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Eleanor Roosevelt quote

A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt at the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. It sums up the philosophy of global citizenship.

On Feb. 16-18, 2017 I had the privilege of attending the Teachers for Global Classrooms symposium in Washington D.C. It was held at the Fairmont Hotel in Georgetown, not far from Washington Circle. I’ve written about our first day and evening there and the opening reception in my last post, so this post will focus on the actual symposium sessions and getting to know my Indonesia Cohort of teachers.

The main part of our symposium occurred on Friday, Feb. 17 and the morning of Saturday, Feb. 18 as we learned of our responsibilities through the U.S. Department of State and found out more about the culture and expectations of our host countries. In some sessions, we were all together as teachers but separate from our administrators. Some sessions we were with the administrators, and some we were just with our own cohort in smaller side sessions. We were given a complete packet upon arrival with detailed schedules, paperwork, and biographies of all the teachers. We were given a nice notebook to write notes, but I used my standard notebook that I write everything in, knowing that it will be easier to find that way. The following paragraphs are based on my notes.

Me by TGC sign

David Black at the TGC Symposium, mugging for the camera . . .

Prior to my flight to D.C., I had familiarized myself with Indonesia in the best way I know how – by drawing a map of the country by hand in my notebook. I labeled the major features and cities, the volcanoes I’d heard of, and researched culture and cuisine trying to get a few words of Bahasan down. I found having a decent knowledge of Indonesian geography to be very helpful at the symposium.

My roommate – if I had one – hadn’t shown up by the time I got ready and went down to breakfast in the Grand Ballroom. It was served buffet style, and we were assigned specific tables with nameplates mixed across cohorts, with teachers and their administrator together. At our table was Betsy Devlin-Foltz of the State Department, and once we were done eating (it was all very excellent food), we were greeted by Jen Gibson of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the State Department. She introduced our keynote speaker, Mark Taplin – the Acting Assistant Secretary for Education.

Fairmont exterior

Exterior and entrance of the Fairmont Hotel in Georgetown.

Mr. Taplin spoke on how the Teachers for Global Classrooms program was an outgrowth of the ideals of Senator Bill Fulbright, who first created the legislation that became the Fullbright Scholarships. His goal was to promote mutual understanding through real experiences – no virtual experiences allowed, or “fake news.” We will truly be citizen diplomats and ambassadors for education in the countries we visit. This is meant to be a transformational experience for us and for our students so that they can become global citizens. He spoke of the craft of quality education and of his teacher, Mrs. Darling of Woodson High School in Fairfax, VA who inspired him as a student through her 30 plus years of managing the Model UN program, and how many ambassadors and Foreign Service people came through her program. He went on to say that Sen. Fullbright’s vision was more imperative than ever, and how we need more “outwarders” than “inwarders” with our recent turn toward isolationism and protectionist policies. He encouraged us to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into this experience, then share what we see and do in our communities and classrooms.

Washington Circle

Washington Circle, near the Fairmont Hotel.

I enjoyed his remarks more than I expected to; he had a great sense of humor considering his high level diplomatic rank and wasn’t afraid to speak differently than what we hear our own national leaders saying. It’s good to know that programs still exist (and will continue to exist) that try to counter the inward turn we’ve made as a country, because we need a global perspective now more than ever.

Panel Discussion

Grand Ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel, preparing for the alumni panel discussion.

Following Mr. Taplin we heard from a panel of five TGC program alumni, including Kirsten from South Carolina who went to Senegal, Camille from Florida who went to Columbia, Jasmine from Philadelphia who went to the Philippines, Tyler from New York City who went to Senegal, and Seth Brady from Illinois, who went to Indonesia in 2012. They spoke of how their experiences changed their classroom practices and how they were able to connect their students with the outside world. Seth helped to promote and get passed legislation in Illinois for a Global Competency certification for Illinois teachers. He spoke of talking to stakeholders and not being shy to say, “Here is what I want to do. What is your advice?” We should take our mandate as global educators seriously and push for real change and buy in at our schools and districts. They finished with questions and answers from the audience, which included what we should bring as gifts/cultural exchange items.

Spanish Embassy

The Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. Our hotel was located near Embassy Row.

