New Year's Resolutions for teaching Global Citizenship

[Pictured: Royal College Manchester students leading the sensory dragon dance as part of their Chinese New Year celebrations]

Mid-February may not be the traditional time for making New Year’s Resolutions but at Seashell, staff and students still have planned festivities to come as we explore a range of festivals. As educators, we have a vital role in ensuring that all the children and young people learn about new concepts and experiences and are also able to practice their individual beliefs, traditions and values.

1. Get creative in our approach

Performance is a powerful tool: while we believe that access to creative activities including art, photography, dance, drama and music are valuable as an end to themselves, we see students learning a wide range of important skills such as attention and listening, choice-making and tolerance of others through engagement with the Creative Studies curriculum. Other activities can provide additional creative opportunities and we work to ensure that all our children and young people can access and enjoy the arts.

We need to be creative, too: when we plan or adapt activities for the needs of our students, we may need to find solutions to ensure that all our students can access meaningful learning opportunities during these events. Students who use wheelchairs or walking frames may need additional support to choreograph and participate in safe and challenging dance routines; a student who is distressed by unexpected noises may enjoy more structured, rhythmical music performances while others may enjoy unstructured exploration of sound and instruments. If we are to ensure that all our students can benefit from these activities then all teaching staff must work together to problem-solve issues of access and inclusion and meet the needs of each individual student.

2. Motivate all our students to participate at a level which is meaningful and appropriate for them

A significant number of our students struggle to cope with change. We work with them to prepare for unfamiliar activities and support them to access activities – but when students indicate that they find some activities, such as the whole-college concert, over-stimulating and they need to leave the room, they are supported to make the decision and go to a calm space when they need it. Many of our students decide to return to the activity after a break while others do not; whatever their choice, students are support to put it into action. The ability to try new things, judge whether or not you like or dislike them, recognise when something begins to be overwhelming and problem-solve by leaving the room or communicating your reaction appropriately are all important skills in themselves.

For those students who may be uncertain about participation, embedding activities which relate to particular interests may enable them to try something unfamiliar – for example, by sharing a selection of fruit with students from Langdon College during Tu B’Shevat, a Jewish holiday known as the New Year for Trees. This may also provide more opportunities to reflect each individual student’s progress: during the Chinese New Year celebrations, Emma achieved one of her targets for independence around the use of her cup.

3. Collaborate - with other schools and colleges, community groups, parents and the students themselves – and promote collaboration and group work

Working together with other organisations, parents and the students themselves allows us to challenge ourselves to host more ambitious ceremonies, but it also allows us to discover new ideas and approaches. Our relationship with Langdon College, for example, enables students from both colleges to meet and participate in shared events, in turn widening their social circles and promoting more opportunities for our students to develop socially, meet other young people and practice their communication skills. We might also consider how our work reflects the national guidelines for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development in schools – for example, recent guidance around the promotion of British values highlights the importance of developing an appreciation of and respect for students’ own and other cultures: all our students arrive at Seashell with their own traditions and, with support, they are able to share their knowledge with others as well as experience new traditions for the first time. 

4. Communicate to all our students – not only in preparation or during the event but also to reflect after the activity is completed

Through participation in group performances, such as the dragon dance (pictured above) with students dancing and playing musical instruments, children and young people are able to develop their awareness of others and the role they have within their communities. Students learn how to share information, tolerate others, interact with their peers and develop their awareness and respect for the traditions and beliefs of other students at Seashell as well as the wider community; by performing as part of a whole, they develop their understanding of team work and how to collaborate with others.

The ability to form preferences and to communicate those preferences appropriately is an important tool for preparing students to contribute to making decisions and planning their daily lives, and experiences of interesting, motivating activities may provide further opportunities to develop social skills (in particular, the ability to converse about an event) with students. Working with parents, carers and families – perhaps in the context of Seashell events, such as the school’s planned Nowruz celebrations, or by communicating these events to families and carers and providing photographs and resources to prompt conversation – we will support our students to transfer these skills into their lives outside college.

5. Above all, never be afraid to learn

How can we expect students to undertake new learning experiences if we are not prepared to do the same? By challenging ourselves to learn about other festivals, new approaches, different activities and techniques, we can better promote an understanding of the competencies each of our students must develop to actively engage with the world and to fully participate in their communities. We can do this by modelling lifelong learning: discovering things and enabling students to participate in that discovery, by exploring new activities with us or being supported to share their knowledge with others, will ensure that our work is relevant, challenging and reflects the needs of all Seashell students.