Our Global Town
Town School for Boys
Through the Halls of Town School and Beyond
Jennifer Liu engaging in South Africa's teachers' narrative.
When I reflect on my time in South Africa, many thoughts and images come to mind, and I am still processing all that I experienced. There is so much I could share, but one theme that continues to emerge is the power of communication and connection. In the weeks since returning to the US, I find myself thinking about snippets of conversation and how they motivate me on a personal and/or professional level. Some conversations were thought-provoking, and others were heartwarming. Some conversations were profound, and others were simply fun. Below are some quotes that will hopefully give you a glimpse of what I experienced.
“You know, South Africa is a third world version of the United States - cities, culture, good food, young people, democracy….racism.”
“What’s up with the US? All those shootings. I read about the woman who took down the Confederate flag. I thought the US was so much more advanced than South Africa.”
“I am wondering how you help your young boys be good men. As a young man, I want to be a good role model, especially for the boys. I want to help them show their emotions. I was not brought up this way. I want them to know it’s not just about fighting, and it’s okay to talk about how they feel.”
“I love teaching third grade. Those children make me happy, and I want them to have a good future. I work hard. That is why I have come from Zimbabwe to be at this summit.”
“I have great respect for the women in my family. They raised me to respect women. I did not grow up with a father, so I want to be a father figure to my students.”
“Ma’am, thank you for your workshop. May I call you my mentor? I would like to keep in touch.”
My trip was meaningful because of the people from whom I learned and with whom I worked, whether it was the Teach With Africa--Global Teachers Institute team or participants from the Aspiring Teachers Summit, Axis Education Forum, (see video below) and South African Extraordinary Schools Coalition. It is through listening, talking, and reflecting that we developed a deeper understanding of each other, our contexts, and our commonalities. I am very grateful I had the opportunity to see and experience South Africa. I am also grateful to be a part of a school community that values cultural connections and global education.
Chris Mizell's South African Globetrotting Adventure
Did you know that the country of South Africa has eleven official national languages? Eleven! I had no idea. Or that public or private, white or black, all South African educators share a sense of identity and frustration with the educational system? Of course, facts like these are easily readable on the web via Wikipedia or a similar site. However, I would have never understood them in the same way until I listened to a schoolyard full of the musical and multilingual mix of Zulu being spoken alongside Xhosa, Sotho and Afrikaans. I might have never understood the struggle to repair South African education until sitting in a classroom full of proud South African educators of all races and cultures. The EdTech Summit 2015 allowed me to participate first hand in understanding the inequities and social justice issues in the South African education system. Free teacher training programs utilizing technology were held in 9 townships.
The benefits of global learning are many; however, the most powerful may be the opportunity for empathy and authentic experience. Twenty five days spent with South African educators has renewed my passion to bring similar opportunities for empathy and authentic experience to the boys at Town School.
Olga Khaykin's Senegal Teaching Journey
By staying positive, open-minded, and inquisitive, I found more similarity than difference. I found people who welcomed me with a generosity of spirit and hospitality that I’d never before experienced. I found ways to connect without using a common language by relying on games, songs, gestures, humor, and kindness. By challenging myself to be present, genuine, and empathetic, I gained new understandings and built friendships.
I brought these same qualities to the classroom, using best teaching practices and high expectations to teach a hands-on art and science curriculum. The 42 7-9 year olds and the 34 10-12 year old students loved building catapults, stomp rockets, and marble runs. They were engrossed in drawing maps, patterns, and self-portraits. Just as this experience empowered me and transformed my teaching philosophy, I hope it enriched the students’ perspective of what is possible, what they are capable of, and how vital their skills are. They taught me as much, if not more, as I taught them. My experience in Santhiou Mame Gor will forever inform my journey of teaching and learning.
Madeleine McGuire's Summer in Senegal
I expected teaching abroad to add a new and complicated layer to culture shock. When I participated in the Senegal Project in Santhiou Mame Gor, a village approximately 33 miles west of Dakar, I found that being in a classroom provided me with an important sense of familiarity. Although the structures and routines the children were accustomed to were vastly different than the ones I experience at Town, the exchanges of teaching and learning felt anything but foreign. Olga and I taught various hands-on activities in science, art, and French language to two classes of approximately 45 students. We explored the color wheel, examined shapes, and prompted students to build and tinker with various materials. Families in the village hosted us, and children acted as our guides and hosts, walking us to and from school every morning and afternoon.
My favorite series of lessons focused on designing planes and kites. The older students developed planes that flew from one end of the classroom to the other, and the younger children explored kites as they ran through the school’s playground. To our delight, in subsequent days we noticed kites all over the village, and witnessed families tying them to their rooftops and making alterations together to make them fly even higher.
My experience abroad has informed my practice in so many ways, and the year has only just begun. I am looking forward to sharing stories with my fourth grade students, and using images of the projects I facilitated in Senegal to inspire project-based learning in 4B.
Chris Ceci-MacGillis - Journeys in Mayan country – Belize and Guatemala
My summer travels in Belize and Guatemala are a direct result of the efforts of Town School to develop the global competencies of not only the students, but also the teachers. I am grateful for the opportunity afforded by Town’s partnership with World Leadership School. I was placed with a family who welcomed me into their home for 7 days. The experiences of learning their traditions, cooking alongside them, and playing games with their children each night after supper will forever be part of my memory. While engaged in a service project in the village school, I learned that teachers around the world may have different classrooms, resources, and students. However, the one principle that unifies us is to foster a sense of curiosity and wonder about the world.
I will cherish the memories of traveling with a group of diverse teachers throughout Guatemala and Belize for two weeks. The people I met along the way, the ancient Mayan sites we visited, and the intense beauty of the pristine coral reefs we explored are not my biggest take-aways from this summer’s incredible cultural experience. It is the renewed sense of appreciation for my role as a teacher to model curiosity, risk-taking, and wonder about the world we live in for my students. I look forward to sharing stories and photos with my classes so that they will begin to see the various ways in which we, as students of the world, are different and the same.
Kim Stuart's Global Research Expedition with Earthwatch
I went to Churchill, Manitoba to help collect data for climate change research. My trip was sponsored by Earthwatch, an organization that brings regular people together with scientists to promote and support global sustainability. Our goal was to gather baseline data on current environmental conditions in the subarctic wetlands of Churchill, a region particularly sensitive to climate change.
Located off the Hudson Bay, Churchill is the polar bear and beluga whale capital of the world. Fortunately I did not run into a polar bear, while I did see several dozen (if not more!) belugas. With 2 scientists and 10 other teachers, I donned waders and mosquito net gear to collect water samples and record various measures of 22 different ponds. The mosquitos and black flies were quite significant, and it was a little stressful to be constantly escorted by an armed "polar bear guard," but this did not detract from my wonderful experience. I was in awe of the unique beauty of the region, with its lichen painted fields, pristine ponds, and midnight sun. I was inspired by the experience to bring evidence driven inquiry and data visualization to my teaching practice.
You can see more about my trip at https://twitter.com/TSBLibrary.