Rebecca Bell of IREX, the group that administers TGC for the State Department, spoke on the six years of the TGC program and lessons they’ve learned. So far, this is the most organized program I’ve seen – they appear to have thought of every detail.

We then moved into separate smaller rooms on the basement level of the Fairmont to meet with our individual cohorts. This was the meeting I was looking forward to – getting down to the details of what to expect. Sara from IREX led the meeting. She will be traveling with us to Indonesia and has previously led a cohort to the Philippines. Ashley, who has lived in Indonesia for a year and helped to coordinate our stay there, also led the meeting. They officially introduced us to Sofia from Ambon Island, who has been here as an ILEP exchange teacher this year. She will become a future host for U.S. teachers in Indonesia.

Cohort session

Some of the teachers in my Indonesia cohort during our breakout session.

They spoke of the two exchange programs offered to foreign teachers to come to the United States. The first is called TEA (Teaching Excellence and Achievement program), where teachers from developing countries come to the United States for six weeks and take courses at one of over ten universities. This year, teachers are here from 61 different countries. The second program is called ILEP (the International Leaders in Education Program) and allows selected teachers to stay in the U.S. for a full semester (five months) at four host universities.

They went over some of the logistics of who does what – we will be assigned as partners to travel to a host (ILEP) teacher’s school for at least one week. IREX will manage all the details of travel and our first week in Jakarta, where we will meet with U.S. Consulate officials, Indonesian Education officials, take tours, and visit schools. Then we will travel to our host schools for about 9-10 days, then return to Jakarta for 2-3 days of debriefing before flying home. Our agenda will be packed, but we can request items and will work with out host teacher on the agenda for when we’ll be in their school. We will find out our host teacher’s name and school in April. This delay is because the first cohort will be leaving for Morocco in three weeks and we will be one of the three summer travel cohorts. But that means we get a full three weeks trip (that’s why I asked for a summer slot) whereas the others get two weeks.

Washington Monument with cherry

The Washington Monument with cherry blossoms just beginning to bloom; Feb. 17, 2017.

All our expenses will be paid through a stipend/grant for hotels, transportation, tours, and food while at the host teacher’s city, which we will need to arrange ourselves. All other details (flights, Jakarta hotel and food) will be arranged by IREX.

Our responsibility is to have fun, stick to the rules of our agreement, and be ambassadors of U.S. culture and education. This is an exchange program in every way – we will bring back Indonesian culture with us. We need to provide a guiding question, and develop our shared unit plan upon return, which is due by September 5. We will need to apply for visas on our own through their service using an online link to the Indonesian consular office.

Sofia provided a Powerpoint on her school, SMA Negeri 4 in Ambon. It has 923 students and they have one computer lab and five projectors for the whole school. She teaches for seven hours per day, six days a week (and Sunday School on Sundays). Students wear uniforms and must pay fees, which can be a difficulty for many families, but they are able to work off what they owe by cleaning classrooms, etc. She showed us photos of the Maluku Islands, where Ambon is the largest city. There are 1725 islands just in the Malukus alone, and up to 17,000 islands in Indonesia. 90% of Indonesians are Muslims, but the Maluku Islands were colonized for many years by the Dutch, so there are more Christians. I would love to go see the Malukus (if for no other reason than to say I’ve been where Columbus intended to go), but she will probably not become a host for another year or two since she is still here in the U.S. through May.

Capitol Bldg

The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. with remodeling completed.

We had lunch back in the lobby before the Grand Ballroom, with a choice of meats and salads – they are certainly keeping us well fed and hydrated.

For our next session, we talked about instructional design for teaching global competency. We were asked to bring examples of globalized lesson plans, and we proceeded to do a gallery stroll of our lessons. I shared my STEAM it Up class’ dyeing cloth inquiry lab, and how they research natural dyes used in world cultures. I was impressed with many of the ideas and hope to use them – using a database of newspapers from around the country to get an international perspective on current events, collaborating with students in other countries to collect and compare weather data of our local areas, figuring out the total supply chain of raw materials from around the world (and their true cost) for common products we use, and others. I was too busy looking through the lessons to take many notes, but I incorporated some of these ideas into the presentation I made at the UCET conference in March.

