I have finally made up my mind. This will be the focus of my research (otherwise known as my guiding question) while in India:
The Unifying Nature of Story: How sharing personal stories -- joyful and tragic, funny and poignant, ancestral and present -- informs and empowers our understanding and acceptance of multiple perspectives, enriches our sense of discovery and develops our ability to communicate by building our active listening and vulnerability skills.
I know it is kind of long, but I needed to put the details in to keep me focused. You all know how fascinated I am with storytelling and how life experiences inform our present and better prepare us for whatever the future dishes out. Well, now I will have the opportunity to use my passion in a more global sense to explore how global citizens can use story to better understand the culture and identity of others, and how sharing our own experiences helps unify us and develops appreciation for multiple perspectives.
Now I must go. Time to fill out the forms for my travel visa. I should learn more about the specifics of the trip next week. Stay tuned!!
I have been preparing to attend the Think Tank on Global Education at Harvard University this week. I am very excited about this opportunity to learn from so many distinguished global educators from around the world. Reading their bios on the conference connection page is so inspiring, with representatives from far-flung places, such as, Turkey, Japan, Australia, China, and yes, even me from Memphis, Tennessee!!!
One assignment we've been asked to complete before arrival includes writing a short narrative about our ancestors and how they "arrived" at the place in which we were born, and how these stories have melded together to become a part of who we are as human beings. Fortunately, because my mother completed exhaustive genealogical research many years ago, long before the Internet made it easy to accomplish, I have that knowledge, not only about her family, but my father's family, too. I remember as a child dropping Mother off at run down cemeteries or County Court Clerk offices in small towns we passed through on vacations so she could scour public records in search of birth, death and marriage certificates of relatives past. She was obsessed with her search for many years and proudly framed and hung her findings on a huge wall gallery in our den for all to see, as if visually linking all of those ancient stories to our own family yarns. Her motivation evolved from a desire to be accepted into The Daughters of the American Revolution, a service organization dedicated, in part, to preserving American history. To become a member one must prove "lineal, bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving American independence." My mother's documentation certainly proves that lineage, but sadly, her life ended before she was able to apply for membership and receive her coveted membership. (I'm not sure why, but I never took the steps to join for her posthumously.)
Her research and the artifacts it provided, however, have given me a small glimpse of ancestors I would not have otherwise known anything about. It has helped me better understand who I am, from where I came, and enlightened me to the richness of my heritage, which in turn, adds richness to my own personal stories. From her family tree I have documents detailing participation in the American Revolution, both French and English ancestors who fought against the English at the dawn of our new country. I also have letters written and "mailed" to relatives living in tiny hamlets throughout the American South and Northeast during the Civil War that outline the harsh brutality of war and the unimaginable struggles my ancestors survived.
On my father's side, I've learned about my German grandparents who came by boat in the early 1900's to the mountain in Irondale, Alabama they had bought sight-unseen. My blind grandfather grew flowers in large glass greenhouses on that mountain, feeling the leaves and petals with experienced fingers to know when to harvest and when to leave them to mature a while longer. My father, the oldest of 6 children, drove the truck while sitting in his blind father's lap, steering the harvest down the mountainside to sell their blooms to local florists. Each sibling remained in the flower business as adults, either in retail or wholesale.
As a child I would go to my father's wholesale house to "help," but would end up instead, book or notepad and pen in hand, nestled on a wooden bleacher amongst flower buckets overflowing with aromatic blooms from around the world, in the walk-in refrigerator. I remember the large plastic sheeting covering the door that slapped behind me as I entered, the magical gateway that opened my imagination to possibilities in story and verse. The wash of color met me: yellow-throated purple iris and Stargazer lily, ruffle-edged parrot tulips and the pink-tipped "Joy" rose, spikey fern fronds and spidery mums, the butterfly wings of phalaenopsis orchids and gardenias wrapped lovingly to avoid the bruise. The mix of exotic scents transported me into favorite books and became the muse that led me to write fictional adventures I hoped would transport others when they read my work. Even though I chose a very different path for my life, far outside the flower business, I cannot pass by a flower without touching its petals lightly, eyes closed tightly to imagine the sensation my grandfather must have felt every day of his life, or lean over to take a quick whiff of its scent, taken back by aroma to my father's childhood, a time on that mountain with which I am only connected to by blood.
