Is it possible that a course to teach high school kids to respect differences and find appropriate ways to communicate could also improve class performance?
The Global Community Citizen Course at Arundel High School is proving to have benefits far beyond what was even initially hoped for.
Janet Jefferson (00:14): Student (01:31): Janet Jefferson (02:21): Student (02:27): Janet Jefferson (02:31): Student (02:35): Janet Jefferson (03:55): Student (04:01): Janet Jefferson (05:02): Student (05:16): Janet Jefferson (05:56): Johanna Ricker (06:13): Janet Jefferson (07:37): Gina Davenport (07:49): Student (11:57): Janet Jefferson (13:31): Student (14:01): Janet Jefferson (15:59): Because it’s a requirement for all freshmen, you have classes with people all over the school. You know, if you’re a try hard, like I was freshman year, you’re going to have basically all the same kids that takes honors and AP classes. But in Community Citizenship you have all corners of the school. You know, even if you take honors classes, you might have a very white class, you might have a lot of white people in your class. And as a minority, having one class my first year of high school where I see people I wouldn’t usually see people that look like me, Brown, black, Asian, all over. They’re all in that same class and I think it helps because we are talking about things and we are trying to get each other’s perspective. So having such a colorful demographic really helps the class. Janet Jefferson (17:00): Student (17:04): Janet Jefferson (18:39): Molly Sinnott (18:55): Janet Jefferson (20:26): Gina Davenport (20:43): Molly Sinnott (23:47): Janet Jefferson (26:33): Student (26:38): Student (28:05): Gina Davenport (28:23): Student (28:25): Student (29:50): Janet Jefferson (31:09): Student (31:23): Student (32:47): Student (33:37): Molly Sinnott (34:41): Janet Jefferson (36:37): Molly Sinnott (37:02): Johanna Ricker (37:47): Gina Davenport (39:40): Student (42:08): Student (43:18): Student (43:35): Gina Davenport (43:37): Student (43:40): Gina Davenport (44:24): Student (44:25): Gina Davenport (44:33): Student (44:42): Janet Jefferson (46:05):
Welcome to Third Floor Views where we at Chesapeake Family Life talk about health, education and living with kids. I’m your host, Janet Jefferson. Today we are at Arundel High School to talk about the Global Community Citizenship course that was created and launched here. This course is now everywhere in Anne Arundel County and is a graduation requirement. This ninth grade course is changing the culture of school, changing how students approach social conflicts and even boosting academic performance. We will be exploring what this class is about and how it works. Our guests today are teachers, administrators, and students from Arundel High School. Johanna Ricker is a founding and current teacher of the Global Community Citizenship course. Molly Sinnott is a current teacher of GCC (Global Community Citizenship). We also have joining us today, students who have already taken the course, Bunmi Omisore from 10th grade, Elliana Anderson, 11th grade and John Cardwell, also 11th grade. We also have with us the Principal of Arundel High School, Gina Davenport. Thank you for being here today. Tell me a little bit about what is the Global Community Citizenship course and how would you describe it in your own words?
My name is Bunmi. I’m a sophomore at Arundel and I took it for a semester last year. Depending on when you take the course, it’s either a launching point or a landing point. I feel because I took it first semester, it got me on track what I wanted to do in my high school career. I knew I wanted to be an overachiever. I knew I wanted to try hard, but I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do that. But taking Global Community Citizenship or “Comm Cit” as we call it, guided me to what I wanted to do. I know I was interested in math, government, politics, science, but I wanted to focus on area and my teacher Ms. Colbert, she allowed me to kind of figure out what I wanted to do without making me decide that I need to sign a contract for the rest of my four years at Arundel.
So this class helped you see your future a little bit here and where you want to take it beyond?
Yes. Not just seeing the future, but not being so scared of it.
Nice. What about you John?
My name is John and I’m a junior here at Arundel. I took the class two years ago in my freshman year. I was coming into high school for the first time. You’re kind of nervous and you don’t know what you’re going to do. I was also a kid that had insecurity issues at that time in my life and going into a class that I didn’t fully know what was going on was a little bit scary. But going through my first semester with this class, it was fun because I got to know who I was as a person and got to know what I really wanted to do, what my passions were, and then you got to learn how I could use that to be a better member and assist the people around me. That’s one of the biggest things that I got from this class. Without this class, I wouldn’t be anywhere where I’m at today. Things like right now I’m in a local student government group called CRASC, we are local to the Chesapeake region and we’re a student voice between the schools at Arundel and other schools, and the Board of Education for Anne Arundel County. We are liaisons and I would never be there without this class, so I’m very proud of this class.
So it’s made a big difference in what happened in your career in high school. How about you, Elliana?
I’m Elliana and I would have to agree with both Bunmi and John. When I first took the class my freshman year, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a very social type of person who steps out of her comfort zone. But coming into this class and walking into a classroom that had such a welcoming environment, it was easier for me to step out of my comfort zone with people who I normally wouldn’t. Seeing students in my class who were going through the same thing, who were experiencing a class that they had never been taught either. They didn’t know what was going to happen. So I wasn’t in it alone. And I feel that a lot of the time kids, especially high schoolers, are pressured to pick a career path they want to do. And that’s what a lot of people are so focused on. What I feel that they don’t understand is that kids need time to be kids and teenagers need a time to figure out who they are and if who they are is really going to match up with what they want to do in life. And I feel this is what this program is all about.
So you see it as an opportunity to sort of explore who you are and take a step back from that pressure to go to college and figure out what you want to do when you grow up. And this is actually to figure out who you are as a human.
Absolutely. Because I feel that when kids and people in general, when they’re pressured and pushed to do something that society thinks is right for them, they miss out on what’s truly important. And I feel to me what is truly important is making the connections with the people around you. Because when you are able to empathize with the people around you and build those connections and build those relationships, that’s what is going to help you do life. Because when you have connections and relationships, when you do fall, then those connections and relationships can help you up. They can back you up. And if you need help, you can call on those people. Otherwise you’re all alone.
Impressive. Johanna, let’s jump to you as a founding teacher. Where did this come from? And could you in your own words, describe the course a little bit? Clearly it’s made an impact on students. Does it match what your vision was?
Sure. This was a collaborative effort. This was many humans coming together. Principal Davenport and I had talked about this with Ms. Colbert, from an equity standpoint, using just another way to serve students in the building and make sure that their voices were being heard. This is really about teaching the whole human. And so we saw this as a space, like Ellie said, we wanted them to have space to uncover who they are, what they value, how that’s connected to their decision making and their behavior, and how they can explore their relationships with their community, what it means to be a good citizen, how they can have an impact. We have a whole module on change-making. And so we tried to combine self, community citizenship and change-making. It’s evolved over time. This is the third year it’s been running and it keeps evolving. The County also added so many beautiful things to the curriculum when it became a County wide requirement. It is also very project based. It is very collaborative. Students really get an opportunity to work with one another throughout the class. It has everything I could have hoped for and more. And I love hearing that they’re still honing these experiences with them one, two years later. And so the fact that it’s still continuing to make an impact, I think that is the power.
Absolutely. We’re also really lucky to have principal Gina Davenport here with us today. Would you mind talking about where this came from? Why was this class so needed?
We had an event in the winter this time of year in 2017 and it was also a time when we had just had a national election. There was a lot of talk in the press and a lot of negative conversations that were taking place and a lot of inappropriate discourse that our kids were seeing and hearing. There was a lot of confusion and questions and concerns that were happening on campus. And when we had an incident that was tied to some racism, we as a community came together and realized that while we thought that we had a community that really embraced diversity, we really didn’t understand how deep the culture goes and how deep understanding your neighbor really is. We had parents that really verbalized that they wanted an opportunity for kids to really learn about differences and really explore different topics and, and have an opportunity to have dialogue. And we’ve had dialoguing in courses for eternity when you study history, when you study literature. But we wanted a setting where it could be just about the conversations, it could be just about getting to know each other and exploring, as John said, who we are as individuals, how we relate to each other in a community. So in April of that year, I went to the board and asked permission to pilot a class. I went to Johanna and some of the other teachers that we had here at the time. And I said, I want this experience for students and I want to have them explore themselves and our school community, but then the community that they live in and then how they can make changes in the that community also. I want them to understand where we get our values and I don’t want to teach them that one value is better than the other. But I want them to understand other people’s perspectives and why other people might hold a different belief than they do. I think we go about our daily business at Arundel, thinking that we understand each other, but I don’t know that we really do and I want to explore that. And so my team of teachers worked on it for a couple of months over the summer and we launched in September, John and Ellie got the first draft of our attempt. When Johanna says that it was more than she than she had expected, I saw that too when I walked into the classroom the second week of school and I would hear students call each other by name and have real conversations about issues and be polite about it and really talk to each other as if they saw each other and were really interested in the conversation. We were teaching kids to ‘listen to hear’ and not ‘listen to respond.’ We were teaching kids how to share ideas in a respectful way, even if we’re not going to agree that the whole idea of being polite but disagreeing was something that we hadn’t seen in our own national stage. But yet we were seeing it in our classrooms with ninth graders. And it was amazing when you gave them the tools and the opportunity, the rich conversations and dialogue that would come out of that. And it was one lesson after another that was really inspiring as kids were really getting to know each other and realizing that there are many ways to solve conflict and to have those conversations. I think in that first year, I think our students really started to realize that the groupings that are traditional in a high school, Ellie really tells the story the best because she talks about the jocks and the band kids and how kids kind of break off into their groups. I think some of the early activities really make kids realize that they had a lot more in common that crossed all of those lines, so we did a lot of work with identity. Ellie, do you want to talk about that?
Yeah, definitely. One of my favorite activities that we had done was the “I Am Poster” and you made a huge poster and you got to decorate it however you wanted with “I am phrases” such as “I am a daughter,” “I am a volleyball player,” “I am an adventurer” and so on and after you were done decorating, then you hung up on the back wall and you did a gallery walk where everyone just looked at everybody’s posters and you would look at somebody’s poster and you would see, well I’m also an adventurer like they are. I’m also a cousin like they are, I’m this too. And then you would look at the name on the bottom of that poster and you would think, ‘Holy cow, that’s a jock.’ I would usually never talk to a jock. I can’t believe I have this much in common with the jock, like someone who’s been popular and everyone is friends with them and all of that. And then when you go and actually sit down with that person, you find something that you had in common to strike up a conversation. And the best thing about that is once you strike up that conversation, even outside of the classroom in a different class, or when you’re walking in the hallway, when you guys pass each other in the hallway, you’ll wave. Or you’ll be like, Hey, what’s up? And call each other by name when usually if you guys don’t have to interact, you don’t. But these two people who were brought together from this class by this activity who didn’t have to interact with each other after the class chose to because they found some common ground.
So it’s really about bridging that gap, that difference with these hidden similarities and realizing we’re actually so much more similar than we ever we ever knew. Could you as a group talk a little bit about what the class looks like day to day. Think about your favorite activity or your favorite discussion or maybe it’s a content thing or maybe it’s some actual physical thing that you did. Even homework is allowed.
I remember this is what really stands out to me, even though it’s been a year. We did a project about stereotypes, which I think was the first project we did that was touching into those things like race or even gender and sexual orientation. Arundel is a very mixed school, with a lot of different ethnicities, a lot more than some other schools in this County. But for me, I’m from Baltimore County and I grew up going to predominantly black schools. Some of my classmates grew up going to predominantly white schools, so we both had things we didn’t understand about one another. And so when I finally came to this County, this is before I took Global Community Citizenship, there’ll be times in class where you would see your classmates, even though we’re the same age in the same grade, they didn’t understand some things about your perspective because they wouldn’t have to, like if I got upset that a teacher or classmates said, wow, you’re so good at math or wow, you’re so articulate. And to me I can hear that they’re saying that because they’re surprised. Someone that looks like me could have those attributes. But to them they might think they’re just complimenting you. Why are you getting so upset? And so in Community Citizenship you might have a time where you open up a topic like that. You start talking about microaggressions and stereotypes and you might have a classmate who can’t empathize with that. They don’t understand what it’s like, but through this class, acknowledge what they don’t know. It’s like, yeah, I don’t know what it’s like to watch the news and see someone who looks like my brother getting shot, I don’t know what it’s like to have a history of pain tied to my brace. I don’t know what it’s like. Please tell me. And I think that that type of activity and some other ones throughout the entire curriculum has that impact, gives that opportunity. And I think that’s the reason why I liked the class so much.