Pacific Theater

Part of the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

In our next session, we talked about how we will bridge the gap between our field experiences and our classrooms, schools, and communities through the stories we will tell. We discussed what constitutes a great story or powerful narrative. How will we rise above the “single story” narratives we often hear about a country and its people? That people in China eat “fish heads and rice,” for example (this is one I heard before my LDS mission to Taiwan – all my family thought I would starve to death. I didn’t. I came to love Chinese food. And I never actually ate a fish head). How do the people in Indonesia see us? The fat, lazy, over-privileged, Bermuda-shorted, only English speaking stereotype? How will we show a different story about what Americans are like?

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial. My iPad is hard to hold still for nighttime photos, so this is the best shot I have.

We also talked about redemptive versus contaminating stories, which I wrote about in detail three posts ago when I introduced this new chapter of my life. It was here that I thought of what will be my underlying guiding question (or at least one of them): In what ways are people in American and Indonesia alike? How do we all show our common humanity? This guiding question will be an ongoing theme as we write our blog posts and report on our experiences through the stories we’ll tell. There are many overarching, cross-cultural themes that we can explore,

Seth Brady was with us in our cohort meetings and gave us a presentation on his experiences in Indonesia in 2012. He went to a school on Bangka Island, which is between Sumatra and Borneo and has one of the largest tin deposits in the world. He shared some books we might want to read, and told us how he was treated as a celebrity – asked to sign autographs, sing at a wedding, speak at spontaneous neighborhood gatherings, take photos with people, etc. We will bring prestige to those we work with, and we will be asked to do some interesting things. He suggested that we just roll with it. It is a good thing that we will have individual rooms at night, as the press of people will become difficult without some time for personal space. The humidity and heat will exhaust us (this I know about from my experiences in Taiwan – but this is much closer to the Equator). He spoke of how to dress, health notes (bring mosquito repellent and get immunized for malaria). Yes, this will be an adventure. It’s going to be amazing, difficult, challenging, fun, and beyond any expectations!

FDR statue with dog

Bronze statue of Franklin Roosevelt. And his dog.

This was the last session of a long and interesting day. As a group, we decided to go out to eat for Indonesian food. The IREX people had prepared a list of possible restaurants that served food of our nationality (that’s what I mean by every detail being planned out), so we made reservations for a restaurant called BKK Cookshop at 1700 New Jersey in Northwest Washington D.C. After resting in my room for a while, I headed downstairs and met the others in the lobby of the hotel. We arranged for Uber cars to drive us, and it was fairly close to where I had supper with the group at the Einstein Fellowship interviews last year – we passed the same metro station. Not everyone could come, but we had about 12 people at the restaurant, which wound up being Thai food, not Indonesian. It was still good and we had fun.

Afterward, five of us decided to get another Uber car to take us down to the Mall to walk around. I don’t have a smart phone (I pick and choose which technologies to use, but eventually I’ll have to make the transition to mobile connectivity), so I more or less tagged along.

Fading light on Embassy Row

Buildings in Georgetown near the Fairmont Hotel; Feb. 16, 2017.

The weather was cool and windy yesterday as I had taken a walk around Washington Circle, too cold for my thin jacket. But tonight the weather was warmer and we had a nice walk from the Smithsonian Castle down to the Washington Monument, then to the Korean War Memorial. It was nice to see the Capitol Building all finished from its remodeling, and cherry blossoms were just beginning to open around the Washington Monument. We crossed the road to see the Martin Luther King memorial (which was new enough that I had not seen it before). We walked on around the tidal basin to see the Franklin Roosevelt memorial, which I had never visited either. I took as many photos as I could using my less than ideal iPad as a camera. I took multiples of each shot just to make sure that most of them would turn out well. We found a final Uber driver to take us back to the Fairmont at about 9:30. I called home while we waited – Becca was still awake. These were my first experiences with Uber, and it seemed to work out well.

TGC Symposium-Thurs night

A photo of the TGC symposium taken Thursday, Feb. 16. I’m wandering around in the background.

I was very tired by the time we got back and basically crashed. I never did have a roommate – perhaps he paid to have his own room. Fine with me – it means a room of my own without paying extra.

