Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Help Me Bring Refugee Stories to My Classroom from Norway

A year ago, my family in Finnmark, Norway, welcomed refugees from Afghanistan to their tiny Arctic Norwegian community. The initial group of refugees have since moved on, but there is talk of establishing a permanent refugee residence in the old boarding school my dad and his siblings lived in as children (across the straight from my family's village, Kvalfjord).  Ironically, the island of Seiland, where the refugees were (and may continue to be) housed, was an important refuge for internally displaced native Sami refugees, including my ancestors, during the Nazi occupation.  The natives of the area spent years living in caves as their villages were burned to the ground.  Now, the tables are turned, and Seiland is welcoming refugees from very far away. 

I should mention that Seiland is very isolated, on an island in the very far northern part of Norway.  My family's village has a population of around 50.  If you open this article from NRK in Chrome, you can auto-translate it. My amazing aunt, Synnove, is pictured and quoted in this article. It is remarkable how this refugee community doubled the size of the local community, yet they were welcomed.

Kai Erik Bull / NRK
Although sharing refugee stories from the media is already part of our Global Studies curriculum, personally connecting my students with some of these folks through video, audio recordings, and images that I produce while I'm in Norway this summer will be especially meaningful for me and my students.  If they are receptive and willing, while I'm in Norway, I would like to share their experiences with my students through Instragram @KajtaniakintheWorld and blog, but I want to venture into the world of audio/video recording.  If you or someone you know can help donate or lend video and/or audio recording equipment, please feel free to email me: tkajtaniak@gmail.com

Afghan asylum seeker Roheek Yausofi waits his turn for food cooked on an open fire, with fish caught the day before by his father, on the island of Seiland, northern Norway, Feb. 2, 2016. Photo credit: ABCNews.com.go


Monday, December 7, 2015

Teaching Violent Conflict to Secondary Students: 6 Learning Objectives

A few years ago, when I set out to write my master's thesis ("A Pedagogical Framework for Global Citizenship Education: Teaching Violent Conflict to Secondary Students"), I had no idea how timely, important, and relevant it would continue to be. One part of my work has been the creation of learning objectives for a secondary study of violent global conflict, which I have posted below. Over the next few weeks, I will post excerpts of my research, and in depth discussions of these objectives. Feel free to share and comment, but please do not copy or reprint without my permission.

Student Objectives:  
Objective 1: Students will analyze the ways in which humanitarianism and humanitarian intervention impact communities, including, but not limited to, their positive effects and unintended consequences.

Objective 2: Students will explore the changing interactions between conflict and gender (i.e. the ways in which women are used to justify conflict and participate in conflict, as well as the ways in which violent conflict affects women in particular).

Objective 3: Students will analyze the political and economic colonial origins of conflict including, but not limited to, the impact of globalization on conflict starting with colonization, colonial roots of structural violence, and the colonial roots of conflict in the United States in particular.

Objective 4: Students will turn the outward gaze inward by making connections between global and local conflict and analyzing Western involvement in global conflict. (This may include United States’ role in international relations since World War II, American exceptionalism, fostering conditions for global terrorism, and making connections between global and local grassroots movements as a solution/response to conflict.)

Objective 5: Students will investigate the role of identity and ideology in conflict and terrorism, which may include the role of single-group identity in conflict, terrorism as an ideological response to perceived injustice, homegrown extremism, and the rise of xenophobic movements as a response to terrorism.

Objective 6: Students will examine diverse cultures and understand various cultural points of view, as well as differing perspectives within particular cultural groups; recognize cultural interconnections; and be able to explain the points of view of diverse cultures without distorting them through ones’ own cultural lens.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Poetry without borders: Bacolod writes back!

As many of you know, Fortuna High 10th grade Global Studies students collaboratively composed a poem and contributed art and photographs to a giant poem/collage that I brought with me in my suitcase to the Philippines on my trip with the State Department's Teachers for Global Classrooms program.  Over the last two days, teachers at Colegio San Agustin-Bacolod graciously allowed me to take over their classes, and 7th and 10th graders responded with their own poem.  Below you will find the vibrant poem they are sending back from the Philippines.
Where We're From: Bacolod 

We are from chocolate hills and perfectly parallel banaue rice terraces, 
hot springs of Mambukal, and the delicate beaches of Borocay.
We are from volcanoes, active and dormant,
the perfectly shaped cone of Mount Mayon.

