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.

42 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 ( ).

    • Bill Templer November 9, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

      Here a lesson plan from DELTA on the Brexit Debate: Well worth looking at.

  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:

  12. Chrysa October 17, 2017 at 8:08 pm #

    Adding to the above discussion, a couple of resources on building thoughtful awareness and understanding of refugees, encouraging empathy and respect, and maybe help tear down some walls of negative ideas and preconceptions.

    The coldest Summer: A book issued by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. It presents the stories of 3 refugees fleeing into Europe, their nightmare, hopes and fears, sketched as a graphic narrative.

    The poem “Here I am”, by Electra Alexandropoulou, written in the first person where the refugee persona describes his/her current situation and recalls the past. Also included in the book “The Coldest Summer”. A powerful in its imagery poem.

    People of Nowhere: A video by Lior Sperandeo on the refugee influx crisis Greek islands faced in the summer of 2015. No dialogues, but again powerful in its imagery can be utilized in many ways in the classroom. The music of the video by Ravid Kahalani is an add on.

    I have used the poem and the video with primary school students in Greece and resonated very well with the children. There was always at the back of my mind that the topic of refugees might cause tension and arise reaction on behalf of the parents. Greek society is divided on the issue and with the far-right nationalist party on the rise there were all sorts of reactions to be expected. The topic however was on everywhere on the news at that time and children did not seem to be surprised at all when we dealt with it. I brainstormed questions they wanted to ask on the issue and they went on to research their answers. Artwork, poetry, the video, and thinking routines further smoothed our way into this topic. We even ended by doing a small presentation at the end of that year and even though some parents might have had opposing views they watched quietly appreciating their children’s effort to express themselves on the issue in the foreign language Here is the link to that series of lessons

  13. Bill Templer October 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

    Many good recommendations, Chrysa. I published an article ‘Rachel Flees Religious Persecution: Teaching an Animated Video’ recently in HLT: Have a look, many ideas and other source materials there: This is a Christian family fleeing persecution in Central Asia, and the legal nightmare they faced (a factual tale) coming to the UK. Probably some such Christian refugees among those fleeing into Greece.

  14. Bill Templer October 20, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

    Here an ‘Islamophobia is racism’ syllabus, with much material useful for teachers A teacher could adopt some material, work with it in class, and do some exploratory research on its impact on students’ thinking, wherever you are.

  15. Bill Templer October 20, 2017 at 11:15 pm #

    Regarding people living behind walls and those trying to escape as refugees from war, turmoil and poverty, two books by British(-Indian) journalist/novelist Bidisha are relevant and sources of texts readable with more advanced students: her 2012 book BEYOND THE WALL: WRITING A PATH THROUGH PALESTINE One of the better books on real people living in the West Bank.

    And her recent book ASYLUM AND EXILE: HIDDEN VOICES OF LONDON (2016) She deals here with refugees, the undocumented. Bidisha appears regularly on Sky News as a commentator and is remarkably incisive in her analysis of many issues.

  16. Hajba László October 21, 2017 at 11:31 am #

    Here is my lesson plan about the Rise of ISIS based on two youtube videos:

  17. Gergő Fekete October 21, 2017 at 7:50 pm #

    Great lesson plan on human migration:

    “This lesson plan explores some of the issues associated with cultural and environmental adjustments and looks at some of ways in which these have impacted on the lives of migrants in different cities and countries. This is a strong underlying theme of the OPENCities project

  18. Dragana Stegic October 22, 2017 at 8:16 pm #

    In case you haven’t seen it before, there is a video titled The Displaced, portraying the fate of three refugee children. By using the cursor, you can navigate left/right/up/down to get a feel of what it’s like being/living where they are.The video is truly heartbreaking.As we already discussed, being able to flee the conflicts is just the beginning of the struggle. Perhaps it’s worth discussing what it’s like when the country who took you in doesn’t really want you there or sees you as a threat for their people.
    For a better quality view it is recommended that you watch the video in the Google Cardboard viewer.
    I am also sharing the VR video titled Seeking Home about the struggles of migrants who were located at Calais. Though the site has been closed since October 2016, the video helps talk about what sacrifices people are willing to make to get across the border to a place they consider safe for life and work.

