Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Just the Beginning: the final days of Fulbright orientation

Capitol butter. I think I need at least one blog post that starts with butter.
That last two days of orientation provided no time to post. I left D.C. Saturday later afternoon, and spent time writing on the plane. I am shocked at how much I can actually type on my iPhone Notes in a short amount of time. My sleeping patterns are already in a mess, and I think anxiety is starting to settle in a little deeper before I leave next Tuesday. There is much to do.

Friday, August 16, started with a 10-min walk/jog around the hotel area and ended in the park adjacent to  the White House for a little outdoor yoga. I met up with Jode (teacher from Colorado,) and we walked two blocks back to the Capital Hilton together.

9:00 a.m.: met in the New York room with Holly (Dr. Emert, Assistant Program Director) to learn about the details of the Fulbright grant. For the first time I felt a little anxiety due to the fact that my grant  has not been transferred into my account yet. I quickly learned this was because my British bank account has not been confirmed yet, and my funds will actually be administered by the US-UK Fulbright Commission once I get settled into the UK. All of this means my initial expenses for the first week hotel and deposits for a flat and other living set up fees will come directly from my pocket. September will be one rough financial month, paying both my American AND British bills from my own pocket.

Without a break we moved right into a 90-min session on Developing Global Competence with Honor Moorman from the Asia Society. If you are a teacher, you may want to view this work if you are interested in preparing your students to become globally competent citizens.

There was something safe and familiar about Honor's session, and it included presentation strategies I use quite often in my classroom--text rendering and writing prior to participating in dialogue (which I think always makes for richer conversation.) Now I know it was her background and work as Co-Director with the San Antonio Writing Project. How I WISH I had the opportunity to visit with her now. These 90-min made me think in new ways about my Capstone. Prior to this, I had big concerns that my work isn't important to the world, and once I was selected by the Fulbright Board, I began to think the most important thing about my research is that it fits "my" classroom. But I think this session was helpful in making me think globally, and after reviewing the global competencies, I am rethinking where it fits: how can this help tomorrow's adults solve climate change issues? How will participating in structured dialogue to improve writing skills move us towards medical breakthroughs for diseases like AIDS or Cancer? Why does working in small writing groups help students learn to communicate (write) for diverse audiences? How does practicing dialogue prepare students to ACT in new ways in future settings where conversation is important? I seemed to walk away from Honors session rethinking not my Capstone, but the underlying focus of why this work in communication is important. I look forward to thinking and writing about this more deeply over the next few months.
Revathy (Technology) and Manju (Principal), India

Watch this video if you have 7 minutes. It won't disappoint you. It's from the experience of a 16-year old middle class American girl who spent time in a developing country, so only watch it if you want your heartstrings to be tugged a little. We read her transcript and had discussions about whether or not this student was globally competent. I sat with a Inka, Manju, and Revathy. Sidenote: Inka is a fine arts and music teacher from Finland, Manju is the principal of Delhi Public School North (4500 students,) and Revathy has her PhD. in Mathematics and coordinates technology enhanced learning--we might have a thing or two to learn from the Indians in this field!) Together, we have 70 years of teaching experiencing, and our conversations were interesting. Our conclusions were that this student showed clear evidence of becoming globally aware, and was on her way to becoming globally competent. I wish I could tag teachers in blog posts. I would tag Kathy Scales and Lisa Deckard. These two teachers practice teaching their students to be global thinkers. I know after watching this and discussing Ms. Moorman's work, they will have new ideas to bring into their classrooms.