We are from the rays of sunshine hitting the ocean,
a blessing of natural beauty.
We are from the sweet nectar of santan flowers crowing our heads,
fragrant sampaguita flowers, jasmine of the Philippines.

We are from hundreds of dialects to express our feelings 
palangga taka, ginagugma taka,
the sounds of the guitara
original pilipino music and the melodic ilonggo language,
birds chirping and roosters crowing, our morning alarm clocks.

We are from the barefoot tinikling dancers
outdoor basketball without shoes,
the brightly lit masks of the Masskara Festival to chase away sadness,
We are from larong pinoy,
the ageless games played and loved across generations. 

We are from jeepneys, tricycles, and padyak, and street foods,
people selling inasals and lechon baboy on the side of the road,
adobo chicken, barbeque, and monak,
vibrant fruit stalls filled with rambutan, lanzones, and mangoes.

We are from chatting while eating
and taking pictures to document our joy, smiles, and friendship.
We are from Sundays are family days.
palanga ta ka and salamat,
I love you and I thank you.

We are from the traditions of our ancestors.
We are from 7000 islands.
We are from the City of Smiles, Bacolod.
We are from the true colors of Filipino tradition.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Where We're From: A poem takes a trip to the Philippines

Sure, it's easy to send a poem to anyone in the world via email, blog, SMS, or any of the other millions of high-tech apps out there in cyber space.  

This poem, however, is traveling old-school...in a suitcase.

I'm headed to the Philippines in three days with the State Department's Teachers for Global Classrooms program.  This is the exciting "fieldwork" part of the year-long professional development program designed to engage teachers in global education leadership.  During this phase, small cohorts travel all over the world to learn about the education systems, histories, and cultures of their host countries, and we even have the opportunity to teach in host classrooms.  The Philippines is in the middle of an education overhaul involving a controversial transition to a K-12 system, so it is a very interesting time to be visiting and engaging with teachers. 

All of the teachers in my cohort are taking gifts with them to the Philippines to give to students and host teachers, and part of me loves this idea, but another part has been struggling with this idea.  I'll blame my hesitation on a healthy dose (or overdose?) of post-colonial critique,  but what it comes down to is that I want to do something more than hand out pencils and erasers (although I'm super-excited about the Halloween- and cosmos-themed pencils and skateboard erasers that I'm bringing along).  

Poetry has become a part of our school culture, so I decided that I would bring along a poem collaboratively written by my students, as well as some art and pictures of our school community.  I love teaching "Where I'm From" poems (modeled after George Ella Lyon's poem of the same name). So I decided to adapt the "Where I'm From" poem and turn it into a "Where We're From" poem and pull it together from the contributions of all three of my Global Studies English classes.  I also asked students to contribute pictures and art, and I pieced it all together into a collage. 

Here's my big dream for this project.  I'm hoping that I can teach or team-teach the "Where We're From" poem to an English class at my host-school in Bacolod, and bring back a poem to California. Perhaps it may continue and grow, perhaps it will not, but I'm okay with that.  I do think that art, poetry, and photography are wonderful ways to share culture.  What might make this experience different is that these projects are not going to be on a screen.  We can get close to them, feel them, and know that they were touched and crafted by human hands on the other side of the world.  I'll let you all know how this emerging poetry exchange develops.  In the meantime, follow my adventures via Instagram:  @KajtaniakInThePhilippines or through my Teachers for Global Classrooms Blog: KajtaniakInThePhilippines.blogspot.com.

Where We’re From

We’re from the tallest trees in the world,
ancient redwoods, swaying high in the wind,
towering upwards to the sky,
rays of sunshine still finding their way
through the thick canopy.

We’re from the cold Pacific Ocean
and its misty beaches,
seals popping their heads over waves
before they crash into rocky cliffs,
the sporadic spray of families of gray whales
migrating north.

We’re from fog as thick as tar
rolling into the damp forests in the morning.

We’re from green soccer fields
filled with the laughter of children,
rope snapping in the dusty rodeo arena,
the stitching of the softball gripped tightly
before being thrown.

We’re from deer hunting and cattle ranching,
the racing stampede of horses
at the Humboldt County Fair.

We’re from dancing, and singing,
and playing in the marching band.
We’re from reggae, country music, and rock and roll,
the rumble of earthquakes beneath our feet.

