Hello, fellow travelers! My name is Natasha Naujoks, and I teach courses in History and Political Science at Norfolk Academy, an independent school in Norfolk, VA. I will be the first to admit that I am a very different (and hopefully better) teacher than I was when I started here eight years ago, and that is thanks in large part to our institutional shift towards experiential methods of teaching and learning, which has pushed me well outside of my own comfort zone as a teacher. While we have run international programs for decades, these have been largely traditional language exchanges in the developed world, with little opportunity for students to become travelers rather than tourists. In an effort to craft more authentic and meaningful experiences for our students, our Director of International Programs sought a partnership with Where There Be Dragons for our China Exchange and Leadership Development Program. I am currently the coordinator for that program, and I’m excited to be embarking on that trip for a fourth time tomorrow!
Next year, we are launching a Maymester that will offer all of our tenth and eleventh graders a chance to engage in experiential learning both at home and abroad over a three week period at the end of the school year. One of these offerings will be a new Where There Be Dragons custom course in Bolivia organized around the theme of climate change, so this educator course is in part for me a bit of a scouting mission. Finally, I also serve as Co-Director of our Global Affairs Fellows, a co-curricular program in which students study the conflicts and challenges posed by globalization as well as the potential that global cooperation creates for designing culturally appropriate and ethically responsible solutions. Each year we travel to Peru to visit Quechua communities in the Sacred Valley in an effort to understand the particular effects that globalization has on indigenous peoples.
My favorite passage in Iyer’s essay is the line about the power of travel to shake up our complacencies. One of the things I struggle with as a teacher at this school is that our students overwhelmingly come from very privileged backgrounds and therefore inhabit a bubble that is largely insulated from the challenges facing many within our local, national, and global communities. I’ve seen firsthand the power that travel has to make them see home with new eyes and a heightened sensitivity to inequalities and injustices.
Very excited to meet all of you and step into the shoes of a student once again this summer!