How do we build school communities that develop the knowledge and competencies that are essential for living and learning in a globally connected world?
“With increasing diversity and difference in today’s education, schools now more than ever constitute a microcosm of our larger society”. (Evans, Montemurro, Gambhir). Hence responsibility of a school community towards development of global mind-set. A globally connected world requires a mind that is progressively moving towards a global mind-set.
Ranker (2018) “It is the ability to step outside one’s base culture and to understand there is no universally correct way to do things”. In others words, everyone is right.
Keeping this at the heart, how do we them function as a community in a school, where everyone opines differently? It would require effort to cultivate some values and systems for the same. When I say values, I am taking it as a sum total of attitudes, skills and approaches to be developed. I am also suggesting some systems that can be used to develop each value.
Getting started with mindfulness (2018) states, “Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others”.
Keeping mindfulness as the core value to be practiced in a school itself would lead to developing related values required such as Open mindedness, respect and empathy. For when we do not judge, we respect and empathize with others.
Several schools in India have ‘moments of mindfulness’ embedded during the day. A bell rings and everyone pauses to take some deep breaths. Over the time it becomes a natural habit.
“Make mindfulness a part of classroom learning by integrating it into curriculum-themed activities through exercises in breathing, sensory experience, guided imagery, and movement” (Shardlow, 2015).
Community service within the school or communities around is another great way to develop empathy. Reminds me of an Australian student talking to a villager as they worked side by side to build a kitchen in the village school. They did not understand a word of what each said, but their affection for each other was evident and a lesson for adults.
Classroom Teaching framework
If school is the microcosm of the society, then classroom teaching is the microcosm of the school. Classroom teaching needs to be completely in a framework of skills and attitudes of learning. The focus of classroom teaching needs to be building the intelligence to live life with clarity. Syllabus provides the content, the knowledge.
“Intelligence uses knowledge, intelligence being the capacity to think clearly, objectively, sanely, healthily”, (Krishnamurti).
Several frameworks are available to ensure that the classroom approaches are inclusive of development of skills. The chief focus of all systems must be, “Global citizenship education refers to a pedagogical approach that fosters K to 12 students’ inquiry skills and their ability to be agents of social change”, (Evans, Montemurro, Gambhir, & Broad)
Value: Risk taking is defined by Ranker (2018) as “Letting go of the fear that comes from stepping out of what is known, letting go of an ethnocentric attitude to adopt a more inclusive mind-set, a learning mind-set.”. A school that wishes to develop a global mind-set must have global citizens in it as a crucible to develop the capacity of stepping out of one’s own zone.
When I applied to work at my first IB school, I came from national curriculum in India. I did not expect to be accepted. When I asked the school director why she accepted me, her response was, “You are from a Krishnamurti school. People from there are very vocal about their thoughts. I want a mix of individuals in my school”.
National and international cultural mix of teachers bring their own energy in a school. As we work, play, live together we grow. I was fascinated by the levels of collaboration that experienced with the international fraternity. They were fascinated by some of our features.
I had in my class once students who spoke English, Hindi and Korean. I had to develop creative ways and means of ensuring that everyone learnt the material without losing my calmness! It was hard but developed immense creativity in my work. “…vibrant diversity provides abundant opportunity to explore global issues and realities within typical classrooms”, (Evans, Montemurro, Gambhir, & Broad).
To be open to others is a lifelong process. One needs to keep growing as an individual. Considering the Corona crises today, the most important aspect that we need is to be able to face the uncertainty of modern time. I do not know if the way the world is today; it will be tomorrow too. For me, lifelong learning is about building adaptive expertise, that is “An expertise that is adaptable and open to be challenged. This is developed when one gets used to rethinking what one knows, allows oneself to be challenged and drop old views”, (Bransford).
Everything in our curriculum and professional development points to it. If we keep the focus of each microcosm of school life as a space where the views are challenged in order to develop an independent approach to life, in my opinion school has done its job.
“Classroom strategies, curriculum, and resources need to focus on the building of community, the valuing of diversity, and the inclusion of an international perspective”, ((Evans, Montemurro, Gambhir, & Broad).
There are several communities such as teaching and non-teaching staff, students, parents and stake holders. Bringing all of them together is a part of community development. Too easy is for one part of community to blame the other. But if individuals learn to sit around a table and talk and get onto the ground and play, communities can be built up. Schools events are a great way to do so.
Recently I started tracking the food I eat. I want to know what is going in my body and its effect. However, unless I have a framework that tells me the optimum nutrients that my body needs, tracking is quite aimless. Education communities also requires the same in order to continuously reflect over one’s progress in life to know where one is in comparison with where one is going. One needs indicators of success and growth points. “In combination with professional development and curricular resources, global competence indicators support teachers in creating classrooms that are open to the world” (Education).
Education, V. I. F. I. (n.d.) has given a framework “…as part of its Global Gateway system: Understanding, Investigating, Connecting, and Integrating. For each grade-level pair of indicators, checklists are provided to support integration into everyday classroom practice”.