That sounds really powerful and an outlet for you to share some of the things that maybe you’ve always wanted to share or learn about things that maybe you didn’t realize you needed to learn about.
Definitely. What about you guys? What do you think? Favorite moments?
My favorite moments are when the class first started out and I walked in and had a welcoming environment. There were kids who were very reluctant to share their opinions and their ideas with everybody else, but there was sort of this unspoken rule that what was said in the classroom and what was discussed between these people was going to stay between us. It was like this bond there that had happened. Even with some of the kids who weren’t very comfortable sharing yet, they still felt that space. They still felt that you were a safe space. And my favorite parts were those moments where you were talking about a controversial topic that was so strong that you had that one quiet kid who sat in the back of the room who would step forward and state their opinion on it. Because that to me that was just so powerful because you thought, wow, that kid really has an opinion. That person feels very strongly about this. So what did they have to say on this? And then no matter what somebody would say, because it was such a safe environment, nobody yelled at each other or called each other’s opinions, stupid or none of that. They weren’t negative towards each other. They were respectful of each other’s opinions and each other’s decisions. And they would straight up say, okay, I understand why you think that, but this is why I still believe this, or this is why I still value that. And that was, to me, one of the most powerful things.
Absolutely. So as teachers, how did you scaffold that? So Molly, if you could just speak a little bit about how did you go about creating that safe space, especially with freshmen at the beginning of the year with such a diverse group of kids?
Sure. So luckily the content and the format of the class lends itself to relationship building. I start most semesters with a nice easy intro into the philosophical question of whether human nature is fundamentally good or bad. I have ninth graders in the beginning of school building marshmallow towers or competing in hot potato games. Meanwhile, they’re studying one another and their only question is what does it look like to collaborate and what does it look like to compete? We extrapolate from that conversation to think about Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, their vision of what it means to be a human and how we organize ourselves into communities. So as a class observing what it looks like to collaborate or compete, we come up with what we call a social compact. We study the rights, the responsibilities, the classroom agreements that we settle on as a community. Knowing that there are moments when given our human nature, be it good or bad, we need a common vocabulary for what is accepted or not accepted in the way we treat one another. So the students are involved in generating those norms and we rely on some existing protocols that are out there for helping them articulate what it will look and sound and feel like to have a community where they feel comfortable expressing and exploring issues of identity and civic participation.
There’s a lot, but it sounds like it was pretty effective. What were some of the challenges with creating this course and then implementing? And I’d like to hear both from the teacher’s perspective, administration’s perspective and the student perspective. So what were some of the challenges living this experience?
So I can tell you some of the anticipated concerns going in. The class is about relationships so you have to make sure that the teachers that you put with the students are those that can really build relationships and create that safe space. So that was a fundamental concern was who would be the person or persons that would have the task of facilitating these discussions that would not make it too personal, would not judge opinions as they came out, who would let the discussions go to a point where people were heard but not take it to a place where there would be concerns. A teacher that was relatable, that was open-minded. A teacher that that could make the students feel comfortable and feel supported, but also have those boundaries to let the kids know that this is a safe place, but that we’re still in school. That was always the first and foremost. That’s still on my mind as we’re creating these classes and communities. As Bunmi said, we’re putting together kids randomly from all different walks of life that are in our building and Arundel is diverse. It’s diverse socioeconomically, it’s diverse racially. We got a little bit of everything here and so everybody comes with opinions and viewpoints and values and to put all those kids together and hope that what we’ve created now time after time after time happens, there’s a risk in that because you could always have those kids that struggle to follow the norms, to follow the agreements. But I think that we have over the course of the last three years, we’ve built in some fail safes. My teachers are gifted in when those errors in judgment occur in the classroom, they’re gifted in reminding students of the agreements without making the transgressor feel bad about breaking one of the agreements. And then the class just kind of keeps going. There’s a flow to it that is kind of indescribable. Once those relationships are built and these ladies can do it in two or three class periods, then it’s a very unique class. So that environment is really, really important. And I know that my team collaborates a lot when they have to teach something that’s concerning them or use a material that that is new. They collaborate a lot and talk to each other and rely on each other’s skills and really excellent judgment as to how they’re going to approach the topic and what and how they’re going to engage students. The teaching strategies that are used in the classroom, the materials that are used in the classroom are so carefully thought out that it’s pretty amazing.
