Two of Spirit’s Exchange Teachers on the BridgeUSA Teacher Program, brothers Robert and Brian from Kenya, explain how they have been able to share their culture with their American students in Illinois.
Have you enjoyed sharing this BridgeUSA Teacher Program experience with your brother?
Robert: Sharing this experience with my brother has been fun. I got to do a number of activities for a second time. I have taken him to some of my favorite places in the Quad Cities. We both find the Centennial Bridge beautiful and a little gothic (Haha). My brother also found friends in my circle of friends. I have found it exciting seeing Brian take the same journey I took a year ago. Lucky for him, I have told him the possible potholes and challenges to expect in the journey.
We have discovered new ways to spend our free time together. Coming to America gave Brian a chance to see in real time the places, activities and people he had seen in my pictures and virtual tours I gave him a year ago.
Living with my brother has been a major boost to my effectiveness as a teacher. We have the same schedules and job expectations. We remind one another of meetings and stay abreast of everything going on in the building. We both have quiet time on Sunday afternoons when we grade and plan for the week ahead. Our students/community have had options to pick from when they want to learn something new about Kenyan Culture.
Brian: Sharing this experience with my brother has been a déjà vu. It reminds me a lot of our life in Kenya, going to college together. Working with my brother has made my settlement to be easy and fast because he managed to give me a brotherly orientation in everything that we have been doing in school or outside school. My brother has also introduced me to his friends and now I have a new bunch of awesome friends.
How is your current Host School different than where you have taught at home?
Brian: I have to admit that the Host School offers a good multicultural environment where learners from all over the world are able to interact and share their ideas. In terms of scheduling and use of technology in teaching I feel my Host School is doing well compared to my previous school. The Promethean board has been amazing. Finally, the number of students within my class is small and manageable compared to my previous school that had a bigger class size and student population.
What is the biggest difference between teaching in Kenya and teaching in the USA?
Brian: I feel the biggest difference is on the teaching approach and the curriculum. In Kenya, we had one centralized curriculum and it is implemented by all teachers in the entire country, while in USA the curriculum is decentralized and teachers are free to implement the common standard within each state.
What is something that you’ve shared with your students about your own culture this year?
Robert: We have had opportunities to share our culture during Wednesday Culture Club meetings. The Culture Club brings together individuals interested in learning other people’s cultures and sharing their own. We have explained to the people in the club: Swahili vocabulary, naming systems and traditions, and shared favorite phrases in Swahili and Dholuo.
We also shared with the members of the club bits of culture shock that we went through; talking about the cultural differences helped to clear a number of gray areas in our understanding and experience of American Culture. The club plans to have a food day where members will bring food they have cooked at home. We plan to have the club watch a Swahili movie with translations.
We plan to give the members a good taste of Kenya.
Brian: I have shared a lot with my students. For instance I shared with them my language that is Swahili. I also shared about the naming procedure and significance within my culture. I have also shared the different cultural foods. ‘Ugali’ got the students smiling when I mentioned that.
What inspired you to join Spirit’s BridgeUSA Teacher Program?
Brian: Spirit Cultural Exchange gives an opportunity for teachers to immerse themselves in American culture while gaining professional experience. Spirt also provide teachers with a chance to experience a global experience contributing to the ‘spirit’ of international peace. All these inspired me to join Spirt.
Thank you Robert and Brian for sharing your story! And thanks to all our Exchange Teachers who bring their unique cultures and perspectives to their U.S. classroom!