Tag Archives: Global Competency

Can Poetry Help Us To Shape a More Just World?

This is the fourth installment of the NCTE Citizenship Campaign, a blog series sponsored by the NCTE Standing Committee on Citizenship. This month’s theme is using poetry to spark civic engagement. It is written by Duane Davis.

My first instinct as a teacher of English and longtime member of NCTE was to put this month’s theme together through song lyrics.  This would likely have resulted in a deconstruction of the work of Kendrick Lamar, Tupac Shakur, and certainly a mention of Nikki Giovanni’s Poem, “For Tupac.”  I also considered an exploration of poetic justice through the lens of the current political assault on education.

Instead, I decided to ditch both of those ideas and use this space to discuss the work and life of the recently fallen poet, Derek Walcott.  In the proud tradition of “artist on the margins,” Walcott embarked on a journey to create a myth on the level of Beowulf and Virgil, in his epic poem Omeros. I have been fortunate in my life to have English instructors who exposed me to art that challenged my view of the world, my community and myself. In Walcott I found someone who spoke to the ideas that were circulating in my head: global racial formation and its effects on space, language, and identity.  If you don’t know Walcott already, here are some links to explore:

Walcott’s poem is epic and Afro-futuristic and magical realism and intersectional rolled into one.  Ultimately, he reminds us through his work that with art at the center, understanding and acceptance can be the norm and not the outlier. It is not enough to observe and comment on society. You have to enact and activate in order to seek the justice necessary for equity and equality.

As educators, we have to remember that our daily choices, from the greeting at the door (for all levels), to the selection of text, to the type of assessments we give, illuminate our beliefs about the world—who we read, how we interact and what we say.  To that end, I am also including a few links to national poetry organizations that encourage student voice and often through the subject matter explore issues of equality and justice.

While it is not our job to imbue students with our personal ideology, it is our job to give them the tools necessary to critically understand, reflect, respond and evaluate their world and their own ideology.  Poetry is a vehicle for reading and learning the views of others and exploring our own ways of seeing the world.

More Poetry Resources

NCTE Citizenship Campaign, February Focus: Black History Month

handsonglobeThe following post was written by members of the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.

February—Black History Month—offers an opportunity to encourage good citizenship when it comes to issues surrounding race while still meeting your content standards. To encourage personal citizenship1, discuss with students how they can be friends with and support peers from backgrounds different from their own. Their everyday interactions with people are a way of being a good citizen.

To help students be participatory citizens, have them look at the history of laws and/or current laws and policies that may be unfair to people of color or of different faiths. When it comes to justice-oriented citizenship, students could be asked to analyze and think critically about the laws and policies they looked at before and come up with a variety of solutions.

Grades K–5

For students at this younger age, we think it’s important to encourage them to maintain friendships with children outside their race or religion. Have class discussions about what it means to be a good friend and why it can be a good thing to have friends who are different from you.

Books to consider: The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson or Across the Alley by Richard Michelson

Grades 6–8

Middle school is an age where friendships can be complicated. It’s a great time to discuss with students how they choose friends. At this age they can start to think critically about whether or not their friend group is diverse and why. In addition to thinking about friendship you can have students conduct a mini research project. They can look through their curriculum and see how many black or nonwhite authors they have read in class, or people they have learned about in history, science, or math. This is a great way to look at your own curriculum and see who is represented and to consider why. Students can continue with the research project from the participatory citizen activity above and discuss and analyze their findings. They can determine whether or not they think there is an issue and write an argumentative paper as to why there is or isn’t. Perhaps if they all think there is an issue, they can come up with ways to fix it.

Book to consider: Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper

Grades 9–12

In high school students are being asked to do more critical thinking and analysis. Consider having your students examine your school’s dress code. Is it fair to people of all races? Genders? Why or why not? Can they write a proposal for a revised dress code if it isn’t? A research project looking at a person of color would be a great project too. You can use a nonfiction anchor text to help students write the paper while still working on reading skills.

Books to consider:

Other Ideas from ReadWriteThink.org


  1. As in our previous post, we draw on the three types of citizens proposed by Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahne in their article “What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy” (American Educational Research Journal, Summer 2004, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 237-269): personally responsible citizens, participatory citizens, and justice-oriented citizens.


Cultivating Global Competency in Our Classrooms

This post is written by NCTE member Amanda Wallace. 

AmandaWallace“What is the purpose of education?”

If the purpose of education is to create innovative thinkers who can understand multiple perspectives and ideas, then we are not focusing on our purpose.  A high score on a standardized test does not mean our students know how to ask questions, or to produce solutions that will solve the problems we face as a planet, or make us economically prosperous.

