The importance of ‘Experience’ and ‘Self’ in Global Learning.

A couple months ago, I spent a few days in the woods north of Bancroft, Ontario. It was a frigid -30C with windchill values hitting -46C, but this is part of life when entering the Canadian wilderness in January, and ultimately we knew that it would be a great experience. I truly value these experiences. They push my comfort zone and force me to connect more deeply with friends, family, my kids, nature, and more importantly, myself. Actually, many of my financial arguments with my wife are around decisions on spending as I mostly spend my money on experiences rather than ‘things’. I’ve always been this way.

When I began my career 10 years ago, I could never have comprehended the journey that teaching would take me on. I spent my first year teaching in an Inuit community in Nunavut and this was transformative in so many ways – mostly personal. I came back south and worked various LTOs with my local public board.  After a couple of years, the urge to explore and experience the world again crept back in and I left Canada to teach in Casablanca, Morocco. Again, this experience was transformative, changing my perspective on life and teaching. Returning home, I landed a job at Lakefield College School where I have grown so much more as a teacher; learning from and travelling the world with my students, learning with my amazing colleagues, and having doors opened to me. My life at LCS has been and continues to be, transformative. My life has been sculpted through experiences, and I truly believe that student learning should be too. Not just good assignments or labs, but real life-worthy experiences that engage our students deeply across all disciplines.  We thrive on experiences because every new experience means new learning. It pushes us out of our comfort zones, forces us to take a different approach, and changes the ‘I used to think’ to ‘Now I think’.

With my new position at LCS, Director of Global Learning, I was given the opportunity to marry my passion for geography, travel, adventure, teaching. And so, my action plan this year revolved around making our Global Learning Trips more meaningful. They are transformative experiences as they are, but how do we ensure our students are asking the right questions, digging deeper to understand themselves and their place in the world better?

Action Plan: How might we support deep global learning through meaningful experiences and programming?

I was tasked to create a curriculum for our students to work through prior to their experiences overseas with our Global Learning trips.  I knew I wanted to create something special and through many conversations, iterations and many jumps through systemic hoops at LCS, we came to a consensus that a weekend retreat for all trip teams would be the best approach for this year. Trip leaders would learn and participate alongside their students. I wanted it to be an experience, I wanted to create an atmosphere of learning –  and intentionality was paramount. And so was born the…

Key learnings I hoped for:

  • General knowledge of destination country, culture, history, and people.
  • Overall self-awareness and its importance to global experiences.
  • Understanding of their privileges as they pertain to global experiences.
  • Understanding of how biases and assumptions can affect interactions.
  • Learning about each other – i.e. building a team

Heading into the pre-retreat weekend, I was nervous. My creative juices had been flowing for months in anticipation of this weekend. Through collaboration with some Global Learning team leaders, my direct report, @vboomgaardt, and our pedagogical coaches, @ddoucet and Ali Webb, the Global Learning retreat was sculpted into something that I was excited about.

Once up at Bark Lake, the scene was set. Our students were put through the learning ringer with a heavily packed 2-day global learning experience with activities, deep reflective time, and creative outlets that pertained to their countries. They worked, ate, and slept with their team and began their journey of self-discovery and global learning well before heading to their respective countries over March Break.

Like any new program, constructive feedback and changes are bound to arise. What I didn’t fully expect, was how much our students took from this experience. I leave you with some of the student feedback from their experience (see below). Reading these again and seeing words like ‘grateful, trust, mindful, gives me goosebumps to this day. It was one of the most powerful experiences that I have been apart of as a teacher.

“I think that learning about what your country, team, and yourself … prepared me more because I am now more familiar with the country before attending. Also, I know everyone in my group and we’re past the awkward stage of meeting new people and I’d say that we’d all be comfortable opening up to each other about any concerns we might have. Taking the time to really evaluate myself and think about what I’m good at and writing what I’m worried about down took away some nervousness by letting it all out.”

“Learning about my country helped rationalise some of my fears and give me some background for how to behave abroad, while simply spending time with my team helped me to become comfortable around the people I will have to trust on my trip”

“These activities made me realize of all the privileges which we have, and how that will be important to remember as we go in countries where people will be less fortunate. It also made me understand more about Ecuador and Galápagos Islands.”

“I got to become closer with some new people as well as becoming closer to people who are already my best friends. I was also able to see what its gonna be like when I get there and to just be thankful and mindful of what I have.”

“Really getting to know my group, we didn’t really know each other before. I didn’t really know exactly what to expect on this trip until I went on his retreat. The privileges activity was really eye opening and I really enjoyed that.

“Honestly I think everything was great! It was an awesome time and allowed us to get to know our country and the people within our group.”

“It really opened my eyes to how lucky I am and how grateful I am to even be going on the trip which makes me even more excited”

If you are interested in seeing more detail, here is the schedule of events and for the slide deck of the Global Learning Pre-Trip retreat weekend –> Click Here


Reflections on my Cohort 21 Action Plan:

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