Sunday, January 29, 2012

Math Tutoring...$50 for half hour.

Today I was asked to roam a road that I have not roamed in about 12 years, thus making it a rather remote road indeed.  I agreed to roam this remote road so as to help out some friends.  Before roaming, I did inform the friends that my navigation guides and GPS might be too out dated to successfully roam the road.

During my year and a half of substitute teaching while seeking out a permanent teaching position I was strongly encouraged by an assistant principal to gain endorsements on my teaching certificate that would make it easier to find a position.  All too often Social Studies teaching gigs are coupled with coaching responsibilities.  So I took the certification exams and additional college course work so as to add Intermediate Mathematics to my certificate; I can now officially teach math up through Algebra II.  This assistant principal was on to something because my first full-year contract was at her school and I was teaching Algebra I and Geometry.

While struggling to teach subjects in which I was not formally trained, I did make it clear that I wanted to switch to Social Studies at the earliest opportunity and I was accommodated for the next school year.  Occasionally students would find out I "could" teach math and would ask about tutoring.  My typically answer was "yes, for $50 a per half hour".  Needless to say, no one ever took me up on that offer...until now.

Some church friends who knew about my "math teaching" background asked if I would be interested in tutoring their freshman daughter.  They were at a loss as they had each tried to provide the enrichment she needed (sometimes parents don't make the best teachers/ can ask my mom about my attempts at piano lessons).  We chit-chatted about it and I thought that would be it.  Then I get a text today asking if I would seriously do it...and, if possible...TODAY.  They're good friends so I said yes.  I spent just under 2 hours helping her with her Geometry homework and she was understanding.  She actually said I was better than her teacher.  We'll see about that tomorrow when (if) she's able to actually function in class, LOL.

I didn't actually charge the "$50 per half hour", but I am getting dinner out of it tomorrow!  So I guess this road roaming experience wasn't so bad after all!  The lesson I learned is that sometimes we get so stuck in our own comfort zones and fear that some of our "talents" might not actually be beneficial to others.  I might not be the greatest math teacher, I might not even enjoy teaching math, but is something in which I excelled academically and I should not be afraid to use that talent when times "demand" it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Indonesia & Current Curriculum

The upcoming trip to Indonesia must be on my mind.

Two days ago, my AP Human Geography class was taking a test on our Political Geography unit.  As I was reviewing the test before having photocopies made, one of the questions jumped out at me since it was about Indonesia.  I have then started exploring for other questions in my test banks which already address Indonesia within my current curriculum.  Some of these questions are specifically about Indonesia while others use Indonesia as an answer choice.

Here's some of those test questions:

Which of the following countries is in the top five in terms of total population in the world?
  1. Iran
  2. Pakistan
  3. Indonesia
  4. Vietnam
  5. Russia
A country in which the majority of the population are Shiite Muslims is
  1. Iran.
  2. Morocco.
  3. Saudi Arabia.
  4. Egypt.
  5. Indonesia.
Which of the following is a good example of an exclave?
  1. Hawaii in relation to the United States
  2. Sumatra Island in relation to Indonesia
  3. Alaska in relation to the United States
  4. Taiwan in relation to China
  5. Shikoku in relation to Japan
Indonesia is an example of which of the following types of states?
  1. prorupted
  2. perforated
  3. compact
  4. fragmented
  5. bifurcated
Violent confrontations in Ambon, Aceh, and East Timor illustrate the problem of holding together the physically and culturally diverse country of
  1. India.
  2. Indonesia.
  3. Brazil.
  4. South Africa.
  5. Yugoslavia.
Which of the following countries is an enclave?
  1. United States
  2. Indonesia
  3. Lesotho
  4. Egypt
  5. Morocco
Indonesia is an example of a(n)
  1. elongated state.
  2. microstate.
  3. compact state.
  4. fragmented state.
  5. prorupted state.
In which of the following regions would the sawah pictured above most likely NOT  exist?
  1. Indonesia
  2. Northern India
  3. Southwestern China
  4. Malaysia
  5. Vietnam
The "Four Tigers" of East and Southeast Asia include
  1. China, Indonesia, Japan, and Taiwan.
  2. Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan.
  3. Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Vietnam.
  4. Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  5. China, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Which country has been a high-volume destination for global firms from the United States outsourcing their tertiary-sector jobs?
  1. Mexico
  2. China
  3. India
  4. Indonesia
  5. Malaysia
I hope you enjoyed! Perhaps, through these questions, you've been able to roam a remote road today.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

For those who are not familiar with the new Tom Hanks & Sandra Bullock movie you might want to watch the trailer first before continuing to read:

This movie is absolutely an example of roaming the roads of lands remote.

Despite our differences (gender, racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious, orientations ... ) all of people have a whole host of commonalities.  We have all experienced birth and will experience death.  We will all put effort into something and all receive the benefit of our efforts.  We will face injuries/sickness as well as times of healing.  We will encounter both destructive and creative forces.  We will laugh and we will cry.  We will face grief and celebration.  We search for things and we realize a search might be futile.  We will save and discard.  We will tear up and we will mend.  We need times of silence and times that are loud.  We will all love and hate.  We experience times of war and peace.  And sometimes, figuratively speaking, we all just need to take a ride in the third swing from the right.

Too often we allow those differences (noted above) to be barriers to stepping out of our comfort zones and risking the opportunity to get to know someone.  It is by traveling that remote road when we learn that perhaps that road wasn't as remote as we first perceived.

P.S.: Yes, for those who noticed, by list of commonalities was inspired by Ecclesiastes 3.  Regardless of the list's source, there is still significant truth in their words.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Eyes of a Child

This past Sunday night, my weekly Bible study group was concluding a series on fears.  During the discussion, the topic of seeing the world through the eyes of children came up.  So often, children have a completely different outlook on life than we adults have.  Too often we see the "realities" and fears of life rather than embrace the simplicity, hope, and joy that it offers.

This made me reflect upon some of my travels and the faces of children that I've met.  With some I've developed a relationship (even if only temporary) while others it was more of a passing encounter.  But nearly every time, regardless of culture, color, race, religion, economic, or other human defined background, I've looked into their eyes and glimpsed the simplicity, the hope, and the joy that life offers.

Me with Jazmine, Pricilla, & Jhon in Lima, Peru, June 2000
These three lived at Posada de Amor, a home for orphans & abandoned children
Me with several precious girls outside of Kisumu, Kenya, June 2002
A little girl in a Mon village along the River Kwai in Thailand, June 2009
My encounter with a day care group in Seoul, South Korea, November 2009
These children were on a field-trip at the Korean National War Museum
Me with a group of boys in Bodza, Malawi, July 2010
These boys attend a feeding center where I helped a team from my church drill a water well
My friend Holly and a group of girls at a school in Aschaffenburg, Germany, June 2011
(don't worry, the girls had already finished their lunches before we joined them)

One of my great honors as I've roamed the roads of lands remote has been to see the face of God as expressed through the hearts of children.  No matter the culture, you can see the simplicity, the hope, and the joy of life expressed on their faces.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

1st Learned from Indonesian News

Social media giant Facebook released dozens of new applications Wednesday to let users catalogue every aspect of their lives, from movies to books to food to fashion, and share them with friends.

Read more:

I find it curious that the first news source in which I encountered this information is from Indonesia.  Kind of makes me think the information posted in the blog from a few days ago on the advances of digital media in Indonesia is right on target!

I follow The Jakarta Globe on both Facebook and twitter; maybe you should too!?!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Google Translate = Inspiration

Dalam Bahasa Indonesia:
Salam kepada rakyat Indonesia. Perlu diketahui bahwa satu set berat tiga puluh lima tahun pria kulit putih berusia menyerang tanah air Anda dengan sekelompok guru lainnya 10. Kabar baiknya adalah bahwa kita datang dengan damai dan berusaha untuk membawa sukacita pertemuan Anda kembali ke siswa kamiSaya berharap bahwa kunjungan kami akan memungkinkan siswa bersama kami untuk menggunakan teknologi dunia maya untuk menjelajah jalan-jalan tanah jauh bersama-sama.

In English:
Greetings to the people of Indonesia.  Please be aware that a heavy set thirty five year old white man is invading your homeland with a gang of 10 other teachers.  The good news is that we come in peace and seek to bring the joy of meeting you back to our students.  I hope that our visit will allow our mutual students to use the technologies of the virtual world to roam the roads of lands remote together.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Dream Lives On

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and gave a 17 minute speech which has since become one of the most recognized speeches in American (and even World) history and literature.

