Contributed by Matt Goldberg
When talking about my school, Naju Technical High School, co-teachers, community members, and other students would make comments such as “Students just don’t care,” “Your students are dirty,” and “We have bad English.” However, I was determined to challenge this detrimental narrative and encourage students to see themselves beyond societal stereotypes and be proud of who they are.
This vision inspired my community FKAF grant and enabled me to work with students to create cross-cultural communication through photography between my placement school and a local school in the United States, Cummings High School. Through my project, students in South Korea and the United States created self-introductory videos, asked and answered questions about each country, and captured and shared photos in response to the question, “What is important to you?”
The project process was challenging. My students felt overwhelmed at the level of English required and we struggled communicating fully with the U.S. students. Nevertheless, the project enabled my students to delve deeper into understanding who they are as people and what it means to be cultural ambassadors and teachers. Most importantly, the project enabled my students to grow in confidence and be proud of their identities. Ultimately, I was amazed and humbled by the opportunity to see the insides of my students’ minds through the photos taken. This project would not have been possible without the grant money to plan a video viewing party, print pictures, and share the students’ work with the school in a small exhibit.
Mat Goldberg is a 2014-2016 ETA who teaches in Naju, Jeollanam-do.