We’re from hamburgers and chicken
sizzling on the grill,
salmon pulled fresh from the ocean or river,
tamales, posole, and horchata.

We’re from the Eel River Valley,
the Van Duzen River,
California’s North Coast,
the salty air of Humboldt County.

We’re from Wiyot, Mexico, Norway,
Ukraine, Ireland, and Laos,
but the thread that ties our multicultural mix together,
we’re all American.

Monday, May 25, 2015

From isolation to inspired collaboration: How global education is transforming teacher relationships in my school (and lessons learned along the way)

I love the humanities;  I actually find it strange and unnatural to teach the social sciences and the language arts in isolation from one another.  I went into teaching with global education in mind, many years before global ed was a buzzword and a Twitter hashtag. 

Much to my disappointment, however, during my first year teaching in my rural high school in northern California, I quickly learned that the English and Social Science Departments had a history of animosity and virtually no positive experiences with collaboration in recent memory.  But I was new, and I had nothing to lose, so I approached my principal and superintendent one afternoon to inquire about linking the social science and language arts curriculum.  I'll never forget the look my administrators gave each other immediately after I inquired, as if this was the moment for which they had been waiting for years. 

The story of the birth and evolution of an interdisciplinary, collaborative Global Studies humanities program spanning two whole grades and eight teachers in two departments is truly a story of overcoming some significant personal and professional barriers.  We made many mistakes along the way, but here's what we learned:

1.  Start small in order to build trust.   

We realized that it was unrealistic to successfully globalize every classroom at once and ask everyone to proactively collaborate without seeing what it would actually look like on a smaller scale.  We started with two teachers, one social science teacher and one English teacher (strategically chosen by our principal), and we started with just two sections of Global Studies at the 10th grade level.  We spent three years working together in a team of two before we truly trusted each other and felt ready to expand the program and bring more teachers on board.  It also took a couple years for other teachers on campus to see the results and successes of our work and want to join the team.  You want people to want to be a part of it.

2.  Be patient. It's not a race.   

We tried to grow our global program too quickly, and it was almost disastrous.  Starting on any kind of collaborative journey can be overwhelming.  When we tried to expand the program from two teachers to eight teachers (two sections of Global Studies to two entire grades consisting of Global Studies I and Global Studies II) in one year, we learned that sufficient trust had not been built among the expanded teaching teams, and as a result, the 9th grade program has been struggling to build trust and find success.  We are actually going to have to go backwards and try to repair the damage done by trying to grow the program too quickly.  One way to try to rebuild is to set the goal of collaborating on one unit per semester (or whatever feels manageable) to help rebuild the trust.  It has taken about 5 years for our 10th grade Global Studies II team of 4 to really gel, so we have learned to be patient.  Allow the roots to grow.

3.  Be flexible.  

It was not easy to marry my more Englishy, thematic, and risk-taking teaching style to my teaching partner's more historical, chronological, and measured approach.  We both had to let go and adjust a lot.  We also had to open our classrooms up to each other, make mistakes together, consider our different approaches and passions as we planned curriculum, and admit when things did not go as planned.  We had to be okay with not always agreeing, but commit to finding ways to move forward despite disagreement.  We also had to be open to learn new content and skills ourselves.  I'm learning how to make history come alive, and my teaching partner is learning how to teach complex narrative structure.  Since we're incorporating a lot of current global issues, we're all learning about the context of current events as they happen, and we don't always have the answers.

4.  Let go of assumptions.  

It's so interesting that we are asking our students to let go of assumptions and single narratives of peoples and cultures, yet we teachers hold fast to our assumptions of each other, and we always assume the worst.  Real trust was built in our Global Studies team through making mistakes and not judging each other for those mistakes.  I have noticed that people who are not actively collaborating and teaching together are very quick to judge each others' mistakes and make presumptions about each others' competency.  The idea of "Understanding + Communication = Trust" is not only valid in terms of breaking down barriers between cultures, but it is also highly applicable to teachers' relationships.  When we understand each other, communicate with one another, then we can trust each other. 

5.  Build in collaboration time and space 

Common prep periods and/or regular release time is absolutely necessary to be able to plan, build curriculum, talk about what worked and what didn't work, and even to vent.  Although my teaching partner and I do not spend the entirety of every prep talking about our class, it is so helpful to be able to pop into his classroom and see where he is on our timeline, talk about how we're approaching a certain assignment or skill differently, and check in about day-to-day things as they come up.  

