Right now I am packing my bags to get ready to depart Bogota.  I am no where near processing everything that I saw and experienced here, (get ready for some more blog posts!) But there are a few key things that I want to be sure NOT to forget  when I am getting ready to meet my new class of 2nd graders in a few shorts weeks:

LOