Monday, February 20, 2012

TGC Brazil

Here's the group I'll be travelling to Brazil with plus the ILEP teacher who presented to us Saturday.  Don't we all look shiny?  I'm betting the photos from the road won't look quite as tidy....  I thought I'd post this one now to chronicle the beginning.  These are great folks, and I'm looking forward to heading out with them.  Thanks to Perry for the photo.  I was too lazy to get the Nikon out.  (And no, I don't know what was wrong with my hair, but it had that problem all weekend and in every photo...)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Eyes Full of Stars

So I've been thinking about the upcoming trip pretty much all night.  I've been looking for things on Pinterest about Brazil, and I found quite a few lovely photographs, but I'm wondering how much "fluff" and how much "substance" they can be said to represent.  They are breathtakingly lovely, trees full of blue butterflies, sweeping beaches, the obligatory waterfalls I can clearly remember my friend Paulo saying are all anybody outside Brazil knows about Brazil, and the giant statue of the Christ of the Andes.  There are others of brightly-colored houses like little candy boxes all in rows up the sides of a mountain or dotting the sides of rivers.  There are more sedate and grand shots, too, of older buildings, refined like someone's grandparents in their tasteful suits watching the children play in the yard.

Yet I wonder.  How much of any of this is "typical"?  Is this what I'm going to see, or is this just the tourista stuff that accumulates in the corners and edges of daily life?  I will be happy either way, mind you.  I'm just curious.

Here are some things I did learn to be true about Brazil from the CIA World Factbook, that great source of student papers from time immemorial:

The symbolism of the flag:

  • "the green represents the forests of the country and the yellow rhombus its mineral wealth; the blue circle and stars, which replaced the coat of arms of the original flag, depict the sky over Rio de Janeiro on the morning of 15 November 1889 - the day the Republic of Brazil was declared; the number of stars has changed with the creation of new states and has risen from an original 21 to the current 27 (one for each state and the Federal District)"
Independence Day:  September 7 (1822)

School Life Expectancy:  14 years

Size:  Just a little smaller than the US

Ethnic Mix Stats: white 53.7%, mulatto (mixed white and black) 38.5%, black 6.2%, other (includes Japanese, Arab, Amerindian) 0.9%, unspecified 0.7% (2000 census)

There was more, but that's enough for here and now.  Hmm....

About Time

I've been doing some tweaking here on the blog, and one of the things I did was to add a little countdown timer to my blog so I can keep track of just how long it is until we leave for Brazil.  You can see it over to the right.  If you'd like one, too, for whatever it is you happen to be anticipating, you can make one here and paste it into your blog following their instructions.  Easy-peasy.

TGC Symposium I

So much came out of the first Washington Symposium.  I finally got to meet some of the people I have been talking to on Facebook and in the online course.  I spent some time with the group I will be travelling with in June.  I got a tremendous amount of resources to bring global education into my classroom.  I found a program I want to apply for that might be the next step in my own personal global journey.  That's an awful lot to pack into three short days.

I've been at lost ends lately in my professional career, asking some serious questions about things, at one of those crossroads where things are difficult and the path ahead is hard to discern.  I feel now, though, that I can see a little farther down the road than I could when I got on the plane Thursday morning.  I have plans rather than vague notions.  I am looking forward to getting back to my classroom and getting some of these things in motion.  It's been a long time since I have felt that electricity, that excitement.  It's good to feel it driving me again.

No small part of the energy I got came from the exchange of ideas and passion for teaching with all the professionals I encountered at the Symposium.  I found that teachers from everywhere were facing many of the same issues as me.  It's a small thing, but it matters, that sense of connectedness.  It is so very easy for teachers to feel discouraged, separated, isolated, and alone with all the burdens and demands they face in modern education.  That sense of community is crucial to success, and in my experience, it is so frequently lacking.

Additionally, I got to meet two of the international teachers who are here on their ILEP internships/exchanges, one from Indonesia and one from Brazil.  Talking to one and listening to the other's presentation was uplifting, too.  Suddenly, it occurred to me that I am a part of something much larger than my own school, district, or even my often-criticized and beleaguered state.  I am a part of an international family of teachers, all of us with that same passion and dream for our students in our hearts, all of us fighting the same little battles every day.  It doesn't matter what our first language is; we speak the language of education in our souls.

