Foreign educators learn from visit to Tulsa's Street School
BY SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Friday, September 21, 2012
9/21/12 at 7:36 AM
Salim Nasir had the undivided attention of the students in the class at Street School on Thursday morning. He talked and answered questions about violence and terrorism in Muslim countries, how U.S. foreign policy can be perceived, and the recent protests and deaths at embassies in the Middle East.
Nasir is a senior research analyst with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
Nasir was one of several delegates from east Asian countries touring Street School on Thursday as part of the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program.
This initiative's theme is supporting diversity and acceptance in schools, with the goal of introducing alternative, nontraditional and cultural school programs to educators from east Asian countries.
The delegation includes people from Brunei, China, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
The tour to the Tulsa area was arranged through the State Department and the Tulsa Global Alliance.
In addition to Tulsa, the delegation also visited schools in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Kalamazoo, Mich., as well as Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, which is funded and operated by the Cherokee Nation. The group will also travel to Salt Lake City and Los Angeles before returning to their home schools and countries.
Having the group actually interact with the students gives them a chance to learn about international cultures, said Kelly McElroy, community relations director at Street School.
"It opens that world out even further," McElroy said. "It opens their eyes."
After the students asked Nasir questions about his area of expertise, he and other delegates asked the students why they attend Street School.
Rommie Gorrell, a senior, said his parents went to the alternative school and really enjoyed it.
"I love this school," he said. "The environment at this school is great. The teachers connect with you a lot better."
Saiful Marali, acting principal of the Wasan Vocational School in Brunei, said he's taught in an alternative school in Brunei and was impressed with the students at Street School.
"I'm inspired by this school and you guys," he told the class. "I taught in a school like this with students from different backgrounds. There were 15-year-olds who couldn't read or write."
Marali said he's learned a lot so far on this tour of schools in the U.S.
"I see a lot of diversity, I see a lot of challenges. Things are much more complex here," he said. "I get to understand the culture, the diversity. What we see in Washington is different than what we see in New York."
Gary Cheng, an English Language Officer with the State Department, said the group has visited a variety of schools, including one for immigrant children and another devoted to children with disabilities.
Street School "has a unique challenge," said Cheng, who was impressed with the facility, faculty and students. "The staff is devoted to helping the students. The students are in good spirits. Their willing to learn, participating in the discussion."
Marali said he's seen things at all the schools that he hopes to take back to his school system and implement. At Street School, he's taken note of the relationships that form between the teachers and students and counselors.
"There's no fighting. In my school there's a lot of fighting," he said. "The classes (here) are small; that promotes the relationships."
Original Print Headline: Lessons for educators
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
Michael Ingram (left), a senior at Street School, adds himself as a Facebook friend on Muktar Jamud's phone Thursday. Jamud, who is from the Philippines, was touring the school as part of the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Khamphouth Phommasone of Laos takes a photo while touring Street School on Thursday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Rommie Gorrell, a senior at Street School, greets Cheewala Badklang of Thailand as she tours the school Thursday. In the center is Jared Webb, an 11th grader at the school. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World