Global Studies in DCPS

This blog post comes from Julian Hipkins, Global Studies Coordinator at Theodore Roosevelt High School (DCPS). Julian has taught English in Japan and History at Capital City Public Charter School in DC, and he served as Curriculum Specialist and Mississippi Fellowship Director for Teaching for Change. He moved into this new role in summer 2016 as Roosevelt re-opened in a newly renovated building and was re-christened a Global Studies school within DCPS. Julian attended WISSIT in August 2016 and is part of the leadership team for The World in DC project.

Being a Global Studies Coordinator means drawing on my experiences while learning new skills for helping students and teachers think with a global lens. In this process I also deepen my own understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. When I was a classroom teacher I learned over time that students were often teaching me just as much if not more than I was teaching them. It was a journey that we took together, oftentimes going to unexplored places. I bring that same philosophy to this position, especially being in a newly renovated building of a school with over a century of memories.

My responsibilities as a Global Studies Coordinator include making sure teachers have what they need to teach with a global lens; organizing guest speakers; and connecting students to internships, community partnerships, fieldwork and opportunities abroad. Exposing our school community to a variety of opportunities is what drives many of my decisions. The term achievement gap is often used when describing the disparity between the educational level of students in Washington, DC, and that of other students across the country. I believe the term “opportunity gap” is a better way to phrase it, because if students are exposed to rich opportunities they will achieve. It is up to adults to make sure they have access to life-changing opportunities. Living in Washington, DC, gives an added advantage because of the access to world-class museums and international organizations that can help our students see their place in the world.

One of those organizations, the U.S. Department of State, last fall facilitated the visit of a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize to our school. In September we had the honor of hosting Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma (Myanmar). The visit was memorable and the students truly appreciated the experience of not only learning from her but also sharing their thoughts on education. From that visit we connected with an all-girls’ school in Burma and staged a videoconference between a group of their students and Roosevelt students. In May we will host seventeen students from Burma while they are visiting our city. This is one example of the many amazing experiences on offer at Roosevelt.

We are very fortunate to have a group of dedicated teachers who are using Project Zero ideas to strengthen their pedagogy and engage their students. From Ms. Smith and Ms. Williamson using slow looking to examine a melting glacier as a way to have their math students connect to exponential functions, to Mr. Czaniecki using Thinking Routines to inspire his students to write and engage in poetry competitions, our educators are positioning our scholars for success.

The challenge lies in coming to a shared understanding of what it means to be globally competent. In the process of coming to that understanding, we will need to have a common language. Global Studies means different things to different people. To have global perspective means to look at every situation with a careful eye and look deeply into the make-up of the experience. When meeting someone, it means acknowledging that this person is a complex individual with his or her own story and experiences, and recognizing we most likely share common experiences. It is this goal we constantly strive to meet at Theodore Roosevelt High School.