Are international schools investing in interconnectedness?

A messy post with ideas that needed to come out!

Are we really preparing students for the future?

Going back to the series I just co-created with Anil Friedman on Emotional Intelligence, we know that Emotional Intelligence is increasingly important and more than IQ! Also, Michio Kaku describes that the jobs of the future will be the ones that the robots cannot do.

I think it is important to be aware of our big WHY as educators and our “so what”? All we do is preparing students for today and tomorrow and we need to have some idea of what the future might hold. For example, while we know that there is a lot of high tech (machine learning / Artificial Intelligence….) that will replace some human jobs and tasks, we also know that the abilities of robots and other high tech are limited and what the most human characteristics, like emotional intelligence, will be even more important. We need to ask ourselves the question: Are we preparing our learners with the skills they will need? The habits of mind and transdisciplinary skills are actually even more important than the knowledge content (that can be found online! But critical thinking is essential to navigate the world of fake news and manipulation).

I like the book Leading Modern Learning by McTighe & Curtis as they integrate “21st century” that they prefer to call “the modern world” as the key condition to embrace in our school’s vision. While we don’t know what the future will look like, we need to envision it (not predict it) and adopt a future-forward mindset (and action-set) to prepare the students for the unknown. The international schools, I think, are aware of this and promote interconnectedness and a future-ready mindset but we can sometimes get bogged down with practicalities and stay in the comfort of our habits (teaching the way we were taught for example).

Lynn Erickson also share a few simple tips with parents on embracing the modern world:

In a subtle way, she describes that the concept-based curriculum really promotes connections and learning transfer. I also believe that using an inquiry-based approach allow student to make meaning, exercise their agency and autonomy and ultimately take action (at the level of shifting their mindset and making new connection or actions that are practical).

I am a strong believer that education/schooling needs to have to do with LEARNING (it’s so funny to have to actually make this a point…) and not compliance/obedience/’the game of school’.

So for me, international schools will prepare students for the interconnected world when they teach conceptually (by uncovering big ideas and going deep), integrating transdisciplinary skills and reflection and allowing student to take action.

Commonalities in international schools’ approach to Intercultural learning/Global Citizenship

Oftentimes, the surface-level ‘Global Citizenship’ aspects in international schools can be represented by: the nationalities and languages represented within the students and faculty body, the celebrations and events such as “Food fairs”, “MUN”, Field trips, service trip/actions or ‘service learning’ projects (often showcased in social media). Beyond that, some schools engage in projects that connect themselves with others at a deeper level, for example, with projects such as the Traveling teddy, Mystery Skypes, experts on skype, global pen pals… and inter/transdisciplinary units.

Personally, I would like to see less fundraising and more “giftivism” in international schools.

In his TedX Talk,  Mehta (2012) talks about giftivism, which is: “the practice of radically generous acts that change the world.” He also develops the concept of  unleashing our “generosity capital.”

He guides us to understand 4 shifts within ourselves in order to impact the world positively, through the practicing generosity:

  • A shift from consumption to contribution were we appreciate what we received and, in through this awareness, we feet grateful and help forward.
  • A shift from transaction to trust were we stop focusing on what we can get and start relying on the power of interconnectedness.
  • A shift from isolation to community were we understand that the way we connect changes the manifestation of the end product and therefore, we start cultivating deeper ties.
  • A shift from scarcity to abundance were we understand we have enough for our needs and discover what we can contribute and experience gratitude.

In other words, being a giftivist is to be driven by our inner desire to behave selflessly, to understand that there is more value than money or external recognition, that creating synergy and bonds with other humans is priceless and encourages us to want to give rather than ‘get’. Mehta also mentions that, through this attitude, we realize that we should not judge others but rather, tap into their inner transformational powers. If we make that inner change ourselves, we are very likely to impact the outer world positively.

I believe that international schools need to declutter their events, take a mindful pause to examine what matters most: showing good-looking programmes and events OR structuring their school intentionally to live and breathe their core values?

At a time where the culture of busy is at its highest, we need to have the courage to slow down, to do less and be more aware. We can engage students in less projects with more meaning and more opportunities for connections and reflection. I would like to see learners and leaders develop a “glocal” mindset and feel in control of the impact they can make.

Take a mindful pause

We need to challenge assumptions. “Integration” mindset, “tolerance” or “acceptance” are not enough, we want to actively engage and not passively observe.

We also need to keep up with students who are likely to be more open than us as they are immersed in discovering themselves while adults might be a little more stuck. We need to make time for self-discovery. Mindful (not mind-full) moments where we get to know who we are, our identity and values and reveal + elevate our strengths, unique dispositions to finally drive our own learning through a conceptual approach. It starts from within and then travels beyond. Referencing the Focus by  Daniel Goleman, we need to start from our inner-focus to our focus on others (here, students) and finally our focus outside (outer-focus: other people, schools around us, the internet/ the world).

Beyond Food, Flags and Festivals  

It’s easy to put this intercultural competence in the box of “food, flags, festivals”. Often, all international school have similar “ideas” of what diversity looks like and show it in stereotypical ways.

I believe that true intercultural competence is invisible because when we integrate, we adopt new habits, we shift perspective, we do things automatically.

Of course, we need to reflect and share what we think and do in ways that are visible but the true competence comes from a deep inner beliefs of being invitational.

It’s less about what we say or do, it’s more about how we feel and make others feel.

What needs to happen in schools to develop intercultural competence in administrators, teachers and students?

In the lights of the recent outcry in the US and globally about the murders of George Flyod, the #BlackLivesMatter movement gained visibility and created a ripple effect in raising collective awareness against racism. As a white woman, I have been following from a distance, frequently discussing the topics with friends and finding many perspectives, sometimes conflicting ones, sometimes converging ones. It’s been a learning journey to open up to a topic that was (is?) taboo in my home country – France – where assimilation was hidden behind the illusion of ‘color-blindness’. I have seen structural racism in international schools with the recruitment and visa policies. As a general mindset and action-set for all international schools, it’s time to wake up and invest in reimagining the key concept of justice as this conversation goes further than Global Citizenship, interculturality or international-mindedness.

There need to be an investment in identifying our biases, our blind spots, reveal them and acknowledge them and finally move forward by shifting mindset and “action-set” to create space for more authenticity, to realign to our inner beliefs.

“Ethnocentrism is the most common traits of humans” as Levi-Strauss studied in The Savage Mind and Race and History.

We need to refine ourselves or sometimes build new beliefs and then have to walk the talk.

Leaders have to model this. Teachers need to engage in deep generative dialogues (internally and with their colleagues) and incorporate the concepts of justice and racism vs anti-racism into their teaching through invitation to learning/provocations, designing deep inquiry unit where students can ask questions and take action. All experiences need to support everyone in challenging assumptions, examining essential questions (such as who we are and what makes us humane) and listen to all perspectives from the heart with the intention to understand and together, learn and refine what it really means to be interconnected.

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