"I have a dream ... where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

One of the remote roads which many people are still fearful to travel are those roads which carry them into interaction with people of other cultures and backgrounds.  There are a multitude of problems with allowing this fear to have a strong control in our lives.  For starters, our current geo-political and geo-economic conditions demand that we interact with people from all over the world.  If we don't truly understand other people then our ability to legitimately interact with them is significantly limited.  To allow our prejudices and other preconceived notions about "others" to limit or prevent our interaction and cooperation with others is, at best, misguided and, at worst, immoral.

One of my great joys throughout traveling has been the ability to get to know people from a variety of backgrounds.  It gives me such a great sense of awe to look into another person's eyes and see the grand diversity which God has created.  We are all His people and are, thus, worthy of respect.

Martin Luther King may have been giving a speech regarding civil rights issues within the U.S., but his words should inspire a greater dream within each of us.  A dream which can only be fulfilled when we roam the roads of lands remote and open ourselves to greater cultural interaction (those "remote" roads might simply be a few blocks from our own homes).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Indonesia & Digital Media

Who would have guessed that Indonesia ranks so high as it does within it's use of digital media?  What are your reactions in light of this video and image?

I'm going to Indonesia!!!

When I first applied for this program with Teachers for Global Classrooms they had you identify your top three choices within their list of options.  The options were Brazil, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Morocco, and Ukraine.  My top were three Indonesia, Brazil, and Morocco.

While I would have been fine with any of them I did want to go somewhere I've never been before (was in India in June 2009) and somewhere different than other places I've been (three other sub-Saharan African countries: Kenya, Uganda, & Malawi).  While I've been to another South American country (Peru), Brazil would provide a difference in that it is primarily Portuguese speaking while most others in South America are Spanish.  I also liked the idea of going to a predominantly Muslim country and that made both Morocco and Indonesia (world's largest Muslim country) ideal.

As the eight-week course neared its conclusion I remember speaking with co-workers about how I was really hoping for Indonesia.  Something about Indo just keep bringing it to the forefront of my mind.

So there I was at my desk on December 7, 2011, during 6th hour.  My students were working independently on primary source document analysis assignment when an e-mail from TGC arrived.  I couldn't help but make my pleasure known to my students.  INDONESIA.  I had gotten my preferred choice!!!  I will be traveling with ten other teachers to Indonesia in July.

By this point, the eight-week course was over and one of the other participants in the group had created a Facebook page which over half of the participating teachers have joined.  We each began posting comments regarding our country assignments.  I'm highly glad that I'll be going to Indo in July because other groups are traveling in March and April...the two months right before AP testing and that would complicate the final preparation times before my students take their high-stakes national exams so as to potentially earn college credit while still in high school.

A few days later I received another e-mail.  It included a list of every one's country assignments and I noticed something rather cool.  All five of the teachers in the TGC program from Oklahoma are in the Indonesia group!!!  How great will that be to share this opportunity with fellow Oklahomans and then to return to our home state as a team united to help spread the wonders of global education with colleagues here!

Even following the actual trip I can already sense the life travels that my work with these fellow Oklahoma teachers will provide as we roam the remote roads of meaningful education reform in our home state.

TGC & Global Education

So the program that is taking me "somewhere" is called Teachers for Global Classrooms and is coordinated by IREX (International Research and Exchanges Board).  Since I was not blogging about the experiences of this program during the actual eight-week online course I did want to take a brief moment to recap that phase.

The eight-week course was one of immense emotions and thoughts for me both personally and professionally.  There were times when I felt some of the homework and expectations were so overwhelming and uncoordinated (the estimate of three hours of homework per week was closer to an eight to nine hour reality most weeks).  Regardless of the feelings of frustration I can honestly say that I wouldn't want to change it for anything.

Even if I had gained nothing of value from the lessons other than to once again be in an experience similar to my students it would have been worth it; I find myself trying extra hard to make sure that my written and verbal directions and lesson objectives are clearly communicated.  Just because I may think something is clear to my students doesn't always mean that it is...there were times in this program when the facilitators thought something was clear when the reality proved otherwise for myself and/or other the other teachers from around the U.S. who were participating.

