History. Hospitality. Humor. Three words that describe the Kingdom of Bahrain. An archipelago off of Saudi Arabia, the country is small but mighty.
Through the Bilateral U.S-Arab Chamber of Commerce, I had the honor of being selected as a participant in the 2017 TEACH Fellowship. Teachers Educating Across Cultures in Harmony is a fellowship that began in 2009 as a vehicle to provide U.S. educators an opportunity to visit the Middle East and gain insight into the culture, the challenges and the opportunities experienced by their peers. It was conceived to actively engage U.S. and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) educators in capacity building initiatives to produce a new generation of leaders equipped to provide solutions to the world’s most pressing social and economic issues.
All expenses were fully covered through the fellowship with the exception of a $250 participant fee. Through a grant with Qatar Foundation International (QFI), my participant fee was also covered. These two groups allowed me the opportunity to visit the Middle East for the first time, collaborate with other educators, tour cultural sights of significant historical importance, walk the halls of a petrochemicals industry and stand at the Tree of Life…all things I could not have done otherwise. In my first three days nacat home, I communicated with three business leaders in Bahrain, our tour guide at the Al Fateh Grand Mosque, and continued a conversation with a teacher I met on a school visit. The people of Bahrain are kind, hospitable, and eager to build relationships with colleagues around the world.
Our two school visits included Bahrain Bayan School and St. Christopher’s School. Both schools are home to educators from all over the world. We witnessed an engineering class, observed a car that high school students built, walked through amazingly well equipped science labs, talked with administrators about their successes and challenges, and even witnessed a bit of the upcoming West Side Story performance at St. Christopher’s.
The red carpet was literally rolled out for our group of eight educators and two leaders as we entered the Gulf Petrochemicals Industry, Co. (GPIC). After departing from GPIC, we made our way to the U.S. Embassy in Manama where we talked with numerous officials about the culture of Bahrain, the educational system, and their roles as United States representatives in the Middle East. Other highlights of our trip included walking through the Bahrain Fort & Museum, meeting with staff members at the Bahrain Economic Development Board, visiting the Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO) and Injaz Bahrain. We even had some time to shop at the Gold Souk.
All of this took place over the four full days we were in Bahrain. Our small but fierce group learned more than I believe any of us even expected and bonded with lots of laughter in our short amount of time together. We managed to lose and find only one cell phone, eat two flowers (don’t ask how that happened!) and search for a lost suitcase that was never there to begin with! Opportunities like this provide the chance for educators to do many things outside of the traditional classroom. It is my hope others will see the value
in experiences like this for educators. We get to make friends with teachers across our own country. Our group of eight represented seven states. We met educators from Bahrain and around the world. We collaborated with businesses, met officials at the U.S. Embassy, and learned what we should do and should not do as respectful guests in the Middle East. We laughed. We felt a kinship with each other. We left rejuvenated and equipped with a lot of stories to share with our children that we hope will promote peace and understanding in our world.
Does it get better than that?