Neighbours and Borders Issues Month: How You Can Participate – SHARE HERE!

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How you can participate

October 2017 is Neighbours & Borders Issues Month! Yet again, we are holding a month-long online event. This is an asynchronous event, developed with the aim of sharing ideas about teaching English with a conscience.

We would like to provide a platform where we can come together as a community of educators, teaching English through inspirational communication about real issues of concern to all global citizens.

This is a huge topic, with a wide range of possible topics.

Share here!

The idea behind this month is to share lessons and strategies that raise awareness in your classes and your schools about issues relating to our issues month. We deliberately chose a broad topic to allow flexibility of choice. As long as it’s about related issues (as opposed to, say, a lesson about your family tree), we’re interested.

This is where you can share your ideas, links, experiences, thoughts…

It’s simple. Just leave a comment and/or contribution below. We will be doing a weekly summary of these contributions, as well as those that come through our Facebook page or Twitter using the hashtag #issuesmonth

Here is a grab-bag of ways you – teachers, teacher trainers, writers, classes – can take part.

1. Share an activity or lesson plan

Submit an activity or lesson plan idea to the Facebook page or right here. We’ll be reporting weekly highlights of these ideas here at our website.

2. Inspire us to inspire our learners

Post a link to a picture, video, poem, game or website that links to one of these issues. Please state briefly what you would do with it. Again you can do this right here, or on the Facebook page.

3. Share your thoughts, experiences, challenges

What is your personal context, interest, concern when it comes to teaching about this issue? What about your students? What are their experiences, fears and passions around these issues? Share your story, as an educator, or as a global citizen.

4. Teach one of these issues and tell us about it!

Teach a lesson based on one of the resources you see shared during the month and let us all know how it went. We can all learn from each other in this way.

5. Share the knowledge

We’d love to see some short book reviews or film reviews about any of these issues that can inform us as educators. If you’ve read or seen something that inspired you about this theme, please let us know.

6. Do some action research

Your students could perform a survey, create materials or something else. Share the results with us here!

7. Get creative

Make a real or virtual poster to link to the issue. We’d love to gather a collection of classroom-generated poster images in order to produce a feature on this for our website. You don’t need to restrict yourself to a static image; we’d love to see your own videos too (although please be aware we can’t show videos or photos of learners without permission here).

8. Take real action

Begin a related project at your school. Please share with us how it goes.

9. Link up with a non-profit organization

Make links between your class or school and a non-profit organization. Invite a guest speaker, do a presentation, take the class on a field trip. Again, let us know how it goes.

AND FINALLY… Please spread the word!

This event will only be successful if we spread the word about it:

  • If we all made it a point to inform our own colleagues about what we are doing during this month, we could have a lot of exciting and diverse input!
  • Post a link to your school’s website.
  • Show your support by liking our Facebook page.
  • During the whole month of October please come back regularly to this page and Facebook to see what people are saying. We’ll be tweeting about it as well.

15 Responses to Neighbours and Borders Issues Month: How You Can Participate – SHARE HERE!

  1. Chris Sowton October 2, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    At present I am in Lebanon, doing some teacher training with Syrian refugee teachers as well as in-classroom support. The following is a short reflection on a recent experience with one of these teachers.

    The other evening I was invited to the house of one of the English teachers I have been training this week. I’d like to give his name, to give his story the authenticity which it deserves, but to do so might be comprising for him, as Syrians are not allowed to be teachers in Lebanon. They are only legally allowed to work as farmers, builders and cleaners, even if they are teachers, doctors or water engineers, professions which in the Bekaa Valley are in all in strong demand.

    Every day, for 8 months of the year, he teaches a double shift – in the morning and in the afternoon – at different schools. This is extremely common, considering both the high number of students who want to be taught, and the inadequate school space and number of teachers available. For teaching in excess of 40 classroom hours a week, he earns less than $1,000 per month. This does not include time for planning, marking or travelling to the often distant schools. For the other 4 months of the year, he has to make do. Last summer he worked on a construction site, during Ramadan, just to make ends meet as there were no funds to keep the schools open.

