Leaving this conference after just two short days of learning and sharing, I am inspired and renewed. There were wonderful speakers and workshops covering a variety of topics, all focused on international students and global citizenship.
The conference kicked off with a lovely get to know you reception. This casual gathering provided participants the opportunity to catch up with old friends, meet new people and browse the displays of the generous sponsors.
The first speaker of the 2013 TABS Global Symposium was Hilary Kahn, the director of the Center for the Study of Global Change at Indiana University. Dr. Kahn spoke about a new definition of knowledge, which is no longer a solitary endeavor. She went on to share that in today’s world, knowledge is global, it emerges from networks based on collaboration and dialogue. Global learning integrates multiple perspectives; it’s about what we do with knowledge. What is the students’ action and responsibility?
Perhaps the most valuable part of Dr. Kahn’s speech was her advice for establishing an international classroom. She encouraged all participants to define learning outcomes, set goals to see and engage with the world. Setting the tone at orientation, from the first class is very important. Dr. Kahn encourages teachers to expand their toolbox, read books from international authors, foreign newspapers, facilitate international conversation, engage international students and utilize social media. She went on to tell the audience to encourage moments of discomfort; taking students out of their comfort zone can be powerful pedagogy for global learning.
The second speaker of the symposium was Dr. Christopher Thurber, a board-certified clinical psychologist, educator, author and father. During the academic year he serves as school psychologist as Phillips Exeter Academy. Chris is a dynamic speaker and had the audience engaged in minutes. He began by asking how we effectively manage diversity. Then with a smile, he admonished us to start by recognizing that we don’t know everything. His key point was the need to combine humility with curiosity to boost your multicultural IQ.
Dr. Thurber provided practical advice and sample exercises to prevent marginalization. He challenged us to think about leveraging cognitive diversity and intentionally blending students. Chris handed out sage advice: when responding to racist micro-aggression notice your reaction, consider the context, listen without judging and ask, “Can you help me understand?”. His time at the podium flew by and he left us better prepared to respectfully and comfortably boost our multicultural IQ.
The second day of the conference kicked off with speaker Shabana Basij-Rasikh. She is the Managing Director as well as the acting Head of School for the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA). Her powerful story of sneaking out to attend school, facing deadly consequences under the Taliban and her family’s decision to believe in their daughters touched all who were fortunate to hear this woman speak. Shabana founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Afghan women while still in college. At just 22 years old she is a dynamic and inspiring woman already recognized for her public service, leadership and community impact. The SOLA website exclaims: Courage to Grow, Knowledge to Lead and Power to Change, fitting words for the school and for Shabana, a visionary leader.
Along with these three wonderful speakers, there were many concurrent sessions covering academics, admission, advancement/marketing, college counseling and residential life. Each of the sessions I attended opened up new pathways of knowledge and left me encouraged to improve my practice. Many attendees came to learn, others to share what they were doing in their respective schools. All of us left with a deeper understanding of global citizenship and a plethora of tools to meet the needs of our international students.
Kim Sivick is an independent school professional and a TABS Global Symposium guest blogger.