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“When is it going to be International Day again!”

I have encountered many International Days over my many years of teaching. In every school I have worked in this event has been a hugely special occasion, celebrating the diversity of the school community.

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This week, I was extremely impressed by the enormous efforts put in by our parents and our PTSA to make the day such a success. Our children were filled with curiosity and were intrigued to watch through our windows, the transformation that took place outside our EY Center, as parents worked to create exhibitions to present their countries with honor and joy. 

Finally the tables were finished and the children were invited to meander along the corridors. They paused and their attention was caught by the colors and artifacts displayed. Their senses and emotions were activated by the enormous variety of smells, textures, sounds and tastes.

Some children were drawn to the flags.

“The flag is for waving around. It’s from Australia. I want to show everyone!”

“The flag parade. They bring in different countries that are in the world. The Texas flag and the England flag were waving.”

Some children tried food they had not tasted before, whereas some children sought out food that was known and provided comfort.

“We’re going to taste the food today!”

“I ate spicy food from India. I like it.”

“I ate the Singapore noodles and I ate the Chinese dumpling.”

“These are cup cakes. This is me, I am so long. These are my muscles. I ate the foods from my country, Brazil. They do a lot of sports, like football.”

Some children were captivated by the clothes.

“All the friends in costumes.”

“Me in my costume.”

“This is me in my clothes of Nigeria. In Nigeria are strong.”

For some it was the human kinship.

“I go to Arabic. That’s all my family and that’s me.”

“Nigeria. I lived there. I was born in Nigeria.”

“I was born in Texas.”

“I like California. I like my cousins live there and in Canada.”

“Houston, Texas is my special country. My mummy and my sister is there and my daddy is at work.”

For some it was the physical features of the land.

“My country is England because I like it because it has real snow.” 

International day prompted much discussion about our identities associated with ourselves and each other. Parents throughout the school commented on our EY children, saying they were quite surprised at the pride that the children showed for their special countries and how deeply they connected with countries around the world and the communities they are a part of. The children talked about countries that they feel most affiliated to. This led to children sharing  where they were born, where their grandparents or cousins live, places that are special to them to them. Throughout, the thread that wove its way through all the dialogues, was the deeply felt relationships. All of this helps us to form our concept of self, exploring our place in the world, exploring connections with both where we have been, where we are and where we may go. The children showed much pride in talking about their special countries and found similarities with others. The more we understand each other, the closer we come to a more peaceful, equitable world. Events such as these sensitise the children to the significance that we are one world made complete by many people. That we are part of a global community where everyone is important. 

As an aside, I have found this TedTalk, ’Don’t ask me where I’m from, ask me where I’m a local’, interesting. In this transient, intercultural life that we have chosen for ourselves and for our children, Taiye Selasi makes an interesting suggestion, ‘When someone asks you where you're from … do you sometimes not know how to answer? She speaks on behalf of "multi-local" people, who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two. "How can I come from a country?" she asks. "How can a human being come from a concept?”