Global Education Orientations: Establishing Goals for Educating through Our Hearts, Heads and Hands

Jennifer D. Klein

I don’t remember how old I was when I first read the poem “Prologue,” by Nigerian author Odia Ofeimun, but over time his words have changed the way I think about global education:

I have come down
to tell my story
by the same fireside
around which
my people are gathered
I have come home
to feel for ears and hearts and
to rise with me
when I say the words
of my mouth
And I must tell my story
to nudge and awaken them
that sleep
among my people.

I take two key lessons from the words of the poet which I believe we can apply in our classrooms and schoolhouses.  First, we are made as humans to gather around the fireside, to share our stories and ourselves, and the classroom should engage and tap into the potential those stories and shared experiences contain.  Second, we can wake others up and create the most positive change from our classrooms when we use those stories to engage the head (intellectual understanding), the heart (emotional-social learning) and the hands (opportunities for action).

As we begin the new school year in the northern hemisphere, and hit the challenging middle of the year in the south, I hope that educators around the planet are finding ways to bring the world into their classrooms in real and authentic ways.  I am sharing a framework for developing global education orientations, whether within one classroom, division, or an entire school.  I believe that if we frame our work as educators in these terms, we can bring our communities significantly closer to an authentic and equitable global education that benefits students from all parts of the globe.

I developed these global education orientations in late 2017 as part of a workshop for the NAIS People of Color Conference on connecting the work of diversity leaders, global education leaders, and the curricular work of teachers.  I encourage educators to reframe them as “How might we…“ questions for conversation in faculty meetings, as goals for professional development work, and as educational objectives for students where they fit most relevantly and authentically into the curriculum.  As a head of school, these goals guide my strategic planning, as well as offering language for framing mission and goal statements.

I believe it is essential to engage students in this way because we can only nurture the growth of the whole child when we engage their minds, hearts and hands—and because I believe that educating this way makes our classrooms as powerful as any NGO trying to improve the human condition on this planet.

For more global education resources, see my book, The Global Education Guidebook and its associated online resources.

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