"Sometimes all it takes is just reaching out"
From the Spring 2010 Caller
Aline Garcia-Rubio ’93 spent her junior year at Catlin Gabel as an exchange student from Mexico City. She holds a medical degree from the Facultad Mexicana de Medicina, Universidad La Salle. She has been at Catlin Gabel for three years and previously taught at an international school in Mexico City and at Punahou School in Hawaii, under former Catlin Gabel head Jim Scott.
Last year I applied for a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching. Much to my amazement, I was awarded a grant to study for a little over three months in Israel. On the application, I wrote a proposal for connecting students using graphic arts software to help overcome language barriers. How naïve I was. The first issue my mentor, Jay Hurvitz, pointed out was that I had hardly proposed a topic which could be researched. No problem, I countered. Being a mentor teacher in the United States, I was more than willing to look at how student teachers were being trained to teach with modern technological tools. In my mentoring, I had discovered that student teachers were proficient at using technology, but had little training in how to teach with technology. I told Jay I was also interested in how veteran teachers were acquiring the new skills necessary to teach with emerging technology.
I was not a researcher prior to this Fulbright Award. I teach children. I have done so successfully by most measures for nearly thirty years. Teaching is about building relationships. My students learn because of the relationship I have with them. In order to learn about the state of technology in Israeli education, I began developing a personal learning network (PLN.) I created a blog that, according to Google Analytics, has received more than 700 visits. Each visit lasted an average of 2:36. Clearly, people are reading what I have written.
Actually doing research was my problem. I was going to be in Israel for 102 days. I spent a week getting acclimated. 95 days left. Israeli universities have a semester break in February. Down to 80 days left. K-12 students have a spring (Passover) break. That left 70 days for me to complete my research. I learned a great deal while in Israel. Yet I am just now beginning to understand how little I know, and I will be teaching Catlin Gabel seventh graders in 14 days. As a wise Israeli fifth grade teacher reminds her students, “When you travel, you learn a lot about other cultures. But, you learn more about yourself.” What did I learn about the Israeli education system? What did I learn about myself?
I was eager to begin my research into the Israeli school system, but I don’t read, speak, or write Hebrew very well. I needed to talk to people who spoke English, read articles in English, etc. But Hebrew is an important part of Israeli culture. It is one of the ties that bind people. Speak Hebrew and one is seen as an Israeli or at least trying to be part of the culture. Speak English and people might be tolerant or even translate, but I was still an outsider. Fortunately, I met many people who talked to me in English, newspapers such as Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post have online English editions, and both Google and Microsoft have passable translators. Technology became my lifeline. It kept me afloat, yet did not quite allow me to swim. I could translate Hebrew into English, verify my understanding with Israeli colleagues, and e-mail people on my laptop. I had a cell phone for person-to-person conversations and interviews. I learned that Israeli educators deal with many of the same issues facing American educators. Finding similarities eased my language anxiety a bit and allowed me to focus more on some of the differences.
Education in Israel is a complex enterprise. I divided my study between higher education folks and K-12 schools. Beyond this basic divide, there also are secular schools, religious schools, ultra-religious schools, and Arab schools. Funding and political power are unequal. While much funding is federal, schools are administered by municipalities, which means wealthier neighborhoods have schools with more resources, parental involvement, etc. There are areas where the school is the only building in a village with electricity. I visited one Bedouin school, near Be’er Sheva, where a generator the size of a camping trailer was providing the school with electricity. Residents, by contrast, relied on solar power, if they had electricity at all.
Israeli schools are faced with a wide spectrum of issues. Often, technology isn't a high priority. I wanted to talk about technology and how teachers were being trained in its use and using it with kids. But I kept reading about violence in schools, poorly paid teachers, high teacher turnover, lack of qualified teachers, curricular differences between religious, ultra-religious, and secular schools, and schools refusing to teach certain students. Perhaps most importantly, education in Israel has to deal with security measures unlike any I have ever experienced as a teacher in America. Every school in Israel is not only fenced, it has an armed guard at the gate. The guard won’t actually admit anybody, but will allow visitors to contact the office. Even when I visited schools as part of a team of Israeli educators, we still had to be admitted by someone who worked at the school, not the guard. Schoolchildren on field trips are accompanied by at least two armed guards the entire time. While no one mentioned the effect of security on kids and most Israelis take security precautions in stride, it has to affect the kids and the adults. Learning about Israeli schools is, as the ogre, Shrek, says, “Like an onion. Peel it back one layer at a time.”