On Saturday, Feb. 18 the symposium continued. After another excellent breakfast, we heard more speakers together as an entire group in the Ballroom. I won’t go into much detail, as this post is long enough. After hearing from two speakers we went into the Kennedy Ballroom next door for a “dealers room” style open house, where various organizations that promote global education had booths that we could visit. These included National Geographic (I asked about the Grosvenor Fellowship again) and many programs I had heard of and some I had not. I picked up quite a bit of freebies and information packets to go through when I get home.

We had a lunch and a final meeting in the Grand Ballroom, with a group photo. It has been an amazing conference and I’ve learned a great deal, met my cohort of exceptional teachers that I am excited to work with in Indonesia, and were even given three books to read to help us prepare. Now I’ve got to do my homework and go through all my notes and get ready. Five months will go by quickly.

TGC whole group-Feb 2017

The entire group of teachers and administrators attending the TGC Symposium in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 16-18, 2017. I am at the far right in back.

I had booked a somewhat later flight so that I would not have to be rushed getting to the airport. I’d already packed up and left my bags at the hotel front desk. I called a taxi and had him drive me back to Reagan National Airport. I had plenty of time to check in, go through security, and wait for my flight. I arrived home in Salt Lake City near 11:00 and landed in a mild snowstorm. Oh well, back to the reality of winter weather. At least I have a day to rest up before returning to school.

Fairmont room

My room at the Fairmont Hotel.

The hardest thing about these expanding experiences is “pouring” myself back into my everyday life once I return. In the rush of normal events, the feelings I’ve had at these conferences soon evaporate. So I need to remember what I’ve learned, and that is why I write such long blog posts. It’s my way of remembering even if no one else ever reads them.

 

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial. I snapped this photo as I was being driven back to the airport on Feb. 18, 2017.

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mlk-monument

Martin Luther King, Jr. monument in Washington, D.C. He had a dream of a world without barriers or borders.

Over the next six months I’ll be writing a series of blog posts about a new adventure in my life. These posts won’t fit exactly into the parameters I originally set for this site, which were to tell the stories of the chemical elements. Yet I’ve reinvented this site more than once. It became a site about chemistry education, and I am now reporting on my efforts in STEAM education. I haven’t forgotten where I started, but I keep adding more subjects as my own career has expanded. Now I add one more subject area: global education.

My new adventure began in the spring of 2016 when I applied for a program created by the U. S. Department of State. It is a teacher exchange program called Teachers for Global Classrooms. Teachers from developing countries come to the United States to study English and learn our culture for up to six months, then return to their home countries to act as hosts for U. S. teachers. We travel there for 2-3 weeks to experience their culture and educational system.

indonesia-cohort

Part of the Indonesia cohort for the 2017 Teachers for Global Classrooms program. We will be traveling to Indonesia July 13-August 2, 2017.

76 teachers were selected, and I am pleased to say that I will be going to Indonesia for three weeks from mid-July to early August 2017. When I found out in December that Indonesia would be my destination, I was (and still am) very excited. It is part of the Ring of Fire, and has more active volcanoes (125 in all) than any other country. As an Earth Science teacher, this is a very cool opportunity. It has amazing biodiversity, and since it is on the equator, I will get to see the southern stars for the first time. As a student of world religions, I am excited to see how Indonesia’s diverse culture is able to blend Islam with Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity.

Now I’m not being a Pollyanna or Pie-in-the-Sky. I know the challenges. I lived for two years in southern Taiwan and know what it’s like to live in a tropical climate, speak a different language, and eat unaccustomed food. It won’t be easy, but that is the nature of adventure. Adventures are the parts of our lives that we tell stories about, the parts that define us.

tgc-sign

Sign for Teachers for Global Classrooms, a teacher exchange program of the U. S. Department of State. We met in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 16-18, 2017 to prepare for our international experiences.