These ancestral stories are only a tiny part of who I am as a person. Could the stories of my French and English immigrants who fought of freedom brand me a troublemaker or rebel? Could my German ancestry label me a Nazi? Of course not! Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But so many people in our world experience that kind of stereotypical judgment simply because of their race, religion, ethnicity or situation in life.
Writing my narrative for this assignment reminded me of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TedTalk titled, "The Danger of a Single Story." (Watch it here and prepare to be moved and enlightened:
Ms. Adichie's eloquent stories illustrate well the many facets of humanity and the importance of each individual life. No one has just one story to tell, and no one should be subjected to the one story others impose upon them. Stereotypes and singular or generalized groupings that attempt to define people are wrong and, yes, dangerous. They dilute and meld the richness of our world into blobs of misunderstanding, and when perpetuated, somehow become an insulting and limiting kind of truth.
-- "All" Africans are poor and starving. "All" Jews are rich. Latinos dance Salsa. American Whites hate African Americans, drink beer and drive 4x4 trucks. Muslims are terrorists. Vietnamese own nail salons. Indians own convenience stores. Germans are Nazis. The British are snobs. The list goes on and on. --
How many single stories have you head and accepted? How many are perpetuated daily on the news or social media? How many have wriggled their way into your consciousness and set up prejudice there, remaining, skewing your thoughts, tarnishing your perspective? Single stories group people in ways that both degrade and restrict the possibilities of humanity to evolve and reinvent. Single stories place barriers to positive change and opportunity. Recognition and acceptance are key. One doesn't have to like everyone, but we do need to accept our similarities and differences as qualities that demonstrate worth and validity. Each person is nuanced, unique and individual. And all of us together create the wonder of the human experience. Until we put aside our prejudices and fear, the world will not know peace.
Spring is struggling to make itself known in Memphis, but I am full-on and in high gear, as we say in the South. I am a warm weather person, so when the air gets chilly, I become as slow and sluggish as December molasses. I accomplish little and can't seem to even line up thoughts into any order that makes sense. Warmth dispels all of that. Now that the first dogwoods have bloomed, I'm rocking!
Yesterday, I had an appointment with the communicable disease doctor and got my shots for my trip to India this summer. I was pleasantly pleased that I only had to get a booster to the Typhoid vaccination I received before my trip to Africa a few years ago. She suggested that I get the 3-shot series of Hepatitis B, but I assured her that I have no plans to dabble in bodily fluids, so she gave in and said I didn't need it. I will have to take malaria prophylaxis, and wear 100% DEET mosquito repellant, to ward off any strange mosquito-born viruses, but that is to be expected. She also gave me an antibiotic prescription, in the event that I contract a nasty intestinal bug. I feel armed and ready!
I have been thinking a lot about my guiding question, the research question I plan to use as my focus on the trip. Being a Catholic theology teacher, I wonder if I should focus my research on spirituality and how different faith traditions pray, celebrate their faith in their personal and family settings outside of public worship. I would explore the ways people pray and think about their spirituality. I do not really want to delve into the beliefs and practices of particular religions as I know the basics and I am more interested in peoples' personal practices and rituals. It would be interesting to compare and contrast those rituals with those of the Catholic faith to discover their similarities as a means of ecumenical exchange. I'm also interested to learn about how faith and spirituality is shared or experienced in the schools and classrooms. Are students allowed to pray publicly at school? Do teachers lead prayer or meditative practices in the classroom?
This topic, along with my idea to study how personal/ancestoral stories are shared and passed on from generation to generation, keep recurring in my mind as my top two choices on which to focus. I have a very long list of possibilities, but these two keep rising to the top.
Over the next month or two, as I also try to finish up the school year and prepare my students for exams, we will be making small gifts and cards for me to take and share with the students in my host school. My students will make friendship bracelets in a variety of colors for me to hand out easily. I hope to take about 150 as they are small, easy to carry around in a plastic bag and don't take up much space in my suitcase. My students will also make short brochures of introduction on which they can put pictures of themselves and friends or family, a written introduction and some fun facts about Memphis. These I will give to the students in my host teacher's class in hopes that my students can connect with his or her students and build a pen pal type connection over the Internet.