A good mentor tries to develop independence in his charge, and Jay was an excellent mentor. He accomplished four major tasks with me. Jay helped me become independent as a traveler. Israel has a terrific bus system, but it took a number of trips before I felt comfortable. I am now able to travel to any part of Israel to meet educators, visit schools and colleges, and return to Jerusalem safely. Jay introduced me to a few educators who are doing unbelievable work in the field of education technology. Sometimes he attended these meetings, other times I met with people on my own. I joined Israeli educator forums, which required more Google/Bing translation work, and I have been a contributor to these forums since my arrival. One of my suggestions is currently being tried out on Edureshet, a Ning group of technology-using educators. Jay also introduced me to a group of college instructors who were learning how to use technology in their courses. My skills as a technology director and technology-using teacher came in handy, as I was able to participate in class even though my Hebrew was not up to the level it needed to be to participate fully. More than once, after I made a comment, someone would remark, “Oh, so you understand Hebrew.” I didn’t and still don’t, but I understand what is on a screen and have been a presenter often enough to correctly guess what was going on. Lastly, under Jay’s guidance, I attended conferences at Mofet, a unique Israeli institution. Meeting colleagues of all stripes at these conferences was a highlight of my time in Israel, and I look forward to keeping in touch with many of the fine educators I met. While I know Jay did his best to broaden the circle of people with whom I met, and even though he knows, in one way or another, many educators active in the education technology field, my exposure to these people was inevitably influenced by his circle of friends and acquaintances.
More than anything else, I treasured the time I had to read, think, and write. I have followed a few blogs for a number of years, but my blogroll has now grown substantially. Speaking with Israeli colleagues and observing teachers in their classrooms piqued my interest in areas of technology to which I had not previously paid much attention, including ways to incorporate Facebook, Diigo, and other social networking sites, Google forms, and submitting assignments via Moodle. School visits caused me to reflect on my own teaching methods and curriculum. Reading what others wrote on the subject and commenting on posts connected me to educators not just in Israel, but the entire world. I’m not sure where I will find the time to continue all of the reading, but I suspect I will find ways to keep up, or I will join the legions of tech folks who have way too much to read. Thinking about my own teaching, how I approach learning, how I incorporate programs such as All Kinds of Minds, how I utilize the rich resources available to today’s students and teachers, and which skills I want kids to have when they leave my class are all areas I have been lucky enough to explore during my Israel Fulbright. I have shared some of these thoughts in my 33 blog posts.
Now that I am preparing to return to the US, what have I learned about the topics I wanted to explore? There are some Israeli schools engaged in global sharing projects. Perhaps Catlin Gabel will join the growing list of schools participating in global sharing when I return. Some of the software I wanted to share does not “accept” Hebrew input. I have an ongoing correspondence with three software companies encouraging them to tweak their programs to accept Hebrew characters. According to the Israelis, it should be no problem.
There is an ongoing program in Israel, the Athena Fund, whose stated goal is to address the current poor state of the education system, wherein a gap of digital understanding exists between teachers and students, teachers showing fear of computers and not using them for the purpose of teaching and communicating, and their general status in the eyes of their students is at its lowest. The Fund's main project is "a laptop for every teacher."
The Athena Fund aims to complete its work by 2012. From my limited observations, most Israeli schools have a long way to go. Israeli student teachers are not part of the Athena Fund program. This is unfortunate because, if they were, they might be ready to teach with technology when they began their own teaching careers. Instead, they become part of the program only after completion of their training. If I could make one recommendation it would be to give every teaching candidate a laptop at the beginning of their training. Teacher training is stuttering. Early adopting teachers are moving ahead, but many teachers are simply hoping, “this, too, shall pass." What few in the education community are talking about is that Israeli kids already bring cell phones to school and the phones are creating the same problems as cell phones in schools do in the US – distraction of peers through inappropriate use, ringing during school time, class distinctions between students who have “cool” phones and those who do not, etc. There are so many “turf battles” being waged in the education sector that it is difficult for all the folks involved to move in the same direction.
