Global competency, 21st century skills, international programming

Global competency, 21st century skills, international programming–all buzz words these days for cutting edge, future-minded education. We’ve heard from members of the business community– these are the skills students need to be developing to be successful members of 21st century life. It’s all very exciting–but what does it mean for the average teacher? What does it look like in the classroom?

One amazing opportunity for creating global competency is through language immersion programming. Having spent some time as an administrative intern and as a substitute teacher in an immersion program, I realized that we can’t all be immersion teachers and that language immersion is not the right program for every student. Without question, all students can benefit from world language study, (and it’s hard for me to believe that world language study (let alone proficiency) is not a WA state graduation requirement), but not all students will be successful with immersion. So, does that mean that those students can’t experience what being part of an international school has to offer and that they won’t be able to take advantage of learning these 21st century skills?

With that in mind, I began to investigate what a classroom environment should look like in order to support global competency and awareness. I began by listing the elements I saw that promoted some kind of global awareness, although I recognized that these items may not necessitate global competency. Obviously, having these items might only be attributed to a school having a big budget for these things or a previous teacher with a passion — the presence of the items doesn’t mean that that they are being used effectively. On the other hand, the absence of these items makes it very difficult to promote global competency.

What does a classroom need to have or what should it look like in order to promote global competency? Based on observations in both international and traditional elementary and middle schools, I developed a list of “look-fors” that I set about looking for. In some cases, I discussed my findings with the principal or the classroom teachers. Some explained, that despite being interested in obtaining these items, their budget was being used for other things. In general, based on these conversations (even in International schools), there’s a belief that global competency, etc. is somewhat of a luxury and not particularly urgent. I was told that teachers at low-performing schools cannot afford to spend either time or budget on anything beyond the essentials. (I will follow up with my thoughts about that in another blog entry.)

Here is my list of Cultural Competency “look-fors” which I hope will be helpful in thinking about creating a classroom environment that encourages greater global competency. This list is certainly not exhaustive and, perhaps, not all these elements are necessary. I developed it based on my visits and observations as to what I saw in use and what seemed to be missing. It’s much easier to talk about another culture when an artifact or photograph of that culture is present. Additionally, the presence of other languages and cultures goes a long way toward making our English Language Learners feel more connected to our more multi-cultural classrooms, as they see themselves, hear and see their languages present in their classrooms. Even if their languages are not represented, they know that other cultures and languages, besides American, are welcome.

  • Maps/globes
  • Artifacts from other cultures
  • Other languages
  • Posters (e.g., multi-cultural, flags, etc.)
  • Relevant Student work
  • Explicit social studies/global focus
  • Relevant Public records
  • Relevant books displayed/easily accessible
  • Presence of students from other cultures/speakers of other languages
  • Presence of staff from other cultures/speakers of other languages
  • School-wide multi-cultural focus
  • Present in school vision/mission statement

Please comment and let me know what you think about this list of “look-fors.” What would you want to add or take out? What do you need further clarification on? What does your classroom look like?

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