Sometime before the end of school, I also need to finish the other pages of this web site to complete the requirements of the fellowship and to share my new knowledge and resources about global competency with other teachers.
So much to do and plan! I am excited by the prospects and opportunities. Spring, roll on in here so I can better enjoy the ride!!!!
I have spent some time over the last week or so reflecting upon the time I spent in our nation's capital for the TGC Global Symposium. The magnitude of this blessing is settling in as I recognize what a gift this program is to my life and my teaching. Meeting all of the members of the cohort, discovering more information about the travel plans for this summer, bonding with the group of distinguished educators I am honored enough to be placed with for our trip to India -- It is all a bit overwhelming and humbling.
The groups traveling to Morocco and Senegal are leaving this week, Columbia soon thereafter, and during the first week of April. I thank the Good Lord that I have until summer to plan and get ready for my trip. There are so many things I want to prepare to take with me, such as photo albums, school year books, small gifts and trinkets to hand out to children I meet, and nicer gifts to give my host teacher and his or her colleagues. I also want my students to have the time and opportunity to write postcards and include pictures of themselves that I can give out to the Indian students. I am hoping we can develop a lasting, long distance relationship online so all can better understand the multiple perspectives of people living in other countries. Until we can develop true, lasting relationships of common respect, our world cannot change for the better. We need to really KNOW each other, to understand our differences and similarities in order to appreciate the gifts and talents we all bring to this world. One cannot accomplish that kind of intimate acceptance across a conference table. It must be done over dinners in homes, in discussions about life and fears and dreams. Our children must see people through eyes of empathy and compassion, not competition and fear.
There is so much I want to accomplish with this opportunity, but I also realize that whatever comes will be pure gift, whether MY plans are achieved or not. I will be open to the possibilities and will approach all with wonder and a sense of discovery, the same way I hope my students will approach life. I have thought long and hard about my "Guiding Question," the focus for my research while I'm away. I am so very passionate about story, individual story and how our family history informs and directs our personal life story. I wonder how different peoples and cultures pass on their family histories now and how, if at all, that has changed with the innovations of the Internet. How will we, this populous of text-speakers, emailers and Instagrammers, assure that the true meaning behind and within us is forever preserved for posterity. I think I know the answer to this, but: Do we need to worry about or even care what future relatives and peoples know or think about us?
So, this concept of story is rattling around in my mind as a possible focus.
I'll share some other ideas next time. Until then, be open to the miracles around you; they are happening every moment of every day, if only we take the time and effort to look for them.
My students in Memphis are in the middle of a huge church building project, in which they discover the wonder and awe in our world by studying the architecture and art of churches. They study many locations all over the world, learning about the people, language, culture and, of course, FOOD from each country. Then they cook a traditional dish from their specific country for our International Feast. Here, simple and fun lessons involve the students' senses, tastebuds, measuring skills (math) and scientific combinations to make the food rise or fluff, cream or stiffen, brown or simmer. As well as helping them to develop global competency as they discover new places, gain understanding of different cultures, communicate their thoughts effectively by building a wiki project, and take action by building a scale model of a church for their location.
They collaborate in groups to determine a specific location for their church. Should it be on the sea? But what if the tide comes in too high in a storm and destroys it? Or maybe on level, higher ground with good drainage? Could it be in a forest where trees would have to be removed to make the church fit? Would the town’s people want so many trees to be destroyed? So many real world issues to consider. They must always consider the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in their plans.
Finally the building begins…after my safety speeches about the proper ways to use boxcutters and hot glue guns. Once completed, the churches are displayed for the whole school to see. They then create brochures to mail to the bishop or archbishop in their chosen location so show off their work and what they have learned. Waiting for responses from the bishops takes patience, but each year we are never disappointed, receiving from the bishops congratulations, prayer cards, books, brochures and even more information about the Catholic population in the countries.
These hands-on projects help build student confidence, instill a sense of wonder and develop global competencies that can be easily implemented in any classroom, any discipline. Students are given the chance to explore and be creative, all with a specific purpose in mind. They are also able to connect school-wide by showing off their work and world-wide with the bishops in distant lands.