I cannot wait until we get to meet our host teachers in Brazil and get to go to their schools.  I want to see what their day is like.  We heard such big differences in their system and ours.  I'd like to see how it works in practice.  I think there will be a lot to learn and discuss.

Overall, the first Symposium was a great next step to the program.  I can't wait for what comes next.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Joy of Google Maps

Love me some xkcd.

Yeah.  So.  Google Maps and I don't get along that well.  The blue dot and I frequently argue.  It likes to tease me, lead me astray, lead me down imaginary paths and leave me for dead in strange lands.  I have gotten lost rather famously trying to use it to get places in San Francisco, Rome, and other locales.  Recently, I got SO lost trying to use it in Tuscaloosa that a friend of mine had to come find me.  I just parked the car in a bank parking lot, told him Tuscaloosa wasn't that large and he knew it better than I did and to COME GET ME.  

It always starts out FINE.  I'm on the blue trail.  My dot is headed for the red dot.  I feel happy, getting that positive feedback technology gives us when we use it and it works.  Then something always goes awry.  The road dead-ends.  There is unexpected construction.  There are solar flares and Google's maps are all wonky (this was the explanation somebody offered me today).  

Privately, though, I think the little evil imps sit back and just wait for me to push that button, and then they high-five each other and say, "GAME ON."  They probably play rock-paper-scissors to decide whose turn it is to lead me on a merry dance this time.  Maybe it's like, I don't know, a company bonus?  

I did get back from the Smithsonian to the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel where we are having our TGC Global Symposium this evening, but I took a long, long, LONG walk through much of the Mall and other parts of DC to do it. Had it not been for a very nice gentleman in a guard booth who took pity on me and told me how to get around the block of the road that just ceased being there (really.  it wasn't me this time.  really.), I might be walking still.  Sigh.  Yeah.  Google Maps, you are not my friend.....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Little Joys of Travel

All day I have been in overdrive.  A million little details had to be attended to before I left school today since I will be out for the next two days.  There were assignments to prep; copies to make; classes to coax, cajole, and caution regarding their assignments and my expectations; loose items to secure or deliver; and instructions and materials to leave in conspicuous places.  After all that was done, I needed to go get my driver's license renewed; my recent birthday had rendered my old one invalid, something that would have made flying tomorrow difficult to say the least.  I checked my online reservation, found a snag, called and worked through it, and finally I have a moment now to sit.

It's been hectic, but tomorrow when I'm in DC, all the whirlwind will be only a memory.  There is always this big disturbance to routine before a journey, but nobody ever remembers it once the trip actually begins.  This is going to be such a good experience, both because of the chance to be in Washington with all its cultural richness and because it represents the next stage in a program that has already been incredibly rich already.

I'll rest here a few moments and then get up and finish the last of the pre-trip tasks, put things in the suitcases after taking cats out, make sure my music is on my iPhone, be sure my Kindle is all charged up for the inevitable layover in Atlanta, the purgatory of air travel.  Suddenly, all of the preparation will be done, and there I'll be.  I am looking forward to it, indeed.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

And So It Begins...

Starting another blog feels strange.  I have been keeping my private-public thoughts in another place for a long time, I guess maybe about seven years now.  This blog for my TGC journey will have a different feel, be yet another place to record what's happening during this extraordinary experience.

As is to be expected with any experience of mine, though, this one is starting out with me a bit behind, though.  I'm working to try to get the last of our latest installment of Capstone Project ready to send in for evaluation.  The Facebook group is lively tonight, and I suddenly don't feel as frustrated as I see that many of the others are in the same boat I'm in.

That's been one of the best parts of this project so far, the connectedness (not a word, but indulge me).  It's sort of incredible that this exists in any form, I think, too, because we are strewn all across the country.  I am the only teacher in Mississippi.  Others are probably similarly isolated.  Technology, that tool we spent so much time talking about in our online course, is the thing that is allowing us to collaborate and commiserate.  Every time I think about what it makes possible in my own professional life and what it can allow our students to do, I am just a little more humbled and enthusiastic, just a little more ready to get my hands on it and go.  Having just come out of a technology conference in Jackson last week, I guess I'm sort of double-dosing right now on the geekery.....

Only one more week until Washington.  I guess, though, if I'm to be ready for that, I need to stop writing here and actually get the Capstone things done.  Sigh.  Yeah.