Classroom Spotlight: Tudor Elementary Connects the Dots on Dot Day
Michelle Carton is an accomplished global educator and librarian at Tudor Elementary School in Anchorage, Alaska. She is known for her innovative curriculum and has taught in many diverse school environments, but her deep passion for making education relevant and empowering for students while building a lifelong love for learning and exploring has remained a constant. To celebrate International Dot Day, 2017 Michelle and her class connected the dots around the world - so we connected with her to learn more about how she inspires students every day to make their mark!
How did you first learn about Dot Day?
We first learned about Dot Day when I was searching out global and international activities for students. Our first year, we simply read the book, talked about international and global activities. We then created our dots. Our next year, we took it further to talk about how we will make our mark on the world, and why that matters. This year, we took it global and connected with schools all over the world, from Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Canada, and the "lower 48," connected it to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and shared how we will make an impact on being good earth citizens and taking care of each other and the planet.
How does Dot Day tie into your work as a global educator and the mission of Global Education Alaska?
Global Education Alaska initially started out through my Fellowship, Teachers for Global Classrooms sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the International Resources and Exchanges Board. It has now become an opportunity for teachers all over the world to find ideas and resources to take their class global, through workshops, seminars, and simply perusing our website. As a teacher in Alaska, I know our students come from all over the world (we have one the most diverse districts in the country), to a place that is quite isolated and remote, they just need a platform to embrace the world's people, lives, and stories, in a way that will help them embrace their own.
Dot Day is an opportunity for young people to celebrate their marks on a global scale. By connecting with schools around the world, we are making global citizenship more attainable and realizing that young people, no matter where they live, innately want to do good and be a part of the solution. Dot Day does a great job of setting the foundation for International Day of Peace and also United Nations Day, where we delve further into the idea that we are all connected and by learning about the world, understanding the perspectives in the world, and connecting with the world, we are in deed "taking action" which is what it means to be a global citizen. Global Education Alaska provides an opportunity for Alaskan students to learn about the world and for the world to learn about Alaska, the real Alaska (not the one on television).
Do you have tips for educators looking to take their Dot Day celebrations global?
Taking your Dot Day global can be easy, mostly because I have laid out on our website, just how to do that! Also, a few things I learned along the way. Using a tool such as signup.com, makes managing a calendar really simple. Also, making sure to double check a few days before, as we are busy educators, really helps solidify the process. Having students set goals for connecting creates a strong sense of buy-in as well.
My students' goal for next year is to connect both with Emily Arrow to learn the Dot Day song and the team at FableVision to share how they are making their mark on the world AND how they intend to do that in their future as well. What is being done through Dot Day many do not realize: for students to have a voice and see it be heard and honored builds an incredible foundation for growth, both academic, personal/social.
What is your favorite memory from your Dot Day 2017 celebration?
My favorite moment from Dot Day 2017 is when my students who normally are quite disengaged, shy, or overwhelmed by their life outside of school, get incredibly excited, and truly become children again, to laugh, and clap, and remember. Students all year will tell me, "Remember when we connected with _____ for Dot Day, that was really cool." They will remember these moments, all the way into their adulthood. For children to be able to have something to grab onto, even in the most challenging times, is incredibly precious!
How do you inspire students to make their mark and what’s your own inspiration?
Inspiring students to make their mark, care about the world around them, and a desire to be a part of the solution, comes from my own passion for these things. Students want to be engaged and excited; when an educator is, and gently guides students to take suit, they are carving a lane for students to be vulnerable. My own passion comes from being that kid who didn't really engage, teachers just pushed on, struggled in school, went to 9 different elementary schools, was in an out of foster care, and didn't really have something to be passionate about. I had one teacher, in 4th grade, who reached out in a major way and it changed my life. I aim to reach that student, and along the way, bring with me lots of other excitable young people.
I left Corporate America to do something I believed could make an impact on the world, and I haven't stopped yet. Now, I have 350 developing young global citizens who are beginning to see the impact of their dedication and passion. To be a global citizen is to embrace the possible, push past the maybe, and explore the unknown--but to always come out in a much more aware state of being. We are building future peace leaders, one dot at a time.