I did get the unique opportunity but also challenged to help work on the way that the Board of Education adapted the Arundel pilot curriculum for when it was rolled out to the larger County. And so beyond just my classroom teaching hat, I had to put on my systematic approach hat and think about what this class would look like in a building where the diversity was not there, in a building where new teachers would be encountering their responsibility to carry forward some of this work. Because the reality, if you look at the way we settle in the United States as you may be in an urbanized or a diverse environment where you encounter other perspectives, but often either in person or online, we end up in an echo chamber or a homogenous environment where most people look like us. So it was a challenge, one we took very seriously to make sure that the curriculum was adaptable and relevant no matter the environment where it was being taught. A lot of that came down to distilling, we used to call them soft skills, but now we call them essential skills or 21st century skills that we knew were being targeted by each of the assignments, each of the assessments. So instead of framing it as a discussion about diversity, which that may be the topic that day, it’s also an exercise in skill building in civil discourse. So while students are discussing, you’re having them reflect what sentence starters did you use? What active listening skills were on display? We’ve integrated a lot of project based learning. So, especially for students who may have more awareness of let’s say current events or a stronger background in some of these essential or social emotional skills. They’re also learning things about new technology tools, research into complex social issues. So it looks like an interdisciplinary applied project focus course that has to be rigorous enough for students who come in with some background knowledge accessible for students at all academic levels. I teach one section half in Spanish with an ASL interpreter in the room and a classroom of 20 general education students and two students with pretty severe mobility limitations. And so every day is an adaptation. There was a challenge in thinking about what that looks like for a whole school system. But I think it resulted in an extremely balanced, flexible, well thought out document that teachers can pick up use and kind of make their own.
What about you guys? Students, what do you think? What do you think John? What are some of the challenges?
I think it’s kind of funny. I like what you said, Ms. Davenport, about relationships. I never saw it as relationships. I always thought of it as a camaraderie and I was watching a documentary the other day about the Marine Corps and people we sit on the front lines. Typically they’re viewed as they’re the bad kid in school that they didn’t do too well. They’re just in the military just to be there. But it’s kind of weird when you look at it because if we meet these people, they have better relationships with each other, then we do not even in regular life. And it’s crazy. All these people in such stress like stressful situations, they can trust each other’s back in a life or death situation. But going back to your question, I think one big challenge was the biggest thing I think is the teachers because the teacher can either make or break and maybe not make or break. But definitely it helps a lot if you have an amazing teacher because that teacher helps create that space, helps create that camaraderie and without that camaraderie it’s hard to build a conversation and I’m thankful that these activities also help.
I hate to disagree with John, but I think the teacher really makes or breaks it because freshmen, at least I’ve been told by almost all the adults in my life, the kids of this generation are a bit more precocious than Ms. Davenport or Ms. Rucker were their age and that’s the crazy thing.
Are you assuming that we’re from different generations?
I mean I think what Bunmi’s trying to say is that a lot of the times adults believe that kids aren’t mature enough to understand what’s going on in the news or the wars going on somewhere. Kids don’t understand quite yet. They need to step back and let the adults handle it. But I think that what some adults aren’t quite realizing yet is that the children are their future. We are the future. When we grow up, we could be the next president, we could be the next secretary. We could have a decision to start or to not start a war. And when you really look at it in that perspective, now is the time to be teaching kids, to start empathizing with others, to take a step back and to slow down and to actually think what is this other person’s perspective on this topic? Because when you don’t have to resort to violence immediately, why do it? Why not take the time to get to know the other person that you’re trying to or that you’re butting heads with? When you take the step back and actually have a conversation with somebody, you might realize that you have more in common than you thought you would.
