Dijana Markovic Hajdarhodzic: Learning about ‘the other’ is what makes us richer every day.

SCELTELTForum.sk, eltforum.sk 2013, Interviews, Main, Teacher Training

An interview with eltforum.sk presenter: Dijana Markovic Hajdarhodzic

 An Interview by Martina Bednáriková

Can teachers, English teachers, really change their worlds? Is there something more that we might be called to do in our chosen profession?  Dijana Markovic Hajdarhodzic of the Tuzla English Teachers’ Association in Bosnia and Herzegovina believes its our responsibility to actively create a civil society, one in which tolerance and identity are encouraged. She and Azra Muhedinovic have a workshop on the topic this weekend at the ELTForum in Bratislava. Dijana shared more of her vision and passion with us in this interview. 

SCET: How did you get involved with the Tuzla English Teachers’ Association and what do you do for the association?

Dijana: I have been involved from the very beginning as one of the initiators of the association’s. As a teacher and a teacher educator I am deeply involved in any project that TETA does. As a board member and as one of the two vice-presidents, I dedicate a large amount of my time to make sure everything runs smoothly in the organization.

SCET: What are TETA’s main goals?

Dijana: Teaching in general and English language teaching in particular should serve the purpose of creating a better world for new generations to live in, which is a great challenge in BiH. These new generations, or more specifically, our students, need to be taught to cooperate and communicate successfully with diverse cultures living in today’s global village. It is well known that students learn the best by positive example and in a surrounding free of any prejudice, where they can openly and safely express their own opinions. Teachers are the ones, beside family, who need to set such an example and create such a surrounding for young people in BiH today.

TETA’s goal is to set an example which other areas in our country might wish to follow in order to gradually build a network of English language teaching professionals in Bosnia & Herzegovina, with a view towards building an English Language Teachers’ Association for all of BiH.

SCET: Tell us about the project you’re working on now.

Dijana: TETA’s most recent project is ‘Cross-Entity and Inter-Ethnic English Language Teachers’ Cooperation’ supported by a grant from the US Embassy in Sarajevo, BiH. The culmination of this project is The 1st TETA International Conference in Tuzla on 15-16 June, 2013. The project goals we hope to achieve are:

  1. Establishing cross-entity, cross-ethnic professional cooperation of English language   teachers in BiH;
  2. Raising awareness of the importance of tolerance among academics of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds in BiH;
  3. Bringing together the English language teaching and academic community of all Bosnia & Herzegovina in order to improve the country’s educational system;
  4. Raising awareness of the importance of professional associations as a vehicle for continuing professional development;
  5. The exchange of ideas and sharing experience and universal positive values which are to be transferred into English language classrooms all over the country;
  6. Setting the foundation for the establishment of an English Language Teachers’ Association of BiH through which teachers are going to continue their further cooperation to flourish professionally, nationally and internationally.

D&A1SCET: What direction would you like Bosnia-Herzegovina’s educational system to go?

Dijana: The classroom should represent a replica of the real world, thus teaching younger generations tolerance, appreciation and democracy. The future of any country is in those who possess the knowledge and skills of intercultural communication.

TETA is trying to provide a model of successful professional collaboration and cooperation for the improvement of education as a part of a civil society.

SCET: How do your cultural heritage, identity and the notion of living in Bosnia and Herzegovina influence your teaching?

Dijana: The issue of cultural identity, whether we want to admit it or not, is a sensitive topic no matter where we live. But, learning about ‘the other’ is what makes us richer every day.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is a multiethnic and multicultural country. There are three ethnic groups in our country: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. However, we are so similar and yet we manage to put our small differences first in our everyday lives. Instead of celebrating those bits that make our own identities different, we tend to use them as the tools to say that one ethnic group is more valuable than the others. Being under constant pressure of our families, communities and political leaders it can be quite challenging to help our students see the beauty of this cultural mosaic.

I love using the outside culture of the English speaking world in my classroom to have my students work and create their own identity without prejudice towards someone else, not just because I perceive the change that might occur, but because I personally grow as I learn from my students’ wisdom. Accepting the differences and cherishing them as a value helps all of us see beyond any boundaries.

D&A 2Dijana Markovic Hajdarhodzic has been teaching English for more than 10 years. She currently teaches at a comprehensive school. As she has been interested in teacher education, cooperation and the improvement of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s educational system, she is among the initiators of the foundation of the Tuzla English Teachers’ Association. This is the third workshop she and Azra Muhedinovic are doing as a team.

Dijana and Azra Muhedinovic’s workshop: We’ll be doing a workshop on developing cultural identity in EL classroom. During the workshop, we’ll:

  • briefly present Bosnia-Herzegovina, its current organization and the cultural identity issues that are the part of our everyday life.
  • make participants aware of their cultural identity, developing pride in their individual and shared cultural identity.
  • develop respect for other cultures.
  • provide ideas and materials to use in the classroom.