We’ve been undergoing training in our online course in the fall and at our Symposium this past weekend in Washington, D.C. Part of our discussion has been on the types of stories we will tell about our experiences. We talked about the work of Dan P. McAdams concerning how we define ourselves by the stories we tell about ourselves. He divides these stories into two groups: Redemptive Tales and Contaminating Tales. Imagine that the same tragedy befalls two people. The first tells of the tragedy in terms of redemption – how the experience was difficult but ultimately transforming as the person overcame and transcended the experience. Such people are more likely to be generative, that is, they make positive contributions to society. The other person tells the story as a horrible experience that ruined their life and led to their downfall; the experience contaminated their life. Such people tend to be negative and draw from society instead of contributing to it. As McAdams put it in his introduction to his book The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By (Oxford University Press: 2007):

Among the most eloquent tellers of redemptive stories are those midlife adults who are especially committed to their careers, their families, and making a positive difference in the world. These highly “generative” men and women embrace the negative things that happen to them, for it is by transforming the bad into good that they are able to move forward in life and ultimately leave something positive behind. Unconsciously, they find inspiration and sustenance in the rich store of redemptive tales that American culture offers.

As I write the stories of my experiences in Indonesia, I can choose to be redemptive (focusing on the lessons I learn, the great things that happen, the funny tales, the commonality of humanity, the beauty of the islands, etc.) or I can focus on contaminating people’s perceptions by focusing on the negative: the humidity, the bugs, the population, the traffic (I will be in Jakarta for over a week altogether, and I hear the traffic there is unbelievable), how I miss my family, poor sanitation, lack of personal space, etc. I can choose to be generative or destructive, positive or negative. My choice is to accentuate the good that I find; to build bridges instead of building walls.

mlk-quote

Quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1967. Our Teachers for Global Classrooms experience will promote the type of world perspective he describes.

Just this weekend President Trump spoke at a rally where he again attacked globalization and trade agreements such as NAFTA. He reiterated the plan to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants. I’ve walked along the Rio Grande River in Laredo, Texas and seen the discarded wet clothes of those who swam across the river. They bring dry clothes in a plastic garbage bag, then change to the dry clothes and discard the wet on the north bank as they leave the river. I can understand how many people are frustrated because they’ve been left behind by foreign competition, because they’re unskilled laborers that can be easily replaced by automation or cheaper labor oversees. Many people are experiencing a kind of global whiplash.

But the solution isn’t to retreat into isolationism, nationalism, or “America First” jingoism. Every time we’ve tried this, we’ve regretted it. We didn’t want to get involved in World War I because it was “over there” and not our problem. Until it was, and millions died. We didn’t want to get involved in another war in 1939-41, until it rose up and bit us in Pearl Harbor, and then it cost us millions of additional lives. Now we talk of retreating from the UN, re-establishing trade tariffs, and putting limitations on immigration. This will be a bad day for us; historians will say this is where we failed as a country when our mandate was to move forward and embrace the future, not try to hide from it.

So here I am becoming part of a program that promotes global awareness and competence, that aims at peace through mutual understanding, and that strives for better education through teaching 21st Century Skills of collaboration, creativity, and communication. Never has there been a greater need. I realize that Pres. Trump is merely the figurehead at the top of a larger American problem; it is the people who are dispossessed, afraid, underemployed, and unprepared for the reality of the new global economy that have elected Trump and that are cheering him on. Scared people are easily manipulated, undereducated people are easily deceived, and people without information literacy tend to accept whatever they’re told without thinking critically about it. We’ve been thinking these skills are going to be crucial for the next generation. We were wrong. They are crucial NOW. We have already failed to properly educate yesterday’s children who are today’s adults and voters. Now we have a populist president elected out of fear, not hope.

eleanor-roosevelt

Statue of Eleanor Roosevelt, our first ambassador to the United Nations, at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. She promoted the type of global competence we still need today.

I realize that the last two paragraphs are negative and pessimistic in tone. But I want you to know the rationale for why I am doing this and what my theme will be for these blogs. I hope to promote global bridges of understanding to combat the “othering” and nationalism that seem to be sweeping the world. I choose to have a hopeful view of the future, where humanity will celebrate its commonalities instead of differences, where collaboration and cooperation will work to build relationships and capabilities instead of breaking them apart. Ultimately, I wish to see us become a multi-planet species, where borders are no longer important and barriers to progress are torn down. I want a world where we work together to solve mutual, global problems instead of pointing fingers and doing nothing (or denying they exist).

So these will be the stories I will tell as I embark on this adventure. Please join me! Help me build a few bridges.

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