Guest Author – Jen Friske: While reading Sam Sherratt’s blog on International Mindedness I came across something he said that really struck close to home for me. Sam states, “…I am confronted by the dilemma of how much should be shared with elementary students. But then I ask myself whether our job as educators is to actually educate children or to delude them into thinking the world is a wonderful, happy, fluffy place where things don’t die and people are essentially good. Surely, if we are preparing these future adults for reality we need to show them what a mess previous and contemporary adults are making of reality. Isn’t that our only hope?”
I wonder, do the cliches, “No news is good news”, “Ignorance is bliss” or “What you don’t know won’t hurt you” hold any merit in our lives anymore? Kids today are inundated with an endless supply of information. Almost everything is “Googleable” (yes, I said Googleable). With the click of a mouse, or television remote, the world is at their fingertips. While our aim as educators should be to create global awareness in our students, is there a point where for the young minds we are educating there is too much? How much is too much? Just the other day, my grade three students sparked a discussion about the events unfolding in Libya. It all stemmed from a look into what a refugee is. This spiraled into one of my students saying that he had seen on the news all of the people who were fleeing Libya and the “bad guy”. Curious, I asked my students how many of them were aware of what was happening in Libya. I was surprised to see more than half of my class of 24 put their hands up. So, we stopped to talk about what they have heard, and what their thoughts were on the subject. All the while, I’m sitting with my students, thinking in my head, “Should I be doing this? What am I doing? Is this too much for a group of nine year olds? Are they going to go home afraid? Will their parents be upset that we talked about this?”
My grade three team has discussed this on several occasions while planning our units of inquiry. We want our students to be aware of what is occurring in our world, but we don’t want them to be afraid. Where is the line between being aware and being afraid? Is that line made of sand, or is it set in stone? Which, ultimately started me thinking (just like Sam Sherratt) – should they be afraid? How will our future generations take action and make a change if they aren’t aware of our past mistakes? I find it a difficult situation, because every time that you listen to the news it’s doom and gloom, depressing and the worst examples of human nature. However, for the most part, it’s reality and – to use another cliche – the truth hurts. This is what our students are exposed to everyday. Many of them want to talk about it…need to talk about it in order to make sense of their world. Should we deny them that?
While watching David Griffin, the photo director for National Geographic speak about How photography connects us, he makes a good point at 10:25 in his talk, “Whenever we are doing a big story…we don’t want to just look at all the problems, we also want to look for solutions.” I think this is our job as educators as well. Students come to us now, aware of these events and it is our job to acknowledge this, and help them look for solutions. While we might not be faced with these issues here at home, they are nevertheless real issues that most of our students will likely be exposed to in some form or another in their lifetime. Is it not our responsibility to prepare them for it? Isn’t that what international mindedness is all about?
About the Author: I am currently a Grade Three teacher at Prairie Waters Elementary School in Chestermere. We are embarking on a journey to becoming an International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) Primary Years Programme school. My focus is on International Mindedness and incorporating Rocky view’s vision for the 21st Century learner into my everyday practice.