America's Unofficial Ambassadors

We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.

The Rising Sun in TCA

This post was written by the vice principle of The Carter Academy, Iqbal Hossen Mozumder. TCA is a school in Bangladesh which is partnered with the Lancaster Country Day School through the School-2-School program. This post was written after Sam Schindler of LCDS visited TCA.

The Carter Academy, a residential institution for students aged 11-17,provides English instruction and a wide variety of subjects for students of humble origin who would otherwise not have access to an education of this kind. The school is located in the village of Islamabad, Bangladesh a remote rural area. Surrounded by lush green wetlands ripe with rice, maize and other vegetation.

When I, Iqbal Hossen Mozumder, vice principal of The Carter Academy (TCA), was informed in March that our school would begin a cross-cultural exchange with a private high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the United States, I was thrilled. TCA would be the first school in South Asia to be involved in such a program, overseen by Creative Learning’s School to School initiative. In addition, I was to be the first teacher who would communicate directly with a school in the U.S. under these auspices. My companion in Pennsylvania was to be a History and English teacher at Lancaster Country Day School named Sam Schindler. This program provided our school with recognition now beyond our borders with the coordinators of Americas Unofficial Ambassadors.
Unable to Skype for technical reasons, Sam moved to the next step of video exchange, asking both his students and mine to make short videos in which they discussed their lives in brief and asked a question of their overseas counterparts.From the videos Sam’s students sent, we learned about American culture, the daily life of the students, the school and how the teachers teach in a class in a friendly environment. We also learned about the teaching of subjects previously unknown to us, such as art and music.
On June 24th, Sam arrived with TCA founder Mr. Ghulam M. Shuhrawardi, on an auspicious day; that day the school hosted an awards ceremony for high-achieving students. Immediately upon meeting Sam it was clear to me that he would be of great value to both me and to our school as a whole. He understood & told me to apprehend which proved his greatness of heart. Sam came to work at our school for the better part of two weeks. During that time he both offered us the opportunity to commune with an American and also proved capable of learning what it is like to be a Bangladeshi, a culture and way of life he embraced with open arms.

Iqbal, Sam and Ghulam Suhrawardi (the founder of TCA)

Iqbal, Sam and Ghulam Suhrawardi (the founder of TCA)

At first, when accents and linguistic habits were new, communication was a bit of a challenge. Gradually, as we got to know one another, the difficulty eased and we began to understand each other more easily. My students also quickly adapted to Sam’s manner of speech. As Sam is an excellent teacher able to innovate and motivate, he was instantly embraced by the students. We, the teachers, learned a great deal just from observing his classes. There, he was always in motion, almost like an actor, and the students were immediately engaged. He was able to draw out hidden talent from students as well as finding common ground with them. Each day he was at TCA, he worked tirelessly, despite the tremendous heat and dusty chalkboard. Students frequently asked me to send Sam to their classes; they simply loved him. During his visit, the institution was in a festive mood. Progress was made as well, students and teachers alike improved their proficiency in spoken English.

Teachers got the opportunity to learn a more modern teaching method from him, and how to provide holistic, well rounded classes, as well as how to provide guidance and discipline to the student body. Sam also demonstrated how to work with the students toward their maturation by discovering their special interests, strengths and weaknesses. Along with new teaching methods we also learned about the religions of the Americans such as Judaism and Christianity.

After dusk, the teachers gathered in a corner of the school campus to continue discussionson topics like religion, culture, personal life, patriotism among many others. In this session, we were often riveted listening to him talk, impressed by his depth of knowledge on religion, global history and modern politics. We were also able to provide useful insight to him from a Bengali, South Asian and Islamic perspective, which Sam was deeply grateful for, as he often remarked that he came to Bangladesh to learn from us as well.

The last couple of days of Sam’s visit were difficult for all, including him. Many boys offered him their journals for his autographs. He gave one heartfelt final speech to Classes 9 and 10, with whom he spent the most time, and one to the student body as a whole. Then, we sat for one final, informal teacher’s meeting in which each teacher expressed, in English, his or her gratitude to Sam, and Sam reciprocated.
If teachers like Sam come in our school for once or twice in a year, our school can only benefit. Should our teachers also get chance to visit high quality schools and interact directly with the students and teachers of that school, again, our school will greatly benefit. Sam’s visit to TCA was all too short, but brought memories that will last a long time.

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