1. materials regarding the atrocities and oppression committed by

1. As a high school Social
Studies teacher and a promoter of teaching human rights, I have always been
fascinated by the history of communism in the 20th century, starting
with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and ending with the collapse of the
Soviet Union in 1991. Communists controlled one-fifth of the world’s population
and influenced the course of events on every continent. One former communist
country that truly captivates my curiosity is Albania. Under the ruthless
dictator Enver Hoxha, he declared Albania the first atheist country in the
world in 1967. A year later, Albania left the Warsaw Pact after a dispute with
the Soviet Union, making it the most isolated country in Europe and widely
perceived as a bastion of authoritarianism. The scars of communism have settled
on the face of Albania; however, I know very little about the horrors and
atrocities committed by Enver Hoxha’s regime and of no fault of their own, my
students know very little as well. My students’ history textbook is also quite
limited and fails to even provide an overview of Albanian history during the
Cold War. In my years of teaching history, I am often frustrated with the lack
of primary source materials regarding the atrocities and oppression committed
by Communist leaders of the lesser known Eastern European countries, such as
Albania.

 Despite these limitations, I still have an
intense desire to study Albania’s communist past and the events leading up to
its resistance movement in the early nineties.  Through cross generational conversations with
the local population and visiting a multitude of cultural institutions and
important historical landmarks throughout the country, I hope to have a better
picture of Albanian life under Hoxha’s wildly oppressive regime. This
opportunity will allow me to experience first-hand the causes and effects of
communism in Albania. Thus, I am eager to go on this intellectual quest to
augment my teaching repertoire and knowledge.

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 Most importantly, this fellowship will provide
me the necessary tools to improve my instructional practice and the learning
experiences for all students. Unfortunately, I am seeing more and more of my 10th
and 12th grade students having favorable views on communism.
Defining and explaining this political ideology proves to be very difficult for
my students when they are prompted.  In
addition, many students have not thoroughly considered the implications of
communist beliefs. This pervasive ignorance in my classroom is disturbing. Many
are largely ignorant of the crimes committed by communist regimes and how Karl
Marx’s ideology directly led to such atrocities. Despite the lack of contextual
and historical knowledge, I am committed to make history come alive by creating
student-centered activities rich with primary and secondary sources so that my
students can demonstrate their understanding of communism especially in the
case of Albania’s. I have the responsibility to warn my students about its
dangers and share the truth with them. I want to help my students, our
country’s future leaders, to study and understand a critical part of the
history of communism in Albania and thus draw valuable lessons for the future. By
sharing my fellowship with my students, this experience will be used as a
springboard to remind my students that when all seems unlivable, they have the
right to speak out against injustice, to question the status quo, and to take
risks even when hope seems lost.

Key goals for my students
and me:

To explore the historical,
institutional, and ideological legacy of Albanian communism.

To describe and explain the
principles of Marxism-Leninism.

To explain the factors
leading to the dissolution of communism in Albania and its aftermath

To confront the fact that
communism and oppression are not only a foundational part of our world’s
history, but a continuing influence on the present.

2.  I plan to explore the dark history of
communism first in Tirana, the capital city of Albania. Throughout this fellowship,
I will be writing my experiences and uploading pictures regularly on a blog. In
addition, I will use Twitter daily and my tweets will be useful for instructional
purposes, informing and filling the knowledge gaps of my students who are
unaware of the consequences of communism on the Albanian people and society. I
will also purchase communist memorabilia so that my students can investigate
the meaning of these artifacts up close in the classroom.

While in Tirana, I will be
studying the heritage from the communist years. I will stay in Tirana for 9-10
days. When dictator Enver Hoxha died in 1985, a pyramid shaped building was
built originally as a museum for the ruler. By visiting this site, I will have
a better grasp of the architectural, social, and aesthetic values connected to
the building. In the meantime, I will also stop by the Blloku neighborhood
where Enver Hoxha lived as well as other senior members of his communist
government. Here I will witness the opulent lifestyle of the communists while
the civilian population lived a substandard life and were in constant fear of
their lives. In the same neighborhood, there is also a Post Blloku Memorial
which honors former political prisoners of the regime. 

