Teacher Professor

March 14, 2016


Filed under: Fulbright,Uncategorized — Teacher Professor @ 1:57 am

The following is not intended as “whining”, but a humorous look at how this experience is shaking me out of my complacency. 

While there have been many, many wonderful things about this Fulbright experience (the freedom to study and write! The strawberries!  The people!), I have had to make a few adjustments…


It’s one thing to learn a foreign language.  It adds a whole level of complexity to learn a new alphabet on top of that.  I am at about a 4-year level of the alphabet right now.  Last night, Mother and I ate at this restaurant and we literally gave each other high-fives when we decoded that it says “George’s”.  Standing out in the middle of the street squealing that we could interpret it.  I have so much more sympathy for tourists.


We stand for minutes at a time at the grocery store, trying to decipher what things are.


We assume that these are Ritz crackers.  Big squeals when we found them.

Not big squeals with I learned that this….


Is NOT cream for my coffee.  Turns outs it’s buttermilk.  That was NOT the way to start the morning…

Toilet Paper


I’m carrying my own toilet paper.  The university has a cleaning woman on staff, but no money for cleaning materials, so everyone brings their own toilet paper, and chips in to contribute bleach, hand soap, etc.

And the worst of all… the toilet paper is non-biodegradable.  Which means that you put it in the trash can after you use it.  No flushing of toilet paper.  I find myself getting used to almost everything else.  At this point, I would sell my soul for Charmin.



That’s a radiator at my office.  That doesn’t work because while the University has central heat and air, they have no money to pay for heat.  So, no heat or air conditioning.  I work in my office with a coat.  Students attend classes in sweaters and coats.  Normally, it’s ok, but we’ve had a cold spell this week.  I am now making tea to warm up my fingers so I can type. Spring is around the corner…

Fizzy orange juice/ fizzy apple juice/ fizzy lemonade/ sparkling water

They like beverages fizzy around here.


I do not.


Because I am in a hotel apartment, there is no laundry.  We walk our laundry down to the laundromat a 1/2 mile away.  It is not like a US laundromat- they do it for you.  At first, we were like “Yay!”, until we learned they take 4-6 days to turn it around.  Until we learned that they wash our clothes in cleaning solution.  Which smells.  Horribly.  Like dry cleaning solution.  And until I got someone else’s t-shirt and my favorite black pants are gone.

This is our new washer/dryer.  Which is me learning a whole new set of skills.



Getting from point A to Point B is complicated.  I live a mile from the University, so I walk (uphill) in the morning, downhill at lunch to spend time with my mom, back uphill in the afternoon and back downhill in the early evening.  My colleagues have offered to pick me up, which happens when it rains, but I am enjoying the walking!  Nothing like a fitness routine because you “have” to.  But it does mean that I’m not thrilled at the idea of walking the two miles down to the sea- and back- or to the coffee shop a mile away.  Navigating without a car is literally something I have not done since I was 15, so it’s challenging, especially when you don’t speak the language.

Getting to Athens or Delphi involves the KTEL bus.  Which has seat numbers. I am very grateful that the word “seat” is in English.  Finding the seat number on the seat itself was challenging and involved lots of hand gestures from other people.




While some Greeks have pets, there are an awful lot of animals hanging around.


Dogs in the main square of Athens- well-fed, but roaming.


A pair of pigeons apparently live in the bakery across from us.  We see them every time we visit.


Lack of sidewalks


Makes for an adventure every time I go out.  The footing is always exciting as we pick our way down the street.  Parking appears to be random, but polite.  If people are hemmed in, they honk and someone comes out to move their car.  No big deal…


Never lived in California.  Last night, the bed shook as if the dog had gotten up on it.  I got a little freaked out…



There are so many things I am getting adjusted to that I am going to miss.  Fresh orange juice.  And I mean FRESH.

IMG_5309Just the fruit itself could be whole ‘nother blog…


One think I’m amazed at is just how kind people are here. Store keepers laugh and clap at our feeble attempts at communication.  They enjoy that we are trying and there is no sense of mockery or irritation.  Colleagues offer to pick me up when it’s raining.  Students want to come talk to me.  The hotel people tell us of good places to eat. Despite my settling-in challenges, there is truly a warm sense of kindness and support here that is like nothing I’ve seen before.  This I don’t mind adjusting to.

Disclaimer: These comments are NOT slights or insults to my very kind hosts here in Greece.  And many of these comments have nothing to do with Greece itself, but my own adjustment to altered living conditions.  They are statements to share how easy it is to get complacent where you are.  And I am also aware that I am VERY fortunate to be living here at all- especially compared to the Asst. professor from Syria who is a refugee at the border of Greece and Macedonia  (A story I read in a translated Yahoo page that I can’t find now..). 

March 11, 2016

Common Language

Filed under: Fulbright — Teacher Professor @ 1:53 am

I have been bathed in foreign languages for the last two weeks.  As I go to sleep, I hear the low sounds of German that sound like you’re trying to get something out of your throat.  I hear the front of the mouth sounds of Greek which sounds like cats with lots of “ft” sounds and “tz”s.  It’s pretty hilarious to be idly listening to a conversation and hear random meanings of “Morning” and “there” with no sense what content is in between them at all.  I know that this is typical for second language learners, especially when you’re older like I am.  I have to study language intentionally.  According to my husband, I have a “cute” Greek accent, which is a nice way of saying he can barely understand me.  I am also very humbled at how well so many people here in Europe know English.  They study it as a school subject from first grade on.  And, most children in schools know a third language as well.  Language study is serious work here- communication is seen as a requirement to good relationships and good business.

While attending a recent international conference in Austria that connected key aspects of my Fulbright research in Greece, I recall this quote from a tour guide- “Austrian is German spoke with a better melody”. Pretty sure she was not making a joke. Certainly captures the Austrian value of music. 

Which is why I had an amazingly powerful experience last week.  As part of the European Council on High Ability conference, we had some sessions on a boat that cruised up the Danube to the University of Krems and then back down.  The morning was full of lectures inside the ship. While they were interesting, the view from the deck was more interesting, and I found my way up to the very top.  Along with about 12 others, who were willing to put on our coats and to gawk that we were on THE DANUBE!- which is not blue, by the way, but muddy and brown.

Up there in the wind and the cold and the crisp sunshine were people from the United States, Scotland, Slovenia, Trinidad, India, Netherlands, and of course, Austria.  English may have been the language in common, but most people were talking with their compatriots in low, quiet familiar home languages.  Until…

IMG_5229Frank from Trinidad, Margaret from Scotland and Jane from Ohio started singing “Do- a deer, a female deer.  Re- a drop of golden sun….” And just like that, all twelve people from across the globe, turned together and started singing with one voice, loudly- up there in the cold and wind and crisp sunshine atop the boat.  We morphed right into “Whiskers on Kittens” and proceeded to sing most of the canon of “Sound of Music”.  Frank and Margaret bobbed up and down singing the different parts of the “Lonely Goatherd” and we all clapped at our yodel-ay-aiii’s.  I may have had tears in my eyes as we sang “Edelweiss” and watched the pre-spring landscape of Austria slide by with the low slopes of the Vienna Woods in the background.

We spent a good hour up there- singing songs from “Wizard of Oz” to “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” to “Mary Poppins”.  I never imagined that it would be Broadway tunes that brought people from around the world together.

(with apologies to Julie Andrews)

The river was alive with the sound of music
With songs they have sung on Broadway
The river filled my heart with the sound of music
My heart wants to sing every song it plays

The power of music to bring together so many different peoples is well known.  The  organization Playing for Change takes this literally, filming musicians from around the world playing the same song.  It’s powerful.  It’s what education should be- different notes, different singers, different instruments, and yet melody.  I got to have my own little version of it on a cold, sunshiny day on the Danube.





March 10, 2016

Sisterhood of the Traveling Teachers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Teacher Professor @ 2:53 am

IMG_0151Two of my teacher candidates from CCGA are coming to see me! When I first heard about the Fulbright, I could not imagine doing this without sharing it.  I asked all of my students if anyone was interested in coming to visit.   After getting lists of folks, there ended up being two who had the time and the interest to come.  “Ivy” and “Jennifer” are teacher candidates, about to graduate and about to face their own classrooms.  They are coming to visit during their spring break, and neither of them have ever been out of the country.  I feel responsible to keep them safe, show them education in a foreign country, and help them get impressions so that they can share with their students.

Understanding the world today has never been more important. Much of that understanding comes from what we learn in school. Students look to their teachers for knowledge about a world that is not yet part of their own lived experience. By spending time abroad teachers gain fresh perspectives that deeply enrich their students’ learning and global awareness.”- GEEO.org

Dear Ivy and Jennifer,

I’m getting so excited about y’all coming!  It will be fun to share this- and to be amazed at how similar and different it is… Here is the schedule and some random thoughts.

Ya’ll leave on Sunday from Jacksonville.  Connect through Atlanta and then a long flight to Paris.  Charles de Gaulle is tricky- LOTS of walking.  You will go through the passport control line here in Paris.  We accidentally got in the EU line- which is for the European Union.  You should get in the non-EU line- and they are not very nice about telling you that you are in the wrong line.  When they ask, do NOT SAY that you are studying here- they will want to see your visa. Just tell them you’re on a short vacation.  They should stamp it and send you right through.  Depending on circumstances, you might have to go through security again- it’s a long line and it’s a tight connection.  Everything IS marked in English, you just have to keep following the signs.  It looks like a bunker.  Just get through Charles de  Gaulle.  It is NOT Paris, except that the women in the airport look spectacular.

When you land in Athens, you will walk a distance and collect your luggage, you do not have to go through passport control again.  After you collect your luggage, go through the doors marked NOTHING TO DECLARE.

Monday- 4:30- I will pick y’all up at Athens Airport right outside of the Nothing to Declare doors.  We will stay at the Holiday Inn near the airport that night.

Tuesday- We’ll go to Acropolis via the X95 bus.  The Acropolis– where I cried on the steps at the power of being at the beginning of Western Civilization.  Leave bags at hotel.  Come back and get them.  Catch the X93 bus to the KTEL bus station.  Catch the 4:00 bus to Patra. Arrive Patra 7:30pm.  Go to Hotel Castello apartment where I live.

Wednesday- Go visit schools with me and Dr. Dimakos (he’s my sponsor here) a school for children with special needs and an impoverished “regular” school.  A teacher just got written up for having a first grader stand up in front of the class and say “I am nothing.  I understand nothing.  I am trash”.  In front of the class.  Parents are up in arms.  Emergency PTA meeting.  It may have settled down, but it was an interesting place to be a teacher last week.  A teacher’s desire to take out their frustration on children is universal, I’m afraid.  So is good teaching, as well! I hope to show you the good part of teaching…

Thursday- Work with me on research in the morning. Coding responses- yay!  That afternoon, there is a lecture on something about Greece in English for Erasmus students.  Erasmus is a program for university students where they can study in another country for a short while. Most colleges are free to students in the EU- they just have to get in.  There are limited slots and everything depends on their high school exit test.  I’m in a “Learn Greek” class with two girls from Italy, a boy from Portugal, and a boy and a girl from Hungary.  The class is in English- which means that they are translating from Greek to English to their native language back to English back to Greek.  They already understand better than I do.  Last Tuesday, after sitting there for two hours, and getting lost after one hour in, I felt very stupid.  (Note: Now is NOT the time to tell me you know how I feel…!)  

Friday- Help me present in a class in which I am coteaching (NOT what I’ve taught you is  coteaching).  I chime in speaking English every now and then.  Dr. Dimakos talks in Greek, and although he is very gracious at including me, I try to look like I know what he’s talking about (Note: This is again NOT where you tell me you know how I feel!).  We’re going to be presenting on ADHD and anxiety, something you know a lot about at the end of your program.  However, this is for students who want to be teachers- so bring examples and stories about children.  And speak slowly.  They have studied English since first grade, but are not used to speaking English.  Also, they do not hear the difference between Southern and “regular” English- we’ll see if they can hear Jessica’s accent!

Leave for Delphi on the 12:40 bus.  Arrive Delphi 4:00ish. Stay at the Amalia Hotel.  .

Saturday- Tour Delphi- the “Center of the Universe“.  Maybe the Oracle will speak to you!? Catch the 4:10 bus to Athens.  Spend the night at the Holiday Inn.

Sunday- Up bright and early to catch your plane back!  The longest afternoon EVER…

Just so you know- there is a Worldwide Caution out for US Citizens.  I was concerned until I read it- and it covers Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East.  Truly, the whole world- there are no specific alerts or warnings.  We will be avoiding large crowds and not be stupid.  You DO stand a much better chance of being killed by a cow, Tylenol, or taking a selfie than a terrorist. Greeks love Americans- we bring money, which they desperately need. And they are just incredibly hospitable and kind.  They really will try very hard to help you!  Almost all Greeks, especially the younger ones, speak some limited English.  Do NOT be freaked out if you hear about the advisory… it’s just a precaution.  And yes, terrorism is a threat.  Just like tornadoes are at home.  You know one could come, but they don’t directly threaten us often.  Just don’t be stupid.  And pray a little- just because.  Many Greeks look Middle Eastern, but Greeks are Greek Orthodox Christians and they are way more upset at the threat than we are.