I agree with Ellie because this class is kind of a last ditch effort. These two were juniors. I’m 16, we’re going to be voting soon. Maybe not this election, but in the election to come. Some people live in echo chambers and if I’ve gotta be honest, echo chambers are really comfortable. It’s very easy to only listen, only talk to and only immerse yourself in things that are familiar to you that you agree with. And you know, I feel like the hardest part about this class is the fact that there are kids who are stubborn, they’re going to be reluctant. You know, when we signed up for it and we saw a star next to Community Citizenship in a class, we couldn’t check away from our actual schedule. Everyone thought, what is this? Oh my God, I could’ve been taking art. I could’ve been taking guitar instead of Community Citizenship and I’ll speak for myself when I say I thought, eh, it’s a class, whatever. But there are some kids who think this class is such a waste of time and carry on that mentality almost towards the second quarter that they’re taking it. But if you allow yourself to kind of soak up what the class is trying to teach you, even if it’s just a little bit you can change, you can try to open the door that’s keeping you within that echo chamber.
So do you feel like this class really has set you up to be different citizens that you were headed towards initially and do you feel prepared to vote in the election that you will be able to vote in? So probably 2024.
Absolutely. I feel that one of the things that I really like about this course is like we have been saying, it helps you build relationships with people and especially teachers, even teachers that don’t necessarily teach this course and it teaches students that they have a voice and they have power and that if a child wants to start something for a cause, a certain cause like we’re doing for mental health awareness and a student goes to a teacher and tells the teacher their ideas, the teacher will tell the student, okay, you go do it. And the teacher doesn’t say that because the teacher is too lazy to do it or the teacher doesn’t want to do it, but the teacher tells that student you do it because you can do it. Because we have given you the tools to do it. You are your own independent person that has a voice and you’re the person that can stand up and do this. You can call your contacts, you can do this, you’ve got it. And what’s so amazing is that when you have that mentality, you can really look at the world and what your future is going to be. And even if you get slightly scared, you think, okay, I’ve been through something like this. I have the skills, I can do A, B, C, so I’m prepared to do this. So when comes to voting, I’ll get all my facts about each candidate, then I am prepared to make a decision that is ultimately for my country.
Even with Ellie is saying, GCC kind of teaches you that yes, you can do it. You yourself as an individual can do anything you want. Anything’s possible. But you can also do it with a partner. You could do it with a group of people, you can do it with the people in your community. I used to be the type of kid and know a lot of my friends, probably these two included thought I’m a lone Wolf, I want to be boss, I want to be the executive, the president, anything. But then you realize that’s a lot of paperwork. That’s a lot of people have to convince. That’s a lot of senators, Councilman I have to call. And you know, it’s nice to have all the glory to your name, but having a team, having a group of people, that’s a lot more efficient. And so through this community building class, we learned that depending on others isn’t a weakness. It makes you stronger.
Just today actually in student leadership, when John and I were in second period today, we were taking personality tests to figure out what type of personality we had. And it was pretty much spot on. And there were some people who found out, I mean some of the strengths and weaknesses were slightly offensive. We though that they are offensive but they weren’t true. It wasn’t offensive because they were untrue. They were offensive, but they were things that we might not have wanted to hear. Maybe for some people it was they didn’t want to hear that they are control freaks or that they might be OCD. I need planning 24/7 or that they don’t work well with other people. But the thing is is that when you really like look at the list of your possible strengths and weaknesses and there are other students in the class that has similar strengths and weaknesses and there’s a student who works very well with other people in groups and there’s a student who doesn’t, the student who doesn’t can learn something from the student who does and then that can overall help them in anything they do in their future.
