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Enhancing Global Competencies Through an International Teacher Network

This week, the Global Cities Education Network (GCEN), will gather for our second symposium in Seattle, WA. Ten school systems are meeting to explore solutions to two of education's most pressing challenges: the need to develop and sustain a high-quality teaching force, and the need to improve educational outcomes for low-performing and linguistically and culturally diverse students. Noah Zeichner, a National Board Certified teacher in Seattle and a teacher leader at the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ), will present to the GCEN on how to build an international teacher network. Here is a sneak peak at his presentation.

by Noah Zeichner

Have you ever wondered how a teacher in Singapore or New Zealand might approach a concept that you also teach in your classroom? Where would you go to find an international colleague who might want to engage in a serious conversation about pedagogy or education policy?

A virtual global network of teachers could open the door to new perspectives on teaching and learning and to solutions-oriented professional collaboration. But it could also create space to practice the same global competencies that we as 21st century teachers, aim to teach our students.

I believe in the value of virtual networks. For the past three years, I have actively participated in the Center for Teaching Quality's Teacher Leaders Network. I have shared ideas about both pedagogy and policy with teacher leaders from my own state and around the country.

My CTQ colleagues have not only challenged me to reflect on my teaching in new ways, but also to think critically about the system in which I work. One of our first collaborative projects was to co-write a policy brief that outlines a vision for student assessment and teacher evaluation in my state. Much of the creative process for the report took place on CTQ's online platform, with teachers working together as a virtual team.

And I also believe in the value of face-to-face global experiences. Last year, I was a fellow in the Teachers for Global Classroom (TGC) Program (administered by the International Research & Exchanges Board and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State). Along with sixty-seven other teachers, I completed an eight-week online class on best practices in global education. In early summer 2012, I traveled with ten other fellows to Brazil for two weeks to learn about the Brazilian education system. Other fellows traveled to India, Indonesia, Ghana, Morocco, and Ukraine.

In Brazil, I spent most of my time in schools, interacting with teachers and students. This experience helped me deepen my understanding of global competencies, as defined by the Asia Society. And I'm better able to help my students master intercultural written and verbal communication and recognize their own perspective among a diverse array of ideas. Global education, of course, means much more than just learning about the rest of the world.

So why not bring together powerful virtual networks and the learning that takes place through global collaboration?

I am currently working with school and district administrators at my school in Seattle to match every teacher and staff member with a similar professional in another country. We are trying to use virtual communication, to practice the same critical 21st century skills that we are embedding in our school's curricula. We hope to share pedagogical ideas with our international counterparts, to develop some classroom exchanges and projects, and to form one or two new "sister school" relationships.

Down the road, I would like very much to see the roughly 500 teachers in Seattle's eight international schools who are currently engaged in teaching global competencies learn from the education leaders and teachers of Global Cities Education Network (GCEN) community.

There are great global online communities already out there like epals.com and iEARN.org where teachers can come together to collaborate on classroom exchanges and projects. But what about a virtual space where teachers can share ideas, learn from each other, and even work together to transform the global teaching profession?

A global teacher network could be a powerful space indeed. The diversity of great ideas would multiply. And the solutions generated by an international network of teachers could help all of us integrate best practices that may currently only be visible in our countries of origin.

And through international collaboration, we can practice what we preach: developing the same global competencies that we aim to teach our students.

Imagine that you could join a global teacher network. What would you like to discuss with international counterparts? What problems might you seek to solve by comparing notes and collaborating?

Noah Zeichner is a National Board Certified Teacher in Seattle. He currently serves in a hybrid teaching role, dividing his time between teaching social studies and supporting the Center for Teaching Quality's global teacher leadership initiatives.

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