Cutting-edge teaching is always inspiring! I visited schools where creative teachers were involved in innovative programs. I observed students in middle schools where each family had purchased a laptop for their child to use, conduct research, create tables in a word processor and upload the document to Moodle, all in a 45-minute period. I met teachers whose students were creating audio files to go with their stories, which they then used as part of an English lesson. I brainstormed with teachers who were setting up a program to get parents more involved in their local school by having parents and children learn together about using computers. I learned more about the importance of social networking in education than I can possibly recount. This is, of course, a two-edged sword. Students enjoy social networking because they use the tools all the time, they are familiar with them, and they don’t seem like “real work.” But teachers need to help students understand the responsibilities involved in using social networking sites in classes. This includes focusing on school projects, not just updating status, checking on friends, etc. The issues surrounding “proper use” of social networking are not limited to Israeli or American schools/students. Increasingly, corporations are either filtering or intensively monitoring what employees are doing/viewing/ while connected to the corporate network.
Teaching is about making connections. I have done that during the past three months in Israel. Current technology will allow me to stay in touch with the educators and students I have met here. As a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher, I have learned new ways of looking at my teaching, improved my teaching, and I have been fortunate enough to have begun working with others to collectively improve education in both the United States and Israel. As Brian Jones stated after he and his partner had just completed the first around-the-world balloon flight, “I am an ordinary person to whom something extraordinary has happened.”
Viola Vaughn, founder and executive director of the nonprofit 10,000 Girls (http://10000girls.org) in Kaolack, Sénégal, West Africa, will speak at Catlin Gabel on Wednesday, April 7, at 12:45 p.m. in the Middle School Commons during her tour of the United States.
Vaughn is an American with an Ed.D. from Columbia University who received a CNN “Hero” award in 2008. She is a social entrepreneur who has built 10,000 Girls from an idea to a vibrant program currently serving 2,567 girls in 10 towns and villages in rural Sénégal. She periodically tours the U.S., speaking and participating in conferences to raise awareness of her organization's success in helping West African girls succeed as students and entrepreneurs. During her time in Portland Vaughn will also speak at Portland State University.
10,000 Girls has two primary programs: after-school education and skill-building, helping girls stay in school and complete their educations; and entrepreneurship, teaching a craft or trade and business basics to older girls who have already left school and need life skills to become self-reliant. The educational component provides tutoring and resources to help girls succeed in school. Older girls, who are no longer in school, learn sewing, baking, and other marketable skills, creating products such as dolls and table linens, which they sell locally and online. The girls also grow, harvest, and produce hibiscus, which they transform into tea and hope to export to the U.S. as Certified Organic. The girls in the entrepreneurial program have decided to donate nearly 50% of their earnings to the program, making 10,000 Girls entirely self-sustainable. In Sénégal – where 54% of the citizens live below poverty and 48% are unemployed – 10,000 Girls transforms the lives of participating girls and their families.
The dynamic Viola Vaughn, a long-time resident of Sénégal, dramatically describes the challenges and joys of running 10,000 Girls and speaks with passion about her organization's mission. She can relay fascinating stories, including how she convinced banks to open accounts for young girls, a first in Sénégal; why the girls chose to bake and sell cookies to raise money (like America's Girl Scouts); and the what poignant questions the girls pose at summer Democracy Camps in Sénégal.
In Portland, Violla Vaughn hopes to connect with individuals and organizations interested in the education of girls, as well as with businesses that might want to sell 10,000 Girls' products. She will also encourage individuals intending to volunteer for 10,000 Girls in Senegal.
From the Winter 2010 Caller
Passions: science, photography
Interests: diversity, dance, writing, languages
Rahee means traveler in Urdu and Hindi. It’s a piece of fate, from the time I was little, and it’s come true.”
Self-portrait: Rahee Nerurkar
From the Winter 2010 Caller
Passion: community service
Interests: basketball, health care
I’d like to be a physician’s assistant. You don’t have to go to medical school, and there are a lot of programs. I want to work in an inner-city hospital and clinic where there’s less access to health care and fewer doctors."
