Saturday, February 9, 2013

Becoming Internationally Minded

Image from Morguefiles

This is my first Saturday in a while where I haven't been presenting or attending learning workshops. This post is going to reflect on the last workshop I attended last weekend which was an in-school workshop on International Mindedness, one of the 5 common elements through the IB programmes.

The IB mission statement is a three sentence statement, which although it doesn't specifically state International Mindedness it implies it through phrases such as "intercultural understanding and respect", "understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right." The term 'internationally minded' is constantly mentioned through all the IB standards and practices, and embedding it onto the school ethos and practice is a requirement for being an IB school.

The workshop was two days of deep and reflective thought on what it means to be internationally minded and how this can be transferred into our teaching practice.

We first explored our understandings of being internationally minded. Some of the phrases that were discussed included being altruistic, having a world view, a curiosity of others lives and acceptance of these lives. An 'empathetic flowering' is have an inclination and empathetic transaction to include everyone - including those in power (such as school leaders). To be internationally minded is to be open minded to have an anticipation and awareness of stereotyping. There are many degrees of open mindedness.

We discussed that internationally minded is not restricted to cultural diversity. In one the groups I worked with we thought that the international mindedness tag was misleading, that we should focus on being mindful. To educate for 'mindfulness' was the aim. This would cover all differences in our world, not just cultural. The 5 f's of international mindedness - flags, food, fashion, festivals, famous people has come from a shallow representation of the word 'international', but the word is bigger than this.

In the workshop we explored the influence of culture on our students and how this leads to a certain type of thinking. They are influenced from their peers, media, advertising, general conceptions, government propaganda, google searches and so on. What are the messages we are receiving? We specifically looked at gender in one of the break out groups and learned of the  Bechadel test for women in the movies. The same test has been applied for race, and gender preference. This is a useful test as it shows trends in how women, races and gender preferences are not only represented in media, but also how they are portrayed. This was an eye opening conversation for me as I hadn't really thought about it before.  (Interestingly the next week i had a quick look through the sports magazines - only one female sports person on the cover of over 50 magazines,  and she was in a group of men. Food for thought...)

Discussion around the term "Global Citizenship" ensued and whether this would be a better term. Was it as encompassing as "Internationally Mindedness" or did it too have its limitations in our own experiences and schema? The baseline we wanted ourselves and students to achieve was to consider multiple perspectives, have empathy and a willingness to take action. We need to support and model to avoid  the single story. We need to look at issues, not just problems. To think globally but act locally allows students to have a sense of achievement to do more. The IB has a page called Global Engage for students  and educators to facilitate conversation around these issues and concepts.

We also considered the word 'THEY' and how it is used. Who are THEY, what do THEY do and how we make THEM more powerful or fearful or troublesome. Take care in how you use it, they is a powerful word.

A new word and philosophy I learned was ubuntu. A term which means "I am what I am because of who we all are." My humanity is inexplicably intertwined with yours. What a powerful and affirming all encompassing term.

The role of language was also discussed in terms of communication and how we are all teachers of language. Mark Pagel and Stephen Pinker were both mentioned and I was enthused to know more. I was piqued by Pagels opening phrase - we all possess "the most powerful, dangerous and subversive trait that natural selection has ever devised. It’s a piece of neural audio technology for rewiring other people’s minds. I’m talking about your language.” (Mark Pagel) Do watch the videos linked, powerful stuff.

We revisited the learner profile and how it contributes to being internationally minded. One of the readings we had a chance to look at was Irene Davy's IB Position paper "Learners without Borders" 2005. Davy says  "The attributes of the profile are the habits of mind that allow students to act in meaningful ways (Davy, 2005). The  Learner Profile is not a list. It’s a whole school vision.  (Edna Sackson 2012).  We explored the learner profile as it is embedded across our school using the IB standards and practices as a guide of where it should be embedded, and of course we needed more time to do it in depth. There was also a discussion of how the Learner profile is a 'western' view of what makes up a well rounded person. More food for thought.

There was also a deep thinking discussion on the words 'tolerate' and 'acceptance' and how they can have different actions. If I tolerate a culture that does not value human rights, is that acceptance? If I accept there is a mode of government that tortures and kills its own citizens, and tolerate it, am I condoning the behaviour?

At the end of the two days we brought our learning journey to a close with more work to be done in so many areas to create a truly internationally minded school. As a collective staff I believe we moved from a superficial understanding that being Internationally Minded was about teaching about cultures and other lands to an understanding of internationally minded being all encompassing of empathy, humanity, perspectives and a way of being.

Thanks to the workshops leaders who prepared and presented the workshop.

PS. An online tool that we used through the workshop was Edcanvas. I hadn't used it before, and I am sure we didn't use it to its full potential during the workshop, so I have another tool to investigate further.

My learning journal for this workshop:

What did I learn?
Mindfulness is all encompassing & embracing.
The philosophy of the word Ubuntu and how it implies what we need to strive to be.
The use of the word 'They' and how it is used to imply meaning and fear.
About the Bechadel test and how many different parts of our society are portrayed through popular culture

What did I already know about
How the learner profiles are an essential element in an IB school that need to be incorporated across the board, and are not just for the students, it was great to apply it to our school along with the Standards and practices.

Questions/ thinking?
The learner profile - is it truly international in the full sense of the word?
The words tolerate and accepting, what do they really mean and is there a better term?

New ideas?
Language is way more powerful than I had previously thought. I need to be more mindful of my use of it.

What do I want to know more about?
Stephen Pinker and Mark Pagel's work into language & communication

Something to tell others?
Ubuntu  - the interconnectedness of humanity
The Bechadel test

What will I implement in my practice? 
I will think about my language and how I use it to communicate.
Actively seeking different points of view and encouraging and providing students with resources that have more than one perspective.
Be aware of how I use the word 'they'.

1 comment:

hktans said...

Thanks for sharing. We ran a one day workshop in October and lots of great thinking and questions were happening. Unfortunately I was coordinating and running around organising logistics so did not have as much time as I would have liked to personally reflect. Am preparing documents for EVal and have loved reading your thought on Internationalism.Gong Xi Fa Cai!