RS Zoom Postcards – Building Student Voice through Brave Conversations
Posted: 05 June 2023
To thrive in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, today’s students must become confident global navigators, able to appreciate and celebrate diversity of culture and ideas, and equipped to collaborate on an international scale.
We know from decades of Round Square student Conferences that it’s a skillset best developed through experience, by connecting with the wider world, and by testing out ideas and philosophies on global platforms, against different viewpoints and perspectives. But the challenge for many schools is how to enable this for all students regularly enough for learning to build in a way that is cost-effective and doesn’t require regular international travel.
This challenge led to the creation of Round Square’s Zoom Postcards, in which students come together online once a week with their peers from around the world to tackle interesting, sometimes challenging, and often fun, topics. Discussion is open and honest, with students encouraged to share their views, and listen to the ideas and opinions of others, respectfully and without judgement.
So how does it work? Each week students in a RS school somewhere in the world send out a “Postcard” invitation to their peers, inviting them to join a Zoom call. Whilst the promotion, registration, logistics and safeguarding are managed by Round Square, the call content is planned and led by students from the host school, supported by their teacher.
Topics are chosen by student hosts, and often require brave conversations. Topics tackled in recent months have included indigenous rights, unconscious bias, gender equality, truth and reconciliation, inclusion, religious intolerance, climate change, freedom of speech, and mental health. At the other extreme, we’ve had RS Postcards on music, sport, anime, films, hobbies, pets, cookery, yoga, and wellness and wellbeing.
“It’s always exciting for the students because the conversation topics vary from one week to the next, and they really do get an insight into the cultures and communities of the schools that host,“ says Chiho Nakagawa, a teacher at the Junior and Senior High School of Kogakuin University in Japan, whose students hosted a their most recent RS Postcard on the theme of Aggression and Peace. “Often the participating students are asked to send in photos or research in advance, to discuss on the call”, she says. “It’s very interesting, and good, for them to hear the different ideas from around the world, and to have the chance to voice their own in a multicultural setting.”
The multicultural profile of participants is one of the key success factors in RS Postcards, and is driven by the broad geography of the Round Square network. When students from the British Overseas School in Pakistan hosted a Postcard on the theme of “Ways to Speak Your Truth”, they were joined by more than 120 participants from 24 schools, representing Armenia, Australia India, Japan, Pakistan, South Africa, and UAE. And when students at Cate School in the USA hosted their postcard on “Immigration in a Global Context”, students joined the conversation from Argentina, Armenia, Canada, China, Colombia, India, Peru, Pakistan, UAE and the USA. During the call, they shared their perspectives on immigration issues, their country-specific situations, and personal experiences.
“Preparing for, and hosting, a Round Square Postcard is a great exercise in global-mindedness for our students,” says Will Holmes, Director of Community Engagement at Cate School. “Not only do they have to think about the relevance of their topic on a global scale, but they also have to employ a range of leadership skills including communication, facilitation, negotiation and diplomacy, in order to engage with an international audience. These are skills they might usually practice when they travel overseas, but through the Postcards they also get to connect internationally without the travel.”