Teaching Traveling: Want a teacher travel grant to Japan to study powerful history? South Carolina teacher, Dunn Woods, has great advice for you.
Dunn, tell us a bit about your background.
Dunn: My name is Dunn Woods and I am from Charleston, SC. I have taught for 20 years, and I am presently a 7th grade world history teacher (1492 to what happened five seconds ago) at Alston Middle School in Summervillle, South Carolina.
My class is very “theatrical.” We sing, dance, and act to make the history narrative come to life. My superintendent keeps thinking I am an arts teacher, and I have to remind him, “No, I teach Social Studies.”
TT: That’s amazing! Tell us about some of your interesting recent travels.
D: In the summer of 2017, I was a part of the Oleander Initiative — a funded educational tour to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan. I spent 11 days learning about nuclear disarmament and the legacy of the atomic bomb.
The highlight was that this was my first PD trip which involved educators traveling from other countries. In addition to the 6 Americans that were invited, there were educators and scholars from Palestine, Israel, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Jordan.
Those participants really understood, firsthand, the horrors of nuclear proliferation and gave compelling stories about their work to educate their communities about the need for peace in the world.
TT: What a powerful gathering. How did you find out about this teacher travel grant?
I am also one of the administrators of the Facebook Group Scholarships, Grants, and Summer Institutes where domestic and international opportunities are posted nearly every day.
TT: Excellent. How did you fund your travels?
D: For the Oleander Initiative, I was responsible just for the cost of my flight. I was able to raise that through Go Fund Me and a Qatar Foundation International (QFI) grant.
QFI gives financial support to projects which have a Middle East focus.
TT: Thank you for those useful tips. Now, tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
D: The lesson of forgiveness and resilience is an important one for us all. To meet survivors (hibakusha) from the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima touched me deeply.
These survivors talked bravely, through tears often, about all they had overcome since 1945.
I was inspired by their testimonies to look at areas in my life where I may need to forgive and be more resilient. This lesson was one that I plan to pass onto my next group of students.
TT: So powerful. How have your travels impacted you in your career, and as a person?
D: My travels have made me want to shrink the corners of the world for my students and school communities. I zealously absorb as much as I can to bring back real stories of people who, at first, seem so different and distant to my conservative community.
My travels equip me to fight bigotry, intolerance, and misinformation. I have also been able to publish articles and present at conferences as a result of some of these dynamic experiences.
TT: Deeply inspiring. Now, what advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel?
D: If you are a teacher, sign up for these important email communities today by emailing the following individuals (I have replaced the last period of the address with the word “dot” to ward off spammers, so edit the address before sending):
Lisa Adeli at email@example.com dot edu (Middle East opportunities), Susan Douglass at Susan.Douglass@georgetown dot edu (Middle East opportunities), and Laurel Singleton at laurel.singleton@colorado dot edu (East Asia) and sign up for the Facebook Group, Scholarship, Grants, and Summer Opportunities.
Don’t be afraid to apply for EVERYTHING. Make sure you have an interesting angle in your application, because the process is highly competitive.
If you have to partially pay out of pocket for some of these amazing experiences, then reach out to your community. Don’t be shy. There are people who would love to support you through Donorschoose.org or GoFundMe.
Finally, if you get a travel opportunity, network with the other teachers on the trip. A teacher I met on this Japan trip later invited me to Israel to present at her school, and I had a wonderful time there! One opportunity can lead to another.
TT: Thanks so much, Dunn! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?