights and responsibilities as citizens of our globalized world.

In terms of content areas, the goal is to teach students about the Earth and its inhabitants, including education about international development, the promotion of peace and global human rights, intercultural education, and environmental education. As a History and English teacher, it is easy for me to incorporate Global Education into my teaching, for example, through studying texts written by foreign authors or by studying non-western historical events. However, if students come to see Global Education as limited to History or English class, I have not succeeded.

In a classroom that lacks diversity, the Global Education curriculum gives students the opportunity to appreciate the diversity that they will encounter outside of the school. In a multicultural classroom like those I encountered during my practicum placements, Global Education heightens students’ appreciation and understanding of each others’ backgrounds. In Global Education builds character by teaching students that we are all connected and mutually responsible for the well-being of both planet and people. On a micro level, this can translate into greater degrees of mutual respect within the classroom – it helps students understand the ways that they can help or hinder their classmates’ learning. On a broader level, it helps students to articulate their views on their responsibilities to the world around them. Ideally Global Education takes goes this sense of responsibility beyond the “should” and makes it a “must.”

To me, the defining features of an effective Global Education program involve:

· Promotion of an awareness of world events as they unfolde.g. On a rotating basis, each student is responsible for reporting on a newspaper story of the day in every class.

· Reflexivity and situatedness e.g. Students ground their study of global issues by looking at their own origins and the role our society plays in global events.

· Use of technology to create real global connections e.g. Online collaborative learning with a class in another country

· Whole-school initiativese.g. cross curricular Earth Week projects

· Local, national, global connections made across the curriculum e.g. In a History class, studying discriminatory measures perpetrated against Japanese Canadians alongside the study of Japan’s role in WWII

· A school culture that reflects and values global perspectives – e.g. Signage in a variety of languages, celebration of different cultures and recognition of days of significance, staff made up of people from different ethnic and national origins

· An awareness of the importance of ecological sustainability embedded in school culture – e.g. Limit paper use, students work together to retrofit school or plant a community garden

like a glass of lemonade

I feel like I’ve been in a learning desert for a while. If you’ve spoken to me in the last few months or read any of my posts about teacher’s college, you know that I have been struggling to stay positive about my future in education. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be a teacher more than ever before, and I think I’ll be damn good at it if given the opportunity (Ahem, potential employers: PRETTY PLEASE GIVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY!). Most of my inspiration lately has come not from my courses (which ended last week!) but from the amazing exchanges and ideas I’ve been witnessing through my growing online networks.

I try to find the time and energy to get involved in some of the educational moments taking place around Toronto. Today was one of those instances, and it was truly refreshing. The Canadian Centre for Diversity’s Young Leader’s Forum was like a glass of lemonade for my soul. I’ve volunteered as a facilitator for the YLF for a couple of years now, and I always leave feeling energized, optimistic and inspired by the young people that I meet.

aah...refreshing!

A quick overview of the YLF: Schools from the GTA and beyond send 6-8 delegates to a conference centre in downtown Toronto for a day of learning and dialogue. Students come together with the common purpose of working together to combat stigma and discrimination. This year’s theme was “That’s so…HATE.” The day begins with a panel of young people who have experienced discrimination, sharing their stories and openly fielding questions from the audience and from the moderator. I missed the morning session this year, but in previous years, I have always been moved by how honest the Q&A is and by how much both panelists and audience members are willing to share with a roomful of strangers. After lunch there is an interactive improv performance from Toronto Playback Theatre, and then the group breaks up into small workshops. I was responsible for facilitating one of these workshops with 12 students, each one from a different school. My group included public and private schools, faith-based and secular, urban and rural. Students ranged from grades 9-12, and came from different ethnic, socio-economic, cultural and religious backgrounds.

My co-facilitator this year was a superstar – Ziadh Rabbani – a recent university grad, artist, and food security enthusiast. During one of our activities, Ziadh told the group that in Arabic, his name means abundance. The group agreed that his personality reflects his name’s meaning – he brought his overflowing  energy and enthusiasm to the table, and I would be happy to work with him again in the future.

The CCD provides each workshop group with a number of engagement strategies to choose from that provoke reflection, dialogue, debate, and open questioning. After going over (and putting our signatures on) the norms and creating a safe and positive space, we asked students to partner up based on any commonality and get to know each other. The partnerships they formed were based on a number of different commonalities – one pair looked at each other and said, “I’m brown. You’re brown. Let’s talk,” and another chatted about music, while yet another discovered they were both into science.  They then conducted a 3-question interview, sharing their names, something they are proud of, and something quirky about themselves.

We used the “Extended Nametag” activity, which led to discussions about labeling, bullying, exclusion, and the challenges of creating a diverse and equitable society. To wrap up, students were given a poem template (with prompts like “I am…I feel…I worry…I wonder…”). This provided the most moving moment of my afternoon, wherein a girl broke down in tears before reading her poem, sharing with the group that she had overcome an eating disorder and was worried that her struggles might not be behind her for good. Her poem was spare and heartfelt, and she read it while choking back tears. The group’s reaction was amazing – there were hugs, tissues offered, hands held – all this from a group that just met two hours earlier.

The YLF reminds me of what is possible in education. As a teacher, I’ll do my best to push the curriculum (and the desks) aside once in a while and make space for those important moments where students can talk about what really matters to them. Young people are so optimistic about their ability to change the world, and when you hear them speak, it’s hard not to agree with them. I feel refreshed and ready to being my internship on a positive note. Thanks for the spiritual lemonade, kids!