THE BLOG
03/06/2014 01:43 pm ET Updated May 06, 2014

Creating a Global Classroom

By the time today's toddlers join the workforce, the ability to work globally and cross-culturally will be mandatory -- not just the "nice to have" it was years ago. But are our teachers prepared to help raise global children?

While it's important for parents to help prepare their children for the global marketplace, educators play an equally important role in developing cross-cultural competency and knowledge. Teachers with global perspectives can help foster increased cultural understanding and support more young people to think, act and live as global citizens. All teachers should be properly trained and prepared to teach all subjects through a global lens, not just social studies and language, in order to help prepare students to compete and thrive in the global marketplace.

According to Global Teacher Education, a globally competent teacher is one "who possesses the competencies, attitudes, and habits of mind necessary for successful cross-cultural engagement at home and abroad." Globally competent teachers demonstrate the following characteristics and guide their students to do the same:
  1. Investigate the world beyond their immediate environment, framing significant problems and conducting well-crafted and age-appropriate research;
  2. Recognize perspectives, others' and their own, articulating and explaining such perspectives thoughtfully and respectfully;
  3. Communicate ideas effectively with diverse audiences, bridging geographic, linguistic, ideological, and cultural barriers; and
  4. Take action to improve conditions, viewing themselves as players in the world and participating reflectively.

But global competence training is not part of the standard U.S. teacher training or certification process. So how do we help them? Certainly getting involved and supporting the Global Teacher Education project will be helpful. The group was established to support the internationalization of teacher preparation, and it partners with colleges of education to help more teachers become globally competent before they enter the classroom.

But what about the teachers who are already in the classroom?

Additional training and certification credits focused on global competency will certainly help, and districts should encourage teachers to pursue them. But in the meantime, teachers can start implementing some very practical steps right away. In my latest book, Raising Global Children: Ways Parents Can Help Our Children Grow Up Ready to Succeed in a Multicultural Global Economy (published by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, 2013), readers learn how developing a global mindset is the first step - and it's relevant for adults as much as children. Creating a global classroom, a place that is inclusive where all children have an equal voice, doesn't have to take much extra time. Teaching materials should reflect the world's diversity, as should classroom visitors. A few examples of what a global classroom entails:
  • Encourages creative representations of the world;
  • Avoids stereotypes when selecting international images;
  • Creates games using maps and globes;
  • Plays music from a variety of cultures and take time to reflect on and discuss it;
  • Creates a global bookshelf, including books written in other languages to show how books are physically read in other countries;
  • Posts and refers to the alphabets of other world languages;
  • Introduces world languages through online sources, such as the one used by the Peace Corps;
  • Incorporates toys/items from around the world in teaching both a subject and cultural similarities and differences; and
  • Posts and frequently uses a variety of maps.
Teachers can also incorporate cultural exchange into their core curricula through virtual international exchange programs enabling students to have direct communication with kids their own age living under significantly different circumstances. Students have the opportunity to "travel" to another country without leaving their own school. The number of networks and organizations dedicated to connecting students and teachers around the world is growing. Although each organization does it a little differently, they all create an educational and cultural exchange that enriches the lives of students, teachers and administrators. Some of the many organizations include:
  • ePals provides project-based collaboration on a variety of topics and has classrooms in 200 countries and territories;
  • Environment Online is a global virtual school and network for sustainable development based in Finland;
  • Global Nomads Group delivers interactive education programs for students about global issues;
    • iEARN is a project-based site that encourages teachers and students to take part in international collaborations, as well as offers professional development courses for teachers and administrators on how to integrate global collaboration projects into the curriculum;
    • Project Explorer offers free multimedia content and lesson plans that improve students' global awareness and cross-cultural understanding; and
    • World Wise Schools, a Peace Corps Program that matches U.S. students with Peace Corps volunteers around the world with the goal of infusing global issues and 21st-century skills into the classroom.

    In addition to bringing the world into the classroom, many organizations offer creative opportunities for teacher exchanges and encounters abroad for them to then bring back to enhance their lessons inside the classroom. The following list of programs and awards are excellent opportunities for teachers to experience the cultural context of the subject or language they teach:

    Teachers for Global Classrooms Program (TGC)
    provides a professional development opportunity for middle and high school teachers from the United States to participate in a program aimed at globalizing teaching and learning in their classrooms. TGC is a program of the ECA and administered by IREX, an international nonprofit organization providing thought leadership and innovative programs to promote positive lasting change globally. The applications for TGC are available now on IREX's website. The deadline is March 11.

    Hilton Honors Teacher Treks gives teachers the opportunity to spend three weeks abroad in the summer exploring and experiencing culture firsthand, or teaching English as a Second Language in a Hilton Worldwide hotel. Applications for the 2014 grant can be found on the IIE's website. Although the deadline just passed (Feb. 26), the voting will begin soon! It is open to U.S. primary and middle school educators. Teacher Treks is sponsored by Hilton Worldwide which is inspired by its "World Peace through International Trade and Travel" philosophy and administered by the IIE.

    The Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching Program recognizes and encourages excellence in teaching in the United States and abroad. U.S. and international teachers receive grants to study at a university, observe classes, and complete a project pertaining to their field of educational inquiry during their time abroad. The program, which is sponsored by the ECA, is open to teachers from the United States and other selected countries.

    The Hanban Chinese Teacher Training Program is designed to provide trainees/teachers with systematic, professional knowledge in Chinese language teaching methods and Chinese culture promotion techniques based upon the established teaching practices of their home country. Applicants cannot be native Chinese speakers or citizens of China. The program is administered by the Ministry of China Education and Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban).

    The Instituto Cervantes was founded in 1991 by the Spanish government to teach and promote the language and culture of Spain as well as the co-official languages of Spain and Spanish-speaking countries. The Instituto Cervantes offers a comprehensive teacher training program designed to cater to the needs of teachers of Spanish as a second/foreign language in different stages of their careers.

    If we are to raise global children, we also need globally competent teachers. If you agree, share this post with a few teachers and administrators you know. Perhaps it will inspire them to pursue their own global adventure inside and outside the classroom.

    Stacie Nevadomski Berdan is the coauthor, most recently, of Raising Global Children: Ways Parents Can Help Our Children Grow Up Ready to Succeed in a Multicultural Global Economy (ACTFL, November 2013). Follow the discussion on Facebook and www.stacieberdan.com.