From the Winter 2010 Caller
Passions: soccer, science
Having something you like is good for you. It makes life easier and more enjoyable.”
From the Winter 2010 Caller
Passions: reading, writing
Interests: science, art, collecting, music, my cats
I like everything at Catlin Gabel. I like the Fir Grove, my teachers, and my friends.”
Invitation for young people in Kathmandu to meet with visitors from Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Oregon, USA
If you have anything to say about the arrival of corporate food culture in our city, take part in a discussion with youth from the country where it all began—United States. Exchange points of view and discuss the recent coming of KFC and Pizza Hut to Kathmandu with youth from Catlin Gabel, a high school in Portland, Oregon.
Portland is well known for being a progressive, environmentally conscious city where all things local, organic, and fairly traded thrive. While fast food outlets exist there, a growing number of people actively support locally owned restaurants and farmers, as well as the globally renowned Slow Food Movement.
The Slow Food Movement was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.”
Is fast food something American young people support? What role does fast food play in their lives? What kind of food choices do their families make? What kind of image do fast food companies portray through advertising? Is fast food especially popular among their friends? Is it popular with any particular segments of American society? Would they like to work at a fast food chain?
On March 6, prior to the discussion, we will screen the movie, Food, Inc., which examines how today’s “food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment.”
Since the recent establishment of KFC and Pizza Hut (both owned by Yum! Brands, “The World’s Largest Restaurant Company”), people in Kathmandu have quickly embraced them open arms, not addressing any of the major concerns voiced by people who have been eating fast food for decades. So let’s ask some questions.
Do Nepali consumers really know what they are getting? Why have people been lining up to eat at KFC and Pizza Hut? Is fast food cool? Is it a status symbol? What does it mean to Nepal’s culture now that it is here? For our environment? For our health? For our local farmers? Who is making the profits? Why should we care? What can we do?
Join us on Saturday, March 20, 9 a.m.–noon, at Today’s Youth Asia venue at Babermahal Revisited for a fun, informative conversation with youth from the United States. If you are 15-18 years old and interested in taking part, email us as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will screen the movie on Saturday, March 6, at Crehpa (time to be decided). Nepali participants are required to attend the screening prior to the program on March 20.
Questions posed to Nepalese student applicants:
Do you know where your foods come from?
What is your diet like? What do you wish it was like?
What do you think about KFC and Pizza Huts’ presence here?
What is your perception of America and from where have you gathered this perception?
Which TV channels do you prefer to watch and why?
Global trips have served as an extremely powerful experience for the lucky children and adults who get to go but have had limited value for the rest of the community. The students who traveled have an amazing memory that is difficult to explain to their peers. Their assembly presentations often feel disconnected, out of context in the daily life of the school. The students who stayed home have little understanding of what happened during the trip. Beginning and Lower school students are only vaguely aware of the experiences of their older peers. What if our entire school community could participate in each trip that goes out, even though they were not traveling themselves?
In recent years, Catlin Gabel’s global trips have become increasingly “academic,” with students seeking to better understand specific topics through travel. Students have studied history, culture, language, comparative religion, and natural history while abroad. The trips slated for 2010-11 make this trend more explicit and specific, exploring topics such as …
These topics provide experiential subject matter that directly relate to the current subject matter in many of our classes. What if we integrated the current year’s global trips into our courses? All students would participate in a shared, compelling learning experience. They would learn how the typical school content and skills relate to real-world issues in international locations. They would have first-hand contact with peers who travel to these destinations and either virtual first-hand or second-hand contact with individuals in those countries.
The traveling students would serve as school ambassadors for a collective learning effort, carry their questions to the destination country, and report back to the community what they discovered, either live or after the trip. They would experience their trip in the context of a schoolwide effort rather than in isolation.
We hereby invite you to integrate instruction on next year’s trips into your lessons, enriching your courses and our whole community through these travel experiences.