Jet lag is a real thing.  Greece is 7 hours ahead of home.   I have found that for me, I cat-nap on the long flight and basically hit Greece exhausted.  Eat a light dinner, drink TONS of water, and fall in bed.  Bed time at 9:00 is 2:00pm at home, so convincing yourself to go to sleep is hard unless you’re exhausted.  Getting up at 7:00 am feels like getting up at midnight, so that alarm clock is rough!  Only if you’ve had some solid sleep that first night, will you be able to survive it.  Water and sleeping on their schedule makes it go away.

What to bring?  Clothes, shoes and a smallish suitcase you can haul around on and off of busses.  The weather is almost exactly like it is at home- although this week is chilly.  There is snow in the mountains behind me.  Normally 60s and 70s with lows in the 50s.   LOTS of walking.  I walk to work every day- which is a mile uphill.  And back for lunch and to visit with my mom.  And back up the university again. And back to the apartment again.  I’m walking on average 5 miles a day.

Regarding clothes- there is much less emphasis on clothes here.  Many Greeks do not have dryers and many will handwash and dry in the sun.  My laundromat is a half mile away, takes five days to clean things- so I’m learning to handwash and re-wear things.  Students wear what students everywhere wear.  Black leggings and tunics. Teachers wear comfortable clothing as well.  Because of the horrific price of gas, most people use cars only for significant reasons, so there is lots of walking and lots of public transportation.  Those who do drive do so very fast, or very slow. After watching my husband drive the two lane road (due to a highway expansion project) from Athens to Patra, I decided that we would all die if I drove- so hence the use of public busses.

I’d advise you to bring what I’m pretty much living in- A pair of jeans.  A pair of black stretchy, knit, pants/ leggings. Underwear and socks for every day (although these can be washed out). 3-4 long-sleeve t-shirts.  1 cardigan sweater or sweatshirt.  one pair of walking shoes.  You will not wear cute shoes.  You can buy an umbrella if it rains.  No one appears to  wear dresses except the elderly and the professional business women.  A scarf to wear if it’s cold, you’re in a church and want to cover your head, or just to dress up an outfit.  No swimsuits- too cold.  &#X02639

The food is yummy! The desserts are even better.

If you have any extra room, bring toilet paper.  Their toilet paper here is non-biodegradable, so you have to put your used toilet paper in a trash can next to the toilet. I now carry wet wipes with me and I’ll have some for you.  It’s the one part of this adventure I’m having a hard time getting over.  Busses?  Fine.  Walking? Fine.  Handwashing clothes?  Fine.  Language?  Fine.  Bathrooms? Not fine.

Any questions? Looking forward to it!!! &#X1f60a Remember, kids are kids- no matter where you are.  The immigrant children will break your hearts…

Dr. Claire

March 3, 2016

A Tiger by the Tail

Filed under: Uncategorized — Teacher Professor @ 12:52 am

I am attending the European Council on High Ability conference in Vienna. The topic of the conference, chosen a year and a half ago is “Talents in Motion: Encouraging the Gifted in the Context of Migration and Intercultural Exchange“.  I don’t know if you’ve been watching any news recently that doesn’t deal with the American election, but the EU is going through a crisis around the issue of refugees right now.  Refugees are washing up on the shores of Greece, and Greece is asking for help in relocating and resettling them.  There are thousands of homeless refugees wandering around Greece.  I was talking to one man I met in Athens, and he was on his way to the port of Piraeus with two suitcases full of shoes that his community had collected- one suitcase full of shoes for children, the other for grownups.  Shoes.  It’s a crisis.


So, this conference is timely.  I wonder if the organizers predicted the timeliness of the topic. I am not nearly as up on my foreign affairs or the state of immigrant crisis as many of my colleagues at this conference or in Greece, but even I can tell when a conference theme has a tiger by the tail.  “Tiger by the tail” is an idiom that means: “To have become associated with something powerful and potentially dangerous; to have a very difficult problem to solve”.  

