Today as I am organizing the files in my computer and I am reaffirmed that I love teaching. I am passionate about finding and using great resources. Continually reevaluating how, why and what I teach. It is my hobby. I know, I'm a nerd. It's not that I bring stacks of grading and work home with me, but I find happiness in looking for improved ways to help kids learn. Seriously, sometimes for fun I will troll educational resources sites or watch TV shows (usually Korean Variety) to get ideas to help students build skills they need to be successful in their lives.
Lately I have been working with newer teachers, either first year or pre-service, and I see some of them struggling. It's sad and I wonder why, maybe they realize that it is harder than they thought or there is more involved and aren't ready for a career that is not a normal nine-to-fiver. I give them advice, tell them why I love teaching, and try to help them process their role as educators or even analyze if this is what they really want to do. Because this is not a profession one should get into if they are not passionate about helping kids learn or learning themselves.
As for me I know this is what I need to be doing. I've really enjoyed talking with them and helping them through the challenges. Because really I think everything comes down to perspective. This goes for new and veteran teachers - It's all about how you see your role as an educator. It is not about us, it is about the kids. I think too often people get caught up in themselves that they forget why we teach - the kids.
If we can have a small positive impact on the kids, help them gain confidence, be able to solve problems, and to think among many other skills then we are successful.
I am truly grateful to my mentors who have guided me and helped me and continue to do so. I would not have had the opportunities and experiences that I have had without them. Anyone who thinks, acts or believes that teaching is an individual venture then they are unrealistic. It really does take a village. To those teachers who teach for personal gain, who have a 'closed door' policy, or who think they already know everything are not in it for the kids and should rethink their profession. There are those who would look at my resume or the dozens of side projects that I do as a ploy for personal gain do not know me or my passion for helping kids. While there are benefits to participating and going beyond, really it's about bringing resources and knowledge to my classroom for my students. I am really grateful for my school and for the Professional Learning Community [PLC] that is there, especially for my team this year. Collectively this is one of the best teams I have ever had the privilege of working with. I am grateful for the dialog and the shared resources, the mutual professional/personal respect that we have.
We went further north today than most people will go in their entire life. We were north of 80° and it was awesome. It was a really great day gathering videos and information for the virtual field trip of the National Geographic Explorer that I plan to put together for my students. Thanks to the head chef I got an exclusive in depth tour of the Galley, the prep areas and the food storage areas. It was really great, I hope the video turned out because it was really informative. The National Geographic Explorer buys pretty much all of its food locally. Meaning in every port the cooking crew will go to the local markets to purchase the food. The meals they plan each day are based on the local foods that they have on ship, so every meal is unique.
Naturalist Keith Larson led my zodiac ride out to see a group of walruses up close -- we even saw a mama polar bear and her cub, granted they were small whitish blobs off in the distance, but still really amazing. Thank you to Doug Anderson, 2012 National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Alumni, who lent me his binoculars. He really saved me, because of him I was able to see a lot of wildlife. We saw a lot of Arctic Terns -- these birds have the longest migration of any animal in the world. They migrate from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back every year. I was disappointed to miss out on the Hot Chocolate Zodiac, but it was a really great experience -- we were probably one of the only zodiacs to see the bears.
One of the funnest parts of the day was kayaking. My husband and I are kayakers -- not extreme white water kayakers, but lake and river outlet kayakers -- Kayaking in the Arctic Ocean gave me huge bonus points.
There was a storm rolling in, it missed us, but we could see it and I was able to try some different settings on my camera to get some different lighting shots of the landscape. Let me know what you think, do they all just look the same?
Jenny Kingsley, Naturalist -- The inuit saying from Canada about Polar Bears -- So true and so interesting. This is why all of the guides had to be equipped for protection just in case any rocks turned into Polar Bears.
Rich 'Mad Dog' Kirchner, Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor. He was our guide on the hike of Akselsundet, Bellsund. His nickname came from when he was on a ship and his name -Rich- kept getting mixed up with the Bridge through the walkie-talkies. There's more to the story, but he tells it much better than I. He was so great and welcoming, gave some really great information as well. Photo by Merinda Davis
Short video of the momma bear and her cub as they came up to the ship during a hunting expedition. It was so fun to watch the cub play behind mom, but would also follow her silent commands. Video by Merinda Davis
As I reflect on the experiences that I have had since 2012, I have been so blessed. In 2012 traveling to Japan, as my first major international experience, was life changing. I don't think I have been on a single international trip that hasn't changed me in some way. My teaching improves with each journey and I like to think that I improve as well.
In the last three years I have had the privilege to travel to 11 different countries, and each time I have brought something back to my classroom. My life and classroom has been transformed. In 2012 I was an alternate to go to Japan, this year in 2015, I found out that I was one of the top applicants for the 2015 National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellowships. It is indescribable how privileged and blessed I feel.
I got the phone call when I was still processing the once in a lifetime opportunity to attend the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. All of these experiences continue to humble me.
January 22-23, 2015
Getting to the airport early I sat there listening to the talking-heads on CNN go on and on about the New England Patriots' deflated ball fiasco. It was rather ridiculous. I am glad that I didn't check my bag through Chicago, but I did have to check it once there, it worked out rather nicely.
Flying to Munich I sat next to a really interesting man from Munich, he is a 55 year old veterinarian who studied in San Francisco. He and his family travel the world on vacations, most recently to Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. We discussed travel, education, religion and the German perspective of World War II and post war Germany. From his perspective, post war Germany didn't have much national pride. Many people were afraid to fly the German flag, it wasn't until the 2006 World Cup. The new generations of Germans reclaimed their national pride.