On Friday, February 5, 200 Catlin Gabel Lower School students plus staff, faculty, and parents participated in a readathon for Haiti relief. They all read books in the Lower School library, and up and down the halls, from 2:15 to 3 p.m., unified in a student-led community effort to show we are trying to make a difference. Students collected pledges for reading a certain number of minutes or a certain number of pages, and the resulting pledges were added to the funds that Catlin Gabel students and community members have already raised for Haiti relief. As of February 8, more than $11,000 had been donated to Mercy Corps from student-led efforts all over the school, and that figure will continue to grow.
Hola a todos!
Espero que les hayan disfrutado las fiestas de la navidad y el año nuevo. Les estoy mandando este correo con un poquitito de información sobre mi año sabático. Estaré parte del panel de ex-alumnos sobre la vida después de CG, hablando un poco sobre mis experiencias en Perú y los beneficios de un año sabático. Viví en Urubamba (en la provincia de Cusco) por 3 meses con una familia que sólo habla español. Para mi trabajo, hice cocinas con chimeneas y filtros para agua sana (los dos de cerámica) para comunidades pequeñas y pobres cerca de Urubamba, hablando con la gente para enseñarles sobre las cocinas y los filtros sólo en español (y con un poquito de Quecha, el idioma nativo de Perú).
Para el próximo parte de mi año sabático voy a viajar a Barcelona para vivir con Guillem y estudiar (sólo un poco cada semana...sí pues, es un año sabático, ¡no un año más de la escuela!). Estudiaré "Cine Español" y "Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo" a la Universidad de Barcelona, Estudios Hispánicos, y Francés al Instituto Francés de Barcelona. Mis dos cursos con la UB serán totalmente en español (¡y con ensayos también!) así que vamos a ver como hago...jajajaja.
Jenny Faber writes from Spain during her year abroad, November 30, 2009
"The Endless Search"
Back home finding the perfect parking spot poses a serious challenge for my dad, circling the rows of cars like a vulture and stalking pedestrians loaded down with shopping bags following them back to their car. But my dad’s quest for the parking doesn’t even compare with the lengths Juan, my host father, went to during las fiestas de Pilar. Even during frenzied Christmas shopping or a Costco run before the Superbowl, the most hectic parking times in Oregon, it normally doesn’t take more than half an hour to find a place to park. But after an hour of winding through the streets of Zaragoza, Juan didn’t show any signs of weakness, even when we passed the parking garage, with the bright green illuminated LIBRE sign.
La Ofrenda de las Flores, the most religious aspect of Pilar, started early Monday morning, and Pili and Jorge, my host mom and little brother were up with the sun to join the procession. Juan isn’t a native Aragonese and wouldn’t walk in la Ofrenda. Instead he and I planned to get to Calle Alfonso in time to see Pili and Jorge walk by in their native costumes on their way to Pilar. Normally it takes me about fifteen minutes to get to Pilar on the 29 bus, so it should have taken less time by car. It was such a weird feeling being back in a car, in the month I’d been in Spain, I’ve ridden in a car twice, instead taking “tu amigo el 29” as Juan calls it. I hadn’t expected such an adventure in the car, normally all my exciting transportation moments occur in the bus.
We started out at 11:15, Juan asking me, “¿Te molestas si fumo?” Sí me molesto mucho but I couldn’t just tell him that. It was a rhetorical question anyway. We drove by my bus stop, just as a 29 was pulling up, the people packed on like sardines, headed to Pilar. I scoffed at their misery, crammed into the bus, the Spanish abuelas staring down anyone without gray hair, trying to get their seat. We’d get to Calle Alfonso much more comfortably than them, and quicker too. We crossed the river and made a quick loop around Pilar, just to be thorough but it was evident we couldn’t get a parking spot that close. That was just wishful thinking. The streets were difficult to navigate, with cars lining both sides, and everyone hurrying in the direction of the Ofrenda. It was like a step back in time, with the women walking around in floor length dresses, with petticoats and shawls and the men wearing stockings and vests. The drive through town was surreal, it would have been much more apropos to ride in a horse drawn carriage.
