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Keeping the World in Mind

Do we think globally when considering curriculum? There are so many other things to consider when developing curriculum—learning modalities, formative assessment, differentiation, socio-emotional dynamics—that the intercultural complexities of both the classroom and the curriculum can get overlooked. Increasingly, though, “international mindedness” and “global citizenship” are being emphasized—with good reason—but without much concrete information on how to implement it.

As educators, we have the privilege of joining every child in understanding the world through the most diverse classrooms that have ever been. Understanding ourselves and our world is foundational to an international education, yet the competencies involved can be seen as cursory to the traditional skill sets and standards that our students are measured by.

 

However, with 240 million people worldwide residing outside their home countries and globalization trends rising exponentially by 10% each year, with the refugee crisis shifting demographics quickly and bringing greater complexity to our communities and schools, with migratory patterns moving out not only from the western world but from Asia and the Middle East and spreading all across the planet, academic institutions are more culturally diverse than ever before. We are not in Kansas anymore. The tornado of globalization has hit the world leaving many of us in search of our Oz of identity, belonging, and sense of community.

 

The increasing diversity in the classroom is obvious to see. What isn’t so obvious, however, is that many students aren’t achieving their potential because of certain cultural assumptions. We differentiate students according to learning aptitudes and achievement levels, but are we differentiating to cultural dimensions and worldview? What if the lack of classroom participation by many students isn’t due to a lack of understanding or motivation, but a less individualistic upbringing and a value system that shuns speaking one’s own mind before confirming community agreement among the “tribe”?

 

When we take the time to think deeply and critically

about culture, we will unlock a treasury of helpful

adaptations that will free every learner to thrive.

 

What if inquiry and critical thinking aren’t happening because certain types of questioning can be unsafe or dishonoring in some cultures? What if parents aren’t partnering due to cultural clashes in direct and indirect communication styles? We can sweep these misunderstandings under the carpet or we can become inter-cultural experts in our schools. Without intentionally diving into the depths of our differences and seeing them as the strengths of our communities, we will miss the opportunity to build the leading peacemakers and problem-solvers of tomorrow.

 

We must think about building global learning communities where the future leaders of the world are taught, trained, and launched into the inter-cultural complexity that will only increase in their lifetime.  Dare I say that every classroom should be viewed as an intercultural space where intercultural training is part of the education? It is time to raise up new heroes for a new world.

 

When we take the time as educators to think deeply and critically about culture, we will unlock a treasury of helpful adaptations that will free every cultural learner to thrive. Every learning community has the same opportunity to take their diverse population and create a community of learners (including teachers) who see deeper into self and others, can anticipate and adapt to cultural complexity, and feel a sense of identity, belonging, and healthy inter-cultural relationships, wherever they find themselves.

 

It is time to start seeing emotional-social-intercultural understanding as connected and foundational to learning, living, and leading in the world today. In doing so, we will send our students into the world as the future leaders who have the intellectual excellence, emotional intelligence, and are the inter-cultural “wizards” who will likely redefine Oz as they together create a new path forward…with the world in mind.

 

Written by Armandee Drew

 

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