A huge part of the work we do here at TELLAL revolves around ways in which we can expand our experiences and learn about new methods and practices to enhance our skill set as educators and trainers. By engaging proactively with collaborative initiatives and sharing projects, we can all grow and develop in more productive ways; that will ultimately benefit those we teach. With this ethos driving us, we were absolutely delighted to recently host the first ever TELLAL Fellowship Exchange Programme.
What is the TELLAL Fellowship Exchange Programme?
The overall purpose of the TELLAL Fellowship Exchange was to give participants the opportunity to expand their knowledge and experience of a Middle Eastern country, its culture and, of course, the Arabic language. TELLAL worked in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania to develop the programme and raise awareness for those who might wish to put themselves forward. Potential applicants were encouraged to submit papers on why they would be the most appropriate candidates and what they hoped to get out of the experience. In the end, two teachers were selected based on their profiles and the way in which their applications stood out; they were Pearl Jonas and Amanda Fiegal. For both of them, the underlying motivation seemed to be an acknowledgment of the changing faces in their classrooms and how to accommodate that, as well as the desire to grow their skills in how to best prepare their students to be global citizens of the world. Amanda also added that she wanted her “students to see that when a learning opportunity comes your way, take it. To know that they should never be afraid to try something new and different and that these experiences shape us and allow us to become better connected with ourselves, our families and our local and global communities.”
The Fellowship Exchange itself was 11 days in total. The teachers taking part from America were assigned home stays with other teachers, in order to really assist with their immersion into the culture and give them a trusted resource of inquiry throughout their stay. During their trip, TELLAL designed a comprehensive six day course that would enhance their professional learning development of Arabic culture. They were placed in Al Khaleej National School (AKN) and were each assigned a co-teacher to work with on developing a joint project as well as expanding their knowledge on a range of topics from cultural practices to speaking and reading Arabic. Whilst they might not have been here long enough to quite become fluent, learning little phrases and greetings significantly enhanced their experience and offered them a lovely gesture to use with their Arabic students at home in the USA. The lucky participants were also able to immerse themselves into Arabic culture and UAE traditions through a variety of excursions and activities, including an extremely informative lunch at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding and a delicious Middle Eastern feast at Karam Restaurant under the majestic Dubai Mall Fountains. Armed with their very own Dubai Passes, Pearl and Amanda also opted to visit the newly opened Dubai Safari and, of course, take an unmissable trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa.
All in all, the experience was a vibrant and productive one for everyone involved, as both sides were able to share their stories with each other and even some really useful tips. Our hope is that this programme is just one of many exchange and collaboration facilitations that TELLAL is able to host or participate it moving forward. The more we work together, the further we will be able to go.