1.) Were you able to Skype with your students while you were away?
I wasn’t able to Skype with my class as I had planned, due to the 12 hour time difference and because of our busy itinerary we had to follow each day. Our days were filled with Meet-n-greets, various presentations from faculty and staff, local tours, attendances at school performances, and participation in school activities such as sports competitions, charity fairs, and scavenger hunts. Every day was filled to the brim with exciting activities, it made it hard to find time to blog or even call home. We left early each morning and did not arrive home until late at night, with most of our meals prepared by the school chef and eaten while at our host school.
The best way that I kept in touch with my family and friends was through the use of my travel blog. This blog served as a travel journal, documenting the various activities we did each day and my thoughts at that very moment. I struggled a bit at the beginning of the trip (as this was my first Trans-Atlantic adventure) adjusting to the time change, language barriers, food, and cultural differences, but as time passed and I formed new friendships, all of those hindrances seemed unimportant as we relied more on the sincere human connections and use of our senses. This trip really forced me leave my comfort zone and rely on my senses and personal interactions with others to make it through the day. I can honestly say I have a new appreciation for all of the comforts of home and all that we as Americans take for granted.
2.) How did the experience impact you as a teacher?
This experience was truly a life-changing experience for me as a teacher. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to spend two weeks with amazing, like-minded teachers from around the United States who believe in the value of global education, spanning across all disciplines. The networking aspect that resulted from this trip is immeasurable. I plan to stay in contact with many of the US teachers and will see them again this October 2014 in Washington D.C. for our 2nd Global Symposium.
I also have made life-long friends from the opposite side of the world, in which I plan to stay in contact with, connecting the English as a Foreign Language classes, with my International Business students. We have already created pen-pals for the students through letter exchanges and via email, plan to post/share Youtube videos of the students asking questions and showing each other around their schools, and collaborate on various projects throughout the year.
I love that my students now will have an authentic experience with those from another country, allowing for them to think beyond the walls of our high school and their personal bubble of Stow, serving as a medium for understanding and empathy, offering the chance to recognize others’ perspectives, a chance to have personal conversations about human injustice, politics, or simply life as a teen in another county. I truly believe that global education is essential, not only for business, for the growing interconnectedness of our world in any future career. The problems we face today cannot be solved by one country alone, but from the human connections of countries working together as a whole. I hope that through my passion of global education and through the field experience, collaborative networks and activities, our students here at Stow will grow to foster an international perspective both in the classroom and in their personal lives.
3.) Were you able to incorporate your experience into your instruction with your students?
Our International Business students helped create the home presentation about life in Ohio, Stow, and at our school (including the array of classes, clubs, and sports that we offer) that I presented to the host school in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. Our students also created a video about Stow High School, which toured our school grounds and classrooms for the Russian students to view. The Russian students were amazed by our beautiful school and were in awe of the vast array of what our high school has to offer.
Going forward, we plan to keep in contact via email pen-pals, through the use of Youtube, and through various collaborative projects throughout the year. I would also like to implement a type of entrepreneurial activity where the students will choose a product to exchange, market, and sell at the foreign school offering an authentic, real-time lesson in global business.
4.) How did your students respond to your story of the life of Russian students you were able to share?
Both the students at Stow and Russia were interested in the same types of things: how much homework do the teachers’ give, what do they do for fun, what types of sports do they have, what types of classes do they take, what do they wear to school, etc.
Any additional information you could share would be great!
Some of my takeaways from the trip include:
1. Russians are amazing people who have similar values as us. They work hard each day to make a better life for their children and to leave the world a little bit better than when they started out. My experience in Siberia blew away all of my stereotypes of Russians. These people are generous, funny, warm, intelligent and driven. They smiled all of the time and welcomed us generously into their school. I've made some of the best friends and come to find that people and students are the same worldwide. I was on the opposite side of the world, the farthest I could get from home, but still felt like home could have been just next door. Sure, the place looked a LOT different than home, but when inside the walls of the school, it felt like home. The teachers from Krasnoyarsk felt like family.
2. School is like a giant family in Krasnoyarsk. The Russian teachers commit themselves to their career, working long days at school and staying long hours into the night to help with after school activities. These teachers ate together, collaborated together, and celebrated together. They have such positive, loving interactions with one another and also with their community. These people are extremely generous and the nicest I have ever met. They all enjoy their jobs and have spent much of their life over the course of the week to make it a better experience for us. I will never forget them and will truly be grateful for taking a week out of their life to make us feel welcome.
3. Respect, Motivation, and Local Pride: The Russian students that I met are extremely driven and motivated. They work hard not because they are told to and not for rewards or prize…instead it seemed intrinsic, they work hard to better themselves and to be the best. I also noticed an extreme respect for adults. As we entered the room, the Russian students would immediately stand at attention by their desk and wait to be seated until instructed. They value their teachers, administrators, and elders. It was refreshing to see this utmost respect. Russians have an extreme sense of local pride and appreciation of Russian history. There was a true integration of culture and history into each and every class. From math and science to language, all was tied into Russia’s rich history. This was also present through the many references to the past Olympics held in Sochi as well as the ample student performances we watched where the students dressed in authentic, traditional Russian costumes. We also took several local tours around Krasnoyarsk and visited many of their historical museums. Each explained why Krasnoyarsk is vital to the history of Russia.
All in All...
I left Siberia with mixed emotions. While I was mentally and physically exhausted from the extreme itinerary and lack of sleep and missed my family and students back home, I was sad to leave the amazing teachers and students from Lyceum #2 School in Krasnoyarsk. Never in a million years would I have imagined forging such strong friendships with people from Siberia, half way around the world. I am truly grateful and honored to have this wonderful experience and will make it my goal to share all that I have experienced with my students and friends at Stow.
I hope my passion for global education lights a spark in the students that I teach, instilling a sense of global citizenship and increased awareness of what individual and collective actions can make on global issues, all while offering an authentic, engaging, real-world look within our international business curriculum.
A link to another news story about my trip to Russia from my local newspaper: www.stowsentry.com