International Field Experience
A major component of the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program is the international field experience. This is the part of the programming that brings all of the academic research, discussions, and in our pandemic reality – all of our virtual connections into real life. And what an experience it was, our cohort was the first to experience Canada as a travel destination, and it was two years in the making, due to pandemic delays.
This was my first time traveling since the pandemic shut the world down and I will always choose the window seat over aisle, any day.
First leg of the trip, Newark to Toronto!
What Brings American Educators to Canada?
“Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.” John F. Kennedy speaking to the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa in 1961
What brings a group of 23 American educators to visit our neighbors to the north? The Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program works to enhance the concept of global education in American classrooms. The culmination of the yearlong academic program includes a two-week travel destination (our journey through Fulbright was extended because of COVID). The Canada cohort was the first of its kind and we served as cultural ambassadors while experiencing part of the Canadian education system.
Once in Toronto, we split into two groups. One cohort headed to Saskatoon in the Saskatchewan province and the other to Montreal in the province of Quebec. As we toured various schools, the goal was to learn about their systems of education. What are some of the systems in place that are working? What are some lessons we could possibly integrate into our own classrooms?
Guiding Research Question
In addition to the general information gathering, each TGC educator had a research guiding question. My particular interest centered on educator cultural competency and insight into this topic was answered in unexpected ways – as we will see, the Canadian education infrastructure is doing systemic work around Truth and Reconciliation which is apparent in the systemic changes we witnessed touring some of the Canadian schools.
The U.S.-Canada Diplomatic Mission
Quick insight into the United States mission in Canada: there are seven consulates and one embassy, all of which work to enhance U.S. interests. After all, that is the nature of diplomatic missions in foreign countries.
There are 119 legal crossings into Canada and over 5,000 miles of land border between the United States and Canada. There are also over $2B in economic transactions between both countries, daily.
While in Toronto we met with U.S. embassy officials including Cultural Affairs Officers Diane del Rosario and Daniel Stewart. In conversation we learned about the Roadmap for a Renewed U.S. -Canad Partnership. This initiative was launched in 2021 between President Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The main components of the roadmap include:
- Combating COVID-19
- Building back the economy in an equitable manner
- Diversity, equity and inclusion as a vital part of foreign policy
- Climate action
- Developing global alliances
Building Upon Historical Ties
The goal of the Fulbright programs includes promoting mutual understanding between the United States and foreign nations. The Teachers for Global Classrooms Program helped myself and colleagues gain a better understanding of what Canadian educators are doing in their classrooms, how the Canadian provincial governments run their schooling systems and also how Canadian society generally views educators.
What better way to learn about our neighbor than to peer into their classrooms?