    But he does not complain. This is what he wants to do. He believes, strongly, that education is the only way out of the situation which the children in his classes find themselves in. Despite his lingering hope that one day he will be able to return to Syria, to the mother, father, sisters and brothers who remain in Syria, his veneer of optimism is a thin one. I sense he does not think this is happening anytime soon. Despite regular contact through WhatsApp, he has not seen them since he came to Lebanon 3 years ago, having been called up to the army.

    I write this, and share this, as human stories help to paint a picture which statistics, academic research and newspaper articles fail to convey, or which we too easily gloss over, and also because the horrors of what are taking place in Syria are too terrible to actually process. I write this because even given the appalling set of events that have resulted in my host reluctantly leaving his work and his family and his life in Syria, he has managed to carve out a meaningful life where he is positively impacting the lives of hundreds of children every week, and that is a truly remarkable thing.

  2. Bill Templer October 3, 2017 at 11:12 am #


    In numerous countries these days, students are dreaming or planning to migrate abroad to build a new life and identity elsewhere. It constitutes an EXCELLENT VITAL TOPIC for personal essay, analytical narrative in writing and open discussion. Some of you will be teaching in such countries, in the dynamic swirl of a massive exodus across an open border. Learning English or German is an integral part of a survival kit to become an (im)migrant elsewhere.

    QUESTIONS STUDENTS CAN ADDRESS: Why the exodus abroad, what drives it, among family members, neighbors, friends? What stories do students know from their own environment? What are the problems for people in trying to build a new existence in another country, the restrictions, the open and closed doors? Students in countries of exodus will have many ideas about this — they can talk, write, share their perceptions and views.

    Or are students depressed, even angered by the fact they can’t imagine a future in their own country? That is a very widespread perception among adolescents where I am in provincial Bulgaria. What impact does this have on the personal identity of adolescents and young adults? In some countries, second-generation migrants are returning to the country of their parents because they feel they don’t belong where they grew up and live. There is much new research on this, unhappy adolescents from a migrant background wondering: should I go back ‘home’.

    What are the evident economic downsides of such an exodus? Is there a serious brain drain, muscle & skill drain from the country where you teach? How do students perceive that in their own town, for example? PERHAPS: doctors and nurses under the age of 40 disappearing in droves, computer experts vanishing, skilled construction workers ever harder to find – and none of these workers being replaced? The average age of teachers ever mounting. The hospitals with ever more older nurses nearing retirement, few nurses under the age of 35. Maybe ever fewer younger teachers entering the profession. Yes, and more privileged ‘better’ students seeking to study abroad — and then to stay abroad. One consequence may be: universities find the new students they have are the weaker ones, the best high school graduates have left the country, adieu.

    Conversely, what are the benefits of so many migrants going abroad from country x or y? In many countries where you teach — families, even entire villages and smaller towns — are surviving on the remittances sent regularly by family members working abroad. Workers abroad support the shattered economy at home. Inside the EU, the differential in income for the same job can be 6, 7, 8x more in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Germany than in Europe’s East or the Global South.

    Or perhaps former engineers in Romania, Slovenia or Bulgaria become ‘downwardly mobile’, finding jobs as sanitation workers cleaning bathrooms in Belgium or picking fruit and vegetables in the UK. Syrian teachers become dishwashers. For much better income than in a job in their trained profession ‘at home.’

    On the other hand, students will know that the local absence of those workers (now abroad longer-term or permanently) is severely undercutting the local economy, restricting its development. How in their own town? In some countries, various sectors of the economy have been dis-developed by the exodus of workers to build a new life abroad. Local industries have collapsed, abandoned factories dot the countryside and cityscape. New sectors have not developed, agricultural villages are half-empty (even totally abandoned), land lies fallow. Many fruits and vegetables are now imported. The necessary skilled labor for factories, farming has emigrated elsewhere. Students will have knowledge of this, concrete. Ask them.

