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What should global citizenship look like in public schools?

Global Citizenship: (noun) The title used for those who approach culture and diversity with a positive attitude. A label that explains a traveler’s quest to understand the differences we have and the similarities we share. See also: globally literate, traveling gypsy, world traveler, worldschooling.

Classrooms that encourage global citizenship are rare.

Teachers are not teaching global citizenship.

As a public school teacher, I grapple with all of the well stated issues that every other teacher deals with: money, supplies, never ending common core (Note to educators: Wait! This post is NOT about common core! Keep reading!)and time. To tell you the truth, time might be my greatest enemy during the school day. Time is the thing I run out of, the thing I combat, the thing that has my kids mentally checking out two hours before the school day is over. It’s the common denominator for decisions like what book to pick or what lesson to cut out in order to ensure kids are ready for some useless test.

Usually, social studies is on the chopping block. I never seem to have enough time to teach “Me on the Map” or the Louisiana purchase. Social studies is definitely not a friend to common core. The quick fix from non educators who make decisions about education for educators is to simply use that context during language arts. Umm, excuse me? You want me to teach first graders subject and predicate while learning about latitude and longitude? Did I mention that half of them can’t read even though you expect it and the other half don’t know how to get a pencil without disrupting everyone? How am I ever supposed to allow kids to become global citizens?!

Seriously.

If I ever met the education genie and he granted me three education wishes, this is what I would ask for:

  1. Anyone who ever gets to make a decision about education has to substitute for a minimum of five days. From the school custodians to the President of the United States- absolutely everyone. And, unlike many other temporary gigs, there is no one to help you. No aid, no secretary, no personal assistant, no sub-time, no say. That, I believe would take care of a lot of issues.
  2. Remove common core from everyone’s memory and end this nightmare. Kids are being pushed well beyond their natural growth capabilities and it’s causing  a lot of problems. Seriously, what 5 year old needs to know what a scalene triangle is? Seriously? Removing all of the components of common core would solve a lot of teacher issues (I’m talking to you standardized testing!).
  3. Now, don’t be surprised when I say this: I would use my final wish to develop cultural opportunities for students to learn about this huge, wonderful world.

Dreaming a Big Dream

In a perfect world, the stars would align and the Heavens would open to reveal that the great mystery plaguing our educational system is our educational system! If those stars did align and if we could literally get a do over, what would our kids need to be successful global citizens? For starters, we would have to be really honest about what makes our students ready for all the world offers. Don’t get me wrong, I am more then agreeing with the need to ensure kids read, write and compute sensibly, fluently and with purpose. But is there more? I think yes. Here’s a sampling of the classes that I would love to see in basic curricula, one for each traditional grade level….

Global Citizenship starts young.

American Culture for Kindergarteners:

Learn about and celebrate holidays and traditions within our community, regions, and country. Kids can learn about Native American celebrations from the Southwest, they can learn about National Parks and Veterans Day. Our country has so much to be proud of, let’s share that pride.

Storytelling for First Graders:

As in: kids need to see the magic of storytelling. This is a wonderful way to connect great literature with world culture and history. Storytelling is a dying art and we should all be supporting its resuscitation. While reading and writing are so, so imperative to every young child, fostering the love of storytelling only fosters that foundation.

World Wonders for Second Graders:

Imagine having a chance to study the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower and Machu Picchu? Students can learn about all of these amazing things through STEAM centric lessons. How about building the leaning tower of Pisa out of crackers or designing the labyrinth of Knossos for a marble? This is something that I could really get into! I feel the need to build a great pyramid out of cheezits.

Timelines for Third Graders:

Take a minute and think what would happen if kids simply explored a topic by piecing together the timeline of events. Think biographies, the space race, ancient Egypt. The possibilities are endless!!!! Students don’t really start to understand the passage of time until they are a bit older. Third grade seems like a great time to understanding this huge concept.

Gardening and Animal Keeping for Fourth Graders:

Think about it. The responsibility of care for a growing thing brings on life lessons in infinite amounts. From cultivating a carrot seed to watching a chick hatch, learning about the hows and whys of growth is an awesome thing. More importantly, understanding farm to table is time well spent.

Global Citizenship creates better challenges in middle school. 

Map Making for Fifth Graders:

Please note that I did not say Geography. Map making means exactly that: making maps. All kinds. Maps of communities, maps of the world, rainfall maps, graphs about maps, continental plate maps, maps that show all fifty states and their capitals. Theme park and tourist maps. Hands on maps. Lots of maps. As a teacher, I can only imagine the natural curiosity that would develop from this undertaking.

