The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize is a $1 million award presented annually to an individual that has made a major contribution to education. This prize vets and rewards teachers around the world, with the foundational belief that educators should be recognized, highlighted, and celebrated for the work that they do for the profession.
When I think of a globe, I think of the dusty sphere that sat on a cabinet in my elementary classrooms when I was a child. I always saw this sphere from afar. I barely knew what it was comprised of. I didn’t know why it was mounted at an angle or why parts of it were bumpy. I only knew that it was a representation of the world in which I live. I would have loved to fix my hands around the spherical object and for my teacher to guide me in the exploration of its contents. My curiosity about that dusty globe is what I see in children today.
A global society is a connection among humans around the world. It is a sense of community. It is a system of networks and worldly relations. Too often, we are unsure of the boundaries that exist between societies and are discouraged or unwilling to cross them. Educators can help eliminate the uncertainty, encourage global awareness, and satisfy students’ curiosity. Obtaining the proper content knowledge, fostering creativity, and providing structure and support for learners can help guide them through the learning process.
With rural west Tennessee being my home, the Gulf of Mexico being as far south as I have traveled, Chicago being as far north, and having never stepped foot out west, I find it a bit unimaginable and extremely ambitious to attempt teaching students about the world as a whole. I feel confident in my ability, as a leader, to teach students everything they need to know about an individual society, such as the country, state, or community in which they live. How to form a global society remains a question to some, and I often search for the answer myself. While many practices, such as travel programs, allow opportunities for students to reach out in a global society, they are not all tailored to fit elementary grade levels. There are many resources and practices available to help teachers build awareness in their classroom.
Teaching students about our global community through a curriculum is one practice that I can identify with as a leader in my own elementary classroom. States within the United States, such as Tennessee, have revamped their previous standards into standards that provide rigorous instruction, critical thinking, and more complex text that increase student global awareness. The third grade Tennessee social studies standards cover the geography of the world. They include analyzing the globe, locating major countries, continents, and oceans, and identifying physical features of the world. I have been able to teach in themes, such as global poverty, global advocacy, and global citizenship. The standards themselves have added to my level of confidence in my ability to be a teacher leader in a global society.
There are many websites available with a plethora of lesson plans, videos, activities, and online text. The two sites, World's Largest Lesson and Newsela, help me build global awareness in my classroom. I use these resources to teach students about classrooms around the world, problems our world faces, and all sorts of news events from across the globe. A global collaboration website called iEARN allows students to learn through global projects and learning circles with participants in 140 countries. This year, the students in my class participated in a project that required them to research and discuss the causes of hunger in the world and brainstorm ways to solve the global issue. Each of these sites help me supplement the curriculum which I teach and meet a number of the state standards.
With technology growing rapidly, teachers are always hunting for ways to make it part of their daily practice. Skype can be used to connect classrooms with other classrooms, authors, and experts from around the world. It is a free service that allows classrooms to interact with others through video chat. Another way to connect classrooms is by assigning students to e-pals at other schools. Epals is a platform where students can make meaningful connections with other learners. Teachers can even assign students to online projects to work on with their e-pals. Merging these two forms of 21st-century communication can open up doors in our global society and break down global barriers in education, as well as address the standards that many United States classrooms teach.
Students have the world at their fingertips, and yet seem so detached from it. Barriers must be broken, and teacher leaders must be more transparent so that fellow teachers and students are active members of a global society. This begins with teachers removing the globe from the shelf and wiping away the dust that lies upon the surface.
Hayley teaches 3rd grade at West Chester Elementary School. She has been teaching with the Chester County School System for 4 years. Hayley is presently serving as a teacher leader/data coach in her school. She is also a member of the district writing team. She has led PLCs within her district and has attended focus groups concentrating on supporting Tennessee educators. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Memphis. She is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.