By 11:40 we’d driven into a part of Zaragoza I’d never been to and Juan became a tour guide. That fit well with the picture I’d formed of Juan in my mind, when he emailed me in June, saying he’d be my “solucionador de cuestiones”, my solver of questions. In all the ideas I’d dreamed up of my year in Spain, I never thought of anything resembling our parking odyssey. KISS FM played on the radio, occasional American songs popped up and other times Spanish music courses through the car. Juan told me little tidbits about each song, even the American ones. As we passed certain buildings Juan explained what their used for and occasionally their style of architecture. Sometimes, I could understand him perfectly and was on top of the world, considering myself basically fluent. Other times, I couldn’t understand anything and realized how much I have to learn.
By the time we passed La Romadera, the soccer stadium, we were farther from Pilar than our house was. The casual manner in which we drove around made it seem like it wasn’t vital to find a parking spot and more important to enjoy the drive together. There was no swearing, nor rude gestures at the others searching for parking, instead camaraderie, drivers signaling if a parking lot was full. At that point, I’d been in Spain a little more than a month; I no longer felt like a stranger around my host family. I was beginning to feel like I lived in Spain, rather than just a tourist. But that still didn’t mean being alone with my Spanish dad didn’t terrify me. Try as I might, I just couldn’t communicate with him as well as I wanted to. He’d ask me a simple question, and I’d repetitively respond with a puzzled “¿Qué?” Or when I got sick of asking him to repeat it with simpler words, I’d just jump in and respond, more often than not answering him about something he hadn’t even asked me. I could handle a short car ride, but the clock kept going and I desperately longed to fill the awkward silence.
Juan was on cigarette two when we drove back by Pilar to start circling again. The fumes were bothersome, but smoking is an ever present culturally accepted pastime in Spain. The infamous Zaragoza wind, El Cierzo, picked up right as we drove past a construction site, and it was a mad race to see if Juan could roll up the windows of the car before the dust cyclone hit us. The windows rolled up just in time, and a new topic of conversation started, one of Juan’s favorites, about how I would freeze this year. It didn’t help that I wore a dress and tights, perfectly accentuating his point that I never dress warmly enough. But Juan’s nagging doesn’t bother me; it’s his way of protecting me, making sure I don’t become an American Popsicle. “Abrígate” has become Juan’s trademark phrase, replacing hello and good-bye. It’s not uncommon that I’m sent to put on more layers before I’m allowed leave the house.
At noon we’d been searching for more than 45 minutes, breaking all records from back home. A lesser man would have given into the temptation of the parking garage, only a moment’s walk from where we planned to meet Pili and Jorge. But Juan resisted the lure of the green glowing LIBRE sign, beaconing like a holy grail, and we drove off to scour elsewhere for a parking spot. The farther out we went the easier it was to see people’s desperation for parking. Cars parked on the sidewalk blocked all pedestrians and cars parked in the street blocked all drivers. Once we crossed back over the river and closer to home than Pilar, it would have been quicker to take the bus. After more than an hour of searching we pulled into a parking lot close to home that was overflowing with cars and buses. There were no rows to drive down to look for space, because cars were crammed into every space possible. It was utter madness, and the poor cars parked in the back were stuck until Pilar festivities finished, and the cars would give up their coveted spaces. Juan works in renewable resources, with los molinos, but he doesn’t drive a compact hybrid car. There was no way his SUV was going to be squeezed in anywhere. Though it worked perfectly we hopped the curb to park in a free spot of sidewalk. It didn’t matter to Juan that we parked closer to home than to Pilar, and still had to walk halfway there. We triumphed, and against all odds, found a parking space. Juan had evidently planned for our extensive search, because we made it to Pilar exactly the time Pili and Jorge walked by, dressed to the nines in their native costumes.
On December 25, teacher Paul Monheimer, his 8th grade daughter, Noa, and his wife, Pam, flew to Tel Aviv on a Fulbright research grant. Among many cross-cultural pursuits, Paul is researching the use of technology to connect students internationally. Also, he is looking at how teachers are introduced and trained in the use of technology to aid learning.
