At St. Mary’s School, an International Baccalaureate World School in Aliso Viejo, California, teachers are always looking for ways to broaden students’ global understanding.
To that end, Heidi Galloway, Chair of the Literature and Language Department, recently offered Global Conversations to all four of her sections of sixth grade English. Her students read and discussed I am Malala with global partners in India and Uganda.
“It has been a fantastic experience. The partnership has elevated my students’ thinking and awareness. Their global partners are becoming real to them, real people, real friends,” said Galloway.
Galloway’s students were paired one-on-one with partner students from one of three schools: Ekalavya in Hyderabad, Masoom Night Schools in Mumbai and Gayaza High School in Uganda. While reading I am Malala, they communicated with their individual global partners by sending and receiving video messages each week that explored important themes from the book.
“I have overheard some deep insights on the part of my students. For example, when talking about how they are leaders, and how they can develop further as leaders, many mentioned activities they are involved in that I did not know about. Some said they are leaders for their younger siblings, and others shared that this spring they will run for office in our school’s student government,” said Galloway. “It’s a sure thing that they have been inspired by Malala.”
The students are also gaining insights into their partner’s daily life, traditions and popular culture.
“They are genuinely curious about their partners’ customs and interests. They ask about their school day, their subjects and their sports,” said Galloway.”When it came to the conversation about leadership, they asked high level questions about the governments of our partner countries. The partnership has elevated my students’ thinking and awareness.”
The Ugandan students paired with St. Mary’s learned a great deal from the global exchange, as well.
“I like the Global Conversations course because it gives students an opportunity to understand the education and culture of their partner countries,” said Niyirinda Theode, math instructor and ICT enthusiast at Gayaza High School in Uganda. “They share different traits that good leaders should have, and in this way it helps them reflect on their values to see if they can actually be good leaders. This gives them a different global view altogether.”
One of the important themes students discussed as part the Malala exchange was access to education. Students at St. Mary’s heard firsthand how education is valued by Masoom night school students, who hold jobs during the day, such as selling vegetables or making shoes, and then go to school at night.
“From education, we learn about having manners and respect for everyone,” said Sonya, a Masoom student. “Many children don’t go school but they need to get educated. I am working in the day and am studying in Sri Krishna night school.”
“Education is very important to everyone, both girls and boys,” said Roopa, another Masoom student. “Everyone should get an education. Like Malala, she is getting education with bravery.”
Comments from Ugandan students were also eye-opening for their partners in the U.S.
“In my opinion, education has helped the emancipation of women in Africa. In some places in Africa, and around the world, some girls don’t go to school because their families don’t have the money or it’s not allowed in their tradition so they get married early because their parents need the bride price,” said Daniella at Gayaza High School.
When it was their turn, students at St. Mary’s reflected with comments like this one from Henry: “My education has really helped me throughout life. It has helped me write well and do math. My dad got a good education and got a good stable job because of his education.”
St. Mary’s students also utilized technology to better convey their school experience to their partners.
“Two of them thought it would be a good idea to take their global partners on a virtual tour of the school, so they walked up and down the halls, carrying their Chrome books and filming to show their partners our buildings. The film was bumpy, but the idea was terrific!” said Galloway.
At the same time as her students were having these conversations via video message exchange, Galloway connected with the teachers on the other end via Level Up Village’s global communications platform.
“One of my partner teachers invited me to visit her school in Uganda,” said Galloway. “Her lovely voice and delightful accent, not to mention the gorgeous scenery in the background of her video, are so enticing to me, that I am seriously wondering how and when I can get myself to Uganda!”