    Many discussions in class, home writing assignments, including poems, dramatic skits can be generated from this complex, the dreams & nightmares of exodus. Perhaps you have some examples or ideas to share.

  3. Linda October 9, 2017 at 7:06 pm #

    The ‘Brexit Tree’:
    How about a lesson about Brexit? I recently did this task (with ESOL learners in the UK) to help structure a discussion and share everything the learners have heard, read and felt about Brexit, using the ‘cause and effect tree’. This is one of the many tools from Reflect ESOL, an excellent, materials-light, participatory approach – more information here: The tools, and the approach, are really effective in allowing learners to have a lot more control of content and to critically reflect on issues that affect them.
    Get learners, in groups of 4 or 5 to draw a big tree, with roots and branches on a sheet of flip chart paper. They then discuss to decide on various causes of Brexit to write along the roots, one on each, and effects of Brexit to write on the branches of the tree. They can, of course, customise their tree by adding fruits, flowers, birds, butterflies, mould and moss which can represent other things; and/or arrows to link various causes and effects. Finally, they can present their tree to others.
    Has anyone else done lessons about Brexit?

    • Bill Templer October 12, 2017 at 7:30 am #

      Speaking of Brexit, not its causes but its envisioned ‘linguistic’ effects, there is a new article by Jennifer Jenkins just posted online, entitled ‘Trouble with English’:

      It’s a chapter in a forthcoming book M. Kelly (ed.), LANGUAGES AFTER BREXIT: HOW THE UK SPEAKS TO THE WORLD (Palgrave 2017) She talks about the future status of English in the EU (and elsewhere) after the UK leaves the EU in 2019. Very interesting relevant article, also for the October event ‘Globunciation’ event (and beyond).

      My own work — promoting a lexically highly simplified, downshifted ‘trans-lect’ of English as a lingua franca, like a reinvigorated form of Ogden/Richards’ BASIC 850, or even a revised form of Nerriere’s GLOBISH or VOA Special English (still utilized extensively by VOA online in its many articles) — can also be seen in the context of what Jennifer is discussing, esp. for many ordinary working-class people ( ).

  4. Gergő Fekete October 9, 2017 at 10:18 pm #

    “You have more in common than you think”

    Speaking of travelling and journeys, Kieran Donaghy’s lesson plan “The DNA Journey” could be a great resource to use in class. It covers the themes of nationalities, ethnic groups, racism, and DNA, and is recommended to students at B1-B2 levels. Do you agree that “an open world begins with an open mind”?

  5. Gergő Fekete October 9, 2017 at 10:21 pm #

    And the link to the lesson plan mentioned above:

  6. Dragana Stegic October 10, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

    Political borders

    Here is a link to an activity which helps students look into what constitutes a border and what elements need to be taken into consideration.It also makes them think about which features are most important in establishing good borders. It is suitable for small group work which may then be led into an opened discussion. What my students liked about this is that the map represents just about any country which helped them be a little bit more objective. Hope you like it and if anyone tries it let me know how it went!


    • Bill Templer October 12, 2017 at 7:54 am #

      Re “establishing good borders,” a country created by force in 1948 that still does not have agreed fixed and recognized borders 69 years later is Israel. It has recently built a Great Wall of Palestine around its Palestinian West Bank.

      In the spirit of the Visual Arts Circle, Images of the Separation Wall could be added to what Dragana discusses. See: Is that what a ‘border’ should look like in the 21st century? The US may soon be building such a Wall on its extensive border with Mexico.

      Apropos the refugee crisis and high walls, American political folksinger David Rovics, has a powerful protest song “They’re Building a Wall” (2008, about the Israeli/Palestinian Separation Wall, also applied in the second half of the song to the U.S./Mexico border wall, now looming large in Pres. Trump’s transformed ‘Fortress America’.

