Last week I had the honor to present at the world’s largest convention for English Teachers at the annual International TESOL Conference in Baltimore. Speaking on “Gender Empowerment through English Education” on a panel of East African colleagues, I was able to share with a global audience some of the work I am doing with Women’s English Clubs in Ethiopia. Teaching last year at Ambo University and this year at Dire Dawa University, I have had the chance to identify shortcomings with respect to gender equality in the classroom and in turn aim to promote empowerment through learning opportunities both inside as well as outside of campus. To be able to share these experiences with English Educators from Asia to Europe as well as numerous ECA State Department colleagues in attendance was more a reflection of the students I work with than of what I have been able to do as an individual.
While in the greater Washington, DC area, I also took the opportunity to meet with two esteemed Ethiopians whom I had met previously in Addis. Lucy Gebre-Egziabher, a Fulbright Scholar in Film Studies, invited me to speak to her class at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) about my experiences teaching and living abroad. The discussion was not limited to only an Ethiopian context but rather focused on the dichotomies I have seen firsthand teaching on four different continents. Language is a part of culture and to be able to share my observations from different learning demographics around the globe gives credence to the notion that in fact, the World is our Classroom!
Another individual I was able to connect with was Sousena Kebede, an attorney from Addis Ababa who now resides in Alexandria. With a legal focus on Human Rights, it was a pleasure to speak with her through the lens of an American viewpoint tinted with an Ethiopian shade. Sousena has worked in both an Ethiopian as well as American context as it pertains to Law, and to compare her field to my familiarity with Education helped to shed light on the important role each plays in terms of sustainable development in both countries.
While there was undoubtedly more to my trip including food, beer, baseball, and even Cherry Blossoms, the underlying parameters of my transcontinental journey were to help bridge the educational and cultural relationship between the U.S. and Ethiopia. From the professional honor of presenting at TESOL to the personal nature of informal meetings with colleagues, it was nearly two weeks of putting into practice the conference theme: “Reflecting Forward“…