At our gala auction last weekend, parents, alumni and Academy friends were the first to view this video about what being World Ready means to us. Seeing our students, young and older, packing their backpacks for their educational journeys got me thinking about what else we put in those backpacks to make sure our students are World Ready. What other essential items do they need to carry with them on their journey through our school and beyond?
The first thing I’d pack for any student is our faculty.
With seven hours in the school day, and 180 school days in a year, they really only have these kids for 14 percent of their daily lives. Yet we know that children carry with them throughout their whole lives, the memory of a teacher who really “got” them – a mentor, role model, confidant, who helped them discover who they were meant to be and who gave them courage to life lives of purpose.
The second thing I’d pack in that backpack is a brilliant, diverse body of students.
You will hear me say in the video and it bears repeating: Our student body is intentionally diverse. We believe that cultural, economic, racial, national, and gender diversity brings different perspectives, values, and backgrounds. Diversity also means different learning styles, and leading styles, so that students and faculty learn to be great leaders when they can be and good followers when they should be.
Diverse groups are more innovative, more creative and come up with the best answer time and time again over the lone expert. “WE is always smarter than ME” is a great tagline, and it’s why we teach our students to harness the power of this incredible peer group.
I’d also pack a facility for collaboration, team work, and rigorous debate.
If rigor is looking at a problem from multiple directions, multiple angles, multiple solutions and testing them – then collaboration is the easiest way to generate rigor. We need to give our students the skills, knowledge and power to sit at the same table and solve big problems.
That’s why, instead of sitting in rows like the industrial revolution, we sit around tables and talk about ideas and learn together. We are increasingly a global knowledge-based economy and there is no shortage of this commodity at the Academy.
Communication also has to go into the backpack.
To be World Ready is to be an effective communicator, no matter what language is required. Mono-cultural, mono-lingual kids are at a big disadvantage. We want our students to strive for language competency and fluency, to truly appreciate another language and culture. With home stays, hosting students, service projects and immersion travel, we bring the world to our students and our students to our world.
Item five is cultural fluency – and there really is an app for that!
One of my new favorite iPhone apps is called Culture GPS, and it’s an app to help navigate through intercultural differences. It uses five dimensions of national culture, first identified by Dutch professor Geert Hofstede:
• individualism vs. collectivism;
• masculinity vs. femininity;
• avoidance of uncertainty;
• long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation;
• and power distribution throughout society.
We think a lot about dimensions like that, because cultural fluency is the hallmark of a true 21st Century leader. We want kids to be at ease in their own skin, with compassion to walk in others’ shoes, and at ease beyond your front door, our campus and our national borders.
Another crucial item for the backpack is creating an intentionally moral climate.
The culture within the walls of our school is hugely important. We have an intentional moral curriculum, that influences how our students treat each other, what they say, knowing that they are listened to, and knowing how they listen to others.
We want our students to be physically and emotionally fit to deal with life’s stresses and difficult decisions in a healthy manner. Students who are World Ready will have to be ethical leaders – people who have the ability to not only distinguish right from wrong, but to make informed choices between two rights.
We also must pack a commitment to the care and stewardship of the planet and its people.
Sustainability is an institutional commitment. To do this, we need to educate students about their responsibility as global citizens and as stewards of our planet. They need to see that there is responsibility that comes with the privilege of living in a land of plenty, with resources to feed and clothe ourselves and attend a great school.
Finally, the backpack has to include a global curriculum.
Global Studies at the Academy isn’t just a stand-alone program; it is really a mission promise that we are preparing children to take up the challenge to be independent thinkers and global leaders. Our definition of Global is not reserved to food, flags and festivals — although those are some of the ways we celebrate our differences. We provide resources and activities in support of instruction that can help carry learning in the direction of world understanding and in the direction of personal self-knowledge, with students discovering their strengths, passions, and where they truly shine.