Global education on a personal scale

They come from around the globe, from rural areas and cities. Many have never been outside their own countries. And while all teach English, only a few are from countries where English is spoken regularly — making for an interesting variety of accents, dialects and perspectives, noted Dr. Christopher Frey, co-director of the BGSU Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) Program in the College of Education and Human Development.

The bond of shared experience being forged among the 17 outstanding secondary language arts teachers, who have converged on BGSU for a six-week, intensive learning experience, and their hosts will make it hard to say goodbye, said Zahra Ailane, a high school teacher from Algeria. “I’ve already been wondering about how we’ll do that. We’ve learned a lot from each other,” she said.

Six area schools are also partnering with BGSU to welcome the visitors to observe and teach classes and interact with teachers and students. The international teachers have had home stays with partner-school teachers, BGSU faculty and the Bowling Green and Marion communities, and have visited Chicago, Columbus and Detroit. Their visit will culminate in a post-program debriefing in Washington, D.C.

The University and community will have the opportunity to meet and chat with the group at International Educator Night from 6-8 p.m. this evening (March 3) in the Multi-purpose Room at the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Hosting will be the BGSU International Democratic Education Institute (IDEI), the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Northwest Ohio World Affairs Council. Another get-together will be held at Eastwood Junior High School on March 11.

This is the second time BGSU has hosted an International Research and Education Board (IREX) group; last year focused on science and English teachers. This year, BGSU is providing the experience with the overarching theme of “Gender Equity and Gender-inclusive Approaches to Teaching and Learning.”  The theme is embedded throughout the series of workshops and seminars, said Dr. Sharon Subreenduth, a School of Teaching and Learning faculty member, co-director of IDEI, and director of the IREX-TEA Program at BGSU.

“We have developed a customized program for our TEA fellows,” she said. “Also, we are the only institution that is offering this specific focus on gender, so we are serving as a pilot for the IREX organization as they will likely utilize this focus for future TEA programs.”

TEA fellows utilize multiple readings and engage in activities as a way to reflect on and analyze their own experiences related to gender dynamics in their classrooms, educational and societal culture in general as well as educational policy and social media.

“Bringing a diverse group of seasoned educators onto campus to interact with faculty and students has been invaluable for us to learn more about what is possible and good about education here and abroad,” said Frey, School of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy Studies.

The group has movingly heard from one of the teachers about the duress schools in his country face when confronted by drug gangs demanding extortion money, about the challenges facing both girls and boys in some countries over being able to continue attending school, and the danger of even teaching English in some places, where some see it as an unwanted foreign presence. Or simply about having to teach 60-100 students with few of the materials an American teacher would take for granted.

“And yet they work around obstacles and continue being very good teachers,” Frey said.

There have been overturned assumptions in the other direction, as well. Ailane said she was surprised to learn that not all children in the U.S. have Internet in their homes, as in Algeria they do. But there is greater use of technology in local classrooms here, she said, while it is mainly available to science and math teachers in her school. And though she finds U.S. classrooms to be “much noisier,” the teaching methodology is very similar.

The collaborative TEA Program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and administered by IREX, a nongovernmental organization. It is implemented at BGSU by IDEI.

The goal is for the teachers to adapt what they learn here, not only from BGSU but more importantly from each other, and find culturally authentic ways to share and implement when they return to their home countries, Subreenduth said.

The 2014 IREX-TEA Cohort consists of English educators from Yemen, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Senegal, Nigeria, Nepal, Jordan, Iraq, India, Honduras, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Colombia, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Algeria.  

Learn about last year's group.