    The Displaced:
    Seeking Home:

  19. Dennis Newson October 23, 2017 at 7:34 am #

    I have been wanting to contribute something to this ISSUES MONTH for over three weeks. My problem, the reason for the delay, is mostly existential. The horrendous facts behind the word “borders” in particular in today’s world are so stunning that the well-meaning task of creating useful mere language learning tasks around them can seem pathetically inadequate. But despair has no place in the classroom. For the older learners of English the point can be made that their abilities in English empower them to have access to masses of information and discussion on the entire range of global problems. Training learners to speed read, to skim, to summarise, to present their findings as Powerpoint presentations suggest themselves as valid activities. I will post separately a list of links leading to sources of information.

    • Dennis Newson October 23, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

      As promised…..

      1. Reports on how refugees fleeing from war zones have been treated at various borders

      2. Thinking about the nature and purpose of borders

      Borders or frontiers are usually marked by geographical features, rivers, mountain ranges, deserts, large lakes and define and delineate groups of people who live together and who, over the centuries, have, within their borders, evolved different ways of communal living together. One of the strongest bonds within these borders is the speaking of the same dialect or language. Also, like all animals, and mankind is an animal, they have an instinct to defend their borders – an area where, typically. one country ends and another begins, or where the country ends and massive jungle, desert, or ocean begins.
      It is not surprising that borders can be places of conflict, or that they have to be guarded against possible intruders from outside. Tragically, borders have been news for the past few years as people flee from conflicts or repression at home and try to get into someone else’s country. They may be met with understanding, pity and a willingness to help, or they may be met with fear and hostility.
      Consider the following statement from:

      Reasons for Territorial Division

      Before examining the European case, it is important to briefly look at the question of why the world is divided territorially. Territory is a concept that is traditionally attributed to a specific area claimed by a particular entity (state, international/regional organisation, etc)1. Therefore, it is an area controlled by a person, group of persons or an institution2. This implies that there are specific boundaries to any given area; in fact, it is more qualified to say that every single inch of land on earth is set into territorial boundaries. It is these boundaries that allow for the designation of not only states, but also international/regional organisations, continents, military alliances, and other such entities. In essence, one can conclude that the territorial divisions demarcated by man are an evident reflection of mans detrimental impact on the earth.

      Visit the link below:

      Task 1 Divide into groups and
      a) Choose a country and its borders to study.
      b) Prepare a 5 – 10 minutes presentation to share what you learn with the whole group.

      Task 2
      The map below is very suggestive. See if you can find out how it is that some countries seem to have borders drawn with a ruler!

      [For reasons I don’t understand I cannot include the map Mapping Africa’s natural resources here. I will post it separately to the Facebook GISIG discussion list.]

      In groups,

      1. Identify a country that you wish to study. Prepare a 5-10 minute presentation on the country to deliver to the whole group.

      Places in the world where there are border disputes

      List of disputes – Wikipedia

      Task 3

      1. Identify a country that you wish to study.
      2. Prepare a 5-10 presentation on the country to deliver to the whole group.

      Additional links to information on current issues of concern involving borders









      • Bill Templer October 25, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

        Excellent links and suggestions

  20. Bill Templer October 23, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

    Perhaps the worst and most horrifying current large-scale refugee crisis, driven by Burmese Buddhist religious-racist xenophobia, is that of the Rohingya in NW Myanmar. Given its remoteness and architecture of extreme poverty and ethnic cleansing by the state, we in the West of course feel quite distant from all these abominations.

    And in the ‘society of the violent spectacle’ our consciousness is part of, we have grown ever more numb to the images and reports of barbarism by the Burmese military and incredible tales of suffering. Here a direct Sky News report, with grassroots direct footage: Well worth showing students and noting their responses.

    How students in Europe, India, Thailand, North America, Africa and elsewhere may respond to this is worth studying a bit in action research. Is all this too removed from their own world? Let them empathize with the photos, the many raped women reporting in the videos. In appearance and dress the Rohingya are a kind of ‘ultimate dark-skinned Other’ for many Westerners, the supreme ‘Oriental’. And few speak of these simple villagers fleeing their homeland speak English. Bangladesh, itself a classic 3rd-world impoverished ex-colonial country, is hard pressed to absorb these refugees. How the ‘border’ was drawn between Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) and Myanmar (formerly Burma of the British) is an intriguing question. The Rohingya and their horror is in imperial-historical terms part of the legacy of the living legacy of British Empire.

