There is only one first

In my previous post I briefly explained what this project is about; this post will go into more detail. In June 2015 I received an email from two amazing women working for the World Affairs Council Washington DC (WAC-DC), Amanda and Hali. A few months prior to them contacting me they had conceptualised an exchange program for teachers called the Global Education Teacher International Exchange Program (GE-T (I)EP).


My last post explains the brief concept so I will go from there. GE-T (I)EP 2015/6 is a group of 5 South African teachers from Pretoria, Olivenhoutbosch , Tembisa and Nigel as well as 5 American Teachers from DC, Virginia and Maryland. The program aims to see 5 pairs of teachers find mutual global themes in their curriculum and use each others support and expertise to implement lessons through an American school year, June- May. In developing and teaching these lesson plans the teachers need to transfer a selection of the WAC-DC’s global education competencies, which include cross cultural awareness, problem solving, critical thinking and making connections. Through the work done by these teachers with the support of the GE-T(I)EP and WAC-DC teams we hope to grow a collection of examples of lesson plans that could be applied in various places around the world, further developing resources for global education.


In August 2015 the American teachers came to South Africa and the pairs met for the first time in a workshop held in Sandton, Johannesburg. At this weekend long workshop the teachers were introduced to the purpose of the program. We then began to engage in discussions around either groups working environments and what similarities and difference we can draw out of this. The workshop, led by the curriculum specialist Troy Bradbury, then moved into approaches to lesson plans and how to developed skills based teaching methods. In the week to follow the visiting group had an opportunity to visit all the South African schools involved and then spent time in the classroom with their partners. Another weekend workshop was help before the American teachers returned home to begin the virtual phase of the program.


From July until mid/end November all 5 pairs were required to implement lesson plans, submit reports and evaluations, leading up to our next in person meeting; This is what has been happening over the last 2 weeks. The South African teachers made their trip to Washington DC to follow a similar itinerary to that of the American teachers in South Africa. This being the second meeting and with everyone being more comfortable with each other a lot more work was covered in the workshops. Over and above this we, the South African group, had the opportunity to engage with the WAC-DC president and CEO Tony Culley-Foster. What stuck with me in all of our encounters with him was his emphasis on this being the first group of this project. On a number of occasions Tony would remind the group that people only, or often only, remember the first, the gold medal winner, the pioneer and that is what this group is.


Tony has an indirect way of motivating people and if you take the time to listen to what he is saying you will often realized how much faith he is putting in you. He often elevated the group as being the champions of the program, a great selection of teachers who will define the road ahead for this program. Now if you go back to what I have written above about the program you will realize that this is not just a fly by night professional development session that you forget when you walk out the door. This is a program that brings two nations of thinkers together to find one solution. Furthermore, it bring a group of people in a vital part of any societies development, education, together to find solutions within their spaces on the ground. This is a game changer kind of program and I am not only extremely grateful and proud to be a part of it, I am humbled to be a part of the first and more so with the group of people I have been privileged enough to work with.


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