Learning and actively seeking out learning opportunities is part of who I am. Over recent years I have learnt in many ways; in school, at conferences, through teachmeets, online and F2F. Most of my recent learning whilst valuable and practical has been focused on learning and teaching, ICT tools and pedagogy. It has been quite some time since I participated in a learning opportunity that so greatly challenged my thinking.
I have spent the last few days at the Council of International Schools regional conference in Melbourne, “Educating for global competence”. Whilst the conference in its entirety was valuable it was listening to three presenters in particular, that provided me with the most challenge to my thinking. Fazal Rizvi, Eeqbal Hassim and Malcolm Fiahlo, provoked powerful thinking and delivered critical messages through a willingness to share their stories and challenge my assumptions, thinking and ideas on so many levels.
My takeaways …….
TAKEAWAY 1 – When we talk about Asian literacy, it Is not about learning a language, it is not even about Asia; it is about building intercultural literacy to develop an understanding of and respect for difference, of our own and other’s cultures
To do that we have to be able to ….. feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations
And to do that ………… we need trust, perspective, balance, empathy, respect and knowledge about humanity (not facts)
And to have those …… We need to be teaching and learning competencies not just skills, which makes it so much more than merely learning a language.
TAKEAWAY 2 – Be very aware of my own and others assumptions.
- I try very hard not to fall into the assumption trap
- I try hard not to judge how others might be responding and reacting to situations based on my values and beliefs
- I try to view events through a logical, practical lens rather than an emotional, catastrophising one.
My aha moment was listening to Eeqbal explain how the Acehnese viewed the 2004 tsunami … to many of them the event was a ‘peace process’ not the tragedy that we saw.
TAKEAWAY 3 – To know and understand others, their values , beliefs, cultures, actions we have to do so from inside the fishbowl, not by observing from the outside. It is only through these opportunites can we begin to break down assumptions and generalisations. As educators we should be harnessing the potential of the digital world to make connections and step inside the fishbowl, just as we should be inviting others into our fishbowl.
TAKEAWAY 4 – I was really interested in the discussions around “unconscious bias”, which did make me question my own “unconscious biases” and I do have some. Interestingly most of mine are not race or culture related. The big question I am still pondering is …… when is it bias and when is it just life and how do you tell the difference? As educators we have such a role to play in making sure our “unconscious bias” is not transmitted to our students, but also to ask ourselves what are the “unconscious biases” of our community. If our students can develop an understanding of how generalisations, misconceptions and lack of knowledge can contribute to “unconscious bias” then maybe we can begin to break down the barriers. Once again the importance of using a conceptual lens to focus learning comes to the fore …. empathy, perspective, connections, respect.
An interesting point that was raised …… Australians generally discriminate much more on accent than race. What a great reminder that we should invest the time to listen properly and work hard to develop understanding.
TAKEAWAY 5 – I don’t think I had ever thought about “meet” as a concept ….until now. The idea that through meeting we can develop a sense of identity, individuality and intercultural understanding, and minimise the likelihood of making generalisations based on limited facts and stereotypes. Through ‘meeting’ we can share our own narratives, our own histories. We all have a narrative, our own story of place or places that mean something, that are part of who we are, who our families and have contributed to our culture, our beliefs, our values. Growing up we were always known as the “early family”, we were early to everything, my father always had to leave extra early, just in case there was an emergency on the way. This is part of my culture, I am still early and my children are early. Maybe it is part of the Germanic blood that flows through my family from generations back – who knows? But what I do know is that it is part of the Johnstone culture and part of me. We need to spend time on a personal level building relationships, sharing stories, truly listening to others’ stories and providing time and opportunity for this to happen.
My final take away is the absolute importance of PURPOSE. Knowing why is so much more important than the what or the how! As we continue to travel down the path of supporting our students to become global citizens and internationally minded thinkers, I can’t help thinking we will be better off if we remember to share our stories, keep an eye out for ‘unconscious bias’, steer clear of assumptions and make the time to meet even if we feel uncomfortable doing so. That’s where the magic happens.