Hear Bhavani Parpia at The Fulbright Symposium

Hear Bhavani Parpia at The Fulbright Symposium

ConnecTeach is proud to announce that Bhavani Parpia will present a talk entitled, “Resources and Best Practices for Global Educators” on April 27, 2019 at the Fulbright Symposium held at Southern Methodist University (SMU).

Admission is FREE.
Learn more and register
here.

Description

The Fulbright Symposium invites college students, K-12 educators, high school students, and community members from across North Texas to explore fellowship opportunities for global travel and cross-cultural exchange. Through the theme of “Human Rights and Global Education,” this community symposium seeks opportunities for mutual understanding and diverse perspectives in a divided world.

Attendees will receive hands-on advice from experts on how to start their Fulbright applications and pursue additional grants for international learning. Three hours of professional development (PD) credits are available for teacher attendees. The event includes a keynote address with Dr. Rick Halperin, opportunities for community networking, and a complimentary lunch for conference attendees. For more information, please contact Hope Anderson (heanderson@smu.edu) or Dr. Rachel Ball-Phillips (rmball@smu.edu).

Conference Hosts: Fulbright Association (Dallas Chapter), SMU National Student Fellowships, and the SMU Human Rights Program

Strategic Partners: World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth

This program has been made possible by support from the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

ConnecTeach–Panel Discussion Participant

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ConnecTeach Tanzania: Misigiyo Project Reflection

ConnecTeach Tanzania: Misigiyo Project Reflection

Amy Miller

I did not fully grasp how powerful and effective the ConnecTeach model is until I went to Tanzania with Bhavani.

I had the incredible opportunity in October of 2018 to travel to Tanzania with the NGO ConnecTeach to facilitate an educator workshop over the course of 9 days. I have been fortunate to work with Bhavani and ConnecTeach over the past four years through my role as Director of Education at the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth. We previously collaborated to provide leadership trainings to North Texas high school students by facilitating conversations around social issues such as conflict, gender inequality and environmental conservation. Through those conversations, I got a glimpse of the effective model ConnecTeach developed to address significant social problems in communities around the world by engaging in conversation about controversial issues and empowering community members to affect positive change locally. I did not fully grasp how powerful and effective the ConnecTeach model is until I went to Tanzania with Bhavani though. 

We arrived in Karatu, a town in the north of the country, ready to work with a group of 10 educators who live and work in the nearby Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The majority of the educators were Masai, a nomadic indigenous tribe that herds cattle as their main source of income, who for the most part had received little to no training or professional development as teachers. Some of them manage classrooms of over 100 students of different ages and learning levels on their own. The resources available to these educators were very minimal in schools that were made from sticks thatched together with a small blackboard at the front of the space. As we learned over the course of the workshop, corporal punishment was commonly practiced in their schools as a form of discipline and punishment. 

Our goal for this workshop was to empower these 10 educators to see themselves as leaders and as agents of change in their communities. Additionally, we wanted to equip them with the skills to manage their classrooms without the use of corporal punishment, considering logical consequences for students’ actions instead. Throughout the course of the workshop, we also helped the teachers to grasp educational concepts related to differentiated learning, collaborative projects, foundations of English language learning, reading and writing strategies, and problem-based learning. Many of these concepts were brand new to this group of educators and took some time to review and check for understanding, but by the end of the workshop they showed a strong understanding and appreciation for these concepts. 

The most impressive shift in thinking during the workshop, in my opinion, is that the educators now say they will no longer use corporal punishment on their students.

Over the course of those 9 days, we tied learning concepts to social issues and initiated dialogues with the educators to consider what societal problems they see in their bomas, or villages. Some of the most prevalent issues they brought up related to poverty, lack of adult and sex education, misconceptions related to health, early marriage and gender inequality, as well as a lack of infrastructure. In discussing these issues, we emphasized the important role education plays in addressing and solving these problems. We also helped them to see their powerful roles as leaders in their communities because they are impacting the minds of multiple generations as educators. They can help to shape conversations and ideas around many of these issues by working with the students, parents and elders. We also helped them to develop a community survey, which they would use to ask community members about their perceptions on these social issues. By the end of the workshop, the teachers told us they were empowered and excited to facilitate their community survey and embrace their roles as community leaders.

