What is education for if not to make the world a better place? What do we need to do to understand one another? The answer lies in communication and understanding, and this is why at Chulmleigh Community College in North Devon, studying a language (French, to be precise) is a core subject.
I used to teach French and German at secondary level. Then I had children of my own. When I went back to teaching, my career had morphed into a version of itself where the people I taught had runny noses, could not stay on their seats for an entire lesson because they had too many important things to say to you/show you/sing about and because they expected to sit on the carpet to listen to you anyway, not at desks.
International Friendship Day need not be reserved for a special time slot in the calendar. Internationalism - with all of its diversity, cultural richness and opportunities for vibrant community and world connections - is intrinsically linked to our everyday existence. It is the thread which creates potential for a dynamic tapestry of multi-disciplinary learning across schools and communities. It combines our own uniqueness with an interconnection of beautiful perspectives on what it is to be human in an outward looking, forward-thinking, inclusive world.
When we help our learners to become global citizens - to see themselves as players in a universal team that plays for the world, where everybody matters, where diversity is celebrated and where there is cultural respect and understanding - we open doors to real everyday international friendship. Here, we support the development of many important skills, including empathy, curiosity, courage, confidence, tolerance and creativity, skills which are key to unlocking and unleashing present and future potential for a peaceful, unified planet. In fact, these skills were manifest in abundance during the recent Thailand cave rescues, where a whole host of people came together from across the world with a common purpose; to share expertise in order to rescue the boys and their coach who were trapped. Hope and trust led to a very successful internationally cooperative operation in which any differences were irrelevant to the combined humanity of the group.
The following ideas are not exhaustive and are merely suggestions. They may well have occurred in your school already - if so, you can no doubt supplement them to support reflection and dialogue about your school’s internationality and interculturality. I am also making mention of UNESCO’s Rethinking Education: Towards a Global Common Good here, as it is a very insightful read and certainly gave me as a teacher, learner and citizen of the world much to think about.
We need not look far to unearth international gold in our schools and communities. There will always be young people, colleagues and families with direct or indirect connections to different countries, diverse nationalities, languages and invaluable cultural stories. By embracing these naturally occurring opportunities, learners can gain international perspectives in their own local contexts and see that their worlds are interconnected. They can also learn to celebrate and embrace diversity and differences.
Thanks to @kkidsinvt and @JenWilliamsEdu for pushing me to dive back into school stuff with the #MicrosoftEdu Teaching Sustainable Development Goals course! #CelebrateMonday #TeachSDGs https://t.co/hcYx5xmWYQ via @MicrosoftEDU— Sara Holm (@SaraHolm15) August 6, 2018
While historically or traditionally, international education was perhaps more associated with cultural study trips abroad, exchanges, or with the languages department, today’s international is not abroad or confined to one particular curricular area. International is here, and there, and you, and me, and them. Our world is composed of a series of international experiences we may not recognise at first. They are in our food, where it comes from and how it arrives, they are in our shops, our art, our music, our words, our films, our books and our everyday exchanges and our friends. We are all international, but to develop an international mindset and outlook in our learners, we as teachers can contribute in our own contexts every day and everywhere. We can help our society towards a more equitable, tolerant, kind and accepting world by actively supporting our learners to develop into and to see themselves as dedicated global citizens.
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‘Immersion’ – chances are that anyone who has ever taught or studied languages will have heard this word a lot! In the realms of language education, ‘immersion’ refers to being in an environment in which only the language being learned is spoken. ‘Immersion’ in technology, meanwhile, refers to blurring reality and the digital. Through immersive technologies, it is possible to simulate the real world, and real-world situations, without the need to travel.
“To become a leader, you must first become a human being.” Confucius
I started this post just as we awaited the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize winner 2017. Nobel Peace Prize winners are leaders who, through their passion, determination and influence, fight for causes close to their own hearts - with much wider societal and global benefits. They are inspired and moved enough to insist and persist, leading a cause with fire and enthusiasm for the good of humanity. This year’s award was to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. “ICAN” – what a hugely important cause, and a great campaign name which embodies a leadership attitude: “I can”.
As the late, great Nelson Mandela once said, “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you speak to a man in his own language, it goes to his heart”. And for me, at least, there are few better ways to express just how valuable learning another language can be - by opening hearts, we open minds and by opening minds, we open doors.
We have been using Word Aware as a structured whole-school approach to promote the vocabulary development of all our children. It is primarily focussed on whole-class learning and we have found it is of particular value for those who start at a disadvantage – including children with Developmental Language Disorder, Special Educational Needs and those who speak English as an additional language. It has had such a major impact on word recognition and understanding within English, we decided to extend it to French and Spanish as an approach for learning new, contextualised vocabulary.
Here’s the thing about teachers. I think we all secretly want to be Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie Dangerous Minds (or maybe not even in the movie!). Our job is the hardest, most grueling job out there. And yes, it is rewarding – but often our influence is noted, absorbed and internalized within a student but we don’t ever get the satisfaction of being told by a student what actually made a difference (although I’m pretty sure my jokes have).
Leading language company uTalk will be marking its 25th anniversary at this year’s Bett Show, by showcasing an exciting range of multi-platform products for schools and colleges. The MFL gurus will be meeting educators at Stand E280A during the event, which will be running at the London ExCeL from 25th-28th January. Bett 2017 will also see the launch of the this year’s Junior Language Challenge.
Storytelling in the classroom can be a powerful way to support literacy. Children can be so absorbed in the tale, they are inspired to retell what they’ve heard to others, motivated to read it for themselves and encouraged to take it further and write their own parts or versions. The National Literacy Trust advocates that ‘speaking and listening skills underpin all learning’.