The course, The American Dream: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of a Cultural Heritage, was an intensive course that took place at the Global Institute for Secondary Educators of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and lasted six weeks, starting on 11th June 2017 and finishing on 22th July, 2017.
The course evolved around four sub-themes:
· Creating a national character
· The struggle for racial and gender equality
· Education for Citizenship in a Pluralistic Society
· America: Democracy Through Conflict
The content of the course was delivered by means of seminars, pedagogy workshops, and panel discussions with educators, government officials, and community residents, teaching convocations as well as film and documentary viewing.
Another significant part of the sessions was the ‘Teaching Around the World’ block. Almost every morning before the sessions started, the SUSI participants took turns to present and discuss aspects of their local educational systems and individual teaching situations.
In addition, participants worked in small groups on scaffolding a curriculum project in order to gain a better understanding and appreciation of different pedagogical approaches and apply what they learnt in practice. These project outlines were presented at the end of the program.
There were a number of trips, site visits and study tours which gave us a first-hand experience of the American history and culture. More specifically, there were two regional day trips, one to Springfield, Illinois (the State Capitol and Lincoln Presidential Library, Museum, and Home), and the other to Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site and St. Louis, Missouri Museum of Westward Expansion and Gateway Arch.
There were also a number of multi-day experiential study tours to Austin and San Antonio, Texas; Chicago, New York City and Washington D.C.
Social activities were either organized by the program or were, most often, spontaneously staged. They counted for the moments that contributed to the strong intercultural bonding that developed among almost all members of the group.
Chatting, walking, cycling, eating and drinking at a number of restaurants or Presbi Hall rooms, organizing international singing and dancing evenings were but a few of the unique extra-curricular activities we cherished and which turned these SUSI members into friends forever.
Emotions of joy, excitement, satisfaction, trust, love as well as sadness, anxiety, disappointment or annoyance were openly shared by the SUSI members and made this bonding stronger.
Yet, what appears to be of greater significance and worth researching at a more formal level is how and to what extent our participation in this program can and/or will affect our professional development. As a number of scholars claim that teachers’ emotions play a key role in teacher development and they can shape learning processes in a variety of formal and informal, this multicultural SUSI experience being so emotionally rich may signpost a very promising professional development future for its participants.
In conclusion, the opportunity I was given to become a member of this Fulbright Alumni family at a mid-career stage has boosted my professional motivation and has triggered my curiosity to expand my research interests in teacher development and emotions from a local level to an international and multi-cultural setting.