The reality, however, is that I did gain so much more than simply what I noted above.  I've begun to totally re-evaluate what I do in the classroom.  Yes, I have expectations regarding what I teach placed on me by my state's department of education, my district's curriculum director(s), and my local school's administration.  However, even within all of that I do have the power to make sure that what my students learn and how they apply it to their lives and their surrounding world is significant and not simply "stuff a curriculum guide demands they know".

Teachers for Global Classrooms seeks to refocus educators and schools into preparing students for issues that matter.  I used to think that if my students didn't leave my classroom knowing A, B, and C regarding U.S. History or X, Y, and Z regarding Human Geography that I had failed.  Now I see my role as an educator as being something so much more.  Today, I want my students to leave my classroom being equipped to: 1) investigate matters of global significance, 2) recognize their own and other people's perspectives, 3) communicate their positions clearly, and 4) take action to leave the world better than they found it.

This is the heart of what global education is and should be!  All people throughout this world are connected and as technology and global economic/political forces continue to develop this connection among all people becomes stronger and more important as the key component of education.  ALL teachers can use the content of their curriculum as a means to accomplish the four goals noted above (ALL teachers--math teachers, science teacher, language arts teachers, social studies teachers, world language teachers, physical education teachers, visual & performing arts teachers, etc).  Use your course's tools and content information to develop students into informed and participatory citizens.

And you know what? Those four goals noted above reiterate that life is a journey!  A student equipped as such will find it much easier and more fulfilling "to roam the roads of lands remote."

I'm going to...somewhere!?!

It was nearly 4:00 PM on September 7, 2011.  I was filing away some papers I had just finished grading and was about to begin the process of logging off my computer at school.  Students had been gone for nearly an hour and it was now time for me to head home.  Before closing down the computer I noticed the e-mail icon indicating that I had a new message so I decided to read it before leaving...and I'm so glad that I did.

The e-mail informed me that I had been accepted into a professional development program for teachers which culminated in a two-week international travel opportunity in either the Spring or Summer of 2012.  So as of that moment on Sept. 7th, I knew I had an amazing opportunity to go...somewhere!

I had first encountered the opportunity for this program through one of various e-mail lists that I receive as a Social Studies Department Chair for my school.  Lots of items of "importance" are sent and some I look at while others I discard.  I don't remember the exact day I received the e-mail advertising this current opportunity nor do I remember which e-mail list/company sent the information.  All I do know is that I scanned through the information and then immediately shared it with other teachers at my school.

It seems like in the two weeks just before receiving the e-mail advertising this opportunity I had been involved within at least four separate conversations with fellow teachers regarding previous opportunities that I have been given for free travel (within the U.S. and internationally) and so I mailed out this opportunity school-wide as a way of saying to all of them "here's an example...most of you qualify too...APPLY!"  Unfortunately, I don't think any of them did apply...or maybe that is fortunate for me since it reduced my "competition" :-)

One of the requirements of this program is to keep a travel blog.  The blog is not simply to relay information regarding the actually trip itself, but also a way to recount the process leading up to the trip and to reflect upon things I'm learning along the way.  The initial phase of this program was an eight-week online course in which I learned some amazing things and meet some awesome teaching colleagues from around the U.S.; over 65 of us are in this program together.  My only regret so far is that I did not begin this blog when the course began, because I know that I've learned somethings already that I've probably forgotten...and I hope to remember them again.

So follow with me on this journey...both the actual trip to "somewhere" and the remote roads of preparation to be roamed along the way.

To Roam the Roads of Lands Remote

The last season of CBS's The Amazing Race (Fall of 2011) introduced me to a great quote from Hans Christian Andersen: "To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote: To travel is to live."

There is so much truth in the idea from this statement.  At its very core, life truly is a journey.  From cradle to grave, we are going somewhere physically, emotionally, intellectually, etc.  While there might be a hosts of philosophies, ideologies, religious interpretations, etc., which try to give advice on this journey, the common theme remains the same: life is a journey.  And if life is truly a journey then Andersen is 100% correct with his claim that "To travel is live".

The purpose of this blog is explore and celebrate the travels of my life: the literal and the figurative.  While my goal is to reflect on those destinations at which I will arrive in the future, I am sure that I will also reflect upon previous travels in my life.  I welcome you to join me on the roads of life as I journey and explore how life's experiences can help me to grow, both personally and professionally.

Journey with me as we travel, as we live, as we "roam the roads of lands remote"!