Melinda Bihn, Cross-Cultural Cognition in College Readiness

The Path to Higher Ed is a SchooLinks hosted podcast community that explores trending topics and issues in the area of college and career readiness. Our featured guests are pushing education forward by constantly learning from, innovating and applying their college and career readiness practices. Listen to gain their insights and apply them to your own college and career readiness practices.

In this episode, we speak with Melinda Bihn, Head of School at French American International School and International High School. As Melinda explains, a bilingual education uniquely prepares students to take on the world by building cross-cultural cognition. This conversation explores how cross-cultural cognition positions her students to become more critical, globally-minded thinkers through their interactions with other cultures. As a result, Melinda considers her students to be “little anthropologists” as they become deeply comfortable with adapting to many different cultural contexts.

About Melinda Bihn

Melinda joined French American from Garrison Forest School in Baltimore, Maryland where she was Head of Upper School. In many ways, Melinda’s life has been leading to this job. Her great-grandparents were French immigrants to California, and she has worked in both international schools in Europe and independent schools in the United States. Exchange trips to France in college gave her a love of language and education, which she then turned into a career.

Melinda spent the first ten years of her career teaching in international schools in Austria, Germany, and Portugal, and the second part of her career in teaching and administrative positions in independent schools in the United States. Melinda has a B.A. in English with a minor in French, a Master’s in Comparative Literature, a Master’s in the teaching and administration of English as a Second Language, and completed her Ed. D. in Educational Leadership in 2014. Her doctoral dissertation research at the University of Pennsylvania on international students in independent schools is a topic that is especially relevant for French American. Melinda speaks fluent German and, as many parents and faculty can attest, very good French.

French American International School and International High School

The mission at French American affirms the central principles of an international education: academic rigor and diversity, critical thinking, and communication across cultures. It is the only Bay Area school offering a multilingual, multicultural education that culminates in the International Baccalaureate or French Bac. The school’s youngest students pursue a bilingual curriculum in French and English through 8th grade. As students progress through the school, they hone their critical thinking skills, communicate in at least three languages, and participate in a rich array of arts, athletics, service learning, and travel programs.

The school’s classrooms are lively, and its school community is always engaging. Students and faculty from across the Bay Area and from around the world forge meaningful, trusting relationships as they experiment and explore, question and collaborate. Committed to the well-being and success of every student, French American’s teachers bring global teaching experience and expertise in their disciplines into a differentiated classroom on a daily basis. Boldness is a hallmark of a French American education: students grapple with real issues raised in the context of a challenging curriculum. There, students not only experience the world, but also develop a sense of autonomy, empathy, and agency. They are primed to go out into the world and make a positive difference.

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