Teachers Are Ambassadors
Editor's Note: Teachers have many roles, but none may be more important than that of an ambassador—in the classroom, in the education system, and in the world—says Sandra Makielski, a 7th grade social studies teacher at Davisville Middle School in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.
I am an ambassador
I act as a facilitator, a conduit, a way to connect my students from their classroom to the outside world.
With the advent of more affordable air travel and high-speed internet, our world continues to shrink. As educators, we must work to help our students engage with others in positive ways to help create a society where problems are solved with words and not with violence. In most states, there is often a framework that is already in place. For example, Rhode Island "aspires" to graduate seniors who are globally competent, according to the publication, "2020 Vision For Education: Rhode Island's Strategic Plan for PK-12 & Adult Education, 2015-2020." This report sets the expectation that students will develop the skills of global competence through educational strategies like the incorporation of a foreign language at younger grade levels, communication with students outside of our borders, or the use of culturally sensitive materials.
Some resources to make this happen include using books written by members within a culture; using various platforms that connect classrooms so students may interact directly with each other; and integrating a "take action" piece into an established lesson. There are numerous resources to help students engage with their global community, many of them free.
The Center for Global Education at the Asia Society has excellent tools designed to help teachers incorporate elements of global competence into their lessons. Empatico is a free platform that connects 7- to 11-year-old students across states and countries. Although not free, Global Nomads allowed my students to participate in four video conferences and a parallel, take-action curriculum with a group of students in Tunisia over five months. Another resource designed to connect classrooms around the globe is ePals. This resource allows teachers to handpick a classroom with whom to partner. It is through the promotion of global competencies by the state of Rhode Island, school districts, and within our classrooms that students will develop the skills necessary to succeed in the global community.
Teachers as ambassadors within their classrooms
I act as an ambassador by bringing the outside world into the four walls of my classroom.
I invite speakers, experts, and contemporary witnesses to share themselves so that my students will develop a sense of perspective and social responsibility. Students must engage with people who look different, sound different, or think differently from them so that, as adults, they will be open to interacting with the global community. From a Korean paper artist, to a master drummer from Mali, to a parent volunteer of Indian descent, guests share personal stories, expertise, and time with my students. Finding experts may be as easy as asking parents, past and present, and reaching out to local cultural centers. Another easy resource is Guest Speaker, an online website created by Microsoft to connect experts with teachers.
Students must be given the opportunity to speak to peers in other countries, thus encouraging them to question their own beliefs. Through investigation and practice, students will begin to recognize different perspectives and develop the skills necessary to communicate their views. With guidance, students will learn how to take action.
A new curriculum is not required for teaching global competence, but when the instructional strategies are intertwined with active learning about global issues, students are empowered to make a difference in their world. An excellent resource that provides strategies, tools, and rubrics to enable a classroom to become more globally competent is Asia Society's Center for Global Education.
Teachers as ambassadors within their schools and communities
As a leader within my educational network (locally, nationally, and internationally), I work to foster interconnectedness and promote open lines of communication. Maintaining an active website, blog post, and Instagram account creates spaces to share ideas, resources, and stories. Participating in leadership trainings about the Middle East hosted by Qatar Foundation International, for example, provides me with the skills necessary to teach with accuracy and authenticity, along with a network of professionals who offer support and tools to connect with experts locally.
By participating in international professional developments, networking with educators across the globe, and taking active roles within various national organizations, teachers help model and solve problems through diplomacy. Professionally, I have traveled to South Korea, Japan, Germany, the Philippines, and Jordan. Each trip has provided me with an opportunity to collaborate on projects and connect my students to the outside world.
My 7th grade students have swapped projects with students in the Philippines and traded letters with children in Tanzania. Each trip expands my network of teachers, both nationally and globally, who work to promote global competence among their students. Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms, Transatlantic Outreach Program, Qatar Foundation International, and NEA Global Fellowship are just four examples of opportunities for teachers to travel internationally and begin to network both globally and nationally.
Teachers are natural leaders who must engage in their world as activists to effect change. Current systems must use teachers as ambassadors to promote whole-school strategies and effective professional development designed to help educators transform their teaching. When teachers teach for global competence, they are more likely to help even the most marginalized students connect with their communities.
From ambassadors to diplomats
"Successful executives have the 'global mindset;' a set of attributes that helps executives do a better job of leading people who are different from them," stated by Dr. Mansour Javidan, is a stark reminder that our students' success relies heavily on their abilities to interact with people who are different. When teachers act as ambassadors, they become role models that students are certain to emulate. As educators, we must teach global competence through our role as ambassadors to raise future diplomats and problem solvers.
Image created on Pablo.