Last week, on February 14, Grade 6 English Teacher and Advisor Maile Black embarked on an incredible learning adventure as she leaves Boston and arrives over 14 hours later in Kigali, Rwanda. As Brookwood’s third Exchange Educator and the fifth teacher from our school to make the trip, Maile will travel then to the FAWE School where she’ll work with Headmistress Jolie Ladegonde MUKASE and FAWE students and faculty. (Global Initiatives Coordinator Martha Fox and Grade 8 Science teacher Rich Lehrer made the initial connection with FAWE, and Doug Fodeman and Jane Pirie were Brookwood’s 2012 and 2013 Exchange Educators, respectively. In turn, Jolie Ladegonde MUKASE made the exchange trip to Brookwood from FAWE in 2012 as did teacher Patrick in 2013.)
Maile, a teacher at Brookwood for 14 years, is tremendously excited about her trip and is eager to meet the FAWE teachers and students, learn about Rwanda, and share er experience with her sixth grade students and the entire Brookwood community upon her return. Before she left, we met with Maile to talk about her trip and her expectations for her time in Rwanda.
How long will you be staying in Rwanda? Do you go directly to FAWE School where Brookwood’s other Exchange Educators have visited and worked?
I’ll be staying in the country for two weeks, and yes I will go right to FAWE. I'm staying with a woman named Barb Butungi. I'll be working at FAWE and another school, APAPEC Irebero, for younger students. I look forward to both!
What are you going to be doing at the school? Do you and FAWE administrators have plans in place or will you develop schedule that once you arrive at the school?
We have lots of plans. At FAWE, my goal is to connect with the students and to connect them with Brookwood students in whatever ways will work.
At Brookwood in sixth grade English, we've been conducting interviews in a StoryCorps kind of vein. I have a collection of our students responding to each other’s questions and talking, on video, about something important in their lives. These interviews are poignant and profound, and, I hope, inspiring. Then, I'm hoping, the FAWE girls will do the same thing, tell their own stories on video, which I can then share with our community.
I'll also be doing all kinds of things related to Brookwood’s eighth grade GAP (Global Awareness Project) groups, discussing our Hot Topics group and how it relates to and can join up with FAWE's "Never Again" club.
Also, the Lower School has some interesting plans for me to connect with the Apopec School. [Brookwood Music teacher] Alex Edwards is recording some of her students learning and singing a song. Then my job is to share the video with the Apopec students, teach them the song, record (I hope) them singing, and bring their video back to Brookwood.
And, of course, there are many, many more plans.
Will you be teaching classes? Observing classes?
I hope very much on both counts. They also have active after-class stuff, all kinds of clubs. I look forward to joining them in some of these.
Do you think you'll see similarities in the ways FAWE and Brookwood teach literature and writing or do you expect there will be stark differences? Do the two schools study any of the same books?
I'm very interested in the answers to these questions. My guess is that the approach will be very different (not necessarily starkly so), but that could also be a factor of age – the FAWE students are high schoolers, after all.
What are you most looking forward to, either at FAWE or in Rwanda?
I look forward to making new friends, gathering stories to share with the Brookwood community and bringing our stories to them. I look forward to being surrounded by people of all ages whose lives have been totally different from mine, and finding similarities between us.
I'm looking forward to the gorilla trek, too, although I may be even more excited about the actual trek than the gorillas.
Also, and this is a little more esoteric, the air in Africa is different. I look forward to ... breathing it.
How do you feel about this opportunity?
Deeply grateful. Wildly enthusiastic. Impatient.
You travelled to South Africa a couple of years ago, right? Was that on your own or with a group of educators?
I made that trip on a grant I received from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Twenty-five teachers from all across the United States were chosen to study South African history and politics and culture for three weeks, and then travel around the country for another three weeks. It was the most amazing six weeks of my life.
Have you travelled in other African countries?
We went to Botswana for a couple of days on that same South Africa trip, but otherwise, no. I want to, though!
To keep up-to-date with Maile and hear more about her experiences visit Brookwood’s Global Classroom Blog.