Saturday, December 6, 2014

Somewhere in Ethiopia: Week Without Walls

Somewhere in Ethiopia might seem like an unusual title. In a sense we loaded students onto a bus and headed south of Addis Ababa to where both bananas and false bananas grow.

To paraphrase what my school director once told me: people don't choose to work in Africa for the money and glory, we come here to help. Our school prides  itself in being a community; as in we all work hard to better our collective global community.

Our trip way down south to a location that is barely a dot on the map to help out a community school that teaches both adults and children wasn't all peaches and cream. We woke up before sunrise and worked nonstop until nightfall. Our students faced challenges such as language barriers, sleeping on the floor with 25 of your closest friends, and of course teaching student designed and lead workshops to groups of children.

As a veteran teacher, I was challenged by my expectations and perceptions. I had the opportunity to experience and witness learning on a different level. Imagine teaching:
• Little to no resources
• Not being able to drink water in front of children because they don't have water and eat infrequent meals.
• Students who wear the same clothes everyday because that is all they have.
And that is just the starting point. On the return trip back to Addis, we discussed our new perspective of what it means to be privileged.

On the way down to Common River Community.
One tukul for the boys and one for the girls...the teachers even got their own.
At the end of dinner, the hyenas started showing up on the compound.
Our students designed and prepared breakfast and dinner.  
Stirring the Witches' Brew. 
Walking students to class. 
One of the classrooms.  
Teaching arts and crafts to first graders. 
Using glue.
The compound was lush with many varieties of flowers. 
The school cooked us lunch each afternoon. 
One of the cooks.
The stove.
Cutting carrots
This bird has its' eye on a goat.
On Facebook I called this shot a "second grade mosh pit" it was really a game our students taught the children.
Another game. 
The school's crow.
I didn't really teach, I mainly consulted and offered feedback to my students who taught lessons.
There are women adult classes in the afternoon. While one group learned how to make menstrual pads (sponsored by our student's e-pad group) another group played volley ball. Our school brought new uniforms and balls. Some of the village ladies were quite competitive. Ages ranged from late teens to elderly. 
A couple of the local kids thought some of our students with long straight hair needed a new do.  
There was cooking then there was washing the dishes for 70 people.  
The hat project might seem a bit simple and elementary, but it was a hit. 
Offering positive reinforcement. 
Community building
I escaped the compound one morning only to find a Japan fence.
Packing out.  
The students of Common River Community gather for our farewell speeches. 
Our students.
We spent our last evening together at cabins on the shore of Lake Langano. The site reminded me of northern New Mexico. 
While the kids showered and hit the beach to wind down before an evening of writing reflections, I took a nice little walk. 
A colleague relaxing and reading on the beach. 
The smiles say it all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Taking IB art students to Barcelona.

Last year I submitted a proposal to take IB visual art students to Barcelona as a way to supplement their learning in the classroom. The idea is to immerse students in a setting that will stimulate their thinking and creativity. The principals were supportive of the idea and I spent the next several months solidifying the itinerary. The outcome was better than anticipated. Everything went smoothly from the flight to navigating the city and beyond. The students hit the pavement running and really embraced the experience. 

There are several behind the scenes individuals to thank for making the magic happen: Principal Redmond (and Joyce) for the green light, Nate and Mick in the Athletic Department for doing all the paperwork like visas and such, the other chaperone-Ms. Blue Waters, Ana was supportive about spending our break with 5 students (Call it training in raising teenagers) and helped out a little here and there and even our friend Monica tagged along for a couple of our outings. Below is the evidence. 

We arrived in the late afternoon. After dropping our bags off at the apartment, we made a quick exit to the Gothic Quarter for a walking tour. It was by chance we found a gastronomic festival in front of The Cathedral, though the kids called it the "bread festival" due to all of the loaves of artisan bread they consumed. 
One of the stops on the walking tour was a school bombed by the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. Note the pockmarks on the wall.  
We visited La Sagrada Familia the following morning. 
The students were in awe of Gaudi's vision. 
Students had mixed feelings and reactions on deciding if they preferred the aesthetics of La Sagrada Familia or The Cathedral from the previous evening.
We decided to walk back to our apartment via local neighborhoods. Good thing we did as we encountered a street fair with lots of food, vendors, and activities.
This looked like fun. 
"Ara es l'hora" The rallying cry for the Catalan separatist movement that marched in front of our apartment.
Since almost everything was closed on Sunday, the beach sounded like a way to spend a late afternoon. 
At the metro.
A dose of Flamenco culture was needed.
At the bottom of Ramblas. 
The  Palau Robert has several nice exhibits.
 The Suñol Foundation was kind enough to give us a tour of their most recent exhibit: Perfect Lovers.
One of best ways to see is a city is on a bike. Several students stated biking was their favorite part of the trip. 
Riding along the beach provided ample opportunities to throw a frisbee around and do some climbing. 
Bikes can also take you through alleys.  
Agbar Tower near Glories. The surrounding buildings make the area an architectural hotbed, a must see for aspiring architects.  
Mercat Del Encants in Plaça de les Glories Catalanes has mirrored ceilings and is basically like what you would call a swap meet, flea market in the states.  
Installation street art. 
One day was dedicated to Figueres in the north-about a hour via the fast train. The Dali Museum is located there and it was the perfect opportunity to get out of Barcelona and experience the Costa Brava. 
The museum has several floors and much to see keeping visitors engaged.

The Catalonia Toy Museum down the street from the Dali Museum has a decent collection of creepy dolls. 
A thirty-minute bus ride from Figueres will take you to the quaint beach town of Roses.

Ciutadella of Roses is worth a peek.
They might not let you take photographs inside the Picasso Museum, but they will in the gift shop. One of our student's unintentionally wore her own Picasso shirt. 
The Frederic Mares Museum houses the collection of one man who one student stated: "Mr. Bob, did he have OCD?" 
MACBA also provided us with a nice tour. Giant stuffed bear Art. 
Political Art.
One room had an interesting video that engaged our students in a lengthy discussion about beauty. 
Ms. Laura made us a delicious soup one evening. 
Hangout out with my homies at the Catalonian National Museum.
Home decoration ideas.
Who remembers this scene from the bible?
I can get into these type of religious paintings.
I got busted taking pictures at the Caixaforum. Note the guide telling me "No Photos!"
Someone near our apartment was a little disgruntled with her or his bank's ATM.
Our last supper.