We moved right from Honors session to meeting two pretty important people in the world of Education. So important, in fact, we sat in a room waiting for them and were notified of their arrival before their actual arrival in the conference room. They both also came with very long titles and dark suits.  The kind of title that is written with commas and without prepositions:
With Deputy Assistant Secretaries, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Dept. of Education.
Meghann Curtis, Deputy Assistant Secretary,  Academic Programs,  Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U. S. Department of State
Clay Pell, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of International and Foreign Language Education, U.S. Department of Education. (tap that link...I thought it was interesting!)
We only had 45 minutes with them, and the time started with each talking about the value and importance of teachers. Meghann spoke first, and then Clay, without as much as an introduction, asked us "what do you see that needs to be changed?" Wwhaaat?!? I wasn't quite sure what I just heard, and I knew I wasn't prepared to jump into a conversation with the U.S. Department of Education. I do know that his leading with that felt really great. I think all of us were in a little shock, and after a few minutes, questions and concerns began to bubble up (how can we keep quiet?!) Clay listened to each of us, and I loved that he made no excuses, or even said "we know this is a problem" when my colleagues brought up issues. Instead, he nodded his head, asked clarifying and/or confirming questions, and wrote notes. Do you know how valuable it feels to be heard vs. being put into place of lesser power? Our words and our actions do this. Comments like "we know it's a problem" or "we are already working on it" or  words that generally defend the current system are demeaning and disrespectful to the person bringing up an issue. I have been practicing not doing this in my classroom, and instead, while students offer suggestions or give advice, I bite my tongue to not defend why I think my way is right or they are wrong. Instead, I want my students to feel this same type of value and respect that I felt with Clay Pool and Meghann Curtis. After their session, I snapped a photo with them and they asked me about my classroom and my research. " I am a teacher at Republic High School, and I teach 12th grade English." I shared my work, and they both asked further questions. I thanked them for realizing that many sacrifices have been made by teachers to participate, and in addition to being absent from family and students, the majority of us have earned this Fulbright only to be rewarded from our districts with no salary, insurance, or retirement benefits. Instead of rewarding accomplishments such as this, teachers are placed on leave of absence. In my case, I am officially jobless until I receive a contract when I return. I have taken out a loan and extended my retirement an extra year to be able to participate in Fulbright.

Sidenote: guess where Clay Pell spent seven summers of his life--age 7-14. Click here. 

Important note: lunch consisted of salads and two peanut butter/chocolate chip cookies.

With Karen C. Writer-in-residence at The Education Trust.
The next session was data driven, and here we learned about outlier schools across the US who have all the cards stacked against them, yet consistently outperform their state and national averages. It was chart after chart, but Karen Chenoweth's examples, knowledge, humor, and wit kept me motivated to understand the evidence she presented to us. We are beginning to feel the effects of inequality, and although we say we are the land of opportunity, and that each generation will be better than the last, we not providing enough good resources for those living in poverty, so this engine of inequality is accelerating. The U.S. ranks third highest in income inequality of the OECD nations. Karen studies the schools who breaks through the inequality barrier and notices these five commonalities:
  1. These schools do not focus on programs, but only on what students need to learn.
  2. These schools focus on the standards and not the selection of materials. They pride themselves in "not teaching to the test."
  3. These schools focus on providing time for teacher collaboration. The teacher is the single most important factor in student achievement.
  4. The schools assess frequently, not using grades or standardized tests, but using formative assessments in the classroom to see if students are learning and what they need to know. 
  5. These schools build relationships with kids. 
It didn't take long before a teacher finally broke and began to talk about the disgust of using standardized tests as the measurement tool. That's when the conversation got lively.

With no morning breaks and an afternoon of data,  Holly gave us 30 min to decompress before returning for our next Capstone session. I took advantage of the great weather and my abled body and walked for about 15 minutes.

At 3:45 we met with our country team and alumni to work on our Capstone Research and talk about educational (and cultural) issues. The UK team decided to meet in the hotel's Statler Lounge. There are all kinds of ways we need to start prepping for the UK, but we thought here we could get a little practice in. This was probably one of my favorite times once again. My UK team is smart and funny, and I'm fully believing the Fulbright selection and placement board knows exactly what they are doing. Steve and I will be a nice, combative (in the most loving way) match, and Becca will be our peacemaker. Stacey's always about two minutes behind and has coined this phrase that I heard her say over and over: "Wait, now. Wait. What did ya'll say?" I already love them all like family and want each of them to have the best experience possible. Mark, our alumni, is super helpful with information.

