The Globe Reads

An international book club experience
On Jan. 25, Shawnigan students and staff participated an exciting international book club initiative with students from a high school in Parikama, India.

The Globe Reads program, organized at Shawnigan by the Jim & Kathryn Shaw Library, uses Skype to facilitate a guided book club discussion between students from different countries.

Candice L. is a Grade 10 Shawnigan student who participated in Thursday’s discussion about the 1910 poem Where the Mind Is Without Fear by Rabindranath Tagore and who shared her thoughts and feelings about the experience afterwards.

Q. What captured your imagination about The Globe Reads program?
A. The vision of The Globe Reads program is that the walls in the world will be broken down when kids from all over the world share their knowledge via a simple platform like Skype. This vision is similar to my own; I’ve always wanted to work with kids from different cultures and understand their situation. I was really excited and jumped right in when Mrs. Stroebel told me that I could do that by sharing our different interpretations of literature.

Q. What were your thoughts or preconceptions before the Skype session?
A. I did a little research to try to understand about India's history at the point that this poem was written. I came into the Skype session feeling ready and prepared to interpret the poem from what I know about India's history. I thought it might be like another English class where we interpret poems, but the different perspectives we had really surprised us. Our discussion quickly escalated to a political and cultural discussion, allowing us to understand a bit more about each other's countries.

Q. What did you enjoy most about the session and sharing the experience with the students from India?
A. I really enjoyed their enthusiasm and you could tell they had prepared a lot just to Skype with us. They had a short skit about the poem prepared for us. They were so passionate about it and everyone looked like they enjoyed themselves.  Also, it was India's Republic Day when we Skyped, and I enjoyed when they sang their national hymn.

Q. What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
A. My biggest takeaway was how privileged we are as Canadian students in many different regards. All of the kids from India were wearing uniform, but were barefoot, sitting on the floor. They had one written poem they shared between about 20 students, and because it has been fumbled around so much it had several rips and the students had to piece it together every time to read it. In contrast, we had 20 freshly printed copies. But not only was it the materials, it's also their perspective and experiences. When interpreting one line, "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high/Where knowledge is free" a student from our group expressed that to him it meant not being shackled by social media. However, one of the girls from India expressed that, to her, it meant not being shamed for going to school. They explained some of the outdated beliefs they deal with, including the stereotype that girls shouldn't go to school once they hit puberty. Given all that, you can really see how we take what we have for granted compared to the kids we talked to in India.

Q. Would you recommend The Globe Reads to others and why?
A. I would definitely do it again and would recommend it to others. It is important for us to understand how privileged we are and how other cultures can interpret things in a totally different way than we do. This understanding allows students to have more of a global view and understand how the politics in one country can really affect its citizens’ perspective.
Shawnigan Lake School is an independent boarding school for Grades 8-12 on Canada's West Coast. Our modern, diverse and innovative programming helps shape the next generation of global leaders.