Teachers Without Borders – global literacy

The photo above shows some of the teens that Dr. Brian Cook and I taught while we were in Nazca (Nasca) Peru in June 2019.

Youth concerns and issues discussed post- teaching assignments:

  • Racism and prejudice in when visiting Lima (racial profiling)
  • Keeping language and culture of their areas
  • Need for basic infrastructure – water, shelter, roads
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Planned marriages at 11 or 12? Young girls to older men for financial security
  • Limited opportunity to attend public universities because so few are accepted
  • In the Highlands the student’s progress was delayed
  • Balance of home responsibilities and parental expectations that do not always support education
  • Male voice was much more prevalent than female voice in classes
  • Teachers may have been biased toward male learners
  • Accessibility to basic needs
  • Access to books
  • Lack of technology
  • Unequal distribution of resources
  • What does it do to society when you take the cream of the crop, Top 10%, and put them in COAR, and the other 90% have lack resources

However, I do need to point out that the students in the two schools we visited in Lima as well as the students we taught in Nazca were interested, attentive, kind to each other, non-competitive, and respectful of their teachers. We decided that they must be trying to impress us, so we asked their teachers who replied, “No, they are always like this, they know that it is a privilege to be able to learn in school.”

Hermes, Elizabeth, Me, Brian (American FTGC teacher),Helen, Alejandro

Some things really stand out when I think about actually teaching in Peru. The first, of course, is how immeasurably supported we are, as teachers, in the United States. And if I have to admit it, how incredibly whiny we can be.

Teachers in the COAR program in Peru leave their families, by choice, to be posted at a school far from home. They do this to earn more money, which is about one third of what we make in the US. They actively teach 28 hours per week, however they are required to be at school 12 – 14 hours per day. Students are free to move around campus after classes doing homework, visiting with friends, calling parents. The teachers are responsible for the students during this time. They are helping with classwork, counseling, playing and sometimes taking their class out for dinner. They are extremely dedicated.

In retrospect we realized that the teachers and students ARE a family. Neither has their own family here, and so they depend upon each other.

If I complain about students, or my car duty, or our lack of water service when I am lunching with teachers in our lounge, while I am drinking iced water and eating a cold salad, I hope that my memories of the dedicated teachers in Nazca surface. I want to remember Elizabeth, and Helen , and Paula, and Hermes, and Alejendro – teachers who write plans from a small desk they share with other teachers, who bring their own computers to school to extend lessons, whose supplies (4 expo markers) are carried from room to room to teach students, and whose enthusiasm, love and patience are shared with every single student every single day.

This country, Peru, has taken me by surprise. Lima, seen as a distant and very large coastal city in my dreams, compared to New York City or Los Angeles, but it cannot be compared to anything I’ve ever seen. I will have to temper my experience by saying that it is winter, and so, even though it may be in the 70’s, it has been cold and very misty the entire time.

The Fulbright Commission, and our beloved IREX leaders Emily and Chrissy, made every effort to insure that we were full of knowledge, food and experiences before leaving for our host schools. It was absolutely a treasure to be able to meet up with our crew and discuss our assigned schools, and our fears and doubts, and exuberance!

Violetta, our in- country, consult was full of practicle knowledge about her country. Juan Carlos Calligros, an anthropologist from Lima, amazed and distressed me about the fate of the indigenous people of Peru and really the entire educational system. Racism is prevalent, as is gender inequality, and I will have to write more about our discussions later. After our discussions my worries for “our female students” grew.

On Thursday we visited two rural schools in Lima. The students were so open and happy to see us, there were many kisses and photos. The first school I.E. Tupac Amaru, was absolutely devoid of supplies, had dirt floors, holes in the ground for toilets, but the students were well behaved and respected their teachers. They performed a song for us and provided lunch, a ham sandwich, which most of us were worried about eating. We also visited, Carlos Weisse school, this school had solid walls and desks and again the students were well behaved and kind. The neighborhoods that these schools were in were called shanty towns. They were near the Colo area of Lima. We understood that Lima was settled and then people came to the outlying hills and put up temporary residences that became permanent. There is no infrastructure, no sanitation, no clean water, but the students are happy and learning.

On Friday we had the most amazing experience. We were invited to the US Embassy to learn about the Peruvian education system, and then participate in a panel which included administrators from several schools from Lima, a member of the Ministry of Education, we Fulbrights, a member of the US Embassy in Peru, and a translator. The goal of the meeting was to discuss how we assimilate students from other countries into our classrooms in America. Peru is experiencing a large influx of Venezuelan students in their schools. While the students all speak Spanish, there are cultural differences that need recognized and the schools simply do not have room for all of the new students.

Saturday morning arrived and we boarded our vehicles for our journeys into: the desert, the jungle, the mountains, and the coastal desert very early.

Brian Cook and I were driven down the coast to Nasca, Peru. It was a very, very depressing and long drive. While it was difficult to take photos while traveling 100 miles an hour, the images of the people, towns, homes, and abject poverty we saw along the way will always be burned in my mind.

The first ever Go Global Week at our school was challenging to plan, but my partner, Heather and I accomplished what we had hoped, and student and teacher reception was phenomenal. Our goal was to bring the world to our students grades 2 through 5. We live in a very non-diverse suburban area, and honestly we weren’t sure how our idea would be received by our administration when we presented our plan. They were wonderfully supportive so we began our planning. We wanted to approach the students at their level, so there had to be a great deal of differentiation.

In a nutshell we searched for: folktales for 2nd grade, landmarks for 3rd grade, speakers, activities. and global issues of the countries for 4th and 5th grade.

We decided on nine countries because that is how many 4th and 5th grade classes we had. China, Peru, India, Italy, France, Haiti, Mexico, Ethiopia, Australia were visited by all students. During rotations passports were stamped, videos were watched, music was heard and discussions were had. Lower grades did crafts and S.T.E.M. projects for each country. Speakers for the Upper Elementary came from our community and were well received.

The students are talking about the countries they visited, the teachers have said that they were learning as well, so we are calling this a win.

Time is moving way too fast or not fast enough?

The dream of traveling the world to learn more about the people and cultures that exist on this big blue marble began in January of 2018 when I applied for the Fulbright Fellowship for Global Education. For months I waited to hear whether I had been selected, and then on July 23 I received the email that said, “Welcome to the Fulbright Family”! That felt like a visceral tectonic shift to my reality, and the happiness I felt brought a thousand tears. Life was hard and sad at the moment as I was losing my mother day by day. Good news was unsettling.

The Fall was disorienting as well as I threw myself into teaching my classes, and studying for the Teachers For Global Education class that was required as part of this journey. My mother was still very ill, but (good news!) my daughter was expecting a baby any time. Frannie arrived and weekends were spent traveling north to see Mom and south to help with the new baby. Mental shifts were rather frequent. On December 23rd we finally learned which country we would be traveling to: Senegal, Morocco, Columbia, Peru, India or Indonesia. While I was very excited that I would be going to Peru, I was also very nervous (mountains aren’t my favorite places, but I’m working on that!)

In January my mother passed away and in February I prepared to travel to Washington for the Fulbright Teachers For Global Education Seminar. The Seminar was orchestrated perfectly. We learned a great deal about the countries we would be teaching in, global etiquette, and problems that beset our world. We had wonderful speakers from the State Department, and the Fulbright office. Dr. Hakim Williams spoke and I believe that many of us will carry his words with us forever, he is an amazing educator, researcher and friend of the world. . The absolute best part of the seminar was meeting the other 75 teachers that received the Fulbright and my new friends, The Peru Crew! We were so amazed to find how quickly we banded together as a team, and I cannot wait to meet up with my people in Peru!

May is always an interesting month for teachers: students are checked out, schedules for next year aren’t solidified, Spring has sprung (or not in Ohio), vacation planning is in full swing, so many family celebrations and for this teacher – packing for Peru! We leave on June 17th and while I am mentally ready, I’m in near panic about what to bring as gifts for the students, how to write lesson plans for the classes I will teach (do not know age of students yet :)), how to dress appropriately for winter in South America, making sure I have all of the vaccines I need…but, I am so very grateful that I have been given this opportunity for growth in my life.