In the past few years, my classes and I have been on a journey across the globe using the internet. We have interacted and collaborated with classrooms across the world by working with excellent global education organizations such as Flat Classroom™, iEARN, and Globalclassroom. We have emailed, Skyped, snail-mailed, and used so many online Web 2.0 tools I have lost count.
As a parent, teacher and member of the human race, I think that being comfortable in a global arena is not only the key to the economic success of our country, but the key to any kind of stability in our world. The world we live in now is much smaller with technology, and will continue to get smaller. There is so much misunderstanding, fear and distrust between nations, religions, races, and cultures. I experience that separation dissolve when human beings interact on a personal level as students, parents, teachers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives…as just people.
On a recent trip out of the country, I appreciated the fact that many people around the world are making an effort to learn English, but it also made me sad for the missed opportunity we as English speakers have. As a person who speaks Spanish as a second language, and not perfectly even after 20 years, I know the difficulties I can have trying to convey a message or to conjugate a verb properly, and just how frustrating and exhausting it can be to communicate.
To have that experience makes me more understanding and tolerant of those trying to learn and speak English. Struggling with another language goes a long way in building a bridge between what I know and what I am unfamiliar/uncomfortable with. It gives me a depth of understanding that not many others things do. It is impossible for me to convey that to my students as we work with children from other countries that are attempting to speak English.
As our country works to align our schools’ curriculums with the new Common Coree Standards adopted by 45 of the states in the US, I believe that it would go a long way toward global stability, economic success, and overall tolerance if we also considered the importance of teaching a second language throughout all of the school years, as it is apparent that others countries are doing.
Graphic from: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.