George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Teachers Step Up and Assist with Global Issues

Suzie Boss

Journalist and PBL advocate
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In southern Sudan, a region wracked by decades of civil war and famine, hope is rising. A new secondary school is going up in the village of Marial Bai. But, as teachers know, learning requires more than bricks and mortar. That's why Teachers Without Borders is reaching out to its global network of educators to assist this humanitarian effort by providing professional development for new staff.

"That's exactly what our members are good at," says Heather Carson, membership director for Teachers Without Borders. "It's a wonderful time to be a teacher. Wherever you live, you really can make a difference."

Teachers Without Borders was founded eight years ago by Fred Mednick, a former teacher and principal from Seattle. His vision is to tap the power of the world's teachers -- 59 million strong -- to solve the serious problems confronting communities around the globe.

Why focus on teachers as change agents? Mednick recognizes that teachers are the largest professionally trained group in the world. What's more, they have deep knowledge of their own communities. As he explains, "Teachers know who is sick, who is missing, who is orphaned by AIDS, who needs attention, and who has special promise."

Teachers Without Borders is a lean organization, with a small staff but a global network of 6,000 members in 160 countries. With no membership fee, teachers come together primarily online, using its networking toolkit to exchange information and assist one another across distances and cultures. Some members wind up traveling to provide colleagues with on-the-ground assistance, but much gets accomplished in cyberspace. "There's plenty you can do without ever leaving home," Carson explains.

Requests for help typically start at the grass roots. For example, an educator in Peru may need help designing professional-development opportunities. Or perhaps a new teacher in Ghana -- online at an Internet café -- seeks advice from more experienced mentors to plan a science inquiry lesson. "We can live in different places, but if we're teachers, the same things drive us," says Carson, who spent eight years in the classroom. "We can lift each other up."

With funding from Cisco as part of its commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative, and others, Teachers Without Borders is poised for expansion. Although activities will continue to be driven by the interests and needs of members, a few key issues are expected to command special attention in coming months. These include bridging the digital divide and encouraging the education of girls as a strategy to accelerate social welfare. Look for Teachers Without Borders to be a force in helping achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

These are challenges of a global scale, but they get solved one community at a time. From the Sudan to Seattle, teachers are stepping up to be part of the solution.

Are you part of Teachers Without Borders? What have you gained from the experience? Please share your story.

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Comments (8) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Heather Carson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for taking the time to highlight our organization. I enjoy reading the latest postings in the Spiral Notebook. If readers have further questions about Teachers Without Borders, please feel free to contact me.
Best Regards,
Heather Carson

June's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am not a member yet but I am sure I will become one. I am working on my degree to become a teacher. I am really glad knowing that someone will be able to guide me through my first few years of teaching. I am sure I will have a lot of questions and will need a lot of help from experienced teachers. Thank you again.

Potential teacher

Felix's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Heather:
Are teachers recruited to help out in areas of severe teacher shortages, such as the Peace Corp Volunteers do?


Karen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think this program is a great one. I love learning about other cultures and as a first year teacher I hope to be able to help and also grow from the experience.

Kim Moore's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello, it was very interesting the things that were shared in your blog. I didn't know that there are 59 million educators world-wide. What an army. I know that we have the human resources to solve the problems of illiteracy and educational failure on a global scale. Your organization is one that is utilizing the skills, abilities and knowledge of a few participants to change the multitudes. Thanks for the information and the opportunity to share.

Derek Bishop's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a Walden University masters degree student doing a blogging assignment. This site was listed as a resource. I am supposed to offer a post, then discuss blogging in general as a tool for educators. I've been teaching special education for 19 years. I currently teach a group of students with moderate and severe handicaps at Haydock Intermediate School in Oxnard, California. I am a union rep for my school, and believe that teachers need to think more globally about the economic and political circumstances that impact the profession.

This global outreach is a good thing. We need to build trust and understanding among peoples and nations. This fulfills the broader mission that teachers are tasked with. Not merely the acquisition of "facts" and technical knowledge, but a deeper understanding and acceptance of our fellow human beings -- and the other forms of life inhabiting our small planet.

However, having said this, we must understand that military conflicts make such humanitarian efforts difficult, if not possible. US military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, have made ALL American-looking people targets. Doctors, journalists, teachers, and all other non-military NGO-type people are being assassinated. This serves Anglo-American interests, because they don't want any "neutral" parties present in conflict zones who might corroborate the indigenous people's accusations of atrocities carried out against them by occupying forces.

Know also that the US "Global War On Terror" has resulted in over 16,000 detainees held in various CIA black sites internationally, without access to legal counsel, the Red Cross, or even to the charges held against them. This is illegal, and continues under Obama's program. The Red Cross is an NGO like Teachers Without Borders. They can't do their humanitarian work due to US military obstruction of justice.

Also, beware Anglo-American (e.g., UN) military interventions under the guise of humanitarianism. Usually what is at stake is control over resources, not the death of a million or more native people. Case in point is Sudan where China gets 10 percent of its oil. The Brits and Americans cannot tolerate this. The Brzezinski foreign policy brain trust controlling Obama are all about geopolitical strategizing and cynically playing countries off one another to further the Anglo American empire. Their end game is to control and defeat any independent move from China and Russia. Hence we are going into Sudan not to stop the civil war and its ensuing carnage; but rather to control China's oil supply, and in so doing, give the Anglo American establishment greater leverage over the Chinese people.

Note also that Obama, while promoting austerities for the nation, and who cannot come up with 30 billion $ for Detroit upon which 5 million jobs hang in the balance, is at the same time giving $10 trillion to the banks with no strings attached, and has not breathed a word about reducing the $1 trillion per year US military budget required to fund two wars and maintain over 1000 bases in over 130 countries. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Hines Ward's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Everyone is watching how teachers will respond to the brain drain that is affecting our education system due to forced furloughs and layoffs. The only positive educational aspects in the news today is the expansion of military education benefits for veterans who are pursuing online degrees in business, etc.

Lora Appleton's picture

I am really glad knowing that someone will be able to guide me through my first few years of teaching. Can't wait to finish my tubal ligation reversal done and enjoy rewards of pregnancy... I am sure I will have a lot of questions and will need a lot of help from experienced teachers.

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