Why and why now?

Today’s global society and economy have greatly increased mobility and are enhancing children’s interactions between cultures like no other time in history. Additionally, students also feel more interconnected than ever due to global digital collaborations. This all means that when you enter nearly any classroom today, you will likely see learners from multiple backgrounds, cultures, and origins. Many of these children speak at least one other language when returning to their homes at the end of the school day. Most research suggests that the majority of individuals worldwide are at least bilingual, and a global perspective is recognized as the norm. Multiculturalism and multilingualism mean many students in today’s classrooms routinely drift back and forth from one language to another throughout the day resulting in different sets of habits at home, school, and in varied social situations.

As parents, advocates, and educators of gifted students, we recognize that this is what today’s learners know. Today’s students were born into a world very different from our own and that of the educators who are teaching our children. We (adults) have wrestled with accepting and learning new approaches, systems, technologies, and human interactions. Yet the children in our schools today know nothing from where we evolved; they see today’s world with fresh and unbiased eyes, ears, and feelings. We (adults) must embrace collaboration by both encouraging our student’s views and experiences and learning from and accepting their experiences, as well.

Evolving attitudes

Multicultural families and globally-raised students are no longer an anomaly. With this new norm based on a global perspective, educators must embrace new practices. Discord arises, however, because many of our children’s teachers speak one language and have lived in one country and one culture, which is oftentimes the dominant culture. Many adult educators continue practices that resonate with those of their upbringings.

Parents influencing schools and educators to reflect our evolving global society

Consider the incredible impact young learners will have on our world this year. Our students form and reform our society by infusing their new global perspectives. Regardless of our training and background, we, as parents and educators, can guide and support by example. This lifelong process extends far beyond acceptance. This progression relies on us encouraging appreciation for the diversity that surrounds our children in our schools and in our homes. Although continuing to grow, this perspective is not new. In 1993, Roland Case asserted in the journal Social Education that, “global education can provide a powerful focus for improving educational quality and help students cope with emerging global realities.”

A recent example of this global reality is when I provided a tour to Aakash, a visiting doctoral student from Purdue University. While visiting a first grade classroom in my self-contained gifted program, Aakash was very excited whilst observing and talking with a number of students. The children were working on “country” projects, creating presentations that described the cultures of the people in that specific country. Students in this class represented several ethnicities and cultures. Aakash found a few students who were from India, from the same region that Aakash called home. An enjoyable sharing of stories emerged making this experience feel warm, tangible, and relatable. These are the embraceable moments that grow our global perspectives locally, regardless of where we reside.

School practices

We are witnessing steadily growing attention toward diversity throughout our global society. This attention has brought renewed acceptance and respect for diversity in our schools. Our schools must be seen as the impetus for a changing world that embraces a global perspective and envisions compassion and enlightenment. We must encourage schools to celebrate the broad range of languages and cultures that exist within our schools and enrich the lives of our learners. After all, it remains our priority to teach and guide our learners/children in a way that will ultimately shape our global landscape.

To learn how diversity, multiculturalism, and multilingualism are embraced by Paradise Valley School District, listen to the 2016 podcasts on National Public Radio (NPR): The Rare District that Recognizes Gifted Latino Students and Gifted, but Still Learning English, Many Bright Students Get Overlooked.

Parent tips:

  • Stay connected with other families that encourage the learning of language and cultures.
  • Find opportunities to connect with your children socially and collaborate with them on projects driven by their interests.
  • Encourage discovery, understanding, acceptance, and appreciation.

Teacher tips:

  • Imagine a world that, instead of denigrating students as “minority” populations, “language learners,” or “disadvantaged,” sees children/learners as those who can, and will, empower their peers and teachers.
  • Embrace an evolving global society and perspective wherein students of all cultures, races and ethnicities contribute to a globally appreciated perspective on life, learning and universal potential.
  • Enjoy guiding today’s learners and tomorrow’s leaders!

Editor’s note: A version of this blog first appeared on the Gifted Alliance website.

The views expressed herein represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Dina Brulles, Ph.D., is an NAGC board member and the director of gifted education at Paradise Valley Unified School District where she has developed a continuum of gifted education programs, preschool through high school. She is also the gifted program coordinator at Arizona State University.