Research and Understanding for Sixth Graders:

Okay, you can read and write, but can you develop a project from start to finish? It’s what we do in “the real world” right? Kids are not used to staring at a blank piece of paper anymore. They do not journal and they do not write down their thoughts. In short, students are not reflective. Taking a long term process like this allows students to become better at being self starters and independent. That is a skill worth developing.  

Environmentalism for Seventh Graders:

a chance for kids to learn about the challenges of the world and research the best practices to reverse the damage. How will we ever start the reversal of damage to our planet if we don’t involve our future leaders? A class like this leads to connecting our past to our present in more ways than one.

Logic and Sequential Thinking for Eighth Graders:

Experiencing the consequences of the “if… then…” model can be an important step in helping young minds develop. From interpersonal relationships to global trends, the study of logic allows students to have some quality time to stop and think before they move on. Sequential thinking not only includes putting things in order but also finding the things that shouldn’t be in a series. The most concrete example of this is coding. Coding is becoming more and more popular across grade levels but it could find a real niche here.

Global Citizenship focuses on life skills in high school.

Survey of World Language for High School Freshmen:

Imagine a chance to learn a little about lots of different languages and the origins of words in our own language. Did you know that the English word for baby carriage is perambulator? As in not walking yet? Kind of like ambulance? You know the thing that you use when you can’t get to the hospital on your own? I love language.

Greek and Latin Roots:

A companion class to world language so kids to realize that there is more pattern in languages than first meets the eye. Have you ever watched the National Spelling Bee? It is amazing! I always think that we would save ourselves so much time and effort if we were more in tune with how words work and what they really mean. For example, I remember when my grandfather taught me the real meaning of dilemma. I stopped using the word altogether. (It means a two part mathematical problem with no known solution.)

Lifeskills 101 for Sophomores:

It’s time to learn to do your own laundry, repair a buttonhole, bake a cake, DRIVE, and learn about budget and economy in some way. Students need to learn these adulting skills in order to be a functioning adult no matter the background that they come from. Can they make a dinner? Can they take care of their things? Now, perhaps you think that driving isn’t something to include in schools- I say “perhaps they need to at least have the classroom portion and the controlled course lessons” to ensure that they can help themselves in case of an emergency. This is the class that always makes me say “I’m glad you know calculus but can you post a letter in the mail?”

Art and Culture for Juniors:

I’m not talking about this is a flower on a cave wall. I’m thinking more along the lines of “did you know that this was stolen by the Nazi’s?” Think history through the eyes of artists. So often, we dismiss the creative mind as “not essential”. I beg to differ, it’s those creative minds that develop our richness of culture, our understanding of the beauty around us. I don’t think the question is “how do we fit art in?” but rather “how can we afford not to?”

The Current Political Climate for Seniors:

They are about to be voters you know. We might as well start them out on the right foot. What are the political issues plaguing our economy and culture right now. Who are our allies, who brings threat to the table? What is our country’s response? How do others solve the same issues? Be an informed voter!  

Tech Touches To Create Global Citizens

Technology Use and Applications across grade levels: This is a class that takes kids through the age appropriate use of technology for educational purposes. Learn where the on and off switch is, learn how to film a movie. Let’s face it, kids are going to be exposed to computers. We better start teaching them how to use them like a tool so that they don’t start getting used by those very computers!

Barriers to global citizenship

A couple of other things that come to mind is the fact that there are many students who are quality athletes on private teams (dance, gymnastics, swim, crossfit, to name a few) who do not get any credit for their time, dedication and effort. Why are these kids not getting PE and health credit for this? Some will say that there is no way to monitor this. Sometimes, you’ve got to believe in these kids and give them the credit where credit is due.

While we are on the topic, why do bilingual children have to take a language? Really? They’ve got it, thank you! My kids were becoming fluent in Japanese when we returned to the States from many years abroad. They don’t offer Japanese, so instead of letting me buy them Rosetta Stone, they FORCED them to take Spanish! Seriously!? I requested Latin but that was only offered at another school, too bad. (Mom rant over, I promise! )

The Verdict…

Now, I know you may agree or disagree with some of these classes. I get it. You may have your own idea about what kids should and shouldn’t be learning in order to give kids a boost up and be considered global citizens. That’s exactly what the STEM people thought. This is merely my opinion. But let me say this: I spend most of my waking hours with these kids and I meet a lot of people around the world who do the same. It’s time we made some serious changes to empower our future to be more prepared than we ever were. So, magic education genie, if your out there, can we chat? There’s a lot of future global citizens who need you.

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