I have spent some time over the last week or so reflecting upon the time I spent in our nation's capital for the TGC Global Symposium. The magnitude of this blessing is settling in as I recognize what a gift this program is to my life and my teaching. Meeting all of the members of the cohort, discovering more information about the travel plans for this summer, bonding with the group of distinguished educators I am honored enough to be placed with for our trip to India -- It is all a bit overwhelming and humbling.
The groups traveling to Morocco and Senegal are leaving this week, Columbia soon thereafter, and during the first week of April. I thank the Good Lord that I have until summer to plan and get ready for my trip. There are so many things I want to prepare to take with me, such as photo albums, school year books, small gifts and trinkets to hand out to children I meet, and nicer gifts to give my host teacher and his or her colleagues. I also want my students to have the time and opportunity to write postcards and include pictures of themselves that I can give out to the Indian students. I am hoping we can develop a lasting, long distance relationship online so all can better understand the multiple perspectives of people living in other countries. Until we can develop true, lasting relationships of common respect, our world cannot change for the better. We need to really KNOW each other, to understand our differences and similarities in order to appreciate the gifts and talents we all bring to this world. One cannot accomplish that kind of intimate acceptance across a conference table. It must be done over dinners in homes, in discussions about life and fears and dreams. Our children must see people through eyes of empathy and compassion, not competition and fear.
There is so much I want to accomplish with this opportunity, but I also realize that whatever comes will be pure gift, whether MY plans are achieved or not. I will be open to the possibilities and will approach all with wonder and a sense of discovery, the same way I hope my students will approach life. I have thought long and hard about my "Guiding Question," the focus for my research while I'm away. I am so very passionate about story, individual story and how our family history informs and directs our personal life story. I wonder how different peoples and cultures pass on their family histories now and how, if at all, that has changed with the innovations of the Internet. How will we, this populous of text-speakers, emailers and Instagrammers, assure that the true meaning behind and within us is forever preserved for posterity. I think I know the answer to this, but: Do we need to worry about or even care what future relatives and peoples know or think about us?
So, this concept of story is rattling around in my mind as a possible focus.
I'll share some other ideas next time. Until then, be open to the miracles around you; they are happening every moment of every day, if only we take the time and effort to look for them.
My students in Memphis are in the middle of a huge church building project, in which they discover the wonder and awe in our world by studying the architecture and art of churches. They study many locations all over the world, learning about the people, language, culture and, of course, FOOD from each country. Then they cook a traditional dish from their specific country for our International Feast. Here, simple and fun lessons involve the students' senses, tastebuds, measuring skills (math) and scientific combinations to make the food rise or fluff, cream or stiffen, brown or simmer. As well as helping them to develop global competency as they discover new places, gain understanding of different cultures, communicate their thoughts effectively by building a wiki project, and take action by building a scale model of a church for their location.
They collaborate in groups to determine a specific location for their church. Should it be on the sea? But what if the tide comes in too high in a storm and destroys it? Or maybe on level, higher ground with good drainage? Could it be in a forest where trees would have to be removed to make the church fit? Would the town’s people want so many trees to be destroyed? So many real world issues to consider. They must always consider the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in their plans.
Finally the building begins…after my safety speeches about the proper ways to use boxcutters and hot glue guns. Once completed, the churches are displayed for the whole school to see. They then create brochures to mail to the bishop or archbishop in their chosen location so show off their work and what they have learned. Waiting for responses from the bishops takes patience, but each year we are never disappointed, receiving from the bishops congratulations, prayer cards, books, brochures and even more information about the Catholic population in the countries.
These hands-on projects help build student confidence, instill a sense of wonder and develop global competencies that can be easily implemented in any classroom, any discipline. Students are given the chance to explore and be creative, all with a specific purpose in mind. They are also able to connect school-wide by showing off their work and world-wide with the bishops in distant lands.