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ACS Dean Peggy Pelonis Publishes International Mindedness Article

American Community School's Dean of Student Affairs Peggy Pelonis, has written the following publication "Embracing the concept of International Mindedness", in the global school's Summer/Winter 2014 magazine.

The full text can be read below:

Embracing the concept of International Mindedness

Pelonis says that international mindedness must 'permeate every aspect of the school'

Because cross-cultural awareness and appreciation of diversity are keys to global citizenship in the 21st century, 'international education' has become an even more important approach to preparing students for full and purposeful lives as global citizens. Students attending international school area expected to 'develop and transform attitudes and beliefs to those which are in tune with ideals of world citizenship, which 'would include the breaking down of barriers and prejudices...transforming the focus of young people's thinking form the parochial to the global and from the narrow-minded to the broad-minded' (Waterson & Hayden, 1999: 18).

Thus, key to international education and a challenge for international schools is embracing the concept of 'international mindedness'. In fact there lies the success of international education as students of such schools develop a global perspective that is built on understanding and respect for one's own culture and that embraces knowledge of global issues and their interdependence, cultural differences, and critical thinking skills to analyze and propose solutions. 'International mindedness is also a value proposition: it is about putting knowledge and skills to work in order to make the world a better place through empathy, compassion and openness – to the variety of ways of thinking which enrich and complicate our planet'.

Such a stance is in accordance with the 1974 UNESCO pronouncement that 'international education should teach about peace, democracy, and human rights in order to enable every person to...promote international solidarity and co-operation, which is necessary in solving world problems". (Hill, 2012)

Questions then arise as to the meaning of 'international mindedness' and values: is there such a concept as universal values? Can a variety of values exist within one school? And if there are many different values, which are best, or right? (Ellwood and Davis, 2009: 160). There is no one definition of what an international school is, in fact international schools are a varied and diverse lot: (Leggate & Thompson, 1997) – 'a conglomeration of individual institutions which may or may not share an underlying philosophy' (Hayden & Thompson, 1995). Thus, each international school must develop a clearly activated set of agreed upon values that promote the concept of 'international mindednesses. And, each international school must develop clear strategies and plans for making these values real in the daily lives of their students.

Each international school must develop a clearly activated set
of agreed upon values that promote the concept of 'international mindedness'.
and each must develop clear strategies and plans for making these values
real in the daily lives of students.

At ACS Athens, 'international mindedness' goes hand in hand with the idea of service. It is a step process that begins with developing awareness of social conditions and leads to fostering collaborative social commitment for the betterment of humanity (Gialamas et al, 2013). Since international mindedness is a frame of mind and an approach to issues, an attitude towards one self, others and the world at large (Ellwood & Davis, 2009) it must permeate every aspect of the school; academics, co-curricular activities, sport, celebrations and community projects. Above all, student voices must be an integral part of decision making processes. Embedded in the ACS Athens mission is the concept of a student centered international school challenging its students to become responsible global citizens. Comprising students representing 62 nationalities and open to diversity, ACS Athens is committed to civic minded programs inclusive of many cultures. Academic programs include the International Baccalaureate (IB) whose aim is to develop internationally minded people committed to promoting world peace. ACS Athens has adopted the IB learner profile as its 'Portrait of a Graduate'. In the ACS Athens interdisciplinary honors program, students explore literature, music and thought of the Byzantium and the contemporaneous Islamic world to understand sources of connecting and conflict. A World Literature and Ethics course is designed to help student discover and hone their leadership skills as they explore concepts of leadership embodied in a range of literature from around the world, as well as in the political and philosophical writings of figures such as Gandhi, Lao Tzu Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Social studies courses Junior Kindergarten to grade 12 emphasize comparative studies in world culture and a substantial component of the school's language and literature program is devoted to the study of literary works in translation. The North East South Asia (NESA) Virtual Science Fair allows students to participate in regional and global projects with international mentors and partners.

A rich array of co-curricular and support program also serve to promote 'international mindedness'. Participation in Model United Nations immerses students in seeing global problems through a multitude of perspectives as they seek solutions, while United Nations Day programs honor different cultural traditions through a series of student-centered activities devoted to a solution-based exploration of UN millennia goals in the Middle School. The Yolo Club – Youth Optimizing Leadership Opportunities – encourages young people to shape their world through positive social action by entering into a journey of personal inquiry and questioning 'I wonder what the world would look like if...' investigating the local or global issues of diversity, culture and conflict resolution and culminates in school-wide celebration bringing all students, faculty and staff together to celebrate their accomplishments through service. Above all, student voice is strongly encouraged. ACS Athens students have taken the initiative to create documentary films such as 'The Palestine-Israeli Conflict' and ' The Rise of Homelessness in Athens'. A large group of high school girls on their own initiative developed the 'Girl Up' program, devoted to helping women in developing countries to gain access to education.

The beginning of the year 'salutation' led by counselors is designed to assist students in understanding the school system as well as to cope with the emotional ups and downs of changing school and/or country. The 'Owl Buddy' Program pairs veteran students with new students throughout the year to help them adjust to their new environment. Participation in athletics promotes cooperation and cultural awareness as students compete against athletes from other countries while hosting them in their own homes. ACS Athens' well rounded and very comprehensive college application advising process includes many hours devoted to an investigation of personal values as well as to helping students understand the processes and philosophies of other school systems. The senior study hall syllabus includes cultural awareness activities as part of the process of helping students to envision and plant their futures.

Finally, ACS Athens has adopted a student-initiated honor code based on shared principles of self-respect and respect for others, integrity and personal and common responsibility. Student leadership teams have committed to educating students about the value of honoring this code in exams, on the playground, during activities and on fieldtrips, and about adopting these core values as a way of being. In the most fundamental sense, these are the building blocks of international mindedness. Recently one hundred grades 3-12 students participated in leadership workshop and were charged with the task of educating the entire student body and their families about the school's upcoming re-accreditation process. During the workshop students engaged in a critical explanation of the school's mission statement by citing examples of the mission statement in practice. A young man from fourth grade, new to ACS Athens, early raised his hand to respond to the question "How many of you know what our mission statement says?' He proudly shouted, unknowingly paraphrasing C.S. Lewis, "Doing the right thing when no one is watching you." Perhaps he missed reciting the mission statement word for word but many would agree that this young man certainly 'got the point', and I would say his response desrves an A+ in any international school!

References:

Ellwood, C. & Davis, M. (2009), International Mindedness: A Professional Development Handbook for International Schools.

Gialamas, S., Pelonis, P., & Cherif, A., (2013). Creating An Institutional Culture Fostering Innovation in Education, Journal of Higher Education Management 28, 1, 70-80

Hayden, M. C. and Thompson J.J. (1995) International School s and International Education: A Relationship Reviewed, Oxfore Review of Education, 21, 3, 327-345

Hill, I. (2012) Evolution of Education for International Mindedness, Journal of Research in International Education 11, 3, 245-261

Leggate, P.M.C. & Thompson , J.J. (1997). The Management of Development Planning in International Schools, International Journal of Educational Management, 11, 6, 26-273.

Waterson, M. & Hayden, M. (1999). International Education and its Contributions to the Development of Student Attitudes, International Schools Journal, 8, 2, 17-27