      A great song and text (“No more walls no more refugees/No more keeping people upon their knees”) cum striking visuals to hone ‘multimedia’ social empathy (text/visuals/song) for the present hour. Present it to students.

      I think students should be introduced to a potpourri of David Rovics’ songs, here a mix: Here his album ‘Refugees’:

      On the Mexican border, see also Ramon Taylor. (2017). The US-Mexico Border: A Dangerous Place With or Without a Wall. VOA News, 25 January.

  7. Linda October 10, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

    I did that DNA Journey FilmEnglish lesson with one of my classes and they were amazed – they all agreed it’s a brilliant film and great way of opening minds, reducing discrmination and making us feel we’re all part of the same world!

  8. Bill Templer October 11, 2017 at 9:56 pm #

    This film ‘The DNA Journey’ that Kieran chose is about autosomal-DNA or ancestry-DNA testing. Students could read a bit about that:

    Linda worked through the core video with students. The supplementary films of single persons tested are very interesting, and make an excellent supplement, Kieran has a link. This of Karen, from Burundi, exceptionally moving:

    Such testing is becoming a huge business. Here some major firms that for a price (US$69 to 99 Euros) will prepare your DNA profile from a bit of saliva. Some students might be intrigued, also by how these firms advertise their ‘product’. Worth exploring:



    23and me


    This a good brief article: that shows you how little DNA we may have from ancestors more than 6-7 generations back.

    A lot of such DNA-testing is focused on medical aspects, your proclivity to develop cancer, such stuff.

    I can’t judge the accuracy of this aspect of genomics. Some scientists are quite critical of actual accuracy. But most of us descend from Neolithic hunter/gathers — genetically. In CULTURE a staggering diversity remains. And learning to accept and stand together with that cultural Other is a big challenge in many places, perhaps most places. Certainly where I am the inter-ethnic animosity and distrust are pretty virulent. Even among students who are tweens, early teens.

    A RELATED QUESTION: How far back can teachers, students trace their own family lineage? What small heirlooms do they have? An Interesting personal question for any student or teacher. I have a old photo of my maternal great-grandfather & grandmother above the desk as I write. A town called Dukla, Habsburg Empire, in Galicia, ca. 1890. All their six sons emigrated to the US.

    • Dragana Stegic October 13, 2017 at 8:26 am #

      Hi Bill, relating to your question on family lineage – it is quite difficult to trace it in the Balkans as each generation’s life path intersects with a war. I know my ancestry only as far back as my great grandfather’s and not a single trace after that. Archives are scarce, often relocated, lost or destroyed during conflicts. Same goes with photos, so you are fortunate to have some. The only thing we could depend on where I used to live was the oral legacy, passed on from one generation to another. This way we learned of distant families we were related to and avoided the possible danger of marrying a cousin. :)
      An interesting fact is that my family’s last name Brkić is equally represented among Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Being aware of this from an early age, I was always careful with boasting with my ancestry as there is no way of knowing for sure whether my family has always been of Orthodox origin or not.

      • Bill Templer October 14, 2017 at 8:19 pm #

        Dragana mentions Eastern Orthodox Christian denomination in her family lineage. Interesting in Slovenia is that the Orthodox are a small minority, some 2.2% in a largely Roman Catholic South Slav community, Serbia and Macedonia, by contrast, are largely Orthodox, like the Bulgarian православна църква.

        I was not curious enough as a child or I might have questioned my grandparents more about their own grandparents and what else they know. In the case of my father’s mother, Sarah was born and raised in Minsk in the Russian Empire, and emigrated as a teen aground 1906 to Chicago, I think all alone. Sarah spoke Yiddish and Russian, English not well.She was very Jewish Orthodox in her daily life, unlike any of her children.

        We should encourage our students to try to explore their family history, esp. what their grandparents can narrate. A feasible project. They can share in the class, stories, photos, memories. Esp. where migrant families are concerned, the cross-border heritage from distant places is intriguing.