I struggle even now to let it sink in. After watching my email compulsively for weeks, I finally received my field experience posting through my US State Department Teachers for Global Classrooms fellowship. This July, I will travel to India and spend a month learning, teaching and studying one of the oldest cultures in the world.
But don't tell the students at SAA-SDS yet!! We are planning a big "reveal" assembly after Christmas break to get the whole school involved and engaged in my adventure.
These past few months have already taught me so much. Every aspect of my understanding of global education has changed and grown. The TGC coursework was so extensive and enlightening; it has deepened my commitment to incorporating global competencies into my teaching and sharing what I've learned, and will certainly continue to learn, as this fellowship adventure continues.
I will travel to Washington, DC this February to attend the Global Symposium, where I will finally meet the other members of this distinguished cohort and learn more about my future travels. Stay tuned as I would love for you to walk with me along this journey.
Enjoy this video I made as a part of my coursework. I give kudos to my students and colleagues who helped my put it together. Who knew that I would become a youtuber in this process? Ha!
Global citizenship must walk hand-in-hand with digital literacy/citizenship. With technology so prevalent in all parts of society our students must learn to navigate the uncertain and constantly changing landscape of online participation. The global competencies are supported on a foundation that requires good digital citizenship. The projectlooksharp.org article did an excellent job of outlining in a very concise and simple way the many aspects of digital citizenship and how our understanding of what we learn from online sources, how we judge them and their validity and how important it is for us to be educated before we use information we find or put our media and content out there. The video Examining Credibility and Bias on Websites is an excellent example of how teachers can facilitate student learning by allowing students to use their own deductive reasoning skills to recognize how people can easily skew information for their own purposes, and also how to recognize reliable sources. I have already shared this resource with my colleagues.
My school has been a one-to-one laptop school for almost 12 years. In that time we have experienced many, if not all, of the possible pitfalls and downfalls that teachers and students can experience when trying to incorporate digital literacy and Technology into our lesson and unit plans. I'm sure, if you asked a cross section of the teachers at my school what their feelings are about having so much technology at our fingertips, many would roll their eyes and groan as the journey has been wrought with so many ups and downs. By now, however, most have settled in and figured out which technological opportunities and digital tools are best suited for his or her particular curriculum.
I appreciate the wisdom of the capital SAMR model. It is so easy to fall into the trap of, “Get out your laptops and take notes.” I have learned over the years that students want to explore and that I need to let them. It has taken me years to figure out many of the software applications and platforms that my students use regularly in my classroom. It took great bravery the first time I asked students to make an iMovie about a particular topic, knowing full-well that I had no clue how to make an iMovie myself. I was delighted to learn that I didn't have to know. Given the opportunity, the students took on the task and figured it out all by themselves. (One thing I learned about the movies… one must limit the length of the final project, otherwise you will have full-length motion pictures turned in. Not such a bad problem to have, I guess, but upgrading them is a bear.)
When I run into issues, such as needing more bandwidth (and I still have no idea what bandwidth is) to accomplish something or a file being too large to email, (the list could go on for days), I am forced to find the people at my school who have the answers to these problems. As colleagues we help each other and learn from each other in a continuous ebb and flow of assistance and ideas
I have become a huge proponent of project-based learning. One trick that I have discovered that works very well with students is to create a hypothetical situation that the students need to solve. For example, in one of my social justice units I have created a company that is trying to come up with a way to provide a village with clean water. My students must research the area using online search tools and databases from our Library to determine what water sources are now being used in the Village and what options might be available to improve the situation. Using MLA format and noodletools.com to help with that formatting, students must cite all of their sources, come up with a plan of action, establish a budget, determine how the work will be done and by whom, and create a wiki project site to demonstrate their new knowledge. They use Google Docs to collaborate throughout their research and before posting finished work in the Wiki project. Of course, I have access to all of this technology so that, as they work ,I can keep track of what they're doing, post comments along the way, and to grade the final project. The small groups are required to present their wiki project in front of class and we often video that presentation to be shown to the entire junior high at a later date. In the past we have had a contest and the group that comes up with the best and most economical plan to bring water to this village wins a casual day and donuts in class.
Digital citizenship is taught beginning in about the third grade through our English department and our library services department. Students and teachers use a digital learning platform called Haiku, on which teachers can create digital tests, games, textbooks and other content for student use. Useful information to remind students and help them navigate the uncertain and often confusing world of digital content online is posted here. This platform also provides a digital portfolio into which students can upload their work, which can be accessed throughout their high school years and presented in student-led parent conferences and college interviews.
Needless to say, we are blessed. Schools that do not have these advantages, however, can access online platforms that operate in much the same way and offer similar advantages. (See below links) I was happy to see many of them in the Sara Krakauer interview written by Emily Lester. As I mentioned before we often have to just be brave, dive in and trust that our students can figure out the technologies that we can't even begin to wrap our brains around.
https://www.edmodo.com : a free platform for teachers and students very similar to haiku mentioned above. We used to this platform exclusively before our school purchased haiku. Some of us wish we had never changed as Edmodo.com offers much bang 40 bucks.
http://www.emergingedtech.com/2014/12/25-ways-to-use-qr-codes-for-teaching-learning/ : only a few ways to use QR codes on your campus and in your lesson plans.
My students hear the terms global citizenship and globally competent often, beginning from the first day they enter my class. Since I teach social justice as a part of my curriculum, I frame global citizenship as a way for us and all people to recognize, take responsibility for, and understand that we are each called to make the world a better place. From the lens of social justice and human rights that responsibility usually falls under our Christian responsibility to sure that all people are treated justly, and have what they need to live a happy, healthy, an sustainable life, no matter where on this planet they happen to live. Social justice themes of the Catholic Church are very explicit and teach that each person on this planet is a citizen of the world and humanity, regardless of what country, tribe, religion, socioeconomic standing, etc. etc. The Church's teachings focus on making special options for the poor and vulnerable, the assurance that people can move and live wherever they choose for what ever reason, that workers rights are assured, that humans have responsibilities to participate in local, regional, and national debates and politics to make sure that all people are assured their basic human rights. The church also teaches that it is our responsibility— all human beings — to take care of this planet. So these precepts begin my students’ understanding of the world.
I quickly tie in cultures, similarities and differences, otherness, and project after project in my classroom we explore different countries and their cultures to get a better understanding of how people live in other parts of the world. I frame the word culture as the traditions, Celebrations, Beliefs, music, Artistic expression, and stories that are beloved in each country to each person individually. Culture should not be thought of in stereotypical terms. Culture is a montage of who we are as a people and by learning about cultures in other parts of the world our understanding and appreciation of the people themselves is deepened and enriched.
As I ruminate on the videos and articles we have read for this weeks lesson, I must first address the two TedTalks. First, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain was eloquent as he explained that people do not have to give up their national pride or their dedication to their nation in order to become a global citizen. His explanations of the many, many ways countries must be globally competent in order to take on the huge issues, such as climate change and nuclear proliferation and terrorism, poverty and inequality, made a case for how important it is for all nations to come together and to be globally competent global citizens before it's too late. PM Brown explained, “So, you've got to have a healthy sense of patriotism; that's absolutely important. But you've got to realize that this world has changed fundamentally, and the problems we have cannot be solved by one nation and one nation alone.”
Hugh Evans TedTalk, “What does it mean to be a citizen of the world?” Was so moving that he made me cry. (And that doesn't happen very often!!) His passion in his years and years of working so hard to explain global citizenship to the world was one of the most inspiring stories I've ever heard. But as he talked I could not help but think that teachers need to come together and bond by the same passion for global competency and human rights. I'm sure that within the membership of his multinational organization there are teachers. But since our educational system is in such dire straits and in need of a major reorganization and overhaul, if the teachers, (probably dragging administration along kicking and screaming,) could organize in such away that our voices would be collective, our passion evident, our determination so strong that even the highest educational Directors in Washington would not be able to quiet our roar, real, positive change could be achieved. I am skeptical that a few passionate teachers like us will be able to do much in our individual schools to create that much passion and determination. But if we, all of us and the alums who have already been through this program band together with a directed effort to change the minds of the powers that be, we might be able to bring about some positive change. Surely, we would need voices who could preach it from the mountaintops, inspiring with every word and syllable, and who could communicate effectively the power and enlightenment of understanding and accepting multiple perspectives, all the while creating a sense of wonder and curiosity about our world that will inspire the same in others and create within them the passion to want to take action in our world, but more immeditely in our schools.
