Preparing Students for the Future of Work in a Global Society
Editor's Note: Charlé LaMonica, Director, World View, a public service program at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, equips K-12 and community college educators with global knowledge, best practices, and resources to engage students in our interconnected and diverse world. Here, she examines how global skills prepare students to be global citizens ready to study and work in our interconnected world.
"My students need to understand the connection between what they are learning in the classroom and reality. I have seen that students are able to gain a better understanding of anything when they can understand WHY they are learning it. Once students understand why they are learning material they have an appreciation for the knowledge you are passing on to them." -Evonne Royston, Warren County Public Schools, North Carolina.
Recently I had an opportunity to follow up with Evonne, 8th grade science teacher from Warren County Public Schools in North Carolina. An engaging teacher with a sharp intellect and infectious curiosity, Evonne inspires a love of learning in her students. Recently Evonne was one of several educators selected to participate in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) World View's Global Study Visit to the Dominican Republic in partnership with the Global Youth Leadership Institute.
This experience was a deep dive into the legacy of the past in today's Dominican Republic and Evonne was ready to record her experiences. School visits in urban and rural settings were accompanied by a tour of historic plantations and the Jarabacoa Women's Cooperative: Sonido del Yaque, located in the small mountainous town of Jarabacoa. Evonne, like the other participants, was focused on how this experience would translate to her students in the classroom. How could this global experience impact her teaching and learning to prepare her students for their role as global citizens? How could this experience translate into teaching the relevance of a global education to prepare her students for the future of work?
As the cohort traveled, Asia Society's global competence framework was kept front and center. As educators know, competencies are valued in schools and in the marketplace as future employers seek a diverse and well-prepared workforce. Global competencies are essential for students to be prepared as global citizens for the work place. Here is how Evonne, looking at these competencies through her science teacher lens from rural North Carolina, made connections for her students after her trip to the Dominican Republic.
Investigate the World
When Evonne traveled on this study visit, she identified experiences that were similar or shared by educators in both Warren County, North Carolina, and the Dominican Republic. She recognized that "perseverance" was a key factor to success in both locations. She stated, "In the Dominican Republic and Warren County, I made the connection that both have dedicated teachers who are doing the best they can with what they have in their schools: overpopulated classrooms, students who have personal and family issues, etc. The Dominican Republic and Warren County both deal with some of the same issues, but regardless of those stumbling blocks, 'perseverance' is non-negotiable."
Educators have a unique perspective on problems and solutions. This is what employers need in today's marketplace and what societies need in global citizenry. Many educators today teach in diverse classrooms and design classroom projects that instill the value of group work. Understanding diverse perspectives is essential as students develop as global citizens. Tim Humphrey, Vice President and Chief Data Officer, IBM RTP in North Carolina, has stated, "The personal responsibility educators hold in relationships with students shapes our society." Businesses value a diverse workforce as they meet the rapid rate of change in our global society and our students must be prepared to work with people from different backgrounds. Evonne noted from her global experience in the Dominican Republic that "teachers can look at many of the same issues they are challenged with every single day but from a different angle, and thus build a more flexible, creative student body."
Evonne was especially impressed by the visit to the Jarabacoa Women's Cooperative witnessing the creative way the Cooperative collaborates with partners around the world. The Cooperative was created by Doña Esperanza, a woman who dared to seek a better life for her community. In the early 2000s watching tourist groups visit her area, Esperanza had a natural understanding for business and created the Sonido del Yaque project which now has cabins for tourists, a hydroelectric facility, biodigestors and a small farm that cultivates their own agricultural goods. With support from USAID and international investors, the Sonido del Yaque has dramatically changed lives in the community. As the UNC World View study visit group learned about Esperanza's story of the Cooperative, the value of global teaching and learning about the world was made real.
Evonne carried her experiences of visiting the Jarabacoa Women's Cooperative back to her students, sharing details that allowed her to illustrate how people can communicate their wants and needs in a way that leads to gaining resources—and using them creatively. "While in the Dominican Republic, I was able to understand and witness the appreciation of gaining knowledge (from other partners) when the director of the Jarabacoa Women's Cooperative informed us that colleges and corporations have helped them put together efficient energy systems; the community understood why they needed to learn how to monitor, troubleshoot, and repair the system; and they appreciated gaining that knowledge and passing it on."
Evonne "took action" when she returned to her science classroom and shared her experiences with her students. She shared what she learned and showed examples of ways students in the Dominican Republic were "taking action" while learning about science. "Being able to show my students the work that has been done by Dominican Republic students who are so young (irrigation of the strawberries, engineering projects, farming) is proof that there is more my students can use the field of science to make a difference."
What can we as educators do for our students as we prepare them for their future? As Evonne did—model for students the Global Competence Framework. Show students how important it is not only for students but also for teachers to investigate the world, recognize perspectives of others, communicate ideas effectively and "take action" to make the world a better place in the classroom, home or world community! So what now? Attend an online seminar, apply for a U.S. Department of State Fulbright, read a book about a different part of the world, or visit a local international community—just to name a few.
"Young students are like bloodhounds when it comes to sniffing out what is real and what is not," said Evonne. Teachers making connections between countries and cultures makes it REAL for students. "I believe students respond better when they know I am coming from a genuine place." The future of work is filled with global connections. Global educators make global connections real for students. And global lessons, learned by teachers, will multiply in the students they serve!
Image created on Pablo.