There are also several
historical and cultural museums in Tirana as well. I will visit Bunk Art 1 and
2 Museum which was once Enver Hoxha’s personal nuclear bunker and now has
transformed into a museum showcasing its painful communist history as a sensory
experience. The museum shows the lives of people during communism and there are
also exhibits about the Sigurimi, the secret police created by Enver Hoxha.

Furthermore, I will visit the Museum
of Secret Surveillance: “House of Leaves” in order to learn about the
oppression by the communist regime. The House of Leaves exhibits the
communist’s secret police spying program on ordinary citizens and its torture
house. In addition to witnessing the physical and mental brutality of the
secret police, I will also visit where propaganda was constructed by the
communist film industry at the Kinostudio “Shqiperia e Re– “New Albania” Film Studio.

National Gallery of the Arts is
another museum which I will visit to better understand how the communist regime
controlled media sources. This museum shows socialist realism art, both
paintings and sculptures. I have been in touch with a local Albanian tour guide
agency, named Albanian Trip. They will arrange for me to have an interview with
a real-life painter who worked under Enver Hoxha’s rule. I will video record
and transcribe our conversation for my classroom instruction. By having my
students watch the recording and read the transcript, my students will better
comprehend the pressure of a typical artist under communist rule since the promotion
of false messages was one of the means to suppress the civilian population.
This tour agency also has its own Villa With Star- which contains memorabilia
from the communist time period. Finally, I will visit the National History
Museum. It contains a communist terror pavilion which displays documents,
photographs, objects, and film objects. It also showcases the instances of
resistance and revolts among the civilian population during Enver Hoxha’s rule.

After visiting Tirana, I will travel
up north to a small town called Reps for the day. Here was the notorious labor
camp called the Spac Prison. Political prisoners were either tortured and
killed there. This labor camp will be an eye-opening experience for me because
I will to hear the stories and voices from those who resisted the totalitarian
regime. By sharing personal narratives with my students, they will further
grasp the risks that people took to make a transformative change for all people
in the Albanian society. After visiting the town of Reps, I will travel to the
northwest and explore Shkoder’s communist heritage history. In the city of
Shkoder, there are two museums highlighting Albanian’s authoritarian rule. They
are: Marubi National Museum of Photography and the Site of Witness and Memory
Museum. I will stay in Shkoder for three nights.

I will then travel to the southwest and stop
in Albania’s second largest city, Vlore. As a coastal city, Vlore was for its
military compounds during the authoritarian rule. Albania constructed around
700,000 bunkers throughout the country and Vlore is known to have the most bunkers.
It is also home to a submarine base. Visiting the bunkers and the infamous submarine
base will be on my agenda. Furthermore, I will take a boat tour to the military
island of Sazan with Teuta Boat Tours. On Sazan Island, I will be given a tour
of the island which is notoriously known for its chemical weapons facility and
secretive military operations which are unknown to me. It is covered in
trenches and tunnel. I am fascinated to witness Enver Hoxha’s paranoia
regarding the West conducting a nuclear attack against Albania. By visiting
Vlore and Sazan Island, I will be able to share with my students Albania’s
national security strategies and priorities during the Cold War. My plan is to
stay in the Vlore vicinity for approximately 4 nights.

Finally, my final stop in Albania will be the
birthplace town of Enver Hoxha, Gjirokaster. Gjirokaster is located southeast
from Vlore and it is on UNESCO World Heritage List. Enver Hoxha’s house has
been transformed into an Ethnographic Museum. By visiting Hoxha’s former
childhood home, I will be able to see his roots and upbringing during his childhood.
In addition to this, I will also be visiting the Arms Museum and the Cold War
Tunnel which was supposedly the place for residents to go in case of a nuclear
attack. By visiting these important heritage sites, I will gain and learn more
facts about Albania’s gloomy history and share this knowledge with my students.
I will stay in Gjirokaster for approximately three nights.

