Furthering your school’s vision through peer learning

By LeeAnne Lavender, PeerSphere Storyteller

Shanghai Community International School (SCIS) enrolled a team of educators in last year’s Global Citizenship & Service Learning Peer Learning Community (PLN) to bring cohesion to an all-school vision for global citizenship education, and peer learning opened up meaningful and positive dialogue across the campus.

Haakon Gould is the Service Learning Coach and CAS (Creativity, Activity & Service) Coordinator at SCIS and he says the team (which included teachers from the elementary, middle and high school divisions) was able to dig into ideas about international mindedness that align with the launch of an strategic development initiative at SCIS. 

“This past year, I wanted our team to dip their toes into global citizenship education so we’d be more ready for the launch of our international mindedness plan this year,” Haakon says. “We wanted to get a conversation going about what global citizenship and international mindedness mean, and how these ideas might impact our teaching practices across all divisions.” 

There were 8 SCIS teachers involved in the Global Citizenship & Service Learning PLN, and the format of the PLN sessions made it possible for teachers from all divisions to participate and engage. The team often met in one room at SCIS to Zoom into the synchronous sessions, and then dialogue could continue between sessions because of Haakon’s leadership, and his passion for global citizenship and service learning. 

“I liked how the sessions were all different last year, with a variety of themes and guest presenters,” says Haakon, who co-presented in the first PLN meeting of the year alongside nature educator Kenny Peavy from Bali Green School. “A lot of elementary teachers were interested in learning about how to bring nature and sustainability into the classroom, and they were able to get concrete, engaging and fun plans to start a culture change at our school in relation to nature.”

Haakon has been working with his upper school staff for 4 ½ years to deepen practices related to service learning and to build a common understanding that meaningful and impactful service means thinking beyond fundraisers and supply drives. He felt that the SCIS elementary and middle school teachers involved in last year’s PLN were able to join that conversation and understand a variety of deep and sustainable approaches. 

“It’s so important to grow a school culture around these important ideas and understandings,” reflects Haakon. “The conversations in each PLN session served as touchpoints for dialogue at SCIS and what we’re developing here.” 

Haakon served a key role in organizing his school’s PLN team last year. He worked with the teachers as well as one of the school’s principals and the PYP coordinator to extend learning from the PLN sessions into curriculum conversations. During one PLN session, an SCIS teacher had an excellent conversation with peers in a breakout room about considerations for an upcoming unit about social entrepreneurship. She came away from the breakout room with important questions and ideas for the unit that shaped how the unit was finalized and shared with students; this led to a rich approach to some of the key ideas and essential understandings for the whole unit. 

“It’s so nice to be in a network where other experts in the field can share and create these areas of discussion,” says Haakon. “I also love how all of our schools are different but there are so many things we share in common. That’s what a network is all about.” 

Haakon has plans to include early childhood educators in conversations about global citizenship and international mindedness this year, and he’s keen to explore the use of stories as an entry point for continuing to grow a strong culture of service and international mindedness at SCIS. He is looking forward to the 2023/24 PeerSphere communities and to what will emerge from this year’s sessions and conversations. 

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