On April 14th I had the opportunity to sit down with Hamlin’s Head of School, Wanda Holland Greene to talk about her recent visit to South Africa.
-Looking at your trip through the lens of a leader in American education, what were some of your key takeaways?
“The work of education is a complex, dynamic, fundamentally human enterprise, not just a service delivery. To what extent do we owe our children an understanding of the past, as we dive into the future? Where do we find balance between exposing historical injustice and shaping a hopeful tomorrow? The system of apartheid that existed in South Africa has similarities to our time of segregation in the United States. Finding that balance between exploring a darker past while focusing on a brighter future is a universal struggle, whether thinking about apartheid, or the Holocaust.”
-In what ways did you feel like a Global Citizen when you were traveling in South Africa?
“In South Africa I was knowledgeable about geography, sense of place, I knew where I was on a map. I had a long layover in Paris and was able to navigate the airport using my French to order food and translate signs. I studied French in school from 6th grade through college and it served me well. While visiting Kruger National Park, I spent many hours with people from Israel and Turkey who are now my friends. I was able to have respectful, authentic conversations with them, and felt cross-culturally competent in knowing something about where they came from. We were able to share common interests in authors and cuisine.”
-In what way do you most identify with the South African country and its people?
“Music, the easy three part harmony in South African vocals is a staple of the African-American church. I also identify with how South Africa is seeking to heal wounds of the past, that is a connective tissue for me. We (the United States) are working on the same things, we are trying to interrupt cycles of oppression, and be healers, rather than opening old wounds.”
-What lesson learned, would you like to share with the Hamlin community and beyond?
“When traveling you have to be ready to listen with your heart, ears, and eyes, taking it all in, learning and respecting the world you meet. One cannot travel with arrogance, one must travel with humility, aware of what you don’t know. Listen to your own spirit even if your views are challenged, while also learning from people who have their valid opinions and life experience. This deep listening is something that comes home with me. I’m very thankful to Hamlin’s Board of Directors for funding the professional development portion of my trip, listening with the heart, ears, and eyes is a gift for me to remember and share here at Hamlin.”
-What is your personal favorite cross-cultural communication tool?
“Empathy, I want to make sure that I understand where someone else is coming from, creating a connection between two people. Beyond empathy, singing, the reclaiming of space, mood, and time, singing a song together with others, sharing energy, where spirits join with one another. While I was in a car ride in South Africa, I spontaneously joined in a song with some South African women, we were communicating across cultures.”