Global Learning Connections - What Does it Mean for Our Children and Teachers?
Global learning connections are a vital part of our students’ learning and of our teachers’ teaching in the 21st Century. In order to experience our planet through a real-world point of view, it is my belief that we can no longer only teach about other countries’ history, culture, and tradition through textbooks, pictures, and maps. Students need to better understand and empathize with other cultures in our world in order to be globally prepared for our future that has not yet come to exist.
Three years ago I had the opportunity to travel to China on a school professional development trip. Our goal was to make connections with schools for our students and staff to interact with and to encourage both to learn from each other. This experience opened my eyes to both the differences and the understandings in our cultures.
I found the people in China to be caring and concerned about how they were educating their students. It is very important in their culture to learn English and have knowledge of the United States. They are inspired by the educational system in the Western Hemisphere because it is free from the oppression they face in their own country.
The trip proved to be successful, and our elementary school became a sister school to one that we visited in China. Within a few months the principal from the school in China came to Indiana and lived with me for a few days. He learned the same from his visit that I had. We both want our students to be aware of other languages and customs, and to have an understanding that they are not living in a small radius on this planet. Our friendship and connection became strong in our shared philosophies of wanting our students to better understand the world outside of a traditional textbook.
A few months later 17 students along with one teacher and the assistant principal from China visited us once again to see how our schools function and to strengthen this great relationship that we had started. This was an amazing experience for our local Indianapolis students to actually interacted with students from China. The old saying, “Kids will be kids,” came true right before our eyes. The language barrier was not a barrier at all. Students laughed, talked, learned together, and conducted themselves as “kids”. Although it was apparent that they were learning many things about each other’s culture, they were just kids.
One year later 21 people from Indiana went to China to visit our sister school and learn more about their culture. Students ages 10-18 went along with their parents or grandparents to discover this part of the world so unknown. This trip proved to be amazing as we watched the American and Chinese students interact with one another. They sang the same songs, played clapping hand games, smiled, and laughed together without understanding each other’s languages. Our families actually lived with Chinese families for a few days to better understand their customs. It was astonishing to see all of us after only a few days of living together, attending school, and being a part of their families to see everyone crying when it was time to say goodbye.
The American students had had many misconceptions of China before actually visiting. They believed that it was a totally foreign place that was so different from America. This was quickly changed when they were finally able to see this country that they had researched and studied. The country itself may have been totally different, but the people remained the same. This bonding experience with the Chinese people created a relationship that was just beginning to blossom. This visit created a relationship between our students and families that will last for a lifetime.
This was proof that global awareness bridges a connection to the real world outside of textbooks. Students, parents, and staff will be forever changed knowing that they understand what global awareness means when they hear others talking about it. They are the pioneers who are creating a new way to learn and share their knowledge with those around them. Their entire viewpoint has changed, and this will be apparent the next time they read something about life in China, because now they have seen it first-hand. There are students who can say that they have been on the Great Wall, visited Tiananmen Square, lived with a Chinese family, attended a Chinese school, and wandered through the mountains of China. These experiences, coupled with what they learned about life in China, are the best way to learn through a global connection.
Schools that are involved with global learning connections will provide teachers and students with a richer knowledge along with a real-life experience which will provide a more globally connected future.
Sheila Estes-Corbin is the principal of a first through sixth grade elementary school. She earned her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and her Master’s in Curriculum Instruction. After her Master’s she went on to earn her Administrative Degree. Before becoming a principal, Sheila was a classroom teacher a classroom teacher and an instructional coach.