Brown Middle School English/language arts teacher Derrick Mosley spent five amazing weeks in Tanzania this summer examining the country’s educational system and immersing himself in African culture and tradition as part of the prestigious Fulbright-Hays Program.
As a Fulbright-Hays fellow, Mosley worked with a group of teachers from across the country to design and create a language arts and social studies curricula titled, “Thinking Globally About Local Issues to Develop Teachers’ Cultural Competence and International Awareness in Africa: A Short-Term Curriculum Development Seminar in Tanzania.” His journey included attending language labs and lectures, touring museums and spice farms, visiting cultural sites, and learning about Tanzanian history, local customs and traditions.
A seasoned traveler and dedicated APS educator with over 20 years of experience, Mosley has taught middle school language arts, high school English, as well as served as a counselor at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Selected for his effectiveness as both a teacher and professional school counselor, Mosley plans to share his knowledge with students and fellow colleagues while incorporating the curricula into the classroom.
The Fulbright-Hays Teacher Fellow program is open to educators and administrators with responsibilities for curriculum development in fields related to humanities, languages, and area studies. The program awards grants to individual U.S. K-14 pre-teachers, teachers and administrators, pre-doctoral students and post-doctoral faculty, as well as to U.S. institutions and organizations while supporting research and training efforts overseas focusing on non-Western foreign languages and area studies. The Fulbright-Hays Program is funded by a Congressional appropriation to the U.S. Dept. of Education.
Learn more about Mosley’s experience in the question and answer below:
How would you describe your overall experience traveling to Tanzania this summer?
I can honestly say that the entire experience was life-altering! The emotions were plenty and for various reasons. I viewed this experience as one for teaching and learning, but also a spiritual journey. Long before I had a driver’s license, I had a passport, so I’ve traveled abroad and to the Caribbean; but this time, it was so different. We were encouraged to experience it as indigenous people. But I would also like to add that you cannot have an experience like this and not miss the opportunity to reevaluate a (potential) change in practice and perspective.
What was the purpose of the Fulbright-Hays Teacher Fellowship, and how were you selected?
The purpose of the Fulbright Fellowship was to go and examine the Tanzanian educational system and to do a critical analysis. I was quite amazed because I believe that every student comes with a certain level of cultural capital and it then becomes incumbent upon teachers to acknowledge it … and then reflect and assess our own cultural competence. In terms of the selection process, it was a very arduous one. They make it clear that this is not a travel opportunity but an opportunity to teach, learn and serve. We had to apply and present our philosophy of education and how it could possibly align with the focus of the seminar. The process also consisted of several individual and group interviews.
How did you develop your curricula in Tanzania, and how do you plan to implement it into your teaching at Brown Middle School?
Dr. Pedro Noguera (Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA) often speaks about “relational learners,” so I make it a point to maintain and nurture ALL relationships. In addition, I worked with a cadre of teachers from all over to design and create English/ language arts and social studies curricula that we could come back and share with and redeliver to our own specific school districts. It is also important to note that the Tanzanian model is not without flaw; however, I believe in giving students a world-class education. Often times, it means stretching myself and the students more than we are comfortable with. It means encouraging and requiring ALL of us to look at various points of view before prescribing or accepting various answers or anecdotes.
What knowledge do you hope to share with your students and colleagues?
I believe in shared responsibility; however, I also believe in shared accountability. There is the Nguni Bantu term Ubuntu that is often translated to the philosophical expression of: “In order for me to be all that (I) can be, I need for (YOU) to be all that you can be, so that (WE) can be all that we can be.” We must be deliberate and intentional about the role and responsibility of effectively building capacity. I believe that if we’re not researching and utilizing best practice, it’s tantamount to malpractice. It is my fervent hope that we work to close the achievement gap by eliminating the “opportunity gap.” Encouraging our students to seek out opportunities should be one of the many learning tools that we stress. I am the beneficiary of the Fulbright Fellowship because I make it a priority to seek out opportunities that will make me better. As a young student matriculating through this very system, I saw many of my teachers do the same.
How did your experience as a veteran teacher and counselor prepare you for the fellowship?
I’ve always been an avid reader. Many of my family and friends will tell you that one of my favorite books is Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese?” When my position as professional school counselor was abolished, I, once again, used the experience as a “teaching and learning” opportunity. My experience as a veteran teacher and counselor also prepared me to look at multicultural morals and values of those I encountered as well as always assessing group dynamics. It also provided me somewhat of a global framework and perspective that will allow me (and my students) to problem-solve and continue to work to create a world-class education for us all.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Two reflections! I read (Associate Superintendent) Dr. Emily Massey’s dissertation a number of years ago, and one of the many salient points that she made was that when children are exposed, they want to know more and learn more. Their own questions become more complex because they begin to make the connections. Also, it was an honor to serve in the role of what I call a cultural and educational ambassador. What I know for sure, is that African and African-American people are not monolithic. Being afforded the opportunity to experience this part of Africa will allow my students to benefit significantly. I made it a priority to bring back copious amounts of artifacts so that they too, will have a more informed and healthy interest in Africa. I encourage more educators to take advantage of these teaching and learning opportunities.
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