Global thinking in schools

Published 10:24 am Wednesday, July 16, 2014

by Alyssa Nierman

The state of being globally minded or having the ability to adapt is, unfortunately, not something with which we are born.

It is a learned trait. As someone with experience both as the student and the teacher at a small, private school, I understand just how crucial it is that a teacher encourages that this particular trait be learned.

As my mother, who is also an educator, enjoys saying, “Teachers are molders of young minds. Without knowing so, teachers create an army of miniature versions of themselves.”

With this, I wholeheartedly agree. As a teacher, it is my job to ensure that I am instilling a thirst for the world in each one of my students.

If a student is left wanting to know more about something, regardless of the topic, it sets off some sort of passion.

This passion radiates throughout the entire body, if encouraged to do so. If a student is left feeling unsupported or uninspired, this passion dies. Thus, my duty as a teacher is to enthusiastically provide an ignition to their spark and also, the guidance for them to discover the answers in which they are seeking.

As a teacher, I have worked steadily toward fulfilling my duty. As an example, my world geography class was the first class in school history to be involved with the People to People International Classroom Program.

My eighth- graders were thrilled to be partnered with a class from Ukraine. They exchanged hand-written letters, which not only allowed them to reacquaint themselves with the ancient art of penmanship (woe is me!) but also allowed them to absorb quite a bit of Ukrainian culture, as well.

When I realized that my class was entirely unaware of the atrocities of the Second Sudanese Civil War, I invited a “Lost Boy” of Sudan (Outreach Africa: Lost Boys Foundation) to speak to the students of our Middle and Upper School. My students’ questions ranged from the raw, heart- wrenching (“What happened to the babies who had to travel across Sudan?”) to the less serious (“What do you think about Walmart?”)

Within the United States education system as a whole, an urgent need exists for students to become more globally minded. Though many teachers regularly confirm this idea without hesitation, few follow through with confirming action.

A globally minded teacher nurtures (no, expects) global understanding and respect from his or her students and works toward creating global minded adults.

Global mindedness, both within children and adults, requires compassion, empathy, and emotional intelligence. It expects that one will aim to respect the uniqueness and value of everyone.

It is vital to develop a firm, unprejudiced grasp of culture and identity. Diversity should always be considered an asset. However, let it be noted that just as important as embracing difference is talking about commonalities.

Regardless of a person’s skin color, spirituality, sexual preference, dress, diet, or customs: humans are humans. We all breathe, we all laugh, we all cry.

The moment that one stops teaching what is wrong or right by individual standards and begins teaching what is wrong and right by human standards is the moment in which one has matured into a globally minded human.

Alyssa Nierman is a middle school English teacher at Isle of Wight Academy. She lives in Suffolk and can be contacted at