Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen sees an opportunity for global education in everything — everywhere. That’s because, she says, being a global citizen has less to do with where you might live or travel, and more to do with how you live.
“Global to me is about — wherever we are — that we think broadly, we hear, we observe, we try something new. We find a person, we find a community, or we find a family and listen, feel, and hear what that community or family is bringing to the situation that we can learn from and share with,” she says, noting that it’s really about respecting, honoring, and sharing culture.
At the root of Olsen's work throughout her career in the Peace Corps is a dedication to education. Her first position teaching English in Tunisia in the 1960s profoundly shaped her views. “You’re an American in a Tunisian classroom and you're supposed to be teaching and you have no way to communicate…,” she says. “I remember standing there thinking, ‘I could walk through that door and go home’… but I am going to stay and I’m going to teach. That experience completely changed my life.”
Work in education makes up 41 percent of the Peace Corps, which today has 7,000 volunteers in over 60 countries. “Our education programs are largely the whole approach,” Olsen says. The way this work is done, however, has evolved greatly from when the organization began in 1961, she says. Rather than being in classrooms, volunteers are more likely to be co-teaching with local teachers, working on curriculum, or working on secondary projects with students.
In this episode of the Harvard EdCast, Olsen shares thoughts on the increasing focus on global education, and how you can think more globally in the classroom.
About the Harvard EdCast
The Harvard EdCast is a weekly podcast featuring brief conversations with education leaders and innovative thinkers from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Jill Anderson, the EdCast is a dynamic space for discourse about problems and transformative solutions in education, shining a light on the compelling people, policies, practices, and ideas shaping the field. Find the EdCast on iTunes, Soundcloud, and Stitcher.