All in all, by visiting different
towns and cities in Albania, I will have a better understanding of the
large-scale impact of communism throughout the entire country. I am looking
forward to acquiring a plethora of primary sources so that I can better
instruct my students about the horrors and tragedies of communism, but at the
same time highlight the voices of the silent victims, especially those who
resisted the communist regime.

3. I am strongly
committed to the continuous improvement and enhancement of my teaching
repertoire and knowledge. This exciting Fund for Teachers Fellowship will help
me grow personally and professionally, in expected and unexpected ways. It will
motivate me to improve my teaching toolbox and allow me to build empathy,
develop positive identities and promote critical thinking about the injustices
and atrocities committed by the Albanian communists.  As a 21st century educator, I have a personal
and societal obligation to provide my students the necessary tools to augment
their reading, writing and speaking skills so that they are globally engaged,
prepared and competent. I firmly believe that this fellowship will offer me the
opportunity to go beyond the borders of the United States and across cultures,
and will equip me and my students as well to better comprehend the legacy of
communism in Albania.  The necessity for
social justice has always and will always be the cornerstone of my teaching. In
other words, the bread and butter of my teaching philosophy is the promotion of
human rights and peace education. As Nelson Mandela once famously said,
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the
world.” I try to live by this quote every day. By interacting with local
Albanians, listening to their stories and visiting heritage sites, this
fellowship will provide me multiple avenues to understand the untold story of
Albania’s historical and cultural past.

4. I believe that learning happens outside the
classroom. Conventional texts and classroom based education is too antiquated
in today’s world. Hands-on learning and project based learning are key elements
in my classroom environment. By researching and analyzing Albania’s communist
past and providing my students with artifacts and primary source documents, I
will be more readily prepared to offer my students rich opportunities to
investigate the world beyond their community, recognize perspectives of their
own and others’, communicate ideas with diverse audiences, and take proactive
action to address grave injustices and inequalities.

I feel this study to Albania is merely a starting
point and I am prepared to take on this daunting task. After I return to the
United States, I will begin to compile and create a new interdisciplinary unit
focusing Albanian communism, censorship, oppression, and resistance efforts
beginning with a study of Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto. Students will
explore the history of Marx’s work, and a literary study of the The Communist
Manifesto will lend itself to a deeper understanding of the effects of
communist state on culture, people, and politics.

My new unit is designed to develop student capacity to
“think beyond themselves” while also nurturing them as future ready
learners and advocates. My students will examine communism in Albania, by
taking on roles as United Nations inspectors.  Students will be given a pre-assessment by
completing an attitude inventory gauging their prior knowledge and perspectives
regarding communism and the country of Albania. This activity will preface and
set the stage for our work.

 There will be 4
case study topics, each with a variety of primary and secondary artifacts
related to different themes of Albania’s communist past: the government’s
political perspective, the use of the use of propaganda through art and
different media sources, its’ national security program, and the power of
testimonies from victims and human right advocates.   They will engage in case study/perspective
analysis, examining the characteristics and effects of Albanian communism. Students
will be assessed formatively by participating in a “TWEET OUT” pair
response activity.  A “TWEET OUT” is where
they will analyze various sources of information and responding to said sources
with authentic, meaningful tweets. These tweets can be in form of a question,
comment, reaction, A-HA moment, something confusing or something they knew
before. As a summative assessment, students will write a minimum of 3 pages
reporting to the United Nations, as a UN human rights inspector. The
overarching theme is to assess and evaluate communism through different lenses
in Albania. Students will be expected to respond thoughtfully, critically, and
possibly controversially, to the materials they witnessed, in an effort to
develop a larger conversation of the effects of communism in Albania.

