How did I get here?

This guest post comes to us courtesy of Paige Badgett (@PTPIPaige), Director of the School & Classroom Program, at People to People International (PTPI).

Childhood pen pal experience comes full circle.
When I was a young girl, I saw an advertisement in a children’s magazine for a pen pal. Immediately I sent off for my very own friend across the country. Twenty years later, we are still in touch.

We exchanged letters about our favorite things, our families, our school, and our best friends. She liked horses; I liked music. She was from the South; I was from the Midwest. She liked the X-Files, and I was too scared to finish an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? Yet despite our differences, I discovered that she and her friends near Atlanta, Georgia were just like me and my friends in Wichita, Kansas.

Thanks to social media, I have been able to remain connected with my childhood pen pal who lived nearly 1,000 miles away. I have seen her get married, have her first child, and live a life that is still very distant from mine… yet we remain connected.

Now I have the honor of serving teachers around the world who are eager and excited to connect the students in their classroom to classes in other countries. Today, pen pals go beyond pen and paper. Students can connect via letters, as well as emails, video conferencing, conference calls, blogs, social media sites, etc. The opportunities are endless. The School & Classroom Program has linked more than 250,000 students in 128 countries for classroom partnerships.

Students in Russia prepare projects for their partner class in the United States.

Students in Russia prepare projects for their partner class in the United States.

How did I get here?
People, in general, have fascinated me since I was young. I love to listen to people’s life stories, learn about their history, and figure out what makes them tick. I started out as a child of the theater, performing and learning the art of putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Life then led me to a desire to serve others, learn about other cultures, study another language, experience life abroad, and earn a degree in psychology. Why wouldn’t I end up working for an organization called People to People International?

People to People International connects people of all countries and cultures because we believe that understanding one another is the best way to create peace. And why not start young? Our student programming is extensive – connect through your classroom, connect with your community, connect through service, and connect to the wide world through travel.

By working with extraordinary teachers around the world, I have learned they are the ones who are truly in service to the future of our world, and I am simply blessed to aid in their global education experiences. Lucky me, I get to be part of the #globaled revolution, and play a role in building so many connections and relationships! The world gets smaller and smaller, and our students become the eager ones – eager to serve, eager to learn, and eager to open their eyes to this big world at their fingertips.

To learn more about People to People International, visit their website at www.ptpi.org. Follow Paige Badgett on Twitter – @PTPIPaige. To link your own class with a partner class in another country, register for the School & Classroom Program online today at http://www.ptpi.org/community/SCP.aspx.

Global Education Conference for Students: Providing a Vision for the Future

Dear People to People International,

Thank you for changing my life! The Global Youth Forum was the best experience of my life. I made so many new family members that it broke my heart to leave them, but it’s thanks to PTPI that I met them in the first place!

PTPI and GYF changed me as a person – for the better. I learnt the value of humanity, of diverse human culture, and I learnt that despite our different countries and our different continents, all the inhabitants of our earth are in essence the same – we’re all human, and we need to treat each other as such. I came to GYF with preconceived notions about certain countries and the types of people that lived there – and I left with my heart full of love and understanding about the depths of humanity and the similarities we all share. I’ve learnt that physical language is a tiny barrier – the human language is universal.

I learnt a tremendous amount about the value of appreciating each individual for who they are. The people I met at GYF all had similar stories to share – GYF is the one place that youth with a common vision to spread peace through understanding throughout the world. It’s where we can meet, relate, develop, love and care – it’s a life-changing, perspective-altering, mind-blowing gathering of amazing people that are out to change the world.

Saiyuri Pillay – South Africa

We (PTPI) connect people of all countries and cultures because we believe that understanding one another is the best way to create peace. Each year, we hold a conference for students ages 13-18 years old that we call the Global Youth Forum, or GYF. It brings together students from all around the world – so far for 2013, we know that students from Yemen, the United States, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Malaysia, and Canada will be attending.

We believe international educational and cultural exchange among youth further ensures long-term friendship and understanding. When you have a friend from another country, you gain a new perspective on cultural differences. You also gain incredibly valuable insight into the realities of life in a different part of the world.

On a personal level, I know that I have gained a much deeper understanding of events related to the revolution in Egypt thanks to my colleague in Cairo. That makes me think of all of the students PTPI has helped to connect around the globe, and the way their global network shapes their lives. I imagine them sharing their knowledge in the classroom, and it reinforces my belief that there is tremendous value in making an effort to expand one’s worldview.

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This year’s conference is Global Education: Providing a Vision for the Future. Through more than ten hours of educational sessions, delegates will work with teacher-leaders in small group sessions focusing on global education, participating in hands-on service work, meeting and learning from students from all over the world, hearing from inspiring speakers (including Dr. Tererai Trent, Oprah’s “all-time favorite guest”), having an interactive tour of DC monuments, and learning leadership and critical thinking skills. Many students say that their GYF experience is “life-changing” and the best week of their year.

If you know of a student or students who are globally-minded and a great fit for the GYF, please have them check out our event page HERE, and register soon (the deadline is August 31st). For more information about the GYF or if you have any questions, please contact my colleague, Sarah, at youthdirector@ptpi.org. Check out more blog posts about the Global Youth Forum.

Global Youth Forum 2

This guest post comes to us courtesy of Paige Badgett (@PTPIPaige), Director of the School & Classroom Program, at People to People International (PTPI). Check out past posts from Paige Badgett about promoting peace through classroom partnerships, finding global pen pal opportunities, and tips for successful, global collaborations.

Tips for Success: Global Collaborations in the Classroom

This guest post comes to us courtesy of Paige Badgett (@PTPIPaige), Director of the School & Classroom Program, at People to People International (PTPI).