On November 3 Catlin Gabel welcomed a group of about 45 Japanese and American K-12 teachers, university professors, and dignitaries to our campus. They were interested in learning about our efforts toward becoming more sustainable. They had been meeting in Portland for several days and were interested in curriculum in various schools that focuses on sustainability. The tour began with a delicious, organic, locally grown lunch created by our own Hen Truong. At the stop at the Beginning School, Sue Henry described the thinking, learning, planning, and model-building that went into designing Little Eagle Creek, which harvests rain water from our roof. Kindergartners sang our guests a welcome song and another about the water cycle. Jordan Heintz, 5th grade teacher, presented a video about the class’s sustainability curriculum, and the Upper school environmental class did an impressive job of talking about what they are learning. Last, our guests visited the Middle School garden project, which grows food for our kitchen. Eric Shawn, our facilities director, who has been instrumental in the school’s progress toward a greener future, organized the successful half-day tour for our guests. Congratulations, Eric!
A note to let you know that we returned safe and sound from Chajul, Guatemala. This will give you a taste of the purposes of our research trip.
Our arrival was a bit late, and through a miscommunication, Nicolás had waited for us at the Catholic church in the plaza of Chajul until 9:30pm. Thinking we weren't arriving, he saddled his burro and began his decent to “Tierra Caliente” at 4:30am, walking the 4 hours over the 6,000ft. pass, back to his humble home in Pal. Nicolás just lost his third son after being kicked in the head by a horse. They live far from definitive medical care so he didn't survive the 20 hour journey on a makeshift stretcher. We felt awful arriving just 3 days after his death and for the miscommunication that lead to the purposeless 8 hour round trip for Nicolás. Despite it all, he and his family received us with open arms and welcomed us to sleep around Miguelitos' shrine. We brought a framed picture to add.
Translating from Ixil to Spanish to English, Dr. Andrew Zechnich and I saw around 14 patients in the tiny clinic in Pal alongside the very capable Pedro Alberto, community health facilitator, and saw much of what we expected; pulmonary issues, infections, stomach and head aches. One 9-year old boy showed all the telltale signs of an appendicitis and was urged to make the 10-hour trip to the hospital in Nebaj. We left all the medical supplies that we could carry down and were deeply impressed with how effective they are with such little resources.
We returned to Chajul on Sunday evening, waking early Monday to begin investigating the stove projects that reduce the wood needed and the smoke produced in the one-room homes of Chajul.
Christina Meyerhoff on behalf of OES and a collaboration that we are exploring, in hopes of bringing students from both schools here in the future, organized a friendship bracelet project between CG and CEMIK students. Not surprisingly, the students here have a knack for weaving and were ecstatic about sending their creations to our kids.
Generous medical supply companies donated as many sutures, gowns and lidocaine as we could stuff in our bags, and we presented these to the medical team at the Centro de Salud in Chajul. They especially appreciated the donated, non-invasive Pulse Oximeter worth $2000.
This experience has been profoundly transformative. Notions of wealth and connections to place are completely transformed while walking with contemporary decedents of Mayan Ixiles, visiting ceremonial sites and sharing meals.
Spencer, Andy, Christina and Joan
The United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board announced recently that Paul Monheimer, 7th grade history teacher at Catlin Gabel, has been awarded a Distinguished Fulbright Award in Teaching to conduct research in Israel.
Monheimer will spend the spring semester researching how to create meaningful virtual exchanges that use graphic software to overcome language barriers. He will work with Israeli teachers, teacher colleges, and students.
Monheimer is currently attending orientation for the program in Washington, DC. "In the past 24 hours, I have spent time with some amazing teachers from Singapore, South Africa, Israel, and Argentina," he reports. "How can we enable teachers and students to communicate regularly with one another across the globe? There is no substitute for actually travelling in a country, but today's technology ought to allow folks to come pretty close."
The new Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching will send 13 U.S. teachers abroad and bring 13 international teachers to the U.S. for a semester to pursue capstone projects, conduct research, take courses for professional development, and lead master classes or seminars for teachers and students. The program is open to teachers from Argentina, India, Israel, Finland, Singapore, South Africa, and the United States.
The Fulbright Program, America’s flagship international educational exchange program, is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has provided approximately 294,000 people – 111,000 Americans who have studied, taught or researched abroad and 183,000 students, scholars and teachers from other countries who have engaged in similar activities in the United States – with the opportunity to observe each others' political, economic, educational, and cultural institutions, to exchange ideas and to embark on joint ventures of importance to the general welfare of the world's inhabitants. The program operates in over 155 countries worldwide.