Join Boston Public Schools' professional cohort in South Africa for a comprehensive look at successful and transferable approaches to education that will further students' skills critical for developing into thoughtful, questioning, and conscientious citizens who better their communities.
Having the opportunity to meet and hear the intimate stories of people who were affected by apartheid gave me a deeper understanding of the toll these policies took and continue to exact on the citizens of South Africa. I also learned a great deal about the languages, customs, and histories of several of the native tribes of South Africa, about which I had very little previous knowledge. Interacting with South African educators also gave me insight on their challenges and successes.
I will be able to introduce some of the stories that people shared as primary sources with my students, who can view the videos and quotes as part of their exploratory learning on apartheid. I also plan to focus more deeply on the background of the tribes, particularly the Xhosa and Zulu people, by incorporating kinesthetic learning through an African dance lesson that centers on dance as resistance, such as the one we participated in at the University of Cape Town.
This fellowship allowed me to stretch in several ways. I was able to give a presentation on Boston Public Schools to colleagues from various aspects of the South African educational system at the U.S. Consulate, which was an amazing opportunity that allowed me to reflect on the joys and challenges of our system. Also, I became pregnant after applying for the fellowship and was a little nervous about traveling so far at 5 1/2 months, but I had a very successful experience and grew personally!
Students' learning will be much richer for the primary sources (such as the album from the Apartheid Museum and the video of a guest speaker from the Langa Township describing her son's arrest for political resistance) that I was able to obtain. These sources, as well as photos of Johannesburg, where our class novel is set, will bring learning alive and make it relevant and current for my students. Additionally, correspondence with a local high school will give them insight into current issues.
I plan to share information with my colleagues on dual language education in South Africa that I gained from my networking with educators there. I will work with my principal to schedule time during our weekly professional development to share on this topic, which is extremely relevant for our own work in a dual language high school.
Currently, I am working with The Dance Complex in Cambridge to organize a class in African dance and its history as a form of resistance for my students, which I will certainly film and share with our school. After completing a rhetorical analysis of speeches by Mandela, Tutu, and Biko, students will use these techniques to write their own speeches encouraging a change they would like to see in their own communities, which will be filmed and shared with community organizations.
A common thread between South Africa and the United States is that racism has led to incredible inequity in wealth and opportunity which has persisted long after legal changes to the racist policies have been made. As a result, when my students complete their Speech for Change project, they will address issues that stem from this larger problem, drawing comparisons between South Africa and Boston. Hopefully their videos will help to inspire change!
Having the opportunity to go to South Africa, which this fellowship allowed me, has profoundly impacted my belief in the importance of elevating personal stories in our teaching of history. I have amended my class's focus for the year from simply "Pursuing Justice in Africa and the Middle East" to "Storytelling as Justice in Africa and the Middle East", which will guide our explorations through the lens of ordinary people affected by the events which they are studying.