Kathleen McKenna  I studied law and international relations and am a professor of Criminal Law, Public Policy, and Effective Speaking.  I teach at SUNY Broome Community College in Binghamton, NY.  I am also the Coordinator of the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Program at SUNY Broome.

Teaching at the college and university level frequently happens independently, some would say in isolation from our peers.  While we typically interact with and support one another outside the classroom, teachers do not often visit one another’s classrooms, unless we are there to perform a formal teaching evaluation.  

On top of all of the other challenges of teaching online, we missed the interactions with and support of our peers.  In fact, 67 of us wanted something good to come from the additional challenge teachers and students around the world were facing during the pandemic.  We knew that the online teaching necessitated by the pandemic had the potential to eliminate many international borders with the click of a few keys, and to allow us to visit each other’s classes and to support one another around the world by dropping in virtually…like magic!

Here is some of what teachers had to say about the program:  http://bit.ly/COILglobalguests21

The Global Guests program was the brainchild and product of the COIL and Teaching Centers of SUNY Broome, SUNY Monroe, SUNY Rockland, and the SUNY COIL Center.   We wanted to offer teachers the chance to grow from mutual support in spite of the challenges and frustrations of online teaching and learning. We wanted to offer teachers the opportunity to experience an international connection without adding a lot of time or stress to their already challenging days.  Teaching via teleconference gave us the opportunity to invite guests into our classrooms with no travel time or costs.  So, we helped teachers within SUNY’s global network form groups of 2-4 with the goal of simply visiting one another’s classes and sharing our joys, our frustrations, and our creative solutions in our virtual classrooms.

It was a very inclusive process.  We made an open invitation to SUNY member campuses and our global partners.  The invitation also spread by word of mouth.  There was open admission.  Teachers opted in voluntarily.  We made fairly random groupings.  Assignments were made without regard to academic discipline.   We had 67 participants.  They came from 20 colleges or universities, and 8 countries (Australia, Brazil, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, US, and Venezuela).

 We modelled the program on the Teaching Squares program, which has been around in the US for 20-25 years.  Teaching Squares involves experiencing and savoring teaching and learning, generally on one’s own campus.  Its novelty lies in its simplicity–experiencing and processing together what is working in classrooms.  It does not involve formally evaluating one another.

All of the teachers involved met in a Zoom welcome session at the beginning of the program and once again as a large group to share our insights at the end of the program.  In between, the Global Guest participants visited one another’s virtual classrooms, sometimes simply observing and sometimes joining in the conversation.  They also met with one another to talk about their experiences.

That is where the magic happened.  Despite the pandemic, teachers connected with other teachers.  Somehow, the world got a little smaller, and teachers felt a little less isolated from their peers.  They realized they were not alone as teachers.  In fact, they realized they were part of a global community of change makers.

They got tips on technology.  They experienced the benefits of having a global partner in the room, despite what for some was an initial discomfort at the notion of being “observed” by a peer.  In some cases, when the teachers were observing a course taught in a language not their own, they got a sense of what an international student might experience in class.

The teachers realized they were modeling productive risk taking for their students.  Some teachers tried teaching in a language not their own.  Of course, they also kept an eye open for engaging teaching methods they might try in their own classes–like beginning class sessions with music selected by the students, or polling the students on how they were doing.

And the students grew too.  They were curious about who was visiting.  In some classrooms, the students surprised their teachers by the ways that they welcomed the Global Guests.  Other students stepped up and without missing a beat continued the conversation and assured the guest that their teacher, who had disappeared, simply  had a bad internet connection at home, but would be right back.

Being a Global Guest and welcoming a Global Guest was a small, but significant step toward preparing our students and ourselves for life in the 21st Century–an interconnected life,  a life where technology, cultural competency, and compassion can break barriers and build community.


See the full article here: https://bit.ly/GlobalGuestsArticle