The closing dinner started at 6:30 with group photos. I showed up late since I ran up to my room and napped until 6:36!! Steve sent me a
At the closing dinner, Capital Hilton Hotel, Washington D.C. Becca (Leeds), Steve (Sheffield Hallam), me (Sheffield Hallam), and Stacey, (Institute of Education-London). Becca, Steve, and I leave within the next week.
kind text. Dinner was baked salmon and potatoes. No dessert. Thumbs down! After dinner and over coffee, Holly opened the floor for comments, reflections, or observations. It started rolling when Mikko from Finland began to tell the group how much he loved us. The daughter of an Indian teacher danced for us.  Then the Moroccan team handed out Dulce de leche, Stacey taught us all to sign "I love you," and gave away pens from the Arkansas School of the Deaf with the symbol on the top. Inka sang a song in Finnish, and several teachers stood to thank all of us for the inspiration, adoration, and collegial atmosphere. Nearly everyone thanked Fulbright (Tatiana, Holly and Becky) for bringing us here. Murshell, who's going to Singapore, inspired us all by performing Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken, and Katie led us in a community children's song that asks "what is your legacy? And what will your story be?" I closed (not intentional) the open floor session by reading my poem All Things Austrian. I was nervous (especially considering Steve has a degree in Creative Writing!), and could feel my voice quivering, but in the end I was glad I shared. I hardly ever have "moments" that I remember, but this one was so powerful for me when I was living in Vienna, Austria, roommates with refugees from the Yugoslavian war. Helena, Andrijana, Brano, Martina, Sonia, they and so many others taught me about my own culture and helped me grow in awareness of my action (and inaction) as their citizen neighbor. This poem is the raw original, but since I have drafted many copies and reformulated it into varying essays and public speeches:

I was 20 and I wanted to be Viennese.
I spoke the Viennese dialect.
I bought clothes from consignment along the Danube,
And at first district boutiques near St. Stephen's Cathedral.
I kept a bank account and withdrew money at the tellers.
I bought groceries at Hofer’s and Billa’s
and bargained for staples at Naschmarkt on Saturdays.
I ate schnitzel with lemon and lingonberry jam,
and helped travelers find hostels down bricked alleyways.
I studied Klimt.
I memorized every line on the Ubahn.
I waltzed in Stadtpark, and tied my scarf on the balcony to secure my seat for Madame Butterfly at the Staatsoper.

“So how?” I begged from Helena, “How does everyone know I’m an American?”
The patio at the flat on Lilienbrunnegasse became our sanctuary.
We sat below the potted tulip trees discussing our differences.
Her eyes searched the sky like she was thinking, but she knew the answer.
Her immigrant voice spoke broken English, mixed with German.
“It’s your walk, Casey.” She said it matter of factly.
“You walk like a free person.”
Holly (Dr. Emert, Assistant Director), got up to address the group in tears. She told me later "it was the last line that got me!" She could barely make it through a final speech as the room was high with energy and emotion. We are Fulbrighters, ready to increase mutual understanding between the U.S.
Tatiana (Director, Fulbright Teacher Exhange), Dr. Emert (Ass't Director), Betsy (Program Officer, U.S. Dept of State), and Becky (Sr. Program Associate). These women created this experience for us.
and other countries of the world, stepping into the role as teacher ambassador. In 2011, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said "It is through education and exchange that we become better collaborators, competitors and compassionate neighbors in this global society." Holly thanked each of us for being there, and reminded us "It wasn't me who brought you here, and it wasn't Becky, and it wasn't Fulbright. It was you. Your gifts as great educators put you here. So go, enjoy what Fulbright can offer you." Tears and hugs all around. We teachers can be a bunch of emotional people!


Britton said...

I love your poem, Casey. So glad you seized the moment and shared it.

Casey Daugherty said...

Thanks, Britton! I am happy I shared, too. Made for a richer experience for me.

Cindy said...

Loved reading about your experiences. Seems this will truly be a "Learning Journey" :-) Your poem was perfect for this group of amazing teachers.

Kory Mitchell & Caron Daugherty said...

Nature? God? Natural selection? They simply were bound to meet? Whatever forces conspired to allow us to be sisters, I am forever grateful. I am so proud and cannot wait to visit you in Sheffield in November!