School Communities and Belonging: No, Where Are You Really From? | Harbord & Khan | 5 Min Read

November 17, 2022

If you have been asked ‘No where are you really from?’ recently, it is probably still rankling. At times, your struggle to belong is raised by someone else. It is an issue faced not only by many young people but also adults. Other factors complicate the issue further. One such example is the phenomenon of ‘cognitive immobility,’ which is being mentally trapped in a place or home you left behind because of memories, nostalgia, and experiences. As a result, you can’t truly find a new home in a new place, and so the ‘longing’ for belonging takes on a strange twist. This cognitive immobility not only affects international students but also affects any students who have to move for economic or social reasons.

The Institute for Economics and Peace predicted that by 2050, 1.2 billion people will have been forced to leave their homes as a result of the climate crisis. Amongst initiatives trying to support displaced people is the ‘Tales of a City Tours’ project. Founded by Emily Stevenson in Leeds, UK, this aims to help forcibly displaced people connect with tourists and local residents. The guided city tours were led by refugees and asylum seekers, whom Stevenson invited to identify areas of the city and personal stories connected to these places. The project gave the participants an opportunity to discuss challenges they faced in integrating and connecting with the city as well as connecting with both diverse and similar communities. 

The ‘Tales of City Tours’ shows how people can connect with their cities and offers a blueprint for schools.

Questions you can ask yourself and your students:

  • How can you develop a curriculum to connect your students to their cities and landmarks as well as create a greater sense of school community? What ideas do your students have?
  • What can you do in your school? What local places can you take your students to? What names can they give to landmarks along the way? Can they map your school and give places their own names? Can these places be named in their mother tongues? 
  • Did your city have older names? Who were the original inhabitants of your city? Does your area retain indigenous names and landmarks?

In our ethically driven approach to curriculum, we take on projects that can support positive change and have a positive impact. One example related to…

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Harbord and Khan

Meredith Harbord EdD and Sara Riaz Khan are global educators who use ethical dilemmas to enrich and transform curriculum. Their student centric approach is driven by an ethical model and innovative tools that support critical thinking and creativity. Meredith and Sara’s collaboration as Design teachers at ABA Oman International School in Muscat, focused on sustainability, ethical design and global mindedness and inspired them to establish Harbord & Khan Educational Consultants. They develop units of work based on real world issues to engage and challenge students for diverse curriculums (IB, PBL, Common Core and Australian) and are available for professional development and to create programs to meet the specific needs of your school. Meredith and Sara have authored two teacher curriculum books ‘Interdisciplinary Thinking for Schools: Ethical Dilemmas MYP 1, 2 & 3’ and ‘Interdisciplinary Thinking for Schools: Ethical Dilemmas MYP 4 & 5’ (2020). Website: