I taught in the seemingly similar, yet immensely different, English culture for the duration of a full school year. It was definitely an experience.
And, it rocked my world.
Better yet, it exposed me to a radical idea – some things are just different. Actually, what occurred was a shift in what I believed to be essential for a child developing the ability to function as a citizen of humanity. My perceptions were no longer complete. There were suddenly more pieces to the puzzle. And, the puzzle just grew…exponentially.
We don’t have all the answers? We don’t even have the best answers?
However, my short experience was based on having taught a single class within a single school in a single city among those of another culture on an island barely larger than the size of Washington state (only with seven times the population density). Would I denounce my own culture's education system for that of another's based on that very narrowed life experience? Most definitely not. I buy into the American culture of thinking rather than isolated knowledge; problem solving at the core of innovation; creativity driven by collaboration and effective communication. I am a little frustrated, though.
The great discovery for me after having recently returned home from having the privilege and honor of participating in a Fulbright Teacher Exchange is that dealing with a persistent bombardment of angst and confusion can be incredibly valuable. Change is a difficult process – and let’s face it, I’m a processor - yet, it is inevitable. So what to do with all that angst and confusion? How about create a place where I get other people to contribute their diverse ideas and perspectives:
Beginning Monday, April 30th a thought provoking resource called the Conversation Project will publish its first writing piece on the website aneducationprojects.org. It is organized as a way to establish a platform for inspiring civil discourse on the complex issue of education in America by examining our own culture and individual experiences. The main goal of the Conversation Project is to seek out a variety of writers from the local communities to contribute their thoughts, stories, perspectives and ideas. We hope to achieve a repertoire of diverse ideas in a place where civility and open mindedness is the standard, yet pushing the status quo is possible, even expected. Business owners or teachers, community members or school administrators along with those in specialized fields, such as dentistry or carpentry, are all encouraged to participate.
I’m nothing more than a small piece trying to understand the whole, which is why I want you to make me think. I want to learn from you. I want to be inspired.
As I said earlier, I am beginning a journey by attempting to turn my angst and confusion into something positive. Listening to what other people in the community and beyond have to say about education, both formal and personal, is only the first step. Over time, the real hope and passion is aimed at building a network of supportive community members that will raise money in order to give back to our local communities for the purpose of promoting new experiences, personal change and community cohesiveness.
Since my hope is to better understand the sea that is our education system, I have a goal to bring the communities of Enumclaw, Maple Valley and the surrounding areas into the conversation. This process is meant to inspire people, get to them to think and, even more importantly, learn from each other.
I was exposed to a radical idea when I lived abroad. It was simple. Some ways are not better just different. The reality is that I do not consciously recognize my cultural values and norms because I live them daily. I only understand little of the world in which I call home. However, having lived abroad gifted me privilege to care about my home, culture and values. I am proud of where I come from and where I live.
And now, for the next adventure, which I invite you join me on.
aneducationprojects.org: To bring together the diverse perspectives of our communities and beyond in order to inspire a thought-provoking examination of education.