  One of the most significant challenges we faced over the course of the workshop was the language barrier. While a couple of the educators had a high level of English language skills, the majority had some difficulty expressing their thoughts in English, and one of the educators, Ana, spoke no English so we relied heavily on one of the teachers, Saning’o, to translate our ideas into Kiswahili or Ma so that she could understand. Saning’o had the challenge of not only translating our words but also the cultural relevance of our examples to ensure that Ana understood how the themes tied into her understanding of the world. In the end, everyone grasped the ideas we were teaching but it took a significant amount of time to translate these concepts and check for understanding. Our hope is that Ana will learn some English language skills before we see her again so that we might be able to converse with her directly. 

I truly believe that this workshop had a significant positive impact on these educators, allowing them to see more clearly their roles as leaders.

The most impressive shift in thinking during the workshop, in my opinion, is that the educators now say they will no longer use corporal punishment on their students. One teacher in particular, Loomoni, said early in the workshop that he would use creative forms of corporal punishment on his students such as holding uncomfortable positions for hours, doing push ups, laying outside in the hot sun, and beating them with sticks. We spoke with him and the group about the importance of fostering a learning environment in which the students feel safe and comfortable asking questions as well as expressing when they do not understand a concept. In order to create such an environment, the students need to respect the teacher, not just fear him. Instead, we encouraged them to consider logical consequences for the students’ actions in order to help the students feel safe and understand the implications of their actions in the real world. 

I truly believe that this workshop had a significant positive impact on these educators, allowing them to see more clearly their roles as leaders and the responsibility they have to challenge longstanding ideas that can be detrimental to the prosperity of their communities. The educators were so grateful for the opportunity to work with ConnecTeach and are eager to work with us again. At this point, I’m excited to see the work that they produce while we’re away based on the assignments we gave them. Bhavani and I encouraged them to start a book club to foster more literacy skills, develop lesson plans based on the strategies we shared, and complete the community survey with a total of 4,000 community members. There’s a lot of work to be done before we return, but I’m optimistic they will take the assignments we gave them and run with them. I look forward to the day when we will be able to sit down with these educators in person again and discuss what they’ve been working on to develop their communities while we were away. I have every confidence they are now enacting the change they wish to see in their villages thanks to ConnecTeach.  

2nd Annual International Conference on Education as a Human Right

2nd Annual International Conference on Education as a Human Right

The second annual International Conference on Education as a Human Right kicked off Saturday, April 16 in Farmington, NM.

Four panels of experts discussed how indigenous peoples, environmental issues, poverty and gender intersect with education.

ConnecTeach and the Dallas Embrey Human Rights Program at Southern Methodist University sponsored the event along with Navajo Prep.

The first conference was held in 2015 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. This year, ConnecTeach and Embrey Human Rights Program partnered with Navajo Preparatory School to host the conference near the Navajo Nation in order to discuss the rights of indigenous people.

The keynote presentation was delivered by Zoe Tryon, founder of One of the Tribe, an organization dedicated to protecting the rainforest and the advancement of indigenous rights in the Amazon Basin. She spoke about her experiences working with the indigenous people in Ecuador, including people of the Cofán and Shuar nationalities.

Other speakers included Bhavani Parpia and Amy Merk from ConnecTeach, Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts, Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch, singer and domestic violence activist Radmilla Cody, and Jennifer Denetdale, an associate professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico.

As with our conference last year at SMU , this year’s conference highlighted many important issues and initiated important conversations including the balance between preserving tribal culture while changing those practices that serve as barriers to gender and economic equality and environmental sustainability.

 

Student- Led Conference on Education as a Human Right

Student- Led Conference on Education as a Human Right

We are pleased to announce that students from Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and Newman Smith High School will be coming together for a student-led conference on education as a human right. This conference, which will be held at the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy on Saturday, November 14, will explore the impact of gender, poverty, and displaced communities on education. Breakout sessions will include action planning, using social media for change, and a poetry anthology. BOMLA Flyer Final_