In honor of Giving Tuesday, we’ve posed three questions about the WorldTeach mission to Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of the Practice of International Education at Harvard University, and President of the WorldTeach Board. Thank you for your support on Giving Tuesday!
If you were to identify why we need WorldTeach in today’s global climate, what would you say?
The world is increasingly integrated and interdependent. As a result of developments in technology, trade and migration, we all come into contact more frequently with people from different backgrounds and identities. In these exchanges across differences there is enormous potential for creativity and collaboration. To realize that potential, it is essential that people have a cosmopolitan mindset that enables them to see these opportunities, to see the humanity they share with those who are different, and to collaborate effectively.
Spending an extended period in another country, working, not just as a tourist, is one of the best ways I can think of to help people develop such global competency. What better way to learn to navigate cultural difference, to develop a cosmopolitan mindset, to build global skills, than to have to work with colleagues, to have neighbors and make friends with people in another country all on behalf of teaching young children.
What kind of individual would benefit from a WorldTeach experience?
The opportunities which World Teach makes available to college graduates can benefit a wide range of participants. First, those interested in developing their global awareness, curiosity and skills, such as foreign language skills. Secondly, those interested in challenging themselves by moving outside their comfort zone. This is how we all grow and develop, by taking on challenging tasks and putting ourselves in situations for which we don’t have ready made answers to how to solve problems. Third, a World Teach experience can help cultivate valuable leadership skills: curiosity, the capacity to see the world through various cultural viewpoints, the capacity to collaborate with others, empathy, communicative skills, problem solving skills, the capacity to earn the trust of others, the capacity to coach and teach others, perseverance and resilience.
Which WorldTeach program would you go on and why?
Over the last three decades I have had a very satisfying career in the field of international development and in academia. My work involves collaborating with people from diverse cultural backgrounds on behalf of educating children and youth. I have gained much from been able to travel for work, for short as well as for extended periods, to many different countries and regions in the world. One of the most important things I have learned in those travels is the profound significance of Terrence’s idea that to be fully human is to live so that nothing human is foreign to us. If I could travel back in time, to the point where I had just finished college, I would spend a year teaching in a school in a different country, ideally in a country in which one year would provide me the opportunity to achieve mastery of that language –which would mean that I would already have some knowledge of that language, perhaps at a beginner or intermediate level. I would, during that year, seek opportunities to meet many different kinds of people, people from different walks of life, understand not just the culture, but the institutions of the place. I suspect that in one year, there would be many opportunities to develop my own leadership, to discover my own capacity to influence the world around me. I would keep a journal and write reflections often about what I am seeing, learning and experiencing, about the leadership challenges that I am taking on, for these reflections would help me become more aware of my own learning. I think if I had had the opportunity to live these experiences after college, it would have helped me not only to learn about other people and cultures, and about our commonalities and differences, but just as important, to learn more about myself and to have the time to refine a sense of purpose and gain perspective about life and the world, and my place in it.