LeeAnne Lavender, Inspire Citizens Storyteller
The word “transformation” has energy and power, doesn’t it? The idea of radical change and positive metamorphosis is compelling and, when paired with creating opportunities for students to engage in authentic changemaking, can inspire and empower all educators.
Inspire Citizens co-founder Aaron Moniz and all Inspire Citizens facilitators spend a lot of time thinking about transformation in the context of schools. Their goal? Redesigning teaching and learning to kickstart and sustain active global citizenship for all learners. By making everyday teaching and learning relevant and meaningful in relation to local and global issues, Aaron and the team help educators and learners experience a deep transformation.
“We are really committed to this work,” says Aaron. “When we founded Inspire Citizens in 2018, we wanted to use our many years of classroom experience and passion for changemaking to impact as many schools and classrooms as possible so students feel equipped to lead the positive change we need in our world.”
Aaron and late co-founder Steve Sostak developed a four-step recipe for schools to build cohesive curriculum that can activate PreK-12 global citizens. In partnership with schools, Aaron and the team help educators experience these four stages in a way that makes sense and allows them to tap into their own deep desires to help students understand the world in all of its complexity, beauty and potential.
Step 1: Mission and Vision Articulation
Most international schools have a mission statement that involves some component of global citizenship, service and/or global-mindedness. To begin a process of whole school transformation, this is where the Inspire Citizens recipe gets started: identifying the parts of your school mission related to global citizenship or designing a new mission statement if it’s time to update this core guiding statement.
The mission statement for a school invested in global citizenship should point towards:
- desired learning outcomes related to engaged global citizenship
- evidence that can be collected about growth towards those outcomes
- tools, resources and approaches based on an understanding of global citizenship that grows out of the mission
“It’s essential to be clear and consistent about this so every stakeholder in the school knows what this means and how to do it,” says Aaron. “One of the biggest struggles for schools is how to achieve the mission for global citizenship with no guidance. You need to have a road map based on defining global citizenship for your school with clear targets so teachers and students know where they’re going.”
Step 2: An Integrative Approach
International schools are busy places, and achieving transformation related to global citizenship curriculum means approaching change in an integrative – not additive – way.
“Look at what you’re already doing with curriculum, instruction, professional growth and systems for assessment; from there, successful global citizenship programming needs to be holistic, not something separate,” explains Aaron.
When global citizenship becomes the foundation of a school’s strategic plan, educators can see multiple entry points for curriculum design and experiential learning that can serve to develop and foster core areas (like literacy, numeracy, digital and global competencies, social and emotional learning, DEIJ/B, and sustainability).
During this stage of an all-school transformative global citizenship experience, Aaron and the team guide and coach teachers through curriculum design and redesign. They also share approaches, resources and strategies to help busy teachers reframe curriculum in efficient, effective and sustainable ways.
Step 3: Build capacity for sustainable outcomes
Programming and curriculum development at international schools can sometimes feel like there’s a revolving door of new initiatives and goals. Aaron says it’s key to have an implementation plan for transformative global citizenship education so schools can weather shifts and maintain focus.
“You have to look at how you’re building capacity so the work sustains over time,” he reflects. “Every human organization is dynamic and you have to build flexible and responsive systems to sustain the work.”
To do that, Aaron recommends:
- Ensuring professional development opportunities for teachers so there is widespread clarity what global citizenship education (GCE) looks like.
- Celebrating successes and creating a culture that deeply values the impact of GCE.
- Evaluating leadership structures so change can be championed and managed over a number of years.
- Creating accountability systems so it’s clear who is responsible for specific targets and goals.
- Coaching the coaches or training the coordinators so that they can carry on the work in the absence of the consultant.
- Having a scheduled roll out/sharing protocol, starting with the school’s global citizenship champions as a pilot team, and eventually involving students, parents, and community stakeholders. With a purposeful roll-out, you can focus on deep work with specific teams during a specified time period and give others time to observe and understand what the pilot team is experiencing; this helps others get excited about their turn in participating in the next pilot team.
- Sharing conversations and dialogue about GCE so educators and students can learn, grow and develop ideas, approaches and mindsets as well as share common language about global citizenship.
Step 4: Reflect and Grow
When you have teachers guiding students towards everyday teaching and learning tasks and assessments that are based on the development of GCE skill sets, it’s key to evaluate the evidence of the learning that is taking place. Reflection is vital and rich in this stage.
“When teachers have collaborative planning opportunities, access to new teaching and learning tools, and support from instructional coaches and middle leaders, they can experience immense success equipping students to connect content with local and global assets and needs,” says Aaron. “Once they’ve had a chance to reflect on a unit and the learning that occurred, it’s good to run a unit back through steps 1 – 3 so teachers become more experienced and confident. That’s how teachers – and schools as a whole – go from working with a coach to being self-directed over time.”
The whole school model
In the work that Inspire Citizens does with schools around the world, there are multiple examples of transformative all-school approaches for active global citizenship. From COJOWA in Cartagena, Colombia to the AES (American Embassy School) of New Delhi and Seoul Foreign School in South Korea, the Inspire Citizens team has served as an accountability partner for multi-year transformation plans that have radically shifted teaching and learning. Just this past year, the International School of Kigali brought Aaron in to begin the process at their small school, and innovative learning experiences are already emerging.
“It looks different in each school,” says Aaron. “Many schools will begin by creating pilot teams and equipping those teams to redesign curriculum with a focus on active global citizenship and community engagement. This shows the rest of the school what this can look like, and then others can be invited into the work through celebrating and sharing successes.”
As more and more teams come on board and get excited about student engagement and learning related to GCE, momentum grows and the school culture becomes deeply connected to the school’s mission. Once this happens, transformation has occurred and is sustainable because multiple stakeholders care deeply about maintaining and extending the work of changemaking.
“We love to work as an accountability partner for schools to make sure this process stays on track,” says Aaron. “Working with an organization like ours costs a fraction of what it would cost to hire a full-time staff member to take this on, and we ensure consistency and energy throughout the process. We love what we do, and it’s a privilege to help schools develop or realize their mission with students.”
To learn more about transformative whole-school approaches to active global citizenship, check out some of these Inspire Citizens vignettes that showcase what’s happening on specific campuses around the globe:
COJOWA in Cartagena, Colombia
AES in New Delhi, India
SFS in Seoul, South Korea
NIDO in Santiago, Chile
LeeAnne Lavender is a storyteller for Inspire Citizens, and she is also an educational consultant, coach and facilitator for international educators. She specializes in storytelling, digital storytelling, service learning and global citizenship (and all of the powerful intersections that exist in these realms!).