Teacher Professor

March 14, 2016

Adjustments

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…

Alphabet:

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.

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

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

Not big squeals with I learned that this….

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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.

Cold

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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.

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I do not.

Laundry

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.

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Transportation

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.

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Animals

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

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

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

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Lack of sidewalks

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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…

Earthquakes

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

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And…

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…

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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.

 

 

 

 

February 28, 2016

New Beginning at the Beginning

Filed under: Fulbright — Teacher Professor @ 6:42 am

It’s been a while since I’ve been around these parts.  My children are in middle and high school, and while being a parent defines who I am, privacy needs reign supreme.  And so- I begin again. 

I am starting the blog again with a new name and a new purpose.  I am a teacher of teachers- an associate professor of education.  This is not a scholarly blog– merely musings and observations… and wonderment. This blog will explore topics related to teaching– both of adults and children.  Which pretty much covers everything….!

This blog begins- appropriately enough- in Greece.  Which is pretty much where the concept of formal education began.

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School of Athens- Rafael

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Family in Athens- Hughes/Lynch/Bailey clan

While this picture was taken last year, I am in Greece this year on a Fulbright Scholarship.  And the honor of that absolutely takes my breath away.

Getting to the Beginning:

The Fulbright Scholars Program is a program through the US State Department in which approximately 500-800 scholars from US travel to over 140 countries to “lecture, teach, and conduct research” and to participate in this wonderful exchange of ideas and cultures.  Fifty-three Fulbrighters have received a Nobel Prize;  78 have won Pulitzers; and 18 have been heads of state.  And several of my friends have been Fulbrighters.  And my husband! This is distinguished company.

Getting here has been a five-year process. Five years.

The application is a year-long process. I applied on a whim.  To Ireland.  I did not know anyone there, but really wanted to go teach in Ireland (still do!) and had what I thought was a good idea. I didn’t know anyone there, but the good folks at NUI Galway had agreed to sponsor me.  For the one open award in education for all of Ireland. Applications opened in February and were due in August, 2011.  Year 1.

The review is another year; it’s a long process.  First the US has to approve the application. Then the host country.  I got turned down by Ireland.  March, 2012. Year 2.

I sulked.  Year 3.

I tried again.  I researched the countries and their “calls”.  My background is special education and gifted education and this limited the search.  I researched the countries and the sponsoring universities.  When I saw that Dr. Ioannis Dimakos from the University of Patras, himself a former Fulbright student, was looking to work with someone in learning differences- and that he was an expert in writing strategies, assessment and educational psychology, I thought we might collaborate very well together.  I contacted him.  We exchanged emails.  We met during a family trip to Greece. He was very encouraging.  And so I applied again.  With a better idea.  With a more focused research question.  I applied in August, 2014. Year 4.

And… I was placed on a waiting list in March, 2015, in large part due to the economic issues that were gripping Greece at that time. Finally, in June, 2015, I was invited to Greece! I told my college, the College of Coastal Georgia, who were very supportive.  I applied for and was granted an educational leave. Many, many thanks to my Dean and the VPAA who supported me and this long-held goal of mine.  I delayed my arrival a semester so that we could go through our NCATE accreditation visit.  An adjunct was hired.  My advisees were taken by my Dean.  My colleagues covered for me in administrative tasks and committee work.  My telephone was forwarded to our Department Coordinator. They all hugged me really hard.

My husband picked up the driving, washing, feeding duties of parenting and pet ownership.  My friends offered to help him out.  My mother put aside her activities and comforts of retirement and bravely agreed to go half way around the world with me.  My teenaged children pretended that they would hardly notice.  They all hugged me really hard. And so I left for Greece in February, 2016.  Year 5.

The Beginning of the Work

My project is a mélange of everything I’m interested in and the intersections with Dr. Dimakos.  The summary statement reads:

Both Greece and the United States have a deep interest in increasing student performance through teacher feedback and intervention.  Through a shared research agenda with Dr. Ionnni Dimakos, an international expert in writing strategies at the University of Patras, I will be looking at how teachers can help students plan and persist in difficult writing tasks through a growth mindset, particularly among children from varied cultural backgrounds and in special education.  The teaching aspect of the grant will be teaching seminars at the University of Patras in the areas of strategic instruction, special education and talent development.  This project promises to improve the teaching of writing in Greece, the United States, Georgia and in the Golden Isles.

Interestingly enough, (since this was developed two years ago and educational landscapes change), the project is morphing into looking at not only teacher can improve persistence and growth mindsets, but also resilience.  Greece is beset with refugees and poverty and stress- and teachers and students are struggling.  I’m starting my Fubright attending the conference of the European Council on High Ability (ECHA) that is looking at “Talents in Motion“, and how to identify strengths in a “context of migration and intercultural exchange“.  I want to see how teachers can help students develop “portable skills”- in writing, in mindsets, and in their lives.  All of these issues are highly pertinent in the US and in southeastern Georgia.  I can hardly wait.  It’s taken a long time to get to the beginning.

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