5. Essential capacities and skills targeted in this
unit are primary and secondary source analysis, creative and critical writing,
and 21st century technology use and adaptation via social media responding. By
studying and assessing the effects of communism in Albania, my students will
develop the capacity to think beyond themselves while also nurturing them as
future ready learners and advocates. Reading passages from Karl Marx’s
Communist Manifesto, evaluating primary and secondary sources as an UN
inspector, and reacting to the materials via TWEETS are authentic, engaging and
learning experiences for my students. By participating in these activities,
students will better comprehend the oppression and injustices perpetuated by
communist dictator Enver Hoxha and thus better equip them to understand the
consequential effects of communism on basic human rights and freedoms. Learning
history can correct false narratives and lead students to make better choices.

 

6. I would like to share my Fellowship with a variety
of community stakeholders at a local and national level. First, I would like to
present my research fellowship study with the local school board. I will inform
my parents’ students about my presentation and invite them to it. Showcasing my
experience to the board and parents will be an eye-opening experience for them
since most people are unfamiliar with Albanian history. I hope this
presentation will lead to a conversation about the importance of studying the
horrors of communism, yet hope and challenging the status quo prevailed in
overthrowing the dictatorship. Furthermore, I will also share my experience
with the Social Studies, English and Art departments on a professional
development teacher day. My new unit and the accompanying materials will be
posted using OneNote so that all teachers have access to the content.  

I will also reach out to a non-governmental
organization called, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. I will
inquire about additional learning opportunities for my students, such as video
conference calls with victims and human rights advocates. Additional activities
will be created if the opportunity arises.

 In November
2018, there will be a National Council for the Social Studies conference, and
the free online Global Education Conference. I will submit a proposal to lead a
session on my experience in Albania, explaining the new unit and how it can be
used with secondary students. Finally, I will share my fellowship with journalist
whom I know from the local newspaper, hoping that an article will be written
about the importance of my fellowship and its impact on my students.

 

7.After researching several websites such as
Skyscanner, Google Flights, Kayak, my number one priority is to select the most
affordable travel options for my Fellowship. The cheapest flight to Tirana,
Albania is $1285 according to the Skyscanner website. I will be leaving the
beginning of August and plan to stay in Albania for approximately three weeks.
The long-term parking rate for my car at my local airport is $188 with
SmartPark, the cheapest company I found.  

While in Albania, I will be renting a car out of Tirana
Airport which costs $785 according to Skyscanner. The number of miles driven by
me starting from Tirana, then going to Reps, Shkoder, Vlore, Gjirokaster and
finally returning to Tirana is approximately 685 kilometers (425 miles) according
to Google Maps. Gas mileage (at .55cents per mile) will be $233. I have
considered taking public transportation, however it is not convenient, since
the bus routes to my destinations are not direct and the schedules are
inflexible.

In terms of lodging, I have researched the websites
Agoda, Skyscanner, Booking, and Trivago for information. After tabulating the
average cost of my 21 days in Albania, it comes out to $90 per evening for a
total cost of $1890. I will stay at hotels that offer free WiFi service. This
is very important because I need access to my Twitter account and my blog every
day. I do not need to purchase a camera or laptop, I already have these items.  According to Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet
website, the average cost per meal is $15 including water so that comes out to
$45 a day. For 21 days of meals, the cost comes out to $945.

I also researched the entrance fees of the cultural
and heritage museums/sites websites. I also contacted the boat tour agency in
Vlora (boat tour to Sazan military island) and the agency coordinating a guided
tour with a socialist realist painter in the Gallery of Arts. In total, the
entrance fees and tours are $185.

Finally, I would like to purchase educational
materials and realia at the different sites that I will visit. According to
Tripadvisor traveler reviews, materials exist in English. It is difficult to
estimate how much I will spend on educational materials for my students, since
I do not know the associated costs and what is available. I will spend no more
than $150 on classroom books, propaganda media sources, artifacts, and
pamphlets. Thus, this fellowship will cost $5476. I am willing to spend the
extra $476 out of pocket.

x

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