Global Mindedness: No to tick-boxes. YES! to professionalism.

Global Mindedness: No to tick-boxes. YES! to professionalism.
James Hatch

Being an international school learner is challenging work. If done correctly, there should be moments when you feel lost, confused, swimming against the current etc. But, of course, when we step back and look at the situation dispassionately, that we have such feelings is to be expected. After all, we have stepped outside our cultural touchstone and entered a place where numerous cultural norms exist. Naturally, some will fit, so we admire and use them, while others will challenge us. However, experiencing such distortion may signal growth and expansion rather than something negative. 


Most of us were born into societies and relationships which shaped our worldviews, attitudes and even how we make sense at both a conscious and an unconscious level. The international school, when done right, should challenge us to think outside our comfort zones, assumptions and pre-dispositions. Unlike state-run schools where producing a national citizenry is paramount, even if never explicitly stated, actual international schools should bring us face-to-face relationships with peoples, worldviews and values which differ from ours. 


That is why, at a fundamental level, global mindedness, when understood as 'knowledge', looks to the globe as its compass rather than a specific region, historical timeframe, nation, or any other us/them dichotomy. At the core of global-mindedness and intercultural understanding is the need to understand ourselves deeply. Once we know who we are, why we are and how we make sense of the world, we can begin to critique, in a productive manner, the strengths, weaknesses and blindspots which encompass our life and, indeed, the life of others. Such an encounter is a cornerstone of a proper globally minded education and has been captured by the IB's statement: "others, with their differences, can also be right". Being aware that what we assume is "right" or "normal" is constructed around a particular set of time and space interactions and responses permits us the humility and grace to learn from and with others purposefully. However, we must not be naive and assume all views are worthy of being considered suitable - there are ideas, actions and words which seek to destroy the human spirit and erode human flourishing.


In particular, global-mindedness demands that, as an international school, we must mine into our curriculum, learning, and assessments to ensure that the most excellent iterations of thriving and achievement form our learning. And herein lies a particular challenge. As we mine our curriculum, we must consider whether a viewpoint, an author or an event is excluded to the detriment of our learning, growth and communal flourishing. Such critique demands extreme professionalism regardless of our role within the community. The voices added must not be counted as a simple tick-box exercise but rather as a result of a robust consideration. Simply adding content without understanding the knowledge, pedagogy, and learning goals of a unit or disciple run the risk of creating a new and arguably more pernicious form of marginalisation grounded in pity and infantilisation. For example, suppose an author is to be added to a literature study programme. In that case, their writing skills in the target language must be of a calibre that positions them shoulder-to-shoulder with the given canon. The same is likewise true of any discipline.


The ability to discern and draw upon global knowledge systems and means of being is challenging for each international school. In many ways, it is a community of itself but situated with a specific local. For brevity, if "professionalism" is understood as standards underpinned by training, skills, dispositions and commitments, then all of us within an international school are responsible for who we are, what we do and how we do it. The challenge can often be accepting this mantle.


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