And Elliana, what you’re saying is showing such high levels of self awareness and self reflection is one of those key skills that comes to some people naturally. But for others it’s something we try to embed through a course like this. So as I watch them and think what they will be like in the voting booth, I am glad that they’ve had this opportunity to learn in school what it means to look up an issue and find the facts beyond their immediate social media page. We look at detecting media bias, we look at adjudicating the complex and sometimes contradictory factors that cause some of the issues that are most sticky in our country. You asked about challenges and I think one of the most, one of the loudest objections or misconceptions we had in rolling class out to the County was that we were selling one particular ideology or that the course itself was aligned to a specific worldview. But I’m so proud as an educator who takes her responsibility to be an unbiased skill builder and ally and support. I could invite any parent in on any day to see our kids having a philosophical chairs or a seminar or looking at all sides of an issue. We really are building the skills needed to get out of a world where to disagree is a bad thing. We’re building the skills needed to live in a universe where you’re not pigeonholed into one set of beliefs but are instead invited to formulate your own. So it is a relief that the course itself can answer many of the criticisms that are often raised. And I think that is a very unique opportunity as an educator and it’s a very unique opportunity for students.
Absolutely. It sounds like critical thinking, respect, self-awareness are true pillars of this class and those are things that are needed for everyone to be strong citizens. Last question. So this class has come a really long way in a really short period of time. What are your hopes and dreams as it continues to evolve?
One of the priorities we have is to take the lessons of the class sort of out into the community. We work closely with our signature programs to engage real community members, stakeholders, business owners, leaders within our school system and local government so that the projects the kids are creating are put in the hands of adults who live and breathe this outside the building every day. And so the more we can bring that authentic component to our work and make it less of an intellectual exercise and more of an applied exercise, given that this is where we live and where we work. So I guess just inviting more people in to share their voices, but also to let give us a chance to show off our kids is always.
My hope is that I feel very aware of how disconnected humans feel both to themselves and to the world around them, feel very hyper aware of that. And so my hope is that humans, as they uncover their values and as they get closer to reaching what they think their purpose is and how they can impact the world around them positively. And that they carry that with them. And then as they get older and have their own families, they’re able to use this language and teach their own children and carry this with them. So the ripple effect I just see as there is no end to this, but truly that’s what I want. I want humans to feel connected to one another. Again, I want them to feel, but first and foremost connected to themselves and that they are, that everything they need is already inside of them, but they are valuable that they matter and that they walk around with that, that they matter, right. And then they have the ability to make other people feel like they matter too because this class really has this unique ability to make kids feel seen and valued and heard in a way that that is the entire point. You know, that is the entire point and that they know each other and then they care about the stories, both that they carry, but they also care care about the stories that everyone carries with them. And that the real cornerstone of this course is empathy. How can we just be more empathetic? We are living in a world where we are sharing space with 7.7 billion humans, right? And we all matter and we all can make a difference and we can all have an impact, but we have to feel it, right? We have to be connected to that. So that is my hope. That every human is just able to walk out into these classrooms and out of the classrooms feeling like they matter that they’re going to go out there and make a difference, whatever that looks like and that they are loved.
And my hope is that in a society that that is struggling right now with violence and a lot of turmoil and also at a time in education where we’re really focused on all the wrong things, standardized tests and that kind of thing. It’s my hope that our example of really focusing on the whole child and being determined to produce citizens that are college, career and community ready and that we can do that in a way that doesn’t steal from the Pythagorean theorem or from Beowulf. But it also gives kids the opportunity to figure out who they are and what they want to be. As an educator I think that’s the job to get them ready for college, to get them ready for a career. But the only way that we can do that is to get them to really know themselves, know where they come from, who they are and my goals are much more selfish than these ladies. I want a strong future for myself. And I do know that you guys are that future and that you will build that if you have the tools and if you have the strength to throw off some of the, the things that have been happening and say this is not who we are as a society, as a country, as a world community. We can do better than this because you guys are worth it. And you guys will lead us through that, through this. I believe that. So that’s my goal is to show by our example that when we treat kids with respect and honor them and value them for the amazing people that they are, yes, younger than me, but much smarter. And we give them the opportunity, have these conversations and to solidify their thoughts and to think about these issues and to be spokespeople for different organizations. When we give kids those tools to do that, the sky really is the limit. When you guys can do anything that you set your mind to and you can lead us out of the woes that we’re suffering right now and we can teach, we can teach each other how to live in a society where the first way to solve a conflict doesn’t have to be violence. You know, it doesn’t have to be a lot of screaming and hollering. We can be civilized, a whole civilized society.
