Letitia Zwickert is a high school teacher at Naperville Central High School, the first K-12 educator to have received a Fulbright-Schuman Scholar Award, and a K-12 Education Advisor to the University of Illinois’ International Outreach Council. Here she shares ways for teachers to get started with making a global impact.
Two years ago, life left me facing large questions. I was struggling with professional motivation, and I felt my global impact was far too low despite extensive world travels, being fluent in French, having a bi-cultural family, as well as experience with cultural studies and international work.
I had heard about the Fulbright-Schuman program a few years before—a grant designed for students and professionals to conduct research in the European Union—and I decided to pursue it. The resulting experiences reignited my drive, increased my global engagement, and dramatically boosted what I call, my “global quotient,” or GQ. My idea of GQ is more encompassing than just a global mindset, it means taking the knowledge that comes along with the mindset and creating global change. This is very important in education today. We know our students need globally minded educators to give them a global perspective so they can be more competitive in the labor force and more complete citizens in an interconnected world. We also need to model active involvement in making the world a better place.
You, too, can raise your own GQ, no matter what your current level of global experience is, with these three easy steps.
Pursue a Global Issue
If you aren’t already fighting for a cause, look at the currents underlying what you’ve already done. What causes have pushed you to act in your life? In my own reflections, I realized inclusion and equity have impacted me the most. Soul searching will produce some options that might at first seem very local, but the issues we care about really have no borders. For help with making that global connection to your passions, take a look at the UN Sustainable Development Goals for ideas.
Whatever issue(s) you choose, tackling problems at a global level means getting global actors involved. Your GQ will soar if you harness your energy through a network of global thinkers.
Make Global Connections
My Fulbright experience gave me a golden ticket to meet education leaders in international organizations, as well as in federal, state, and local education circles. Each of the many people I met are part of my global network of high GQ achievers who are equally as inspired to move things forward and have a global impact.
To make global connections, you can apply for a Fulbright, or check out other options, such as programs and fellowships offered by the Institute for International Education or the American Council for International Education. There are also a number of other wonderful global education programs offered specifically to educators, such as Teachers for Global Classrooms.
I would also suggest applying for a study tour—many of which are free for educators. I was accepted in 2012 on a fully-paid study tour to Brussels and Luxembourg, and during the trip I made lifelong GQ friends. First, take a look at the area study centers at your closest university which have federally supported outreach programs designed for educators (most offer a plethora of incredible resources!). For example, the European Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh offers a paid trip to Brussels for K-12 teachers. Here is a list of federally supported National Resource Centers (NRC).
Country specific cultural institutions offer additional global opportunities. For example, if you’re interested in Germany, the Goethe Institute offers free study tours open to any teaching level. You can do a quick search and find programs to Japan, Korea, East Asia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Panama, and many more.
You can also connect with education stakeholders right from your own living room. The European Union Center at University of Illinois has created TED (Transatlantic Educators Dialogue), a program open to anyone in the world that brings educators, administrators, and others in the education field together in transatlantic conversations on various topics. This is a perfect opportunity to be a part of a global dialogue, expand your global knowledge, and develop a global network.
Having a circle of GQ people around you will keep you globally fueled and create the right conditions for you to make a global impact.
Reach Global, Bring It Local
After identifying a global issue and making the connections to help you solve it, it’s time to engage in developing projects that share knowledge, promote change, and tackle the issues you’ve identified.
The first and easiest option for you is the wonderful world of Skype and Google Plus. If you’ve never tried bringing an expert into your classroom, start there. This past semester, representatives from the World Bank, NATO, and the EU Delegation to the UN spoke with my students virtually. In past years, a variety of leaders from different arenas also shared their worldview and challenged my students to think critically about both global and local issues.
You can also expand on that virtual experience and collaborate with a teacher on a project somewhere else in the world. I’ve facilitated simple discussions on current events—for example, a talk about refugees and US politics with Sweden as well as more complex exchanges like a simulation on conflict minerals.
Skype has also put together an incredibly useful site for you giving you access to other classrooms, virtual field trips, and guest speakers. You can live anywhere and still bring the world to your students. There really is no excuse for a low GQ anymore!
I’m currently working on a global dialogue series that connects university NRCs, K-12 schools, and communities across Illinois, along with three other countries. You can do this, too! First, begin small, by just involving your school. Contact a local university NRC’s Outreach Coordinator to discuss collaborating. Their job is to engage with people like you. I suggest going to them with a topic option, but sharing your flexibility. They can offer you a variety of supports such as university speakers, help you find a venue if your school is not an option, and assist with publicising the event in your community. Do get your principal’s approval and see if other colleagues would be interested in getting involved with you!
Next, with a successful event under your belt, and your GQ network developed, go for a larger program. Reach out to other teachers, both locally and globally, within your circle of GQ friends, develop your GQ idea, and actively work to spread knowledge, share ideas, and build projects that foster change.
What global impact can you make?
Find your issue, reach out, and create a circle of globally minded people, and go beyond what you’ve already accomplished. Increasing your global competence fuels the global competence of others. Go now and get your GQ on!
The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.