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Stories from the Field

Powerful Stories, Ideas, and Passion

by Monica Bryant, Frank Kim Elementary School, Las Vegas, NV

Monica Bryant is a 2018 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow. If you’re interested in becoming an NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow, the 2020 application is now open.

My experiences as an NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow have been life changing. I have met many amazing educators that have taught me so many new things I can’t wait to bring back to my school and district. Before heading to South Africa for our field study, I learned about different programs that Fellows were using to enhance the global education of their students that I had not heard of before (check out the list below). I found websites that had global education comics, programs that I could get my kids involved in, and I was also able to share out ideas of programs that I knew about to help students become more globally aware. I really got a better understanding of what global education is, and how I can use it with my students on a regular basis. I have some great book resources now that I can use during lessons to help students see a more global perspective. When we met in D.C. and went through the modules, I got to see a glimpse of everyone’s passion for this work, but it was not until we all met in South Africa that I really experienced everyone in their own element and how they are truly passionate about the work, and it overflowed into everyone else.

During the field study to South Africa, I was and still am amazed at the educators I traveled with. Everyone is so thoughtful and reflective about their own teaching practices, as well as how they can incorporate our experiences back into their schools and communities. There were no conversations that I didn’t walk away from more enriched and empowered. I have walked away with so many ideas to bring back and share it’s unbelievable! I am still in awe of each person and the powerful stories, ideas, and passion they gave to all of us. Getting to know everyone and what they bring to the table allowed me to build connections, and also have allies that I can lean on throughout the years when I am struggling on how to connect or make something work in my teaching. Just being able to connect with Fellows on a personal level, getting to know them as not only educators but as people, was one of the best experiences. Everyone is doing extraordinary things and it makes you want to continue to do great things. To share the hard moments and have real conversations about what we were experiencing and feeling, knowing that everyone was experiencing something similar, will stick with me forever.

After the field study, I have plans to connect with some Fellows about ideas we started on the trip, so we can make them come to fruition. I have already reached out to people about research they were doing and how I can use their ideas in my own school. I have my own projects from being on this trip that I want to do, and I will be reaching out to my fellow Fellows for their help on those projects. I am hoping to stay connected with as many people that I can, so that I can continue to be inspired by the great work they are doing.

Throughout this field study I was constantly reflecting about myself as an educator. What I could be doing to get students more globally aware in the lessons that I teach, and also how I spread this knowledge to others in my school, so that they too can be getting their students ready for a more diverse and global world. I came up with ideas to better help teach concepts to fellow counselors, and I am hoping once I have it together, it will be shared amongst many people to better educate them on global issues. I am also looking into research with the help of some people from the trip, to come up with lessons surrounding knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that are most important to help move students into a more global society. This trip made me realize that while I was doing some things, I was not doing nearly as much as I could be doing, and I wanted to change that.

South Africa has taught me that language can make a small difference in how students behave when they come into our schools. At one school we visited, students were all called “learners.” How amazing to walk into a school and be greeted as a learner. What we speak, we become, and these students were learners indeed. Their passing and matriculation rates were outstanding, and students in every class I visited were engaged throughout the lessons. This is a small change that I will be bringing back to my school.

One similarity that I noticed in being at the schools is that home life affects us all, no matter where we live. These students were experiencing trauma on a daily basis in their communities, and yet they were coming to school and persevering despite what was happening at home. My students also have to face traumas and come to school and persevere. They trauma may look different in South Africa, but it is trauma nonetheless. I also noticed that teachers were very in tune with their students. They had built solid relationships with them, and it showed in how comfortable they were having discussions with their teachers about school and personal matters.

I am forever grateful for the experience and opportunities I gained from being a part of this fellowship. It has enhanced me as an educator and as a person. I am honored to know my fellow Fellows and I look forward to seeing all the amazing things we all do in the future!

Monica’s Suggested Resources

Comics Uniting Nations

 UN Sustainable Development Goals

 World’s Largest Lesson

 Empatico

 NNSTOY’s Social Justice Book List

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