This guest blog post is written by Janelle Dickerson, a recongnized and certified K-8 dance educator and teacher leader at a ES/PS 315 The Lab School for Children in the Bronx. Her piece was inspired by the teacher leader vignettes written in Flip the System: Changing Education from the Ground Up.
Fran Siracusa interviewed by Janelle Dickerson
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist
Every teacher enters the classroom (consciously or unconsciously) with a lens that affects the way in which they view student learning and their personal practices. A reflective teacher should always be cognizant of the lens(es) which drives what occurs within their learning environment. “Global education is especially important to me as it touches me personally. I am half American and half Spanish. I was lucky enough to have been born of a mother who was born and raised in Spain. I grew up speaking two languages in my home and adapting to the two cultures within the confines of my home. I have the gift of being able to reflect on possessing the perspective of a second culture – being able to teach Spanish for over twenty years, to expose my students to different perspectives and to make connections with others in foreign countries. I feel like I possess an important role in education.”
Stephen Brookfield’s four lenses of a critically reflective teacher include self, student, peer and scholarly literature. The goal of a critically reflective teacher is to increase awareness of teaching from as many different perspectives as possible. “I also believe it is essential to be a life-long learner, who continues to read, research, discuss, share, listen to others and adapt regarding best practices. I am also somewhat different than others like me as I try to remain focused on sharing with a ‘global world’ and its citizens.”
Brookfield also suggests that excellent teachers, in deliberate and sustained ways, continually seek to shape teaching and learning environments into democratic spaces of knowledge exchange. “The biggest lesson I learned is that the students simply want to connect with other students. To be able to relate to them, have a real connection and authentic relationship with others is vital to our humanity. Additionally, if the topic or project was authentic and students could speak about their interests and personalities, the experience would ‘stick’.”
Fran and her Calliope Global Education Initiatives co-founder, Jennifer Williams, believe that a collaborative global learning space will allow students to assume “multiple perspectives, explore alternative solutions, and thoughtfully solve problems” (Williams & Fran, 2015). In spite of these advantages, various challenges remain in their quest for creating global classrooms. “Convincing others of the importance of global citizenship…push back from others who do not value global education. Another challenge is the amount of time and flexibility that is required to conduct and sustain global projects without them fizzling out over time.”
With a “positive can do attitude which elicits excitement in others, as well as caring for others” and her ability to “lead others by modeling behavior so that both students and educators would improve their task at hand and their learning”, Fran has been able to overcome challenges to establishing global classrooms and has created numerous global learning opportunities for her students. Her involvement in global education includes projects which incorporate exchange with classrooms across the world; traveling abroad with students; organizing middle school students’ participation in a junior Model United Nations national conference in New York City; hosting students and teachers from various countries, such as Spain, Germany and China; and volunteering in Costa Rica for three weeks to run an afterschool technology program.
William and Siracusa (2015) agree that there cannot be a single universal blueprint for designing a collaborative learning space yet Fran has exemplified global collaboration by inspiring classroom design that allows for connected sharing and learning. “It is easy to connect with people across the world, especially from connections made on Twitter or through reputable organizations such as iEARN and Skype in education. I also connected with a representative from the embassy of Spain to ensure that I could obtain a list of reputable schools with decent technology; therefore, strengthening the chances of achieving a sustainable program.”
Understanding that she would have a wider impact teaching and professionally developing teachers who will then transfer their learning to their students, Fran has taken her passion for global classrooms beyond her personal classroom through her work with Calliope Global Education Initiatives. “By connecting international classrooms, we hope to serve as a catalyst that will inspire transformational learning and teaching through global projects, travel, and professional development.” Departing from the traditional classroom has allowed for more quality time with Fran’s children and a more active participation within her children’s school, encouraging and assisting them with creating global classrooms.
Calliope Global Education Initiatives is based on the calliope hummingbird, which is thought to symbolize the enjoyment of life and an optimistic world view. The calliope hummingbird is also known for incredible feats despite its small size, which justifies the meaning of its name “little star”. Fran’s passion and work in global education reflects the calliope hummingbird by personifying educational exploration in an effort to connect, create, and inspire together with teachers and students of the world. She enjoys being “a community builder, a sharer, a catalyst, and supporter of all stakeholders in an education system.
Fran Siracusa has been a classroom Spanish teacher for over 20 years, earned her M.Ed. in Educational Technology in 2012. She managed a 1:1 middle school iPad program as an early adopter while teaching, speaking, and professionally writing for educational magazines and blogs. Currently, as the co-founder of Calliope Global, she loves to support educational teams in meeting the diverse needs of today’s students who will be well-equipped players in the global and creative workforce of the future. Her passions are student-centered learning, global projects, digital literacy, learning space design and World Language study. She has presented most recently at K12 Online Conference, FFLA, ECG, SCOLT, FETC, FLENEF, ISTE, ACTFL, FCIS, EdSurge Summit and GEC. Fran is also the co-founder of EdCamp Tampa Bay, the co-founder of Conquistadors Connect, and happily promotes educational excellence by serving as an Edutopia guest blogger, a Kahoot! founding ambassador, an organizer for EdCamp Global Classrooms, and an educator voice for Makkajai.