Education CTQ Collaboratory

Bringing Global Education to the Classroom

By Precious Crabtree — July 06, 2016 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~Gandhi

I can’t imagine a world without leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malala Yousafzai who engaged others in difficult conversations, took action, and led others to act as well. Each of these leaders exemplifies courage, leadership, and grit. They all recognized that they didn’t have to wait for change to happen, they could make it happen—and their actions have inspired countless others around the world. As an educator, I want my students to see themselves as agents of change and understand how their decisions or actions affect others globally. This learning must begin early in a child’s life and is just the beginning of the journey to a global education.

In order to encourage this kind of learning, I must be aware of my own biases and perceptions of global issues, but also see the world from the perspectives my students bring to the classroom. I must create an environment that allows them to feel it is safe to share those perceptions and then challenge them in a meaningful way. While I grew up in a homogeneous area in West Virginia, I teach in a very diverse school system with students from all over the world. I had little understanding, beyond what I had read in books, of what life was like outside my small community. My students look, sound, and act differently, which can present challenges when I don’t understand their culture or heritage. As a community of learners, we all need to understand our differences and commonalities.

In a TURN video, author and Harvard professor Ron Ferguson explains that children live their lives in a variety of settings. Each setting has a different set of rules and expectations. Their home lives and school lives are just two places where students encounter conflicting expectations. Ferguson also explains that as early as kindergarten, children begin to judge and teach one another about their identity based on such attributes as where they are from and the color of their skin. This is where the importance of global education begins.

Family Stories

Even though our school system has a diverse population, I find that students have limited opportunities to embrace their heritage and share their stories. Students still experience racism and intolerance in their school lives. The lack of ability to identify and understand another’s perspective is partly a result of insufficient global education in our schools. Change begins with us. As educators, we must immerse ourselves in learning about and experiencing different cultures as much as possible. We must understand global issues from different points of views and try to learn as much as possible about our students and their families to get a better picture of their perceptions. Then we must provide students opportunities to embrace their identities while understanding their place in the world.

Recently, I had a great conversation with a 5th grade student I have been privileged to work with for many years. Her mother volunteered in my classroom as well. I thought I knew her family well. However, I really knew very little about their story. That day, I learned a great deal about her, beyond what any standard assessment could provide. First, she is proud to be a first-generation immigrant to the United States. Her mother is from Chile and her father is from El Salvador. Each of her parents came to America for a better life but journeyed at different times and different ways. Her father came illegally on the back of a truck. Her mother entered legally to finish her education to be a nurse. Both parents went through the proper procedures to become citizens. While her mom works as a nurse, her dad started his own plumbing company to support their family and relatives who still live in El Salvador. Some of her mother’s relatives have since made the journey to America and are citizens who contribute to our country as well.

After this student shared her family’s story, I learned something very important about the peers and adults in her life outside of her immediate family. She said it was amazing to share her family story with me because her peers and most adults have never asked her about her family’s history. When she started school, she did not know what English even was, and now she feels it is special to be bilingual. So the few minutes we spent together while she shared her story meant more to her than any standard I could teach her. Instead, she learned that I care about her as an individual and can understand the unique perspective that she brings to my classroom.

Making Connections

In my class we discuss and learn about culture and global issues. We challenge ideas about what is right and wrong. Our discussions are not always easy, but the students begin to understand one another at a deeper level. Next year my 6th grade students will have the opportunity to share their cultural heritage with their peers. We will learn about the artist, Marc Chagall, who used symbols and images to narrate his story. Then students will create an artwork that narrates their cultural heritage.

Global education has many facets, and what I have described here is only the beginning to what is needed for global understanding. It is our job as educators to tap into the worlds of our students to help them make connections in the global world. Children who have the opportunity to explore the world beyond their personal windows are able to recognize others’ perceptions as well as their own. Students need to communicate their ideas and take action to improve the lives of others. This will create citizens who have a strong sense of responsibility for tomorrow’s world. Global education helps children see themselves through the eyes of others and how their footprint impacts the world.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Trauma-Informed Practices & the Construction of the Deep Reading Brain
Join Ryan Lee-James, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, director of the Rollins Center for Language and Literacy, with Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD., Vital Village Community Engagement Network; Neena McConnico, Ph.D, LMHC, Child Witness to Violence Project; and Sondra
Content provided by Rollins Center

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Hundreds of Conn. Bus Drivers Threaten to Walk Off the Job Over Vaccine Mandate
More than 200 school bus drivers could walk off the job in response to a vaccination mandate that goes into effect Monday.
1 min read
Rows of school buses are parked at their terminal, in Zelienople, Pa. Reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic means putting children on school buses, and districts are working on plans to limit the risk.
Rows of school buses are parked at their terminal, in Zelienople, Pa. Reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic means putting children on school buses, and districts are working on plans to limit the risk. <br/>
Keith Srakocic/AP Photo
Education Briefly Stated: September 22, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)