Let's Talk About Education

Embracing International Mindedness

December 3, 2019 - By Kirstin White - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Being part of an international school environment can mean we may take for granted the day-to-day reality of interacting within a community of diverse cultures, languages and backgrounds.

At EARJ, we are fortunate to embrace a global student body representing over 30 different nationalities.  The opportunities to grow as students, parents, and educators in this rich environment are a huge resource for all of us. As EARJ moves forward with the adoption of the IB Primary Years Programme, this critical piece of being an IB World School, a concept known as “international mindedness,” will be highlighted and defined even further in our school culture.

What exactly is international mindedness? What does it mean for students, parents and educators at EARJ?

International mindedness is somewhat difficult to put into words and certainly takes on its own meaning in every IB school.  True international mindedness can’t necessarily be defined by what’s written in articles or published as policy. It’s a set of values and beliefs that supports global connection through deeply valuing diversity, including views we may find difficult or contradictory to our own ideas.

At its best, international mindedness means opening the door for understanding, respecting and embracing different cultures and perspectives. It means putting yourself in another’s shoes, considering multiple viewpoints and even learning to agree to disagree at times. International mindedness promotes empathy, compassion and a shared sense of responsibility to our local and global community. Internationally-minded people appreciate and value the diversity of cultures in the world.

At EARJ, we continuously strive to develop and recognize this international mindset in our day-to-day interactions at school.  Preschoolers who speak completely different languages greet each other with a huge smile and find a way to communicate as they play together each morning. Students from around the world engage in deep discussions as they practice talking through their ideas, listening to one another’s feelings and working hard to understand differing views to collaborate and problem-solve. Returning students make an effort to translate for friends who find themselves in a new country or learning a new language.

Students of all ages empathize with the mixed feelings of moving away or saying goodbye to a friend – that mixture of joy and sadness that marks an international life. Our PTA and Student Council members organize campaigns to affect lasting local change in the form of service learning and outreach partnerships. Foreign hired teachers are embraced by local colleagues as they learn about the amazing Brazilian culture and traditions. Parents are invited to sit down and have open discussions with our Head of School, school leadership team and teachers to ask questions and share their perspectives.

At the root of each of these interactions is a shared sense of respect and responsibility to look at what matters to each one of us, with the intention of making our school the best it can be for all of us. These are perhaps seemingly small, but significant, examples of lasting experiences that are shaping the way our students understand and develop their understanding of international mindedness.

As EARJ moves forward with the adoption of the full IB Continuum, one of the most powerful philosophies we will continue to embrace is valuing our way of understanding and respecting one another.  This means not only teaching students to see the opportunities in considering different perspectives, but modeling these values on a daily basis. We continue to teach students the importance of really listening to one another. We will support and guide students as they learn to give themselves, and others, space to grow and change in relation to their understanding of others and the world around them. 

 The PYP learning community encompasses all members of the school in a partnership of learning.  There is a shared responsibility which requires that we all see ourselves as internationally-minded.  EARJ is a rich environment full of opportunity to foster international mindedness for all community members. In this way, our school lives the IB’s mission of supporting students to become “active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.”

Interested in learning more? 

Five Skills to Develop International Mindedness
International Mindedness Inside and Outside the Classroom

Kirstin White
Barra Lower School Principal

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