And I think that that’s pretty much what this book, the Global Community Citizenship program is all about. I mean in a horror movie, you don’t ever split up. You get pick off one by one though. You stay together and you fight together because you have a better chance of reaching your goal when you are working with somebody else. I know it was a really bad reference, it just popped into my brain. But as I was saying, you stick together because that’s how you’re going to overcome a threat. That’s how you’re going to overcome an obstacle because you might be struggling to reach something up high and then you need somebody to lift you up there to get that. And then once you get that one piece, then you can move on to something else or something like that. But you can’t do things all on your own. And that’s why you have to relate to other people. That’s why I have to empathize with other people and create those relationships. And I think that a lot of times reasons why teachers and adults want students to do that is because we’re going to be taking care of you guys in the future.
We’re going to be taking care of you guys in the future and it’s sooner than you think. And then we’re going to be taking over your jobs. Not in like a bad way, like we’re kicking you out or anything, but taking over your job. We’re going to be coming up with brand new ideas for transportation, brand new technological ideas.
We might be your president one day. I don’t even know.
I hope so. You have my vote.
We could be making decisions for countries all across the oceans. We can be making decisions for where our military is going to go next. And that’s the crazy idea because usually teenagers at this age aren’t even going anywhere near that. But because of this whole program, we’re thinking about our future at a younger age. So teachers and sometimes parents might be like, well, I just want my child to be focused on college right now. But college is a part of your life, but it’s not a huge thing. You can still have a successful career without ever having a college degree and you can still have amazing opportunities without ever having a college degree.
I want you to go to college.
Well, of course I want to go to college too. But I also want you to know that that’s the tool that’s part of the destination.
But that’s not the goal, right? The goal should always be who are you going to be 10 years from now?
Everyone here is a GCC fanatic. We all love this class, but I also want to highlight the fact that this class is not like a cure for a koombaya state. I don’t want it to seem like we’re saying, if you take this class, you’re going to be president, you’re born to be Jeff Bezos, you’re going to be everything that you could possibly dream. That’s not what this class is. I would say it’s more like a seed. It’s a starting point. It’s not the actual destination, but it’s a way for you to get to where you want to be. And if I had one dream for this class and where it could go, obviously nationwide, but I want it to be a type of class that kids who aren’t like us, I think I speak for all of us when I say we are pretty privileged and like I said, I’m from Baltimore where there are some kids who can’t even dream of the opportunity this class has given us. They can’t dream of what it’s like to get a car your junior year or what it’s like to even have breakfast sitting for you before you go to the bus and I feel like if this class can be made in a way that even those kids in Baltimore City or Chicago or Detroit feel as confident as we do about what we can do in our future, then it’ll be exactly what it’s about. It’s going to be exactly the dream that we all had for it.
I want to say on that really powerful and uplifting note a big thank you. Thank you to everyone for coming and speaking with me today. Thank you to Johanna Ricker, Molly Sinnott, Bunmi Omisore, Elliana Anderson, and John Cardwell for talking to us today and a special thank you to principal Gina Davenport for speaking with us and hosting us at Arundel High School. We’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and questions. If you enjoyed what you heard today, check out more at thirdfloorviews.com. I’m Janet Jefferson. This is Third Floor Views. Thank you for listening.
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Because it’s a requirement for all freshmen, you have classes with people all over the school. You know, if you’re a try hard, like I was freshman year, you’re going to have basically all the same kids that takes honors and AP classes. But in Community Citizenship you have all corners of the school. You know, even if you take honors classes, you might have a very white class, you might have a lot of white people in your class. And as a minority, having one class my first year of high school where I see people I wouldn’t usually see people that look like me, Brown, black, Asian, all over. They’re all in that same class and I think it helps because we are talking about things and we are trying to get each other’s perspective. So having such a colorful demographic really helps the class.
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