    This an excellent essay on the Rohingya and the background to this violence, and the nature of Buddhist extreme nationalism in states like Myanmar (and Sri Lanka). This raises the old question of religion and violence, in history and in our own times, jihadist, Buddhist, for centuries Christian violence, esp. against the Jewish minority ‘Other’ in particular. And today in our own ‘society of the digital spectacle’.

    On Guy Debord’s notion of the ‘society of the spectacle,’ a concept ever more applicable to our own digitally infused world, see his last book (1988) on this: I think Debord’s ideas, developed in France in the 1960s, are very relevant to here & now. Giroux agrees. I also recommend the US site , which is quite radical by many standards. here a video with Peta Lindsay:

    Our response to the Rohingya ‘disastrophe’ is largely fed by our inculcated traditions of what some call ‘Orientalism’. What is that? Many national borders in today’s world – some drawn by a ruler in a board room in Europe — are the geographical product of that ‘Orientalism’ in decades past. Teach students the nonce word ‘disastrophe’. They will understand.

  21. Bill Templer October 24, 2017 at 4:09 pm #

    One dark element in migrants crossing borders is the whole complex of human trafficking. This new documentary by Sky News EXPLOITED: BRITAIN’S HUMAN SLAVES deals with this relatively hidden problem among migrants to the UK, virtually controlled by criminal elements, in this case Polish migrants, an entire family This 22-minute video can be the basis of several lesson plans and discussion: Striking visuals. Much of this goes undetected by the police, such migrants live in virulent fear.

    Another huge segment of trafficking deals with girls pressed (often tricked) into submission as sex workers, involving especially younger women from Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania. Sex workers from the East―including many working-class and ethnic Roma women jobless looking for some means of survival―now make up a hefty percentage in the sex trade across Western Europe: in excess of 20,000 from Bulgaria, 30,000 from Romania, 45,000 from Ukraine as detailed in a report several years ago (‘20,000 Bulgarian Women Selling Love’. Trud, 27 March 2013 [in Bulg.]). This is a form of human slavery. The NO Project deals specifically with aspects of human trafficking across borders, raising youth awareness:

    • Bill Templer October 26, 2017 at 4:47 pm #

      International migrant smuggling network busted 26 Oct 2017

      European police and judicial co-operation agencies Europol and Eurojust reported on October 26, 2017 that they had supported a joint investigation team, consisting of investigators and judicial authorities from five EU countries – Belgium, Bulgaria, France, the Netherlands and the UK – in dismantling a migrant smuggling network operating across Europe. Participating authorities carried out 42 searches across Europe and arrested a reported 26 individuals (eight in Belgium, seven in Bulgaria and 11 in the UK). Those arrested are suspected of being part of the network that was facilitating illegal immigration from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, into the European Union.

      This is the reality of well-organized smuggling across borders that underpins part of the desperate flow of migrants into the EU. How do students see this? Often migrants have no choice, they are at the mercy of these smugglers, paying huge amounts to be smuggled across Europe.

      Here a report from Sky News:
      They call this a trafficking ring. What is the difference between people trafficking (see above post) and people smuggling? Perhaps Sky News is making no distinction. The article notes: “The gang allegedly used specially-adapted vans and trucks to travel across Europe and into Britain. The illegal trade is worth many millions of pounds to the traffickers, who charge between £7,000 and £10,000 for each illegal immigrant they smuggle into the UK.”

      Here a recent interview-based article with a Libyan ‘people smuggler’. Students can gain insight into what is involved:

  22. Bill Templer October 25, 2017 at 7:43 am #

    Prototypes for Mexico-US Great Border Wall Unveiled

    Extract: “Nine months after President Donald Trump took office, the first tangible signs of progress on one of the central promises of his campaign have appeared along the U.S. border with Mexico. A couple of miles from the bustling Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego, eight towering chunks of concrete and steel stand as high as 30 feet tall against the sky, offering possible models for what Trump has promised will one day be a solid wall extending the full length of the southern border, from California to Texas. …”

    Students can read the article to extract information on the eight prototypes. How long is the US-Mexico border in total? “Two of the eight prototypes have a see-through design.” Why is that? How high are the tallest prototypes? What is the estimated cost?

