We close our week-long celebration of International Education week with a blog post from teacher Kellie Blair-Hardt. Kellie visited Brazil this past summer to learn about their educational system as part of a year-long fellowship focused on global learning and integrating global competencies into the classroom.
Read how her experience has impacted her classroom:
This school year began with many different changes for me. I relocated to another school system in a different school, and the career transition has been difficult. Though I have been an educator for 13 years, at times I feel like a beginning teacher when it comes to learning how to do things all over again, according to the regulations of a different system.
My new students are very different from the students I taught previously in my old school. They are the same type of students (meaning special education, ED and LD), but their backgrounds are more diverse and they live in a community of extremely low social and economic status. Though I was not out of the country, and only half an hour away from the school where I used to teach, I still started the year in culture shock—much like the culture shock I experienced while in Brazil. This type of shock is different than that caused by the language barrier I experienced while in Brazil. This shock was similar to other experiences in Brazil when, along with the other Fellows, I traveled to different schools, passed very poor neighborhoods, and saw children living in severely poor conditions.
As I began my year, one of my new students said, “My parents Googled you and told me that you are like one of the top educators in the nation.” I replied by saying I have been recognized on a few occasions for my teaching. The student continued, “Well, why did you choose to teach here? I mean, we’re so ghetto. You could probably teach anywhere you wanted.” I thought for a few seconds on how to respond to his question, and then it hit me. This student’s inquiry about why I chose to teach at his school gave me the opportunity to share my experience of the education system and social economic status of Brazil and how Brazilian students are compared to them.
My new students became more intrigued about my global education experience in Brazil, so I began to incorporate global competencies in my lesson plans. This year I am teaching math, not science as I did in my former school. So naturally, I started teaching numbers in Portuguese. I started with 1-10, and had my students make flash cards of the number and how to pronounce it in Portuguese. For warm-ups every day, students read their math problem answers in Portuguese. The more my students got correct answers, the more I dedicated class time to tell them of my trip to Brazil.
I began to share my Rosetta Stone blog posts and more pics from the other Fellows. I then slowly introduced more numbers in Portuguese as their interest in another culture peaked. By the end of October, my students could count in Portuguese from 1-100. As their interest in what I learned in Brazil peaked, I decided that even though I teach math, I would dedicate class time to keep introducing global competency by facilitating classroom discussions of “us” (American teenagers and schooling) and our differences with “them” (Brazilian teenagers and schooling). I plan to continue these classroom discussions by slowly introducing other countries and cultures as well. I know that, in time, I can design mini global competency lessons within my math concepts that will engage students by not only learning more about Brazil, but also by developing interest in other countries in relation to ours.
I wholeheartedly agree that the opportunity that I’ve had to learn about global education should be one that more educators are exposed to. As you can see from my story above, this experience has simply shifted the frame of mind of my students; and this is just a small victory. The more educators are able to participate and BE ENGAGED in global education, the greater the likelihood that differentiated lessons plans can be collaboratively developed to engage students across all content areas so they gain greater awareness of their education in a global context.
You can read more blog posts from Kellie, and from the other four educators who participated in the program, at our Beyond the Classroom site.