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Salt Lake skyline

The Salt Lake City skyline as seen from the airport, July 13, 2017.

Here I go on another adventure – I’m heading west, then south, on my way to Jakarta, Indonesia. I’ve been chosen for the Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) program sponsored by the U. S. State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. About 75 teachers out of 500 applicants were selected to travel to six countries: Indonesia, Senegal, Morocco, India, Columbia, and the Philippines. It is a teacher exchange program, in that teachers from developing countries are chosen to study English and education theory at colleges in the U.S. for up to one semester or five months, then return to their own schools to act as hosts for two American teachers.

I will be working with Muhammad Nazaruddin, who teaches English at SMA Negeri 1 Mandastana, or Mandastana Public High School # 1. This school is located in southern Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, near the city of Banjarmasin. I am also working with Craig Hendricks of Indianapolis who teaches six grade STEM classes. We’ll be observing classes, teaching of American culture and STEM related lessons, and conducting a professional development session on technology integration for teachers from throughout southern Borneo. While in Kalimantan, we’ll get to see batik making, visit an actual diamond mine (wohoo!), see an island sanctuary for proboscis monkeys, visit the famous floating markets, and get to know a part of the world I never dreamed I would ever see. Me? This guy from a Podunk town in western Utah get to visit the rain forest and wilds of Borneo? No way! Yet, here I go.

I’ve been preparing for this for over a year now, what with taking an online course, having medical exams, attending a symposium in Washington, D.C., packing and repacking, getting a passport renewal and visa, etc. Yesterday (Wednesday, July 12, 2017) I spent at the gym to work my legs out, as they tend to swell up when I travel. I took Jonathan and William to swimming lessons, got some brochures from the Utah Valley Visitors Bureau down at the convention center to give to students in Mandastana, bought last minute supplies, packed, cooked baked ziti for supper and egg/sausage muffins for breakfast, watched the Season 10 premiere of Smallville with Becca, sent the receipts for the STEM Action Center grant, charged up all my devices, got the Kindle up and running, gassed up the car, dropped off The Year of Living Dangerously  and an Indonesia travel video at the library, and prepared in every way I could think of. I am as ready for this as I can be.

I got to bed at 2:30 and had to get up this morning at 4:15 to make my flight. We got the boys up and into the car in their pajamas and left home at 5:30. Becca drove me to the airport as a pink to orange sunrise lightened over the Wasatch Mountains. She dropped me off at United Airlines at Terminal 1. I waited through the lines and got my bags checked and my boarding passes. Security was busy but fast, although they had to pat me down and look over my laptop thoroughly. Given the recent ban on laptops coming in to the Unites States, I’m relieved that I made it through so easily.

I arrived at Gate B9 with an hour to spare before boarding, so I worked on cleaning up photos of our recent trip to Four Corners for my presentation in Borneo, until I realized that I was late boarding the plane – but they hadn’t started to board yet. So I looked at the status board above the gate counter and it said the flight was delayed for “air traffic control” issues in San Francisco. It was supposed to depart at 8:15 but was delayed until 9:38. I had a three-hour layover so I was still good. I went back to cleaning up photos. Then I saw that the board now read that our departure would be at 10:05. I asked the gate agent if there would be a problem and she said I should still be fine, because the international terminal was “just around the corner” from our incoming gate, and I’ll have about 45 minutes to reach my flight to Narita, Japan, before it departs. She said they would look after me, but this is United Airlines and I’ve had problems with them before (I will eventually post about my trip to Omaha). I would have chosen a different airline, perhaps Singapore Air, to take me to Jakarta. But since this is a U. S. State Department program, we have to fly under the regulations of the Fly America Act and use an American carrier.

Boarding flight from SLC

Boarding our flight to San Francisco.

At about 9:00 it was announced that we had a window of opportunity to reach SFO through a lull in air control, so we quickly boarded the plane and got our seats for a 9:25 departure. I’m all for seizing an opportunity when we get it. We taxied out and took off, and I hoped to myself this would be the only glitch in my journey. If only. Little did I know that worse was yet to come.

I sat by Stan Jensen from Castledale. He’s traveling to the Bay Area to see his grandson in a baseball tournament. He knows Duane Merrill well – they even coached little league baseball together. This world keeps getting smaller. While boarding the plane, I spoke with two different families who were Chinese and was surprised that my Mandarin was understandable at all. One family was from the mainland and heading back to BeiJing. The other was from Taipei in Taiwan who now live and work in America. They are on a vacation to ShangHai. Things have changed in the 36 years since I lived in southern Taiwan, when there were no relations between the mainland and Taiwan and no one traveled between them. Now relations are almost normalized.

I took some time on the flight to start my notebook/journal from which I have taken these notes. As I thought of the title for this post, it occurred to me that I’ve been fortunate with the opportunities I’ve had as a science teacher. I’ve kept my ears open to hear about these programs, and I’ve been even more fortunate to be selected for quite a few of them. Other opportunities will come, if I can only open up the windows to find them.

When other teachers ask how I’ve managed to do all of these things, I’ve responded, “Because I applied for them.” That seams to be a flippant answer, but what I mean from it is that I’ve looked for opportunities consistently and opened the windows by applying and re-applying if necessary. I’ve made my own fortune, so to speak, and haven’t given up if something is important enough. It took applying four times, once per year, to finally get accepted as the Educator Facilitator for the NASA Explorer Schools program, and so many other opportunities have come because I refused to let that particular window close. Success breeds success, and participating in the TGC program will undoubtedly lead to further opportunities later on. So as I finish the first leg of a grand adventure, I know great things still lie ahead, in Indonesia and beyond, even if I don’t yet know what they will be.

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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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