Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Soweto, and homeward bound

I arrived at Dulles International Airport this morning (August 11) at 5 am. Our flight got in about an hour early, before the customs officials arrived, so we had to wait for a bit to disembark. Everything moved quickly and I collected my luggage, cleared customs, hopped on a Super Shuttle, and was home by 7:15 am! In between loads of laundry, I thought I'd finish up my blog while the experience was still fresh in my mind.

Monday, August 10
On Monday, we checked out of the hotel early and drove to the Soweto Township. Soweto is an abbreviation of South Western Township and is perhaps the best known community in the history of the anti-Apartheid movement, due to activism and the fact that it was the home of both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. No where else in the world can you find the homes of two Nobel Laureates on one street!

We drove into the vast area that is home to more than 1 million black Africans. One noticeable landmark are these old coal burning towers, now used for bungee jumping and painted colorfully.  The living conditions ranged from tents and shacks to modern brick homes.

We first stopped at Regina Mundi Catholic Church. During the 1976 Soweto Uprising, students protested the poor quality of Bantu education and the new move to teach the Afrikaans to black students.  Police attempted to disperse the crowd as it grew to thousands, but then open fired on the students. Many students took refuge in the Regina Mundi church. By nightfall, there was a horrific death total: approximately 700 youth had been killed.

 Our next stop was the Hector Peterson museum. He was one of the students killed in the Soweto uprising, and the iconic photograph of another student (Mbuyisa Makhubo) carrying Peterson became the symbol of the movement. The school across the street was later renamed for Makhubo.
raising the SA flag

Two girls pose next to the iconic photo
plaque commemorating the uprising.

We next visited Nelson Mandela's home, where he lived for some of his adult life, and where Winnie Mandela raised their children while he was in prison. The house is now a historic site and many documents are on display. We were intrigued by a letter from the Michigan legislature apologizing for the role of the CIA in the capture of Mandela.

 Our final stop was at the Sakhumzi Restaurant for traditional South African grilled meats, pumpkin, squash, sorghum, pap, and my new favorite: chakalaka.  We did a little shopping for souvenirs, and then it was off to the airport for a long flight home.

This beautiful lady makes jewelry. I bought several necklaces.

A visit to "The Cradle of Humankind"

Sunday, August 9:

On Sunday, we wrapped up our professional development work with our partner teachers and enjoyed a final celebratory lunch.  We were then off to an area known as the "Cradle of Humankind" World Heritage site for the significant anthropology finds and strong evidence of early man. There are a series of caves that visitors can explore, but due to a shortage of time and claustrophobic tendencies among several teachers (me included) we opted for the Maropeng museum.  The museum takes visitors through the early history of time, including the big bang, the formation of earth, the development of early life, and finally the evolution of man. This museum was especially valuable for me and the 10th grade Global History class I teach, as we begin with ancient history.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Professional Development and Planning Time

Today was a quieter day, but no less important to the future success of this exchange program. We had a chance to sleep in a bit, and then spent from 10 am-4 pm working on our lesson plans for the coming year. After a full week of working and learning together, we have become wonderful friends and colleagues. All five US-SA pairs worked hard to determine the content and structure of our shared work. We have been discussing potential challenges we may face, including time zone differences and technology issues.  Shomane and I will be pairing our 10th grade classes.  We plan to spend some time introducing our students and allowing them to share their lives and respective cultures. We would like to collaborate on a lesson on globalization in a cross-cultural perspective. Lastly, we want to connect our content:  Shomane's students will study a variety of South African tribal kingdoms and analyze using GSPRITE: Geography, Social, Political, Religious, Intellectual, Technology, and Economic. My students will be analyzing early river civilizations throughout the world, such as ancient Egypt and China. The goal of the exchange is to develop and promote the 10 Core Competencies for Global Education. After a full day of work, I wandered around our neighborhood, did a little gift shopping for friends and family back home, and then we enjoyed a delicious and rather uproarious dinner at Pappas, an excellent Mediterranean restaurant.

Shomane and Sara, creating a shared lesson plan.
Love these two: Julie from Wilson and Dani from Pretoria School for Girls. 