I am an English teacher in a public high school, and like other teachers in North Carolina, I was concerned with making my numbers grow on standardized tests, as if those growth numbers were reflecting all that my students had learned. I would look at the data to try to find patterns or weaknesses. Patterns of growth always seemed inconsistent.  Some students who were insightful and creative in class scored lower than those who seemed uninterested and detached. Those who were good test takers did well while those who would look at the questions and see multiple perspectives and possibilities in the answers were sometimes penalized with lower scores. The tests given by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for High School English do not measure creativity, writing ability, communication, or listening skills. They do not measure kindness or empathy. In short, they measure little of the education we need to provide for our students.


In 2014–2015 I had the opportunity to participate in a State Department program called Teachers for Global Classrooms. I realized the most important skills are not the ones being tested by the state. My students need to be globally competent, and they need the skills to survive and compete in our globally connected world. Once our students leave public education, they will not be asked in a job interview if they can read a passage and mark a bubble. There will not always be one right answer to a question.  For employment in the 21st century our students might be asked, “How do you cultivate productivity with your team?” How will you communicate with our global partners?” “How do you solve problems?”


I have been fortunate in my career that I have had the opportunity to travel to Europe, the Middle East, Southern Asia, and Southeast Asia. I have visited classrooms in Pakistan and the Philippines. My Facebook friend list is full of teachers I have met from a variety of backgrounds and faiths, including friends who are Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Christians. Some of my students, however, may not have the same diversity in their circle of friends  and acquaintances; their perceptions of people with backgrounds and faiths different from their own may be drawn primarily from what they see and hear on the news, and they may not realize the limitations of their sources. Although globalization has made a global perspective imperative in our society, schools are still behind in meeting this need for our students. My duty as an educator is to help my students become critical thinkers and avoid being indoctrinated into a one-sided vision of the world, so I have tried to build my classroom teaching based on four Global Competencies, outlined by the Asia Society (asiasociety.org), that will help ensure students are ready for the future:

Investigate the World: This means my students are researching and reading multiple texts from multiple views. As they look at different sources and try to determine if information is credible they look for bias, generalizations, and stereotyping.  We want students to ask insightful questions. This is a key difference between 21st-century global teaching, and more traditional ways of teaching students. Instead of students who can answer questions on tests, I want students who are curious, students who have the skills to ask probing questions and the skills to find the answers. Our students and our economy will stagnate if we are still”training” students to wait for others to tell them the answers.

Weigh Perspectives: It is easy to teach perspective through literature, but I must also challenge my students to try to understand (if not always agree with) other perspectives and voices. When students are able to understand a text written by an author a world and a time away, they will truly comprehend more than any test can measure. In our globalized world, if students cannot see things from the point of view of others, they will not be able to make partnerships in their careers or communicate their ideas effectively.

Communicate with a Diverse Audience. This should be the goal of all English classes and most of school, but sadly it is a skill we ignore since it is difficult to test. If students cannot communicate through written and oral communication, they will have a difficult time achieving any job besides service or manual labor. Again, with standardized testing being the main objective, we are creating a generation of students who have learned how to figure out the answer, but not how to communicate their own ideas. Even in my honors classes, I have students who are afraid to speak up in class for fear that it will be “wrong.” They have grown up in a school system that has rewarded them for high test scores, but not for their verbal communication skills.

Take Action This competency helps a student apply his or her learning in the classroom to real issues in our world. This is akin to “Think globally, act locally.” When students understand the issues that face us as citizens of the world, they can apply these concepts in service learning at home or abroad. Education should not be about how high a student can score on a test, but how much empathy, insight, and action for change our students possess. They must have knowledge about their world to make these changes to help humanity. Ten years ago, many schools were implementing some type of service learning project, but again we have moved away from service learning and focused on testing.

North Carolina has started several new programs to help teachers teach for global competency, as well as a new certification for Global High Schools, but there is little awareness of these programs among most teachers and administrators, and little time to implement a global curriculum when the push is still for standardization of the curriculum and even more testing in the future. I urge all educators to advocate for the teaching of global competency in all areas of the curriculum, so that our students are prepared to ask the questions and seek the solutions that will make us a peaceful and prosperous planet.

Works Cited

Mansilla, Veronica Boix., and Anthony Jackson. Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World. New York, NY: Asia Society, 2011. Print.

Amanda Wallace teaches English at Watauga High School in Boone, NC. She is certified in Middle Grades Education, High School Language Arts, and she has a Master’s Degree in Reading Education from Appalachian State. She is also Nationally Board Certified in Language Arts. Amanda has been a cooperating teacher with the Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program since 2011. She participated in the Watauga Pakistan Exchange Program in 2014, and she was awarded a fellowship with Teachers for Global Classrooms in 2015, a year long program which culminated with a field experience in the Philippines. She is currently a teacher fellow with Hope Street Group’s North Carolina Teacher Voice Network