As we all know, educating children takes a village. I think it takes three kinds of villages to truly raise children to be lifelong learners- the first includes partnering with parents to fully understand the essential elements of their child’s identity, the second would be including the neighboring community to share our classroom endeavors and accomplishments, and finally it involves the international community to broaden the children’s perspective of their daily needs to the global experiences and needs of people around the world.
For this to happen, it takes the growth mindset of educators to broaden our own perspectives as well. We must truly comprehend that our educational disputes and concerns, from school to national levels, pale to those in our international educational community. Yes, we need to advocate for our educational needs to improve education for our students, but teachers also need to remember our educational partners in other countries.
I stumbled upon this profound ah-ha when I began following Justin Miles on Twitter. If you don’t know who Justin Miles is, it’s time to find out more about him! I was intrigued by his social media posts about his Skype Classroom experiences. Mr. Miles is involved in Skype classroom to share with children around the world his expeditions in other continents. We connected and set up a time for Mr. Miles to become a guest speaker in my classroom, via Skype. It was like a Star Trek experience—an explorer from England was “beamed into” my Arizona classroom, and his professionally organic and compelling explanations of mapping concepts and survival skills in extreme environments captivated each of my thirty students. My students’ favorite part of this experience was when Mr. Miles grabbed ahold of his Husky, “Whiskey” (insert a lot of giggling from 8-year-olds), and showed him off to the students, explaining how the anatomy of a dog’s fur must be replicated by humans to stay alive in polar environments. Yes, they are still playing “Whiskey the Husky” at recess….
My favorite part of our Skype classroom experience occurred as Mr. Miles was showing some pictures of his travels and explorations, and he popped up a group photograph of he and several African people. A student of mine sincerely asked, “Which one are you?” (insert a lot of laughing from the adults in the classroom). Although this was the first time for my students to hear a European accent and see people outside of the United States and Mexico, they didn’t view the people’s identity in terms of color or race. It was exciting to see how this virtual field trip truly made the world come alive to my students! There were no barriers to the endless possibilities in their future.
Although the future is shining brightly for my newly-inspired future world-travelers, it heightened my awareness of how the future is NOT shining brightly for many children outside of our nation. In the United States, we are constantly advocating for the need of equitable education tools to ensure full success of all children. But in other countries, they don’t even have the educational opportunities, much less the tools!!
I have heard Mr. Miles refer to the “global educational crisis,” and I asked him how he would define it. He answered:
There are fifty-nine – 59 – million children world-wide who, for a multitude of reasons, are denied access to education. Fifty-nine million. I can imagine what a hundred people looks like, or even 500 and I’m told that the Wembley stadium here in the UK can hold up to around 90,000 people so I can, sort of, get a handle on that but putting an image to 59 million children – for me, that’s impossible. The barriers to education can be wide and complex, such as displacement due to natural disasters such as earthquakes; or displacement due to fleeing conflict; or cultural challenges to education such as a refusal or reluctance to educate girls; or poverty, famine and disease; or nomadic populations whose transient lifestyle makes attending a fixed facility virtually impossible. These are a few examples, some of the obvious, but there are many, many more. This, to me, represents a crisis.
A real-life explorer, passionate about the educational crisis throughout the world, doesn’t happen overnight. I asked Mr. Miles how his journey as a global educational advocate originated and progressed, and he responded:
All of my expeditions and adventures are designed to engage with schools world-wide; to bring the world to life in classrooms and encourage children to learn more, see more, and do more but I also try to play my part in making education happen by supporting those people and organisations working to make the dream of universal education provision a reality.
Some time ago I saw images in the international news about refugee populations: thousands upon thousands of people fleeing conflict affected areas in the middle-east and seeing the children amongst those people torn away from everything that they knew. At about the same time, through social media, I’d been following organisations working to provide schooling facilities for the refugee children; trying to continue education and afford a level of normality by maintaining the routine, albeit it very fractured, of going to school. I wanted to help by finding a way to use my exploits and connections to make a difference.
When I was conducting some research through the magic of the internet I discovered Doha based ‘Educate A Child’ (EAC). EAC (educateachild.org) is a global initiative which aims to reduce the numbers of children worldwide who are missing out on the right to education. I contacted them, and my education really began. Through EAC I discovered more about the barriers to education – more than just conflict refugees – and the challenges faced by those fighting to make education possible and the more I learned, the more I wanted to get involved and play a part, as small as it may be, in making universal education provision happen.
Through some of my adventures I’ve also been able to visit some of the locations where education provision, children going to school, is a new concept and I’ve seen first-hand how it’s making a difference and changing lives and that’s why I’m so passionate about what I do.
When asked about his participation with Skype Classroom, Mr. Miles shared:
SkypeClassroom is an exceptional platform which enables me to reach classrooms around the world. In my sessions I talk about my adventures, the places that I visit, what it’s like to do my job and, of course, I talk about why education is important, the #spoonappeal and the global education crisis. I’m lucky in that I get to speak with up to 4,500 children a month through the SkypeClassroom platform. Often I’m speaking with classes from my office at home in the UK, sometimes I’m at an interesting venue such as the Greenwich Museum where East and West begins (the prime meridian) and sometimes I can be in a very interesting remote location like last year when I was Skyping with schools from a rainforest in Kenya!
Overall, it was an eye-opening and inspiring experience to become better-acquainted with Justin Miles. Without his willingness to share on Skype Classroom, my students wouldn’t have had a clearer understanding of life around the globe. Without his passion for the global educational crisis, I wouldn’t be fully appreciative of what I have and interested in helping others who do not. As we celebrate Earth Day, let’s remember that saving the planet Earth involves working as a team around the globe. It takes a village.
To contact Justin Miles and/or find more information about him:
TEDxNorwichED video- Justin Miles, “Curiosity Didn’t Kill Anything”