International Learning the Small World - Steve Barkley

International Learning the Small World

I’ve just returned from an international two weeks.

I began attending and presenting at the European Council of International Schools. My two day preconference was on coaching and mentoring skills and involved participants from at least 10 different countries and several continents. I also had two breakout sessions dealing with Teacher Collegiality and Student Effort. After a workshop, I meet a teacher who lives in my local community in Pennsylvania! I was impressed throughout the conference with the dedication of teachers and administrators to the ideals of international schools that prepare students academically and culturally to be citizens of the world.

Steve with Sir Ranulph Fiennes- Explorer with his book

I left Nice and headed to Istanbul, Turkey and spent a week with the staff of two schools.

At ENKA School, I followed up earlier training that I had done with the entire staff on peer coaching. The school is implementing strategies to encourage all staff to find ways that they can build coaching into the K-12 school culture. Several teachers videoed their classroom and instruction for our coaching practice so I got a close up view of the dedication that I mentioned above. Watching Turkish High School students discussing the Helen Keller story with their teacher and watching Turkish first graders playing games to master those nasty English sight words which don’t follow phonics rules the way their Turkish language does, we practiced coaching skills of observation and conferencing.

I worked with teachers and administrators at Darussafaka, a boarding school for fatherless, 4th -12th grade students from around the country. Teachers explored Student Effort, Learning Styles, and Questions for Life for instructional strategies to increase student achievement. The administrators added an extra day to explore their role as teacher coaches and the value of administrators coaching each other, as well as teacher peer coaching.

A special treat was in store for me at Darussafaka when I got to attend a celebration recognizing students from the school who had traveled to Norway during the summer and students from Norway who were now at Darussafaka. Turkey and Norway’s foreign ministers were present for the program. Listening to these high school students share their experiences and insights in English as the common language, I watched the world shrink. Students were very clear, explaining how their views of “others” and openness to differences were positively impacted by the experiences. They all commented on how their similarities outweighed differences and how the differences were intriguing rather than threatening.

Paul Sanders was the neighbor I met in Nice. He sent me the following note regarding his interest in values education / intercultural understanding and technology. Please contact Paul with any of your ideas.

I was the guy from New Hope you met in Nice, and I just wanted to let you know that I found your session on student achievement and faculty collegiality fascinating and useful. I’m writing, in fact, from Stony Hill Road– what are the odds of going to Europe to meet someone who lives half a mile away?

I don’t know if you do much in this particular field, but I wonder if you might be of some assistance pointing me to literature that explores the future of the international education ‘movement.’ I am just beginning work on my PhD at the University of Hull in England, and I am interested in ways in which schools—not exclusively international schools, but my focus will be on American IB schools—might be able to use technology to offer values instruction, particular around the topics of intercultural understanding, tolerance, etc. I feel as though values instruction around intercultural understanding, compassion, respect, and peace might be deliverable, at least in some useful sense, via technology. But I have been a bit disappointed (and surprised) thus far in my admittedly preliminary research, as I’ve found nothing that directly and explicitly looks at this.

I have an intuitive feeling that technology might be a powerful way to reduce American psychological (rather than actual) isolation, help all students develop the values that the IB admirably advocates, and allow students to begin to see the interconnectivity that has come to define our world. An intuitive feeling does not make for much of a PhD dissertation, though, so I would be tremendously grateful for any advice or direction you might offer.

With appreciation,

Paul Sanders
English Department Chair
The Dwight School
New York, NY

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