Teacher Testimonials: If you want your students to become global citizens, you must first be a global teacher
‘Eight years ago, I was a passive teacher because I taught my students the way my teachers used to teach me. The knowledge I imparted to my students came mainly from textbooks, I never thought of bringing my students out of the four walls of the traditional classroom. At that time, I was satisfied with my teaching and thought that I was a good teacher.’ Nam Ngo Thanh, HundrED Ambassador and primary school teacher in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, expresses the reality that many teachers face.
Education has become about following the status quo, forgetting that things can be done differently, as Sir Ken Robinson told us, ‘A lot of the things that go on in school aren’t actually required by law, they’re not mandated, they’re just habits that everybody's fallen into (...) Step one is to recognise that you’re the system and you can begin to make the change.'
How we do things in schools are habit more than anything else and in the technologically advanced world we now find ourselves in, there are a plethora of opportunities to update teaching practices to make education an alive and refreshing place.
Nam realized this in 2015 when he discovered the Innovative Teacher Competition organized by Microsoft Vietnam and the Ministry of Education. After winning first prize, he got to represent Vietnamese teachers at the Global Education Forum in the United States, where he met Koen Timmers and was ‘truly amazed by the new things Koen and many other teachers were doing in their classrooms.’
‘I returned to Vietnam with so many ideas and thoughts like "Am I an old-fashioned teacher?" I told myself to change to keep up with other teachers around the globe. I started tracking the activities of other teachers, especially Koen Timmers. He organized global teaching activities and these activities really pushed me to change.’
Koen Timmers, who was recently shortlisted to the final ten for the Global Teacher Prize 2018, is founder of Global Learning, an initiative that creates a network of schools working on real projects in the world all aligned to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Global Learning was chosen as one of our 100 Inspiring Innovations of 2017.
We’ve had countless consequences from climate change such as rainstorms and floods, all of which affect the lives of people here. Through the project, both my own students and students all over the world learnt to recognize the importance of coping with this huge global problem.
Nam realized that the projects set up by Global Learning would be extremely meaningful and beneficial for his students, so he organized for them to take part in projects like the Project Water, the Human Differences Project and the Climate Action Project. Because of this Nam told us, ‘My students have had the opportunity to connect with global classes and to learn about global issues such as the importance of water for life, gender equality and climate change issues.’
The Climate Change project is particularly close to Nam's heart, ‘Climate change is of course one of the causes of global warming and in Vietnam we feel the effects of this. We’ve had countless consequences from climate change such as rainstorms and floods, all of which affect the lives of people here. Through the project, both my own students and students all over the world learnt to recognize the importance of coping with this huge global problem.’
Not only do students learn to cope with the problems they’re facing at home and globally, but the projects also allow real-world learning to happen, increasing engagement and giving students life skills that can propel their learning forward.
‘When participating in Global Learning, my students' learning is not limited to the classroom, but extended to the outside world. Students can easily talk to each other all around the world, exchanging their ideas. By using tools such as Skype I am giving children the opportunity to make friends with people around the world. My students share what they have learned about the projects they are doing with other classes and their new friends from other countries share their thoughts and views related to the project. This is great a way for students to develop critical thinking. Through these connections students are provided with the skills to live in the 21st century and become international citizens who are able to adapt themselves to different cultures.’
Through collaborating globally we are teaching students conflict resolution and intercultural relations skills, which in turn will help to attain peace and cooperation in the world.
Connections-based learning makes best use of the social technologies now at our disposal and are beneficial for both students and teachers, as Nam goes on to explain, ‘Teachers also have the opportunity to cooperate internationally which enables teaching and learning techniques to be much more exciting. By joining classrooms around the world, we are changing the way teachers design classrooms. They are discovering new ways to teach, opening doors for their students and becoming global thinkers as well.’
The effects of Global Learning are best heard from the students themselves, as Nam has documented in the video below, where students explain they’ve gained skills in areas such as collaboration, discussion, responsibility and technology.
He also told us of one 5th grade student, Minh Nhan, who, after participating in the Water Project as part of Global Learning, spends her weekends working for a charity in a poor province of Vietnam. At the charity, Minh Nhan helps to educate people on water usage and water protection, as well as how to treat polluted water sources.
Nam asked her why she would rather spend her weekends working for a charity than having fun and doing the usual things kids do at weekends. Minh Nhan replied, ‘Protecting water is more important to me because it affects the lives of so many people, so I’ve prioritised it over other things at the weekend."
Now more than ever we need to create positive dialogues between different cultures and to realize that there is more that connects us than keeps us apart. Global Learning has been an excellent way to establish these attitudes in students as Nam goes on to explain, ‘Global Learning makes students global citizens, breaking down barriers and helps students and educators to learn global cultural perspectives.
The international aspects involved in Global Learning also increases students’ intellectual capacity and resiliency. Through collaborating globally we are teaching students conflict resolution and intercultural relations skills, which in turn will help to attain peace and cooperation in the world.’
But being globally-minded isn’t just down to the students as Nam says, ‘If you want your students to become global citizens, you must first be a global teacher.’ Nam believes ‘that Global Learning is an excellent way to do this and to be a revolutionary teacher. You have to make changes before your students leave you behind them.’
So inspired by including Global Learning in his classroom, Nam has truly gone on to be a revolutionary teacher by creating his own global projects such as We Are Little Volunteers, Five Safe Fingers. He credits other global teachers for his new-found approach to teaching, telling us, ‘I would like to thank all the global teachers who have inspired my teaching.’
Nam goes to show how it’s never too late – or too early – to update your teaching practices to be in-line with the world that we are currently living in and to utilise the opportunities available for education today. He also proves that most of our current education system is just habit and habits can be broken. It’s inspirational and inspiring to know that we truly can be the change we want to see in the world, we just need the courage, know-how and encouragement to do so.
Fired up to transform your teaching and to turn your students into global citizens? Find out how to get involved in Global Learning on their project page.
Mr. Nam Thanh (@mrnamvas) is a elementary school teacher in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and a HundrED Ambassador. Nam is the founder of the global project Five Safe Fingers. He is also the winner of Educator of the Year Asia 2017 and Top 50 Global Teacher Prize Finalist 2018.