It also helps that our classrooms are right next door to each other.  That is strategic and incredibly important. Moving classrooms can be a major sticking point for teachers.  We get incredibly attached to our rooms and even more attached to our department buildings/floors.  But there is nothing more divisive and counter-collaborative than keeping physical barriers between teachers.  Although we're not there yet, I am looking forward to the day when there are no more "departments."

6.  Be proactive during administrative shifts.  

We started our Global Studies program when the administrative conditions were quite supportive, and unexpectedly, we had an administrative shift.  Overnight, our program went from being highly supported to seriously in trouble.  We definitely had to sell it through each of the administrative shifts, but we quickly realized that we didn't have to do too much to sell it.  There was a buzz about Global Studies from students and parents, and we had been doing end-of-the-year surveys that were highly favorable.  Still, having a conversation with the new admin at the start of the year about what Global Studies is all about has been important.  We are in a place right now where we have administrative support and stability, but we definitely don't take it for granted.  We make sure that what's going on in Global Studies is in our school board reports, on our school website, and part of our staff meeting announcements.  When we present at meetings and conferences, we present ourselves as Global Studies teachers rather than English or history teachers.


Here's where we are now:

We have a lot of work to do, but global education is slowly becoming the norm at our small, rural, northern California high school.  Students take two years of Global Studies, which consists of linked and collaborative English and social science curriculum at the freshman and sophomore levels. The Global Studies I program focuses on cultural/physical geography, movements/migrations of people, colonialism, introduction to globalization, and indigenous issues worldwide.  Global Studies II focuses on current and historic global conflicts, historic and contemporary Arab and Middle Eastern Studies, and revolutions worldwide.  

Exit surveys and essays show that students not only believe they have learned a lot about the world, but they have become more tolerant individuals who are capable of recognizing perspectives (including their own), communicating cross-culturally, and understanding how people are addressing issues of global significance.  We have an Act Global student club, as well as a competitive student Academic WorldQuest geopolitical team.  Music and science teachers are inquiring about being part of our Global Studies team.  Once skeptical teachers are acknowledging successes of the program.  

Slowly, our journey on this global education path is bringing together a once highly-fragmented and distrustful group of teachers.  And it's happening organically.  We have had no school-wide global professional development, we have yet to collaborate with NGOs, we have hired no consultants.  We started small, built trust, learned flexibility, let go of assumptions, created time and space for collaboration, and advocated for our program.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Understanding + Communication = Trust: Cross-cultural blogging helps students challenge their own assumptions

Lack of Understanding + Lack of Communication = Lack of Trust

How many conflicts in the world can we trace back to that seemingly simple equation?  When people do not understand each other and they don't communicate with one another, then it makes it difficult for people to trust each other.  Of course, the nature of conflict is extremely complex , but the concept resonates with students because it is applicable to both global conflicts as well as interpersonal conflicts that they encounter every day.

A couple years ago, I made "Understanding + Communication = Trust" one of the themes of my 10th grade Global Studies/English class.  I actually completely stole this theme from a book that I read and now use in my classes, The Arab-American Handbook by Nawar Shora (which I mentioned in my last blog post).  Shora discusses the concept at length in his introduction, and in essence, the goal of his book is to fulfill the  "understanding" piece of Arab culture and history.

But what about the communication piece?   I figured that this would be a little more difficult, Our rural Pacific Northwest community is not exactly the bastion of cosmopolitanism.  Internet to the rescue!   I began to ask  my colleagues and friends if they had any connections with teachers in the Arab World or Middle East, and to my delight, it only took only about a month to find an English language teacher in Tangier, Morocco, who had about the same number of students and was willing to collaborate with me via Skype and set up a blog exchange for our students.   

Clara and I built our students' blog exchange from the bottom-up; we wrote the discussion questions together, set up the blog together, and kept in touch about when to assign posts and comments. This is our second year working on the project together, and it's still a work in progress. Students respond to discussion questions bi-weekly on their own blogs which are linked to a "home blog."  They write about all kinds of topics:  long-term goals, the ways in which teens in their communities are misunderstood, family recipes, favorite places, interests outside of school, music, books, family, heroes, social media, favorite holidays, the list goes on and on.  And then they spend some time exploring the blogs of their counterparts, leaving comments and asking questions.

