When the dust has settled, and the return stamp is in the passport, and the presents are all opened by families who have welcomed back intrepid global community builders, all we each has left is a series of discrete memories. And, for each of us, we stop and ask ourselves, I suppose (and dare to hope), “So, now what?” So what that we truly created what felt like real professional and personal connections with people whose daily lives could not be more different?
Searching for answers to “weave” (yes, eduWeavers was explicitly named to be able to speak about all of our interwoven relationships in an educational setting) together seemingly disparate activities, discussions, and goals, I asked my students to reflect upon a picture taken during the visit of eSibonisweni students to Saint Mark’s.
eSibonisweni Students Vounteer as Food Servers at Glide Church in San Francisco
I asked them to be as literal or creative as they wished for a one-hour free write with the above photo as a prompt. Experience has taught me that sometimes a lot of freedom elicits the most authentic responses. So, I did not even tell the students that they needed to comment on the visit. (A few wrote very interesting stories that were totally unrelated to the eSibonisweni visit.)
Below are some excerpts from student work:
“There once were several kids from South Africa….they thought America was a rich place where everyone was wealthy or a place where everyone worked together in harmony. However, after arriving it became very clear that America is not so different from South Africa. There were big cities, but also more rural areas. There were fairly rich people, but there were also poor people. One day the kids went to to Glide to serve lunch along with members of a school called Saint Mark’s. At Glide the kids from South Africa learned about the various communities in the Bay Area, and they created friendships based upon helping each other out.”
“For some reason I couldn’t sleep that night. All I could think of was what it be like to live in South Africa with a tiny bit of money. What did he think of my big house, my hot shower, my dad’s new car?”
“When the learners and teachers came from South Africa, I felt like they were shy at first…By the end, they were having lots of fun, and they were very good friends to me. It just took time to get to know us well….I really miss them, and they will be in my memories forever and ever.”
And so, as I reflect on these baby steps towards connecting students across the globes in a common purpose – learning to understand and respect “the other” – I feel profoundly happy. No one said learning to run was easy, but we do it, one step at a time. And the “so, now what?”, well luckily I now have a room full of seventh graders and a school-wide community to brainstorm with me about that. Most importantly, I have a group of colleagues across the world who feel empowered to have their voice heard in answering that question, too. Our “global village” and collaborative process just happens to be connected by and facilitated with a satellite dish.