        Both my grandfathers, as teenage tailors speaking no English whatsoever, left Habsburg Austria to emigrate to Chicago in part to avoid induction into the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army ca. 1907. This was a major push factor behind Jewish emigration from the Austrian Empire in that decade, along of course with poverty and worsening anti-Semitism. And immigration into the US was at its supreme high point in those years, a relatively open border to the East (Europe) but largely closed to the West (China, Japan, SE Asia).

        SILENT FILM: A memorable classic silent film of Chaplin that I have thought to make a lesson plan around is ‘The Immigrant’ (1917) Funny, touching, many significant scenes, including entering New York as immigrants on a crowded steamer. It is also a love story, happy ending. I would recommend in any extended unit on ‘refugees and migrants’.

        There is also a shot in the film as the immigrants prepare to leave the steamer, when Chaplin kicks the US migration official in the behind, in protest at their treatment. This was interpreted as a very ‘political’ gesture in later criticism of this film and repeated accusations of Chaplin having anti-American ‘communist leanings.’
        He left the US in September 1952 and did not return, largely for political reasons (a long story), settling in Switzerland. With some hesitation, he finally returned briefly to the US in 1972, for a special honoring by Hollywood at the Oscar ceremonies (then aged almost 83). Chaplin received a 12-min. standing ovation at the Oscar ceremonies, reportedly the longest in the Oscars’ history.

        I really think classic silent films should be experimented with more in ELT. Students can imagine what people are saying and of course also describe what they see. Or think what will happen. Here a potpourri of images from the film:

        The Brighton GISIG PCE April 2018 might discuss a bit this question of using films from the classic silent cinema in serious ways. I’ve published an article on exploring Chaplin’s silent film ‘The Gold Rush’ in ELT, see (pp. 9-30), with lesson plan suggestions.

  9. Dragana Stegic October 13, 2017 at 8:12 am #

    Here is another great resource you might try from the National Geographic magazine. It enables students to look at a world map of migration as well as some graphs and statistics which might then initiate a debate on why/for what reason do people migrate. As a follow-up they can try and make possible predictions for the future. The class can create a migration map for the country they live in based on their background knowledge of their history or people they know. My students tried it out, we drew a map of Slovenia on the blackboard and then marked which direction the migration had happened in the past, both for people leaving the country but also for those arriving as a large number of migrant workers and later on refugees moved to Slovenia in the period from 1960s to 1990s. We also discussed Slovenia’s role in dealing with the refugees from the Middle East from two years ago.

    Here is the link:

    Relating on the above mentioned US/Mexico border topic, I came across the name of Esequiel Hernández Jr., an American civilian shot by the US troops at the border while herding goats.It inspired a highly praised 2005 film “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” directed by Tommy Lee Jones which I recommend you watch.There is also a 2007 documentary available called “The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández” but I haven’t been able to find it online. Should any of you come across this documentary do let me know.

    More info on Esequiel Hernández:

    The film review on IMDb:

    If you’ve got any other films/documentaries recommendations relating to the topic, please share!

  10. Bill Templer October 14, 2017 at 6:24 pm #

    A refugee problem 69 years old is that of the Palestinians, as all of us know. Uri Avnery has written a brief piece this week envisioning a pathway to solution is highly practical, if Israeli political leaders (and their power base in the Israeli electorate) have ears (and hearts) to hear:

    I don’t always agree with Uri, who turned 94 a few weeks ago, but he is a ‘grand old man of peace and reconciliation’ inside the Israeli intelligentsia. He realizes a lot of compensation would have to be paid to Palestinian families not returning in the context of any real solution to what was ‘ethnic cleansing’. That is difficult for most Israelis and mainstream world Jewry to accept. But the alternative of the status quo is unacceptable, that seems clear. So the conundrum continues.

  11. Gergő Fekete October 16, 2017 at 10:37 pm #

    Dragana’s introduction also made me think of some well-known proverbs about neighbours. Why not start out with some lesser-known ones and help students move into a more serious discussion on the topic?

    Here is a list of 40 proverbs:

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