So how do my students respond?  Overall, they tell me that they really enjoy the experience.  They are overwhelmingly surprised by how similar they are to their friends in Morocco.  But they are also come out of the project with genuine respect for the Moroccan students, especially because many of them are tri- or even quad-lingual and spend countless hours studying.  My students also come to understand that there is great diversity in both religious and cultural practices among their Moroccan blog partners, not unlike their own class in the United States.

Now, although Clara (my counterpart in Morocco) and I built our exchange on our own, there are many organizations that work towards connecting classrooms, including iEARN, Global Nomads, ePals, and Face to Faith, Skype in the Classroom, among others.

Here are some student reflections on the experience so far:  

"I have learned so much about the culture in Morocco. The students are into the same stuff we do; basketball, cooking, walking on the beach, and so much more similarities. The students in Tangier are also very smart. Some speak up to four languages! That amazes me. I love learning about everyone in Tangier."
"I have learned a lot through this experience so far. I have been able to learn about a variety of cultures and how the people in Tangier live. It’s nice to communicate with people so far away and be able to know so much about them. Along with all the differences I have learned how we are alike in many ways as well. Overall, this experience has taught me many new things."

"It surprised me how they are also obsessed with pizza as well as most Americans. They also have stereotypes about us like how we are all about drinking and partying, I thought that was funny considering I spend my weekend in my room with some netflix and ice cream."

"From what I have heard, I'm surprised how much they knew about us already. It’s also funny to hear what stereotypes they had about us. Also it’s interesting to find out what stereotypes we made that are false. We think they must be so different than us because of where they live, when really they have a lot of the same interests and likes as we do." 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The most important rationale for global education comes from within the classroom (and has nothing to do with "economic competitiveness")

"Nuth, there is nothing you are going to be able to teach me in this class that's going to make me like Arabs," remarked Austin. 

He was one of my more outspoken sophomores a few years back, and I distinctly remember him saying this rather enthusiastically immediately after I passed out The Arab-American Handbook by Nawar Shora, one of the many texts I use in my Global Studies/English class.

I was caught completely off-guard. 

I hastily responded, "Austin, I bet you five bucks that you have a broader perspective by the end of year."  He said, "It's on," and we shook hands. 

This was the first time (and last time) I bet a kid money.  Of course, I wouldn't make him pay in the end if I won, but it left me wondering whether it was an act of confidence or whether it was merely an act of desperation.  Did I really think that I could change his assumptions, or was I just trying to act confident in front of a group of thirty 16-year-olds staring at me with the "what's-she-going-to-say-to-that" expressions on their faces.  (It should be noted that over the course of the school year, I proceeded to completely forget about the bet.)

Austin (by the way, his name has been changed for privacy), was always one of my most vocal students and was completely unafraid to express his beliefs.  He was influential, loved by his peers, outgoing, opinionated, and infused with a single narrative of Arab culture.

Over the course of the year, Austin was exposed to many globally diverse perspectives, narratives, and histories, including those of Arabs and Arab-Americans.  He also blogged with a group of students in Morocco regularly through our class, and although his grades did not necessarily reflect this, he was one of the most engaged students I'd ever taught. 

On the last day of school, right after school, Austin came into my classroom and walked up to my desk.  He asked me to put out my hand, and into it he slipped a $5 bill.  I had forgotten all about our bet.  He told me that I won, and that he would never be able to view people in same, narrow way again.  He looked me straight in the eye, and Austin told me that it was our class he thanks for that.  We hugged and had a little cry together.  It was one of my most moving experiences as an educator.

Global education makes young people more aware of their cultural lenses and the ways in which their cultural lenses shape their beliefs and perspectives.  It helps them understand that the nature of culture and conflict is complex and that there are never clear-cut "good guys" and "bad guys."  It exposes to them the danger of single narratives of a group of people.  It makes them aware of the ways in which adhering to singular sources of identity contributes to violence.

But you would have no way of seeing or experiencing this if you were not in the classroom.  The dominant rationale for global education coming from policy makers, various private organizations, NGOs, and non-profits, is that we need to teach globally so that the United States can remain economically competitive in a global marketplace.  I think that it must not be forgotten that there is a whole body of more compelling rationale for global education related to enabling our students to challenge their own assumptions, stereotypes, and single narratives, to challenge the idea of American exceptionalism, and to encourage our students to engage in important debates and conversations about the state of our democracy and human rights.