Ivy Prep’s last post described the perspective of Harvard Education Professor Fernando Reimers, who develops global education curricula that focus on a child’s knowledge of the world, the skills they need to become a global citizen, and the effect they can have on the world if they are educated as global citizens.
As the world becomes more interconnected and interdependent, it’s important for educators and parents to impart to children as much global awareness and education as possible. Knowledge, skill, and effectiveness about the world are now as important as being able to read, write, and do arithmetic. Professor Reimers and other educators stress the role teachers and parents can play in guiding children to process an array of information so that they can evaluate and appreciate others while also forming their own world views.
IT ALL STARTS IN PRE-SCHOOL
Acquiring global knowledge is a developmental process that starts in pre-school. Parents are the best and obvious role models and guides for their children because they know them best and are most attuned to their intellectual and emotional growth.
Nancy Schulman (Head of Early Learning Center at Avenues) and Ellen Birnbaum (Director, 92nd St. Y Nursery School) co-authored Practical Wisdom for Parents, in which their chapter “Developing Morals and Ethics in Children” reminds us of the ancient saying carpe diem: “When you see an opportunity to teach good behavior, you should ‘catch’ your child in the moment. Don’t wait until later.”
Schulman & Birnbaum suggest acknowledging and reinforcing your child’s behavior when he or she does something good, but also holding him/her accountable in a loving way during less pleasant moments on their part. Such teachable moments leads children to establish a code of ethics they can use over time to frame the knowledge Reimers speaks of, and that is taught in a theoretical way at school.
Taking advantage of teachable moments also enhances children’s ever-developing nervous systems–thinking critically so that they can extrapolate from their personal experiences (e.g., moments on the playground) to more abstract ideas (e.g., news about wars, conflicts, resolutions, etc.). Being globally minded and aware enhances a child’s cognitive development and gives that child a chance to think for themselves, an important skill to hone as we navigate through our own lives.
Small learning moments add up and help children evaluate larger-scale issues, in response to which they might contact local, national, or international agencies to let their voices be heard. Assistant Director of Queens Paideia School Karyn Slutsky says cultivating global awareness is “a multifaceted approach … that seeds our students to notice and consider more of what is around them, on the local level and more expansively, and also what is inside them.”
I often talk with parents about the importance of letting children form their own opinions while also providing knowledge and modeling behavior that Reimers, Slutsky, Schulman, and Birnbaum describe so well. Setting examples through our own actions (I am a mother as well) and being open to learning about others, while staying true to your own moral compass, are seeds parents can plant to help their child become a world citizen.
TEACHABLE MOMENTS AROUND EVERY CORNER
Let’s consider how we can seize the day in assisting our children in comprehending what’s happening around them and in the world. The objective here is to educate our children about current events and model respectful modes of evaluating and communicating our values to others. Through these, we can guide our children in developing critical thinking skills and behaviors that enable them to have and act on a broader perspective.
Where I live in New York there is a teachable moment around every corner. You can take your daughter to a peaceful rally at the UN to support a cause in which you believe. After all, as Reimers notes, Martin Luther King was greatly influenced by the nonviolent and practical ways Mahatma Ghandi used to advance his cause.
Communicating your beliefs in a community of others can take place in front of the UN or by writing a letter to your congress(wo)man about a cause that resonates with you and your child. It also gives your child a peek into the democratic process and a sense of control at a time when the news and images of conflict can be overwhelming and disturbing.
Similarly, learning a foreign language can help your child better relate to and communicate with others. You could supplement language learning by watching a foreign film together. Take the classic Red Balloon: What is your child’s reaction to Lamorisse’s depiction of Pascal and his red balloon? What does your child think about the solace Pascal finds in his balloon and the hurt he feels at his peers’ cruelty? What does the film suggest about frailty and strength? What might your child advise Pascal to do in this situation? How do you stand up for yourself or others in an effective but nonviolent way? What messages in this 1950s film, spoken or implied, still hold today and are universal?
Other fun teachable moments are just a few subway stops away. Head downtown to Little Italy or Chinatown, or to Queens via the #7, to see how the people who live there respond to your attempts at using their language. Your kids will see how other fellow New Yorkers speak about things and make sense of the world. What is the tone of voice and body language that children and parents in different communities use? How do they convey their messages to one another?
Exposing children to foreign lands and new, different perspectives augments their intelligence and empathy skills. After all, we are not just educating them for the sake of acquiring knowledge but so that they can do something with that knowledge to make the world a better place.