IMG_5171Which means that I was terribly, terribly impressed when Martine Reicherts- the EU General Director for Education and Culture, the Austrian Secretary of State (whose name I missed), AND Cardinal Christoph Schönborn all spoke in the opening ceremony.  That’s pretty “tall cotton”, as my Southern grandmother would say.  I can certainly say I’ve never been in a room with a Cardinal and a Secretary of State before.  And while the Secretary of State talked about the “need to develop the talents of all and the challenges inherent in integrating these people“, the Cardinal clearly stated “If you are not interested and do not care for other people, you should not be a leader… What a chance for our country and what a promise of talent we have from these refugees“.  Martine Reicherts stated that it was critically important in developing ability to learn from and with people who do not think like we do, believe like we do or look like we do.  It reminded me of the President of CCGA, Dr. Gregory Aloia, who often states that people only differ in the 4Ds- Dress, Diet, Deity, and Decorum- and that there is an underlying humanity and value in all people.  I am not aware enough of the political context to understand the subtle zings or various stances that might have been taken tonight.  But I knew that they were being taken. I could feel the breath of the tiger…

Bad joke from our tour guide this morning-  “The last time we had a European Union, we called it the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.  This one seems like it will be as successful as the last one”.  (Which is to say not successful, since the A-H Empire is no more). 

I came to this conference because I want to look at how teachers can help students develop their abilities and develop resilience.  I want to look at the cultural impacts and teacher mindsets.  This venue is a wonderful way to look at how teachers and education professionals are helping students and schools dealing with the challenges- and the possibilities- of students and families in transition.   It is impressive to watch politicians, educational leaders and professors come together to wrestle this tiger.

March 1, 2016

Xenia – Welcome

Filed under: Uncategorized — Teacher Professor @ 4:28 pm

Peter Paul Ruben – Jupiter and Mercurius in the House of Philomen and Baucis

Greeks are known for their hospitality.  In some cases, this can cause problems, such as when they welcome refugees that other countries will not help with.  Their hospitality is more than mere courtesy- they even have a word for it- Xenia- which, according to Wikipedia, is the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home and to welcome guests as friends. The tradition dates from the times the gods walked among the people and they never knew if a god was going to appear and be hungry.  Clearly, this is similar to the Bible’s admonishment in Hebrews 13:2- Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hospitality is important to Greeks.

I have been the object of this warm welcome during my first week- this xenia- and it has been so appreciated.

At Work
IMG_0128IMG_5061I was given an office. An office with my name on it, and a note that read, “Welcome to the Department of Primary Education, University of Patras, your new academic home for the next few months.”

IMG_5060And not just any office … An office with this view – taken, literally, sitting at my desk. I hope I can get work done. Phoenicians sailed there. Romans sailed that sea.The Ottoman Turks and Venice fought there.  The Germans and Italians bombed there.  The Greek War of Independence started there.  Right there.  And I get to look out at this blue, blue body of water and admire it- like so many have for thousands and thousands of years.

IMG_0273Dr. Ioannis Dimakos introduced me to his Special Topics class. And, he asked me to “speak Southern” to them and I pulled out my best “Y’all’s” and drawls.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they could hear the differences that are so particular to the Southern US and my poor jokes fell flat. They smiled at me kindly, however.  They would not want me to feel unwelcome.

Welcome Dinner

IMG_5090On Friday night, Dr. Ioannis Dimako invited me for dinner at his apartment.  His wife, a full-time second grade teacher with two small children, put together this dinner. And, dessert.

And brought out her “dowry” of tablecloth and napkins – hand embroidered with roses. And her crystal and silver liqueur glasses.

IMG_5084That were filled with Notos Tentura – a local Patra muscatel wine mixed with cinnamon, cloves and allspice.  It is an amazing taste and I am bringing back as many bottles as my suitcase can hold.  This is local welcome.

IMG_5091Tired, replete, a little tipsy and full of good Greek welcome, I found my way home.  And resolved to be as welcoming back.

For the true lesson of Xenia is not just the expected hospitality of the giver.  There is an implicit contract that the “givee” will value the welcome, not take advantage of it, will work to help the giver of the welcome when they need it- and will welcome the next traveler they may meet.  It is a wonderful example of the Golden Rule, “pass it forward”, and the development of a community.  Can you imagine if we all welcomed each other with Xenia? This world – and schools – would be places of welcome and celebration.  I am honored to join the community of the Department of Primary Education at the University of Patra. (And I really, really want the recipe for the lemon chicken!)

This blog seeks to entertain you, seeks to educate you, and most importantly, seeks to make you welcome.

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