I was asked recently to describe my approach to teaching which made me stop and think about what I was passionate about in my role as a junior school teacher at Whitehill Junior School.
It’s a bit of a cliché, but I really do want to help to make a difference in young people’s lives. I want to help them to grow up to be independent thinkers and to be able to make sense of what can sometimes seem a crazy world. It’s perhaps no surprise then to learn that I’m a big advocate of sharing with pupils what is happening in the real world on a daily basis. This is the common thread that runs through all my lessons. Regardless of the subject being taught, I will always endeavour to make a link with real-life events to help the children build on their understanding of the wider world.
Whilst some people might encapsulate this under the banner of global learning, I would only partly agree as up until fairly recently, my approach lacked strategic direction. Taking Whitehill Junior School through the Primary Geography Quality Mark scheme helped in that it gave me an insight into how I could better ‘join up the dots’. The application process helped me to see that my school’s cross-curricular approach to teaching enables staff to make relevant and meaningful connections with local and current global issues which help the pupils to develop an international mindset alongside their awareness of their own local identity. The merits of this whole school approach was recognised when Whitehill was shortlisted as a finalist in the International award category at the TES School Awards 2015.
However, things only really fell into place when I became an Expert Centre Coordinator on the Global Learning Programme (GLP) at the beginning of 2017. To be honest I was a bit apprehensive about taking on this role as I already had quite a lot on my plate but I’m so glad I did as I’ve found the project to be a very rewarding experience. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with our partner schools to help them shape how they embed global learning. This was taken one step further when I joined the project team which delivered a global learning conference for GLP schools across Hertfordshire. The team invested a significant amount of time and effort but it was all worthwhile as it gave the opportunity for like-minded teachers to meet and learn from each other and organisations such as the British Council, Oxfam and Unicef.
I feel as though my global learning journey is only just beginning and to be shortlisted for the Global Educator of the Year award was a real honour. Meeting and hearing what the other finalists have achieved has inspired me to push on with my efforts in the coming year. These include a cross-curricular competition raising awareness on malaria; a community project advocating responsible food consumption and production; fostering a closer working relationship with our international partner school in Uganda; and supporting an educational project which highlights the challenges facing one of the last hunter-gatherer groups in the world, through Agta Aid
The hope is that getting involved in such activities will help our pupils to develop their knowledge and understanding of different cultures, so that they learn to avoid stereotyping other people, and acquire a positive attitude towards others.
By Dr Andrew Christie, Key Stage Two teacher and Geography Coordinator at Whitehill Junior School and 2017 Global Educator of the Year Award finalist.
Watch this film about Andrew’s work at Whitehill Junior School.
Image: Andrew Christie (centre) with 2016 Award winner Ellie Lengthorn and 2017 winner Jane Yates at the Award event.