Marleen Spierings, this week’s Educator of the Week, inspires her students to be global readers by introducing them to English literature lessons and teachers from around the world. Marleen is an English teacher at Rijnlands Lyceum Oegstgeest near The Hague, Netherlands.
Activity: “Why Metaphor?” (YMeta4)
Grade Level: 9-12
Time Commitment: 3 Months
This project aims to improve students’ understanding of literary devices and empowers them to think globally about literature. I demonstrated that we are all lifelong learners by incorporating more effective lessons from teachers in Israel, the United States, and Norway, with my own curriculum. Working with these teachers led to the creation of YMeta4, a site where teachers from around the world can freely exchange English literature lessons and materials.
Connected through our new website and a Moodle classroom I made, we decided to focus on metaphors for our cross country exchange. We started by sharing lessons on “The Road Not Taken,” guiding students to think of it as a metaphor for life choices. The Israeli teacher I am collaborating with, Mrs. Galante, is teaching this lesson to my students online through interactive software. This exchange has been great for my students because they’ve seen how the Dutch style of education can be improved through collaboration with other cultures.
How else did this activity impact your students?
My students were thrilled at being able to communicate with students in Israel directly. These students were under the impression that literature and novels were dry, static, and boring content they had to work through to get a good grade. They never imagined that Israeli students were analyzing the same poems, or that they would get a chance to talk with them.
The exchange also helped my students understand reader-responsiveness, the idea that the reader is at the center of a literary experience, not the author, structure, or presentation of the work. Readers are charged with determining the meaning and message of a piece of literature, whether in Israel or the Netherlands. This helped my students understand how the Israeli students’ interpretations of the metaphors could be so different from their own.
Through emphasizing literature concepts and cross-cultural exchange, the Israeli curriculum helped my students analyze literature with a critical eye. Perhaps even more rewarding is that this sharing of lessons with a teacher in another country demonstrated the power of collaboration across the global education community, where everyone is a student and learner.
What advice do you have for teachers who want to get more involved with teaching students about the world?
Seeking out how other educators from different cultures teach your subject is key. I started close to home, in the European Union, at the beginning of my career and later collaborated with other educators across the world through iEARN. Learning from and collaborating with fellow educators has brought the world to my classroom.
Do you know a great educator who teaches about our world? Nominate a colleague or yourself as the next Educator of the Week!
The Educator Spotlight series features inspiring activities and lessons that educators are implementing with their students that connect them to the world in bold and exciting ways.