Last weekend I attended the Global Educators Conference run by the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG). Part of the GEBG mission is to develop “global citizens in independent schools and beyond through global curriculum, experiences, and institutional support.” While I was in the minority of those interested in the “beyond” part of this conference, I gained a lot of ideas to help me in my work with VCU Globe, and got some tips and reminders about developing any sort of program as a librarian, and working in a more “globalized” world.
One session I attended on building partnerships made me reflect on my recent efforts in working with the English Language Program (ELP). Things we need to remember when creating partnerships outside (and inside) the library:
- Determine your non-negotiables ahead of time. What are you not willing to give up when you are starting a program? For example, one of my non-negotiables when teaching classes for the ELP is that the regular instructor be present for the entire class. Being able to articulate and support these non-negotiables at the beginning will help you start off on the right foot and avoid issues later.
- Build relationships before jumping into major parts of the project. I worked with multiple faculty members in the ELP for a whole year before I launched the ELP library curriculum project. Without building those relationships first, the library curriculum for ELP students would not be nearly as successful as it is now.
- Ensure you have shared and authentic educational objectives. If I had just created a library curriculum on my own without the support and advice from ELP faculty, whatever I created probably wouldn’t have been very useful to them. I learned so much just by having lunch with ELP faculty members and hearing about the needs of their students – so much more than I had picked up on my own in classes.
- Determine and convey the goals and objectives of all parties. Make sure you understand each other, and that even if your goals are not exactly the same, that complement each other can be achieved through mutual efforts. For the ELP and the library, our goals are mainly the same: better prepare English language learners for the rigor of the American academy through teaching information literacy and research skills needed to succeed.
Even though I didn’t think about my relationship-building with the ELP in this exact strategic manner, I realized that I did do these things, and these steps have helped to build what I hope will be a lasting, meaningful program with the ELP.
Another part of the conference I wanted to share were a few comments from Saturday’s keynote speaker,Qasim Rashid, a lawyer and community service advocate in Richmond. Drawing from his recent book,The Wrong Kind of Muslim, Rashid talked about his experiences as a follower of Islam in the US, and provided some tips for educators working with Muslim students. Many of VCU’s ELP students are Muslim, and there is a growing number of Muslim students from the Middle East entering the US. I think his tips were important reminders to everyone, whether or not you encounter members of the Muslim community in your work or daily life. Of all the things he said, what resonated with me most is that Islam is not a theory, or just a set of religious beliefs to repeat and follow, it is a way of life. Followers of Islam, even those born in America, have a very different worldview than someone following a Judeo-Christian religion. If you want to know more about Islam, I’m sure we have something around here somewhere… Rashid recommended the website Al-Islam.org, a site that provides information online, and book recommendations on different topics related to Islam.
Rashid’s speech pulled together the themes of the conference and further emphasized that our globalized world cannot be ignored in any field, and we need to prepare our students to be global citizens. Whether that is something as big as an international service-learning trip (or, as I heard more about at the conference, a “learning service” trip), or just incorporating themes and examples into our classes that stimulate critical thinking on a global level, educators, librarians included, need to keep pushing our students to keep open minds, explore, and become more engaged in the world around them.