Students in America do not live in isolation. Internationalizing American curriculum is important because it enables our students to engage, compete, and develop with the rest of the world. Location and nationality should not limit our students’ opportunities to learn and understand. For pre-service teachers and K-12 students, the best classroom in the world is the world itself. Incorporating international perspectives into American curriculum is the best way to ensure our students grow up with an understanding of the world that includes new cultural perspectives. It is important to target educators like myself who are preparing to become teachers to ensure that what they teach reflects the broader world community. When pre-service teachers are able to experience international perspectives firsthand, they develop a more comprehensive skill set and broader experiences to bring into the classroom. This translates into a more globalized learning experience for their students who go on to become more globally competent citizens.
I am currently finishing my second Master’s degree in Education with certification in 6 – 12 social studies at the University of North Alabama. When my husband and I graduate next Spring, we hope to teach in international schools to feed our wanderlust. My wanderlust stems from a childhood spent moving around the United States in a military family. When I was presented with the opportunity to pursue a degree abroad, I jumped at the chance and completed a Master’s of Science in International Public Policy with a specialization in International Political Economy from University College London in England. I worked for Women Thrive Worldwide as a Senior Associate for their Global Trade and Agriculture Policy program where I looked at the international impacts of U.S. led development programs. I have taught English as a Foreign Language in Namibia and South Korea and currently serve as an Adjunct Instructor for the Intensive English as a Second Language program at the University of North Alabama. These experiences have allowed me to develop a cultural fluency that incorporates perspectives from around the world into my teaching methods. With this global perspective I enter the classroom to encourage students to get out of the classroom and explore.
Internationalizing teacher education goes hand in hand with social studies curriculum. Social studies is interesting because it allows me to pursue my passion of learning about other cultures, places, and histories. A comprehensive social studies curriculum should inherently include international perspectives. What better way to teach about the world than to share personal experiences? Integrating different perspectives into American curriculum prepares our students to look at the world from an inclusive viewpoint instead of an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality.
In my experience as a teacher and through my education courses, I have learned that across the United States, classrooms are increasingly diverse and students bring with them unique perspectives and experiences. In response, many American teacher education programs include an emphasis on teaching for an inclusive classroom. Teacher educators in these programs argue that teacher candidates who have experienced other cultures develop a cultural fluency that better prepares them to serve and educate the students in their classrooms. Student teaching abroad is one strategy that is emphasized as a way to expose future educators to other cultures and develop their cultural fluency.
Scholars in the field of internationalizing teacher education, however, have called for more evidence that international student teaching does, in fact, develop global competency and cultural fluency. To this end, I will be serving as a Research Intern this fall for Global Teacher Education, supporting the Advisory Committee on International Field Experiences, to develop articles and resources on student teaching abroad. I will also be developing a literature review to examine what research tells us about the effects of these experiences on participants.
Educating students is important to ensure we pass down knowledge to future generations. Equally important is the necessity to produce contributing members of society. American society doesn’t stop at the border. Students need to gain an understanding of where they fit in American society and how the fit within global society. Internationalizing American education provides the most comprehensive vehicle for that to occur. That is why I look forward to working with Global Teacher Education because I believe that by understanding what pre-service teachers can gain through international experience will influence how we better prepare our students to engage in the global arena.