Last week I blogged about some of the cultural things I have learned thus far while living in London. Since returning I have spent time at University College London (UCL) preparing my enquiry project lessons which I will begin teaching on Monday at the Convent school for three weeks. (More on that when the time comes.) While here it began to dawn on me how special the opportunity is to have not only been selected for the Fulbright, but also to have been chosen to be where I am. This blog entry stems from the serendipitous moment I had sitting on a bench in the quad of the main UCL campus building where, for some reason, how incredible it is to be at this institution finally sunk into my brain.
On Friday of last week, myself and another Fulbrighter were invited to lunch with Professor Michael Arthur, President & Provost of UCL and a fellow Fulbright Scholar who was at Mt. Sinai in 2002. A wonderful individual, he made us feel incredibly welcome with his warm reception and genuine interest in our research and programs. Our meeting was in the Wilkins Building where I sat outside for about 30 minutes prior to and simply admired the beauty of its neoclassical façade. Begun in 1858 but finally finished over a century and half later to the original architect, William Wilkins’ design, it sits in the Central London area of Bloomsbury as a center of global learning. Widely regarded as one of the finest research institutions in the world, it is currently ranked 7th in the QS World University Rankings with only MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Cambridge, Caltech, and Oxford ahead of it. To be here, to be absolutely honest, is somewhat surreal. I am humbled by the thought of forever being connected to such an incredible institution of research and learning.
When not at the UCL main campus or Convent school I spend my time at the Institute of Education (IOE) building which is just a short walk away. An immense structure with concrete walls and darkened windows, it is a testament to the strength and simplicity of brutalist architecture in its finest form. Designed in the mid-1970s by Sir Denys Lasdun, it has been described as “A gorgeous hunk of a building!” and is listed Grade II* which means it is of special interest and all efforts to preserve it in its original form should be taken. For the third year in a row, the Institute has been ranked by the QS World University Rankings as the #1 education research institution in the world. That fact, coupled with the overall ranking of UCL, means that I am researching and learning at one of the finest centers of enquiry an educator can be at. Surreal may not be a strong enough word to describe the experience.
I am at UCL-IOE because I specifically wanted to study with Dr. Robin Whitburn, a History Education lecturer here, and his colleague Abdul Mohamud. They are the founders of a project called Justice to History and authors of the book Doing Justice to History: Transforming Black History in Secondary Schools. Essentially, they are advocates for a more inclusive British history curriculum which is the focus of my Fulbright program on the U.S. side.
I specifically applied to be at the IOE because of their work, something I deem to be essential on both sides of the Atlantic. Working with them weekly has been one of the most intellectually stimulating experiences of my life. Their passion for history education is incredible and their push for justice in this area commendable beyond words. Since day-one they have made me feel welcome and part of the team, and the success of my Fulbright experience thus far is largely due to their efforts in this regard. In simplest terms, between working with them and being at UCL-IOE I may be the most blessed history teacher in the world at this moment. And as I prepare this week to starting teaching my enquiry project on Monday, I felt it was time to express my complete appreciation for the opportunity I have been given this Spring.
To everyone who had a hand in my placement here, thank you!
Until next time, Cheers.