On the downside, I disagree strongly with many points in the Washington Post article. “A global community or citizenry cannot exist, because to love everyone and everything is to love nobody and nothing.” Are you kidding me? This writer has some serious issues and was not very convincing in his argument against global citizenship. I could speak for days about the negative tone of this article but by the time he said, "According to a global-citizenship education guide issued by Oxfam, it is important to teach students that the world is unfair and unequal, and that they can and need to change it. Those terms are, by and large, empty vessels to be filled by the holder of power or the ideological flavor du jour, but most often they refer to a version of the argument that the North is richer than the South and this social injustice (another common term) must be addressed,” I was seething. I searched for some redeeming factors, but since his views were so opposed to mine, I just gave up. Lastly, his jab about Global citizens knowing to only drink fair trade coffee lattes sent me over the edge. Yes he has his right his opinions, However, they were not opinions with which I agree.
I will end this post with a question about this national (specifically designed for US education system) teacher movement to bombard, convince, and insist that global education and global competencies be taught in all schools so that our students will be prepared for jobs that don't even exist yet and will most certainly be multinational positions that will demand globally competent individuals to take on those challenges… Yes, I realize that wasn't a question. The question is : Can we do it? Is that what this is all about? Are we the movement? Or, I guess I should say, are we the tiny flicker of the movement? I'll be interested to hear your comments.
I cannot express how honored I feel to have been chosen to participate in the Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellowship. We are only in our third week of the coursework and already my understanding of the global citizenship and global competency is evolving.
Learning to use the digital dictation software on my computer has been a challenge, but I am finally getting the hang of it and realize that proofreading is essential before posting anything. Last week, as I was dictating quietly while my students worked independently, one student asked, "Mrs. Schuster may I go to the restroom?" And I responded. "Yes, but be sure to come right back." As I proofread my discussion post for that week's assignment, those exact words had typed themselves into my lengthy discourse about global competency. It was both comical and frightening. I will now proofread every word.
This week we are looking at our local community and/or nation to better understand the term "Glocal." One of our readings was fascinating and very enlightening. Here is the link if you would like to check it out.
The following is my discussion post response to that article.
I am repeatedly drawn back to the global competencies of being able to effectively communicate thoughts and ideas and having the ability to recognize, appreciate and understand multiple perspectives. Yes, a globally competent person explores and investigates the world and takes action to make the world a better place. But if we first cannot communicate our ideas or grasp multiple perspectives our investigations and desire to take action we'll fall short and be ill-informed.
I was moved, in many ways, by this week’s readings, especially the segment from, In My Father’s House: the African Philosophy of Culture, and Cosmopolitan Patriots by Kuwame Appiah. His father's sentiments to remember that we are all citizens of the world and that we should “be a great lover of mankind, to have an abiding desire to see mankind, under God, and fulfill its highest destiny” in me a sense of hope, as all profound statements should do.
As I moved along in the readings, my understanding of the United States grew. I recognize that so many of the, let's call them European descendent Americans, react to immigration and the influx and multitude of different cultural ideas, religious ideologies, etc., that they don't understand and have no desire to understand, comes from a place of fear. Fear of losing their majority, fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, fear of change, and from a place of isolationist desires and ignorance. This group of Americans does indeed want an American culture, a fantasy tribe, defined by them, that every American must abide by, accept, and profess, of shared values, beliefs and ideals. They fail and have no interest in appreciating or understanding any other perspectives, much less multiple perspectives. They feel threatened by change and have cemented their ideas of what America should be on a foundation of fear. This resistance to even recognize other perspectives limits their ability to communicate effectively, thereby creating walls of resistance.
Appiah’s explanation that, “our democratic traditions require us to engage respectfully with our fellow citizens who disagree with us,” supports his assertion that America's political values should have a weight of their own. By focusing our attention, not on my fantasy culture, but on our political values we can then accept and abide by its laws, debate our differences and come to a better understanding of our country as a whole embracing its uniqueness and upholding the political values on which we can all agree.