Friday, April 23, 2010

I Know This Much Is True

One thing I've been thinking a lot about lately is my intentions for travel and teaching. A Teaching Philosophy is usually a formal document used by traditional teachers on resumes and CVs as a way to land a job. They try to pinpoint their unique values, convictions, inspirations, and beliefs in a one to two page document and send it away to be scrutinized. The idea is to provide an alternative of a heart-to-heart conversation about why someone has chosen to teach, what they feel is important to be taught in today's world, and how they plan to teach said topics. This document is intended to be revised throughout a teaching career, as one changes and gain experiences in the classroom and with real students. So, without further ado, I present (for harsh criticism) my first draft of my Teaching Philosophy:

What is a teacher? A teacher is a mentor, a role model, and a fallible human being who strives to communicate and explore the surrounding world. A teacher is a person who is dedicated to Truth and Integrity, to Diligence and Sacrifice. A teacher doesn’t have all the answers, and never pretends to. A good teacher will tell their students not to take their word as fact.

What do I want to teach and why? I want to teach English as a Foreign Language, Arts, and Natural Sciences. There are many manners of communication: speaking, reading, and writing are just a few. Teaching English to non-native speakers is a way to mend separations and work through differences, culturally, geographically, and otherwise. Arts in any form are vital for self-expression and creativity. Looking at something in a new light is but one achievement found in education. Natural Sciences are relevant to understand the world around oneself, to look at the gears and wires of the systems taking place despite our own existence, and of course, how that existence affects such systems. The theme is that I aim to teach subjects that can be taught in a non-traditional manner. As a non-traditional learner, that is how I tend to provide information: with my hands, through pictures and demonstrations, by watching, copying, and creating my own variation, by promoting mistakes through trying.

Education is vital for life. Literacy is the first step of education, and there are many in this world without it. Basic communication skills are the next step of education, finding the words and ways to vent your thoughts and feelings, fears and desires. Philosophical and analytical expression is the next milestone of education. Reaching a point where one may discern about foreign systems and cultures.

Without Education, especially women, are almost certainly ensured a life of strife and poverty, of a lack of freedom and even a lack of basic human rights. If females are educated in a more widespread manner, control may be harnessed on some of the earth’s most complex problems: rising populations, HIV/AIDS epidemics, slavery and prostitution, and even world hunger.

It is my goal to begin each day by learning from the situations I encounter, while applying my own education, and offering lessons of my own. In this way I hope to benefit those around me, and to positively affect lives, and less negatively impact the earth.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Star light, star bright...

Yesterday I went hiking in the Comanche Wilderness with a good friend. The trail followed the Big Thompson River and ended up dumping us out onto a dirt road with log cabin summer homes on either side for a good mile or two, Glen Haven was originally founded as a summer home community, which I find totally bizarre. We stopped at a bench to watch the water and enjoy some wine, and talk in a meandering river-like fashion that we always seem to come to.
Walking back found ourselves in the dusk of Colorado wilderness, the inky outline of pines plastered against a fading emerald sky, a crescent moon becoming brighter and even brighter still. I was reminded of being at my parent's home in Kansas, last August, before I left to study abroad in Ecuador. There was a meteor shower and my mom and I sat in lawn chairs, wrapped up in a blanket, craning our necks for signs of celestial life. I don't recall ever seeing so many vivid bursts of light gliding across the sky.
I have always thought how romantic a notion it is to meditate on the moon or stare at a single star, and think that someone far, far away is doing the same. That somehow this connects us and the miles between just vanish away. While I was in San Cristobal, I noted the night's display with the same ritual. It was a little startling at first, I felt like I was gazing up at a totally foreign sky, not one that I had studied all my life. I didn't know these stars, these constellations, or the myths behind them. The sky was cluttered with stars, it was a total mess. They were dim and faint or bright and twinkling, practically overlapping one another. I recall witnessing several shooting stars while there, and always at a moment when I needed something reassured in my head or heart. It was like a cartoon light bulb above my head, those "A-ha!" revelations.
I am still magnetized to the evening sky, and am often found staring straight up, never mind an aching neck, sometimes with mouth open, dumbfounded in beauty. And I still can't shake the romance, that as I stand alone in the dark, someone else is fixed on the same star, and in that moment, it's as if we are sitting side by side, wrapped up in a blanket.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

T Minus 32 Days and Counting...

Time is sure rushing by! I'm finishing up my coursework to graduate on the 15th of May and preparing for departure on the 20th! While at times this seems very daunting (my to-do list seems only to expand and never shrink), I am keeping my priorities in order and doing my best, since that's all I can do. And it's starting to feel REAL.
Maybe it's because I'm finally graduating with my Bachelor's degree, or that I am about to do what I've wanted to do for a long time (work abroad and travel independently), or that I'm about to turn 27 (gasp). I'm feeling like I'm finally an adult, that I'm leaving something behind, that my life is starting to turn into these dreams that I've had forever.
I've been showing my apartment to sublease, selling off furniture and other small possessions. I even have my bike posted for sale online, which makes me a little sad. My TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) courses have hit a slow patch, since I'm in the midst of what college so affectionately refers to as "Crunch Time." It's about as pleasant as it sounds. But everything is going pretty smoothly still, which gives me reassurance that this is a good move for me.
I was speaking with a friend from class the other day, she's leaving for Alaska soon for a summer gig, and we were talking about the pressure of deadlines and excitement for the unknown futures which lie ahead for both of us. She asked me if I was scared to be doing what I'm planning to do. My smile slowly dripped from my chin, "No, I'm not scared. Maybe I should be!" I joked. But later I chewed on this comment again. I understand that this experience will be very different from the previous time spent in Galapagos: I'm no longer a student, but a teacher, I won't be living with a host family, I won't have a gaggle of American (and European) students as a support system, and I'm staying for a much longer period of time, nearly three times as long as before. This is not a recipe for disaster, but it will ensure that the "newness" that never seemed to wear off before will probably dissipate much quicker this time around. And I'm ok with that. :)
I thought about how I have always been a loner, and that I thrive on time spent solo in order to recharge and organize my thoughts and to be creative. Here in Colorado, I live alone, my house is my kingdom, and whenever I wish to have a human connection, I can simply offer a smile and a greeting, in my native tongue. Most people in today's world walk briskly without making eye contact and are plugged in (cell phone, iPod, whatever) and oblivious to what they are passing by, literally. I often feel invisible in my university and my town. It is what it is.
But I remember being in Quito and the Galapagos, I am not a round peg. I am tall and pale and my Spanish leaves much to be desired. Communication is more challenging, however I was always able to compensate through my typically animated speech and the kindness of the people, not to mention a pocket-sized bilingual dictionary. I realize that I will feel much more alone, even though I do have friends and a support system there.
But I also know that no matter where I am, Life will be the same, in that there will always be wonderful, exciting, joyous, smiling-so-big-it-hurts moments, and terribly embarrassingly frustrating, what-was-I-thinking moments, and plenty of mediocre ones in between. Because that's Life, no matter where you are and what you're doing, there is no perfect place. Even in paradise, shit still happens. And this is how people find beauty in simple things, everyday is sacred.
So, with a plane ticked purchased, a farewell party planned, and all my belongings for sale on craigslist, I check off one more day on the calendar: 32 days and counting.