On white allies

Recently I asked Diversity Consultant, Alison Park, how she felt about the term “white ally.” As usual, her thoughtful, informed response helped me further my foundational thinking about partnership. Just as the term white ally has the potential to smack of paternalism, it can also represent a commitment on the part of a white person to engage with the dialog of race relations as someone who understands that s/he has a role and a race and is not free of any of the baggage that comes along with having a racialized society. So, tantamount to making terminology/lexicon choices in communities is discussion informed by voices that speak to varied life experiences. School-to-school partnerships offer communities another trusted set of voices at the table, and eduWeavers continues to be excited to create them for those schools ready to get “dirty” and do the hard work of building inclusive, socially informed, action-oriented students.

On white allies.

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On white allies

On white allies.

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Staying Optimistic

Just reread a letter written in ’92 by my grandfather (he died shortly after writing it) where he shared pessimism about South Africa’s future and was sure of imminent civil war. He said “at long last my optimism is tainted by pragmatism.” A WWII war hero, in this instance he gave up too soon. Hope can prevail, and the optimism can pay off with passionate commitment. A life lesson.

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The Global Education Passport

At the annual conference for the National Association for Independent Schools in DC (Feb. 23 – 25) Global Ed. was front and center and everyone was weighing in.  The theme for the year, Advancing Our Public Purpose, supported discussion around school-to-school partnerships, collaboration between independent schools and organizations (non-profits, public schools, international schools), and educating 21st C citizens.

There were, for me, a couple of standout moments and resources worth sharing.  Just as the photos, videos and stories of someone else’s trip inspires you to collect that stamp in your passport, these resources are worth checking out as you create your own personal Passport to Global Education. (Reminder: Global Ed is about building collaborative relationships across cultures…sometimes you simply need to look across the road to do that.)

1. Robert Witt (Hawaii Association of Independent Schools) shared a list of capacities that he and his team of educators identified as essential for 21st C teaching and learning.  These were inspired, in part, by Tony Wagner’s list of competencies essential for future business success in the Global Achievement Gap.

Witt’s List:

  • Analytical and Creative Thinking
  • Complex Communication Skills
  • Leadership and Teamwork
  • Digital and Quantitative Literacy
  • Global Perspective
  • Adaptability, Initiative, Risk-Taking
  • Integrity and Ethical Decision-Making

Wagner’s list:

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  2. Team-Based Leadership and Leading by Influence
  3. Agility and Adaptability
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective and High Quality Communication (both oral and written)
  6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
  7. Curiosity and Imagination

Other interesting links to click through and contemplate included:

Carrotmob: student organizing and leading with a public purpose

Green Schools: How to bring sustainability to your school

NuVu Studio: an innovation center for middle and high school students

The Tech Director for Providence Day, Matt Scully, has an interesting blog called The Engaged Learner. It’s worth subscribing to if you are interested in reflecting on engaged learning with a technological bent.

So whether you grab a suitcase or a computer mouse, the world is your oyster.  Eat up!

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When the Dust Has Settled, All We Have Left Is…

When the dust has settled, and the return stamp is in the passport, and the presents are all opened by families who have welcomed back intrepid global community builders, all we each has left is a series of discrete memories.  And, for each of us, we stop and ask ourselves, I suppose (and dare to hope), “So, now what?”  So what that we truly created what felt like real professional and personal connections with people whose daily lives could not be more different?

Searching for answers to “weave” (yes, eduWeavers was explicitly named to be able to speak about all of our interwoven relationships in an educational setting) together seemingly disparate activities, discussions, and goals, I asked my students to reflect upon a picture taken during the visit of eSibonisweni students to Saint Mark’s.

eSibonisweni Students Vounteer as Food Servers at Glide Church in San Francisco

I asked them to be as literal or creative as they wished for a one-hour free write with the above photo as a prompt.  Experience has taught me that sometimes a lot of freedom elicits the most authentic responses.  So, I did not even tell the students that they needed to comment on the visit.  (A few wrote very interesting stories that were totally unrelated to the eSibonisweni visit.)

Below are some excerpts from student work:

“There once were several kids from South Africa….they thought America was a rich place where everyone was wealthy or a place where everyone worked together in harmony.  However, after arriving it became very clear that America is not so different from South Africa.  There were big cities, but also more rural areas.  There were fairly rich people, but there were also poor people.  One day the kids went to to Glide to serve lunch along with members of a school called Saint Mark’s.  At Glide the kids from South Africa learned about the various communities in the Bay Area, and they created friendships based upon helping each other out.”

“For some reason I couldn’t sleep that night.  All I could think of was what it be like to live in South Africa with a tiny bit of money.  What did he think of my big house, my hot shower, my dad’s new car?”

“When the learners and teachers came from South Africa, I felt like they were shy at first…By the end, they were having lots of fun, and they were very good friends to me.  It just took time to get to know us well….I really miss them, and they will be in my memories forever and ever.”

And so, as I reflect on these baby steps towards connecting students across the globes in a common purpose – learning to understand and respect “the other” – I feel profoundly happy.  No one said learning to run was easy, but we do it, one step at a time.  And the “so, now what?”, well luckily I now have a room full of seventh graders and a school-wide community to brainstorm with me about that.  Most importantly, I have a group of colleagues across the world who feel empowered to have their voice heard in answering that question, too.  Our “global village” and collaborative process just happens to be connected by and facilitated with a satellite dish.

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Viva! It isn’t just for World Cup Victories

“Viva!”  That’s how the teachers from eSibonisweni opened the welcoming assembly at Saint Mark’s.  It wasn’t Zulu, but hey, after Spain won the World Cup in SA in 2010, I suppose Viva! is still resonating around that country and the world.

So, Viva! Director of Technology, Bonnie Nishihara, for getting the eSib. teachers online, “googled up” and ready to collaborate with us when they return to eSib.  An even greater Viva! to Bonnie for deconstructing and reconstructing the XO computer so that she can send back a team of teachers and learners to better use the 70 or so XOs we sent there for their use. 

Viva! to the Saint Mark’s community for going full-throttle.  Has anyone looked at the joint blog yet?  Teachers, parents, and students are jumping out of their comfort zone to make this an incredible experience for all of us.  Viva! to the teachers and learners of eSibonisweni for sharing and giving of themselves to such a degree.  They are participating in meetings, classrooms, assemblies, and social events.  They are offering us food for thought and sharing their vibrant style of participation in group events.  They are open to our tough questions – VIVA! -, and – VIVA! – we are open to theirs.  We’ve discussed topics from gay marriage and religion in schools to favorite ways to rest after a hard day’s work.  Next on the docket: gender roles!  Check in later – the big “women’s breakfast” is only next week.  The men get one, too!  Maybe we’ll have a little competition to see which one gets better attendance and more laughs.

Viva!  Partnership!

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Is “freaking out” keeping you up?

Recently I posted on the Saint Mark’s/eSibonisweni blog that was created to document their partnership exchange. It reflects on all the work done to create/maintain partnership and the importance of “relaxing” through the journey.

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