    What do students think about the ‘politics’ of building this wall — an extremely controversial initiative, opposed by many Americans and the Mexican government? No country in the world has such a huge border wall as the Trump administration envisions. Of course, defenders of the Wall will argue that no country in the world has so many illegal immigrants, the so-called ‘undocumented’ in the U.S. What is the situation with ‘illegal’ migrants and immigrants where you live and work? How do students see that?

    Students can read about the US-Mexico border on the Simple English Wikipedia: It is the most frequently crossed international border in the world. INTRODUCE STUDENTS TO THE SIMPLE ENGLISH WIKIPEDIA, a useful tool for building literacy.

    What do students know about the ancient Great Wall of China? Here something in Simpler English:

  23. Bill Templer October 25, 2017 at 10:10 pm #

    We live in a world of hegemonic or highly indifferent social relations, alienation from the nearby others — a world in advanced neoliberal capitalist social relations of ‘bowling alone’.

    But we need, we can agree, to move toward more vibrant forms of NEIGHBORHOOD SOLIDARITY and the possibility of a different world emerging at the fundamental, hyper-local grassroots micro-level. Is that possible?

    A major alternative is the TRANSITION TOWNS movement, born in the UK. Take a look at the Transition Network ( also the excellent video “What is Transition all about?” ( — and this talk by Rob Hopkins .

    As we move on from this think-together about Neighbours & Borders, think about what your relations with your own local neighbors are, and what might be able to change. How could you reach out, create a certain structure of enhanced togetherness, which can be dynamic and self-transforming. And what we can renew and deepen in our relations with the natural world (and its myriad animals) around us. They are also our ‘neighbors’, completely wild animals, and of course our household and garden pets.

    Introduce Transition Towns to your students and colleagues. Encourage students to think about their own neighbors and neighborhood, including the natural world there, animals wild, plants galore, and naturally their beloved pets. To write small essays or ‘dialogues with neighbors’, or keep a ‘journal of our neighborhood’ with thoughts & impressions, things that happen, what people do and say, places you love to sit in, play in or walk through. Students are experts about this world of their own neighborhood, and the schools they go to, their classmates, friends and maybe not-so friendlies. They are the ‘intimate insiders’ of this world and know a lot. This is a down-to-Earth epistemology of growing up in a real place and time.

  24. Dennis Newson October 27, 2017 at 7:15 am #

    An item broadcast today on the World Service of the BBC included an interview with the 100,000th. migrant to be rescued from the Mediterranean this year. He had fled from Ghana in West Africa and had to pass countless borders.

    A prize-winning Graphic Book (c.f “graphic novels” serious books with comic-like drawings) by Gaby von Borstel and Peter Eickmeyer: Liebe deinen Nächsten” (Love your neighbour) Splitter ISBN 978 3nb95839 415 5 (2017) an account of three weeks the authors spent aboard the MS Aquarius belonging to the Organisation SOS Mediterranean, has just been published [ In German]. This vessel whose sole aim is to rescue migrants in trouble on unseaworthy boats on the Mediterranean, is supported solely by private subscription. . Routine running costs alone are 11,000 Euros a day. More information:

  25. Bill Templer October 27, 2017 at 4:48 pm #


    27 Oct. 2017 is a historic day in Spain, marking the declaration of independence by the Catalonia Parliament and its total rejection by Madrid. It raises the question of whether smaller units can and should separate from large states, what is ‘national identity’ and much more. How do students and teachers in the former Yugoslavia see the separate small independent states that have arisen from its implosion and internecine wars?

    Andrej Grubacic, in his book DON’T MOURN, BALKANIZE! ESSAYS AFTER YUGOLSLAVIA (2010), in the context of his radical notion of ‘Balkanizing from below,’ decentralizing politics and society, creating new forms of local participatory multiethnic democracy,
    has some comment relating to my own views on ways forward. See p. 183: Start with the paragraph beginning “Moreover, could there be a Left-liberatarian solution ….”

