Most of our education majors at Appalachian have lived in the same North Carolina town their entire life. The only experience they have with a culture other than their own is the people they encountered on a church-sponsored mission trip to a Latin American country. These students are kind, compassionate, and want to help others, which is why they have chosen the teaching profession. If they could learn about cultures other than their own, through personal experiences, it would radically change they way they interact with the students in their classes and how they teach. This in turn would change the communities in which they live.
As I walked through the streets of the city, I marveled at all the languages I heard, as well as the people who looked so different from anyone I would encounter on King Street. It seems to me that the one of the most valuable qualities we can convey to future teachers is an understanding and appreciation for all cultures. New York is a wonderful place to do that and I hope to find a way to bring my students here. However, I think I can do more by starting locally.
What if we partnered with NC A & T, UNCC, WSSU, or NC Central and created a student exchange program among colleges of education? Their students could spend a week at Appalachian and visit rural schools and communities. Our students could spend a week in an urban setting. I am still trying to come up with ways to integrate these students more into the community.
Another idea I am considering is to replicate the Bethel Storytelling Project that I did several years ago, inspired by Bill Peacock. In the evenings, college students share a meal with K-12 students and their parents at a school. The parents and children come prepared to share family stories and photos and the college students record these stories and scan photos. Once the family stories are collected, we organize them into a bound book. We have a celebration at the school where each family is given at least one copy of the book. Books are also distributed to every classroom. This is a wonderful way to share family histories and make parents who are uncomfortable in a school setting feel welcomed and valued. It gives our future teachers a deep knowledge and connection to the community of the school.
Then I think…could this be done in a short visit to a school in New York? I am still considering all the possibilities.