The plane was so old that there were still ashtrays in the bathrooms. The in flight monitors didn't work and enough people complained, that they gave us all $25 vouchers. Although it didn't really bother me, but it worked out.
Arriving in Munich I remembered the passport check in and terminal from last June. I still can't get over how easy it is to fly into the continental European Union. We had a very short passport check in Munich and nothing in Poland. It's gonna take at least 2 hours when I get back to the US.
I immediately tried to get my phone to work, it didn't connect to any network, I tried rebooting, manually connecting, nothing. I thought, "Well, maybe it will work in Poland. That's where I told them I would be." Still didn't work in Poland. Since we had 4 hours until we had to meet for the opening session a group of us went out and explored. Well, explored with a mission. Tracy needed a brush, some needed money from a bank and I needed my phone fixed. Two hours and four phone stores later, my phone still didn't work. Eventually, meaning the next night, I got a hold of my husband and he was able to call someone to get my phone working.
At the opening dinner I realized how big this program really is, we have have a security detail. This is where I first met Paula Lebovics, Holocaust survivor, she is one of the cutest, strongest, women I have ever met. The most touching moment of the evening was when Olga Burkhardt showed up and saw Paula. The moment they saw each other there was a spark. I wish there was a way to capture that moment, it was beautiful. Like to souls separated and meeting after a long absence. Just watching them I could feel the affection between them.
You can read there store HERE on the USC Shoah Foundation website.
January 24, 2015
Today was our first sessions of the the conference and they were really great. I got a lot of really good information. There are several things I will be doing with my classes. (I will post a page of conference notes on the main pages of my website for those of you who are interested.) They talked to us about tomorrow, apparently there will be some VP people joining us. Word on the "Street" is that is is Steven Spielberg who gave the program its name, "The Past is Present."
I had the great opportunity to talk to some amazing junior interns about some of my class projects. They were able to help me work through some ideas from a student perspective. they even made connections that I hadn't seen before, I wish they were my students. I spoke to Paula again, this time about movies in the classroom. When I mentioned, "Life is Beautiful" she shuttered angrily saying that movies is a, "slap in the face to Holocaust survivors." When I asked her if there was a better movie and she said, "Shoah" is much better." We later had a lovely conversation about family and her travels to Australia. I want to keep talking to and learning from her.
This evening a small group of us went out and explored Warsaw. Adam (from Poland) and Steve (from England) make great tag-team tour guides.
I didn't realize how much pressure or stress I have been feeling until Donell and I exchanged texts. Honestly I hadn't realized that I had been feeling that way until his text, which for some reason filled me with calmness. It had such an immediate impact I had to reflect on how I was feeling.
This is an amazing experience that I will be eternally grateful for. I am really glad that we have the opportunity to talk with Paula, Lucia and Ruth. Paula Lebovics is a beautiful strong woman who is humble yet unyielding in her voice. She reminds me so much of Nanny, my father's grandmother, who was my favorite grandparent. She was another strong beautiful woman who really impacted my life. Lucia and Ruth are two high school junior interns with the USC Shoah Foundation. They are incredible young women who are bright and smart, they make really great connections that I hadn't made before. Talking to them reminds me of the LIA kids last year who, once they found their voice, are incredible leaders with infant amounts of potential. I feel so comfortable talking to them, I think because they remind me so much of my own students, who I enjoy talking to so much.
This morning we had a reflection session from yesterday. It was good to think about the lessons we have learned so far. We talked about authentic sites, while we were sitting in a Polish Jewish Museum in the middle of Warsaw Ghetto location. We went outside and talked about the memorials that were erected, just outside the museum, within the first 3 years of the end of the war. It was fascinating, though I was a little disappointed with the lack of visits to authentic sites in Warsaw. Luckily Adam, a Polish native, took me and Steve, a British teacher, to the Warsaw bunker. It was the last stand of the resistance, everyone inside died, there is debate whether they died from gas or suicide, but it was a block from the museum and the group did not go. Luckily we at least stopped at the Warsaw Cemetery. It is the most interesting and culturally rich cemeteries that I have ever visited.
We had a 'shark tank' where we had the opportunity to 'pitch' our project ideas to a panel, the panel being the junior interns. And by 'our' I mean a few "randomly" selected teachers, I was not one of them. Though I am going to try to find the kids later and talk to them about my project to get their feedback. Anyway, during this panel, Steven Spielberg came in, he was introduced to all of us. He sat one seat away from me, later the David Zaslav, Discovery CEO came in and sat between us. I met his [David's] wife, she teaches Math and it was an enjoyable chat. I would've liked to talk to her more. Later there was a panel of teachers and junior mentors from our group. Last night I was asked to be prepared to ask questions during the panel, at the time I thought there would be survivors so that's how I prepared my questions. Long story short, although I revamped my question I didn't ask any questions. I tweeted several great quotes and things from this panel check out #pastispresent
The ride to Krakow was supposed to be 4 hours, it is now 5 hours later and we still have another hour to go. We had a few stops and the other bus broke down for a while, so we stopped and waited for them. One of our pit stops was at the fun Dutch? themed restaurant with medieval elements thrown in, the hot chocolate was warm milk and chocolate, delicious. Now I am trying to get reflections typed and completed so that way I can sleep as soon as we get to the hotel.
Paula Lebovics Quotes:
"You can't hold onto the hate [anger], you have to let it go so you can move on."
About the displaced persons camps:
''It was wonderful, how could it not, we were free?"
Teacher. Student. Designer. I love to learn and experience new things.
Teacher Blogs - International Experiences