In our Q&A’s with our Global Educator of the Year 2018 finalists – winner Samantha Olubodun and finalist Thandiwe Banda – they share with us the importance of, and challenges they have each faced, integrating global learning in to the curriculum.
Q. What challenges have you faced in integrating global learning into the national curriculum? How have you balanced introducing new topics against requirements from the curriculum?
Samantha Olubodun (SO): Integrating global learning into the school curriculum has been a gradual process. It has been a process of trial and improvement, taking into account other professionals knowledge and understanding about global learning, as well as working out which elements had the greatest impact on the children. Many years ago, I considered global learning to be learning about different cultures, nationalities and ways of life. We linked with a school in Ghana which was very successful at the time, but I felt that the relationship between the two schools was viewed in a vertical manner and not a horizontal manner. By this, I mean that our partner school was viewed as the ‘poor’ school who needed our support, and our school was viewed as the ‘wealthy’ school that was able to provide support. I was aware of this perception from both sides of the partnership. The school community was eager to raise money for the Ghanaian school, and the Ghanaian partners became less interested in the joint learning opportunities and more interested in the visits.
Following this, I went down the route of training staff on Global Learning. This developed over time and I then becoming involved in the Global Learning Programme.
I feel that there are many opportunities within the existing curriculum to introduce global learning in a meaningful way, and in a way that will enhance any curriculum. History can’t be about learning dates and remembering the order of monarchs, it must be about learning from the past, identifying warning signs and not repeating mistakes.
Thandiwe Banda (TB): Global learning is very versatile and as there are 17 SDGs it is possible to incorporate SDGs at either KS3 or KS4 when looking at applications of any national curriculum content. It is also easier to link to national or global days such as world environment day, world AIDS day etc to be able to do a whole school approach to global learning.
Q. What role has global learning played in your teaching? What impact/benefit has global learning had for your students and your school?
SO: Global learning has always been central to my teaching within my classroom. I have always looked for opportunities to make learning relevant for our children and in turn, this has created an atmosphere of passion, determination and action! Children want to pick up their pens and write to the Prime Minister about issues that they feel strongly about such as Education.
Children who are taught that they have a voice, and that this can be used to change their world, become empowered to use it and this reflects in the language, grammar, structure and content of their writing.
I feel that by having global learning at the centre of a curriculum, a school develops an ethos of mutual respect and integrity which are values that are essential within our communities.
TB: Global learning has been at the centre of my teaching as it encourages conversations among students and allows me to challenge them to think outside the box and understand why they learn certain topics and the importance of being a global citizen
Q. Why do you feel that global learning is important in schools?
SO: Like our societies across the UK, our schools are very diverse. Schools are miniature societies. Regardless of the intake of a school, I feel that global learning is essential. Children in school may echo the views of their parents or grandparents and may not have the opportunity to explore what they, themselves think about particular issues. In more diverse schools, children still need to develop critical thinking skills.
We are not just teaching our children to read and write, we are teaching them how to be confident, unique, happy, secure, successful critical thinkers so that they can navigate their way through a complex would of differing opinions and views and a very unstable political climate.
TB: As an immigrant from a country directly affected by pandemics such as malaria and other tropical diseases and poor economy among other things, I feel global learning is important in schools as it prepares our students to be empathetic to the needs of others and also to come up with ways they could have an impact through areas such as research and innovation. Students will then develop into global citizens and be part of a global community and live sustainable lives. Teachers and other adults also benefit from global learning as they themselves may not have first hand experience of issues affecting millions around the globe thus teaching SDGs will enhance their own understanding of global issues.
Q. Do you think that winning the Global Educator of the Year Award will change how you work? If so, what impact do you think it will it have?
SO: I am still considering how winning Global Educator will change my work moving forward. I am fortunate to work within a school that is very forward thinking and with a headteacher who is completely on board with global learning. I also work within a Teaching School Alliance which is placing a strong emphasis on global learning. I will continue to do what I have always done, which is what I feel is right for the children I teach.
TB: Being a finalist has enabled me to connect with people across the country with the same core values as me and it has been rewarding to learn about other teachers doing their bit for global learning as well as what other ways exist to cover SDGs. As a teacher my planning has been completely revolutionised to include SDGs in my daily conversations with my students and colleagues and I’m even more motivated to make more of a difference and continue teaching about SDGs. I have decided to develop resources that link to every SDG in every topic in Science and post these on a blog so that more teachers of Science can access these as I found that people associate global learning to PSHE lessons as opposed to it being cross curricular.
Q. What advice would you give other teachers who want to bring global learning into their classroom, school or community?
SO: Global Learning is a passion. It is about core values and teaching children social responsibility. It teaches them to look outwards rather than inwards and provides a sense of empowerment. Global learning has kept me within education at times when the pressure has been so intense, that I have felt like leaving. I knew that what I was doing was right for my children and continued to follow my heart. If you make the curriculum real, rich and engaging, the data starts to take care of itself.
Global learning encompasses so many different threads that it can be good just to follow one and see where that takes you.
Teachers generally go in to the profession to make a difference, and I can see no better way of making a difference to this generation, and the generations that follow, than by guiding children to be active global citizens.
TB: Do not make it complicated, use resources already out there such as Practical Action’s Ditch the Dirt and other Think Global resources to cut back on your planning, if you have the chance, ask students to prepare lessons covering each SDG to present to the class and encourage debate. According to learning theories in psychology, the brain converts short term memories into long term memories easier if actions are repeated so make global learning a part of your teaching on a regular basis as there are opportunities in every topic in subjects such as Science, to incorporate the SDGs. You can use your colleagues to help you plan effective lessons to have the most impact. Lastly and most importantly, have fun! Teaching is a lot more memorable if you enjoy what you are teaching and students recognise this so start with the SDGs you most relate to then use platforms such as Twitter to share your practice and find experiences from other teachers out there as awesome as you!
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