01 August 2012

Connecting Globally with Students and Teachers

With Connected Educator Month beginning today, I thought this would be a good time to do some reflection on my global educational experiences this summer. When I graduated high school some 16 years ago, I never expected that some day I would represent my school as a teacher-ambassador in China and take students to five different countries in Europe as I was able to do this summer. When I joined the faculty of Mt. St. Joseph High School seven years ago, I was very excited to be teaching social studies at my alma mater and I knew I wanted global education to become central to my teaching. In the years since I have made many efforts to expand global education at St. Joe through innovative classroom instruction, organizing student trips to Europe and Japan, and becoming involved in the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA) program which sent me to China this summer.

My first overseas adventure this summer involved myself and 48 other (30 of which were students) from my school visiting the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany in a tour that took us to the "Battlefields of Europe" as well as many of its most beautiful towns and cities. It was an amazing two weeks of historical ad cultural exploration that our students will never forget. I began leading student tours in 2008 and I feel it is a critical part of expanding student's exposure to the world around them. Not all teachers and students can do this, but the more who do we will all benefit for this. Also, the connections and contacts made on such tours allow me to bring people from around their world into my regular classroom through writings, discussions and video chats.

I was fortunate enough to be selected with a group of 20 other teachers from across the United States to participate in the NCTA residential study program at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China for two weeks in July. During the program we studies Chinese history, language, culture, economic development, and current issues. We also were lucky enough to visit schools, businesses, farms and factories where we could see the Chinese system at work. Through these experiences, which included observing young Chinese students learning English and viewing in awe as over 100 high-rise buildings being constructed at once, I realized that, despite many problems to overcome, China is preparing for the 21st century and we need to be doing the same.

I will be sharing my experience this summer with my students when I return to MSJ in the fall. I hope that we can expand this with more extensive and meaningful experiences such as Chinese language instruction and student exchanges with schools in China. I have already made plans for a student tour to China in the summer of 2014. The future of the world will be greatly influenced by the rise of China and I hope that we can be ready for it. By becoming connected global educators and students I think we can prepare for the new world evolving around us.

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