Global Awareness: Developing Essential Skills for Success

As you may know, in 2015 Turning Point was awarded International Certification through the Council of International Schools (CIS). We are only the third school in the United States and one of nine schools in five countries to earn this honor. In preparing for this certification, faculty and staff spent time discussing and exploring values related to global citizenship. To this day, these values guide us in carefully selecting the tools and methods we use to help our students become valuable and collaborative stewards of the world.

During our quest for certification, Turning Point was required to demonstrate proficiency in four major areas: student growth and leadership commitment; whole school development; an emphasis on reflection followed by outcome-oriented action; and the translation of international education into authentic project-based learning across the community. While academics serves as the undercurrent in all these areas, the International Certification committee was just as interested in the school’s commitment to character and community, and how well those values translate to a global landscape.

As a student, I spent one year living abroad in Tokyo and one year in London, life-altering experiences that made me reconsider many assumptions I had about myself and about the world. I am thrilled that our students can benefit from this process of transformative knowledge and sharpened thinking. I just signed my son Jack (Level 6) up for Turning Point’s summer service learning trip to Peru. Next spring he will journey to the Dominican Republic for his Level 7 Study Tour and the following year to Italy for his Level 8 Study Tour. More than ever, I am grateful for these cross-cultural experiences—rare for most middle school students—that will require him to come to terms with the world using the tools he hones here each day.

As a society, we often narrowly view academics simply as a knowledge base along with a set of cognitive skills. In reality, a strong academic program is reflected in the demands of certification listed above. Thus, the ‘either/or’ paradigm, which presumes that schools are either academically focused or socially aware, is flawed. Global and social awareness are part and parcel of strong academic preparation in our modern age. Balancing traditional academics with global and social awareness develops students who are mindful of their roles and responsibilities in a world where disparate thinkers continue to come into closer proximity. It is exciting to be part of this new initiative at Turning Point that promises to make our students indispensable in the workplace and in the world.

Nelson Mandela said, “In the long run…we need a globalization of responsibility.” Whether we are innovating problem-solving products, working in teams with colleagues from other cultures, or understanding relations between countries or communities, we need to be globally fluent to stay relevant. In fact, without global citizens, we will struggle to solve the problems of poverty, climate change, lack of education, political instability, security, and sustainability.

Culture defines who we are and how we should behave, and must be understood before effective communication can occur. It shapes our thinking, so it is important that students understand how context constitutes one’s identity, as well as perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors about those who are different from us. Critical thinking, important across all disciplines, is crucial for students to transcend seeing things as “just the way they are” and developing the ability to hold multiple perspectives. At Turning Point, we continue to work on our core value of Global Awareness. We help students engage in dialogue, which involves critical thinking as students work to identify their assumptions and inquire and reflect on classmates’ contributions.

To support this part of our mission, we are hosting Dana Mortenson, Co-Founder and Executive Director of World Savvy, next Wednesday, Jan. 18 as part of our Parent Speaker Series. Ms. Mortenson will talk about how to help students develop skills essential for future success, including an appreciation for cultural differences, critical and comparative thinking skills, comfort with ambiguity, and an understanding of globally significant issues. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

Many of us adults did not have the opportunity to be formally educated in global skills, so this is a wonderful opportunity to gain a deeper awareness of how Turning Point prepares students for success in the future. I highly encourage you to attend this exciting opportunity and look forward to continuing the conversation with you then.

Dr. Laura Konigsberg
Head of School

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