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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cultural humility: A framework for authentic, participatory engagement

I've been reading about the concept of "cultural humility" this week. It's an intriguing and attractive concept for those of us who engage in international (and inter-cultural) work.

Cultural humility emerged from the medical field to address power imbalances between patient-physician and non-paternalistic approaches to medicine (Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998, p. 117). It certainly has relevance within education as well as we consider relationships that involve power over versus power with others. Essentially, cultural humility speaks to the importance of first developing relationships with those who we engage with, striving to learn about the other, and then working in true partnership to address identified areas.

A helpful book in this regard is Corbett and Fikkert's (2009) When helping hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor and yourself. The following chart is adapted from the book and provides an excellent framework to consider the work we do in global and local contexts:

Mode of Participation
Type of Involvement of Local People
Relationship of Outsiders to Local People
Local people submit to predetermined plans developed by outsiders
Local people are assigned to tasks, often with incentives, by outsiders; the outsiders decide the agenda and direct the process
Local people’s opinions are asked; local people analyze and decide on a course of action
Local people work together with outsiders to determine priorities; responsibility remains with outsiders for directing the process
Local people and outsiders share their knowledge to create appropriate goals and plans, to execute those plans, and to evaluate the results
Community Initiated
Local people set their own agenda and mobilize to carry it out without outside initiators and facilitators

Taken from Hockett, E., L. Samek, & S. Headley (2014). Cultural humility: A framework for local and global engagement. Faculty Publications – School of Education, Paper 13. http://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/soe_faculty/13

Friday, July 3, 2015

Every kid needs a champion (everywhere)

Recently, I watched this great Ted Talk (8 minutes) by Rita Pierson. The title is "Every kid needs a champion." I would extend that to say "Everywhere."

Although she is speaking to a US audience, the talk is relevant to educators anywhere.

Rita speaks to the importance of relationships,apologies, and self-worth. These values and actions are universal in my experience:
  • Students everywhere value teachers who care about them.
  • Students respect educators who are not afraid to admit when they have made a mistake.
  • The self-worth of students grows when the teacher demonstrates a genuine respect for them.
Children around the world need educators who demonstrate trust, respect, and care.

Most countries around the world have committed to ensuring that every child can go to school (Millennium Development Goal #2: universal primary education).

What we need now is a commitment to ensure that those schools are not only full of children but of teachers who bring joy to the learning experiences of the students.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Glocal but Miles Apart

I read an intriguing article entitled (click on the title) It's not a small world after all (Globe and Mail). The author makes a compelling case that although the world may seem like it's getting smaller, there are still significant differences between cultures, particularly in the values and assumptions that under-gird cultures.

My travel and work experience certainly point to many more shared experiences between people in different contexts now than 10 or 20 years ago. This past weekend illustrates this. I was on Facebook with two university students in Haiti. I communicated by email with colleagues in the US and New Zealand. I enjoyed talking with a young man over dinner who grew up in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Canada. These interactions point to a proximity between cultures that is unparalleled in human history.

But Pico Iyer, the author of the article, raises some important points. Despite the proximity and intersections between cultures, are we really all the same? Does everyone in the global village speak the same language and, even if we did, do we really mean the same things when we speak? Iyer provides many compelling examples of differences that remain in our world, even if it does not appear that way on the surface. I am thankful for this diversity. Who wants to go to a community and find that everyone/thing is the same? Is it not the same for our global community? I love the experience of listening and observing in different contexts as I seek to learn more about myself and the world in which I live.

Iyer finishes the article with two strong statements:

I love the way that we can experience Jamaica, Pakistan, Haiti, Vietnam in our classrooms and cities; I shudder at the notion that to see them is to think we understand them or can easily be one with them.

Some people worry that soon all of us will be speaking English; my deeper fear is that, even if we are, we’ll still be largely incomprehensible to one another.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Another excellent blog with posts on Haiti

I have been amazed as I've read the blog posts of those who participated in the learning trip to Haiti last week.

Here is a blog, developed by Roopa Reddy, a colleague at Laurier, that I would highly recommend simply for its excellent content. You will also note that the most recent posts are from Laurier students who engaged with the Centre for Education for Women and Children in Cap-Haitien. I have had an association with this NGO for a number of years but have not spent the quantity of time there as Roopa, Laura, Jerry, and Katie did last week.

Click on the following to be taken to the blog: Edumodels

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Directing to other blogs on our recent Laurier learning trip to Haiti

I am aware of two other participants who kept blogs while on our Laurier trip to Haiti. Both are superb and provide different perspectives than I provided. Please consider taking some time to review them by clicking on the names below:

Bruce Alexander

Lindsay Sheppard

Monday, May 18, 2015

Partnerships and Friendships: Investments in "Global Perspective Capital" in Haiti and Canada

Our Laurier team returned to Canada early this morning. By all metrics, it was a successful trip including:

  1. Conversational English classes with approximately100 high school students at two different schools.
  2. Multiple math, science, and technology workshops for approximately 80 teachers in one urban and two rural school settings in northern Haiti.
  3. Support of micro-credit and other developmental programs for a Haitian NGO.
  4. Special education support and training at one school involving approximately 30 teachers.
  5. A cultural exchange involving 20 Haitian and Canadian university students at the Citadelle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But this doesn't provide a complete picture.

The foundational reason we engage in each of these projects is to form relationships that help Canadian and Haitian students and professionals to learn more about "the other." By learning about the joys and challenges that we experience in the various places in which we live, we also learn about the greater human experience.

What that means is that I become more aware, more sensitive, more willing to question, and more eager to engage in developing a global perspective.

It is difficult to measure these "mores" but the anecdotal evidence is strong ... we are building the global-perspective capital (i.e. the social and emotional structures to better understand the world in which we live) of many Canadians and Haitians.

In this sense, this past week does not end today but continues to pay dividends long into the future.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Wrapping up a productive and stimulating week in Cap-Haitien

Today was our last full day in Cap-Haitien and it was as enjoyable as each of the days before.

We met a group of 12 Haitian university students in Cap and drove to the Citadelle. The Canadian and Haitian students split into groups of four and toured the Citadelle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The students were then interviewed about their hopes for the future, both for themselves individually and for their countries. It was a powerful time of relationship-building and perspective-sharing.

 In the afternoon, we made our way to Labadie Beach. This is the area where Carnival Cruise Lines docks. We took a small boat to our own private beach. This was a great way to wrap up our trip. The group relaxed and enjoyed some amazing food.

This evening, we had our final debrief as a group. The group had to share one word which encapsulates the experiences of the past week. Here is the list of words:


It has been an amazing trip largely because of the high-quality of the participants. If you have been following along, I hope you have enjoyed the vicarious experience!