The benefits of exposing your students to their counterparts in another country are endless. Each year, teachers participating in PTPI’s School & Classroom Program are matched with a partner teacher in another country and then receive a Program Manual with tips for success, global collaboration best practices, and project ideas. We are happy to share our Tips for Success with this great forum of educators today!

• Communicate.  Stay in touch with your partner teacher.  This is the key to success. Be honest and clear about your intentions and expectations.

• Contact your partner teacher in a timely manner.  When beginning a partnership, introduce yourself to your partner teacher as soon as possible.

• If you do not receive a response to an email message, resend your message.  The reason is often that the message was not received.  Often spam filters get in the way. Try again.

• Share school and holiday schedules. As a holiday nears, provide your departure and return dates.  Learn the difference between your time zone and that of your partner.

Lithuania.AudroneStoskiene

• Guarantee positive representation of you and your country.  Remember that you and your students represent your country.  Students should neatly compose letters and projects using their best spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

• Ensure language is cross-cultural.  Consider what needs explanation or description for an audience from another culture.  Slang and colloquial language needs to be used carefully and meanings should be explained as needed.

• Learn about international mail and customs policies for your partner’s country. International mail requires different postage than domestic mail.  Your post office can help you with postage rates for airmail, the preferred method to send letters and parcels.
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• Ask questions. If you are unsure how to proceed on any matter, ask.  Be honest with your partner teacher when you are confused about any communication discrepancies.

• Be a responsible partner.  If for any reason you can no longer collaborate, please inform your partner so a new classroom can be assigned.  When a partnership is ended without explanation, students tend to take this personally, questioning whether their partner disliked them. Most importantly, if you plan to continue working together, stay in touch with your partner teacher during the summer or winter breaks to assure them of your continued interest.

• Record your partnership. Take pictures of your students writing letters, opening letters, and working on projects with their partner.

Join our growing community of educators from 127 countries by registering for the School & Classroom Program today! People to People International connects people of all countries and cultures because we believe that understanding one another is the best way to create peace.

For more information about this program or to register for the 2013-2014 school year, please contact me at classroom@ptpi.org or follow me on Twitter! Check out past posts from Paige here and here!

Interested in Global Pen-Pal Exchanges? (PTPI)

This guest post comes to us courtesy of Paige Badgett (@PTPIPaige), Director of theSchool & Classroom Program at People to People International.

The school year has begun, and you are settling into your classroom … Why not go beyond the curriculum to give your students a first-hand experience in their global education?

PTPI’s School & Classroom Program links classes in different countries for pen-pal exchanges and projects that improve cultural understanding and encourage friendship.  Since it was created, this free program has served more than 3,000 teachers with 200,000 students in 126 countries – and we want you to join now!

When two groups are matched, contact details are exchanged between the teachers so that they may communicate directly. Each teacher receives a Program Manual with suggested projects and tips for success. We encourage teachers to modify or incorporate additional concepts or technology to best suit their needs, goals and resources.

Successful partnerships start with consistent communication.  Remember, you are a representative of your country, as are your students. This allows for conversations with your students about letter writing etiquette, punctuation, grammar and spelling. How better can you introduce these important topics while motivating and engaging your students?

Find out more by reading my last guest post, or register today.

Registration is easy! Visit our website and fill out the online registration form: http://bit.ly/PTPISCP. We will be matching partner classes through October.

PTPI: Promoting Peace through Understanding

This guest post comes to us courtesy of Paige Badgett (@PTPIPaige), Director of the School & Classroom Program at People to People International.

This is her story:

As the coordinator of a program that matches teachers in different countries for collaboration, I have spent years trying to navigate the waters of educational lingo, global collaboration best practices, and project based learning theories.

Essentially, I have attempted to virtually integrate myself into a world that is quite unlike the office I actually sit in. I tweet, I share on Facebook, I keep a list of my favorite hashtags, and I have a schedule of the most useful Twitter chats to join.

Why do I do this?

Because I believe that connecting people of different countries and cultures, so that they may learn about one another, is the best way to create peace.

And why not start with children?

Teachers who have participated in People to People International’s School & Classroom Program tell me that their students never cared about their grammar as much as they did when they were an ambassador of their country, introducing themselves to their new pen pals.

They tell me that when they held a video conference with their partner class, their students were amazed to learn that they are more similar than different.

They tell me that collaborations like this are knocking down barriers of prejudice and building strong connections between their students. Giving students an authentic audience for their work is both a motivator and a source of engagement.

How do we connect?

Teachers in the School & Classroom Program are matched with a partner classroom that has a similar number of pupils of similar age. We also consider communication and country preferences. The program is offered at no cost. Our aim is to link like-minded educators and their students.

If we can motivate youth to think about respect, peaceful relations, and global concerns when they are young, we may help them become the type of thinkers and leaders we need when they are adults.

One of our most successful projects within the program is the Global Youth Murals project. Each year we invite students to create artwork that represents their community, friendship, and their thoughts on our motto “Peace through Understanding”.

You can find galleries of the murals on PTPI’s Facebook page. Combining traditional research with art and action components helps reach different styles of learners/multiple intelligences.

Our Mission

Over the last 11 years, we are fortunate to have served over 3,000 educators with 200,000 students in 124 countries. We look forward to working with extraordinary teachers for years to come.

In the words of our founder, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so bad that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”

My wish is that each teacher has an opportunity to take learning beyond curriculum and testing – beyond the four walls of their classroom – and show their students this wide world.

And like Paige at PTPI, we’re trying to make this wish a reality.