All five teacher pairs, plus Amanda and Hali from the World Affairs Council and Benale and Troy (curriculum specialists) 
On the street where we live....DaVinci hotel, a five-star hotel in the very modern Johannesburg

Key Mandela quotations outside our hotel

The end of another day

Friday, August 7, 2015

Civil Rights and Women's Rights in Cross-Cultural Perspective (plus Lilieleaf Farm)

Today was a very powerful day for me. I spent a large portion of the day at Ponelopele School, and by this point in the week I've gotten to know some of the students and staff.  I was reminded at several points throughout the day of the power and responsibility that comes with being a teacher, and of the importance of honest classroom conversations about significant topics.

Yesterday, the Chair of the Humanities Department told me that there would be a half day of classes on Friday as they had a special program planned in honor of Women's Month, which is held each August in recognition of the August 8, 1956 demonstration by women who were opposed to a "Pass Law."  This would have required all black women to carry the onerous and restrictive "Passes" that were already required for black men and dramatically limited freedom and movement. The demonstration was successful in that it delayed the passage of the law for 20 years. I mentioned my interest in Women's History, and arrived today to discover that I was listed on the program as the "International Guest Speaker." So, with a few hours notice, I would be giving a speech on Women's Rights in America before 1,200 students and teachers, sandwiched between student poets, dancers, and singers.  I'm #6 on the program:

There was little time to get nervous as I quickly headed off to my first class of the day, 12th grade History.  I had met these students yesterday, and we'd gotten to know each other and talked about myths and realities about America and South Africa. Today, we were able to get into a meatier discussion. I started by distributing several maps of America: political, topographic, and population. We spent some time analyzing the maps and accounting for population patterns (why are the two coasts more heavily populated than the midwest?).

Next, I distributed handouts with the preamble to the US Constitution (1787) and the Constitution of South Africa (1996). Thank you, staff of DaVinci Hotel for making copies last night!  We did a close reading of both documents, discussing the goals and language.  I asked students to work in groups to create a list of similarities and differences.  They had great ideas and were able to find true overlap in the ideology of both texts.

Lastly, I asked the students "what would YOU like to discuss during the school year when you work with my students in America?"  They came up with a great list and I am so excited for our partnership in the coming year.

So, after about four hours with these students over several days, I feel we have a good connection that will help us in the school year to come.  I also have learned that they are very tech savvy and use their tablets and navigate the internet with ease. I believe they will have little difficulty working together virtually.

I next landed in another 12th grade history class, taught by the Department Chair.  She asked me to spend 45 minutes with her students, but was open as to the topic. I asked the students what they wanted to discuss and they said "the American Civil Rights Movement." I was very happy to oblige, and we walked through a timeline of Civil Rights, from 1954 (Brown v. Board) to 1965 (Voting Rights Act). They had their history textbooks on hand, and I was excited to see that they had an entire chapter on Civil Rights. They knew the basics of Little Rock, the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and Birmingham (1963).  I filled in some details and was so excited to tell them that I had met Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, a white woman who was a participant in the sit-ins and Freedom Rides. They had this photo in their textbook (That's Joan with her back to the camera, talking to Anne Moody)!  
 We even had a chance to discuss modern-day racial violence, including the Charleston shooting. They were shocked and upset to learn that Dylan Roof displayed a flag of Rhodesia and a Confederate flag. These students were rock stars and I wish I'd had more time with them.

By this point I was a little tired and hungry, but no rest for the weary! Time to write my speech! I hustled to the staff break room to jot down some notes.  A teacher taught me how to say "greetings" in Zulu (Sabona) and Pedi (Dumelang), the two most common tribal languages at the school. The rest was a quick overview of the women's rights movement in America, with a reference to modern issues.  

It was then off to the auditorium, where 1,200 students packed in for what was the loudest and liveliest assembly I've ever attended.  There was a DJ who played hip hop music at an ear-splitting volume at the beginning and between each speaker or event, and the students responded enthusiastically.  I especially enjoyed hearing some of the female students and staff speak.  At the end of my speech, I was honored to receive a lovely gift of traditional tribal jewelry from Mbali Shabangu, one of the teachers.  

The day wasn't over yet!  We drove back to the hotel, and then headed out for a tour of Liliesleaf Farm, which served as the secret headquarters of the ANC in the early 1960s. Mandela lived there in hiding (passing as a groundskeeper) for 18 months before his first arrest.  This visit is worthy of a longer entry, but suffice it to say that it was fascinating to learn about the "underground" work of black and white South Africans and the police raid.  
The farm was owned by a white family who provided "cover" for the ANC meetings

Many secret meetings were held in this thatched cottage. Police raided the farm and arrested key ANC leaders in 1963, finding documents and plans for the revolution.