    Andrej’s book has many intriguing essays, writing from a background of social anarchism, exploring the need for societies of ‘radical self-management’ at the grassroots, himself born and raised in Yugoslav Serbia. Moving inventively far beyond a politics of creating new ethno-national mini-states and constrictive borders. Read what Andrej outlines from the top of p. 267 (, inspired in part by Kropotkin, about a “new politics from below.” Maybe it could be envisioned likewise over time (and place) in Catalonia.

  26. Bill Templer October 28, 2017 at 10:39 pm #

    The month ends with Halloween, here a lesson plan with some nice ideas for kindness toward neighbors:

    Halloween is also in its semiotics about crossing a very strange and absolute border, between the living and the dead, ghosts are such migrants. Its Celtic origin, Samhain, was seen as a so-called liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be transversed. This meant the Aos Si, the ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies’, could more easily come into our world. On Samhain, see

    In the U.S. and today some other countries, costumed children interact more with their adult neighbors on Hallow Even(ing) than any other holiday, through the custom of ‘trick or treat.’ Which you could also discuss with students, some countries have similar customs at special junctures during the year. Here many relevant images possible to explore with students: This a brief article in simpler English on Halloween, combine it with the lesson plan above” ‘Big with Kids and Business’

    Nov. 1 in Germany and elsewhere is a very important Catholic holiday for remembering the souls of the departed, esp. within the family, Allerheiligen. On Nov. 1, Bulgarians celebrate the Day of National Enlighteners, remembering key persons prominent in Bulgarian culture, education and the Church. Few countries have such a holiday.

  27. Dennis Newson October 29, 2017 at 9:33 am #

    Fighting for independence is concerned with borders and neighbours, is it not? Yesterday I was..devastated to hear the recorded voice on either the World Service of the BBC or on Radio 4 a man loudly declaiming that he was prepared to die for his country, for his flag.

    I am not sure if it was someone from Spain or Catalan – in a way it hardly matters.

    My shock was to hear for myself that in 2017 there are still people who can feel and think that way. I found myself recalling Pete Seeger, the song writer’s words in his famous song: “Where have all the flowers gone” .

    ” When will they ever learn?.” When will they ever learn.

    Here are links to three versions of this moving song by (1) Pete Seeger himself, (2) Joan Baez, and (3) Marlene Dietrich.

    Pete Seeger:

    Joan Baez:

    Marlene Dietrich:

    And I’ll close this message with an equally moving anti- war poem that rarely fails to make an impact when people encounter it for the first time.

    Dulce et Decorum Est


    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

    Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
    Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori


  28. Gergő Fekete October 30, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

    Did you know that Jules is charing a panel discussion at the Paris TESOL Conference in November? Issues concerning Neighbours and Borders are bound to come up, so mark your calendar! 19th November, Paris.

    Here’s an intro to the discussion:

  29. Bill Templer October 31, 2017 at 7:56 am #

    Great idea, a panel discussion at a major conference. Will it be recorded on 19 Nov. or livestreamed?

    As evident from the media, current key issue is sexual harassment and abuse. We have an eLesson Inspiration dealing with that:

    I also comment in the eLesson in a recent addition on the ‘Harvey Weinstein brouhaha’. It has triggered in a remarkably unpredictable way a whole series of charges in unexpected places (including the British Parliament) about sexual harassment. See

    This is a ‘direct’ issue that affects students in many climes and cultures, as sexual bullying and much more. Well worth focusing on briefly as a current issue in the ‘news’ and a deeply-rooted problem in many societies. The times they are a-changin’.

  30. Bill Templer January 13, 2018 at 8:23 am #

    Regarding state borders, in Noam Chomsky’s book BECAUSE WE SAY SO (2015), there is a brief essay “Who Owns the Earth?” (pp. 115-19) that deals with borders of states, their politics and ‘artificiality’.
    This is an article based on a talk Noam gave in Beirut in 2013, and he mentions there his first unintended ‘visit’ to Lebanon, in July 1953 as a very young man hiking in Israeli Galilee. He and his wife actually crossed the unmarked Lebanon-Israel border, and were surprised to learn from friendly Lebanese border guards after continuing their hike: ‘best to go back: you’re in the wrong country’. :)
    The article envisions a time when such borders will be secondary: the “blurring of borders” in the context of new answers to the question: “who owns the earth?” He underlines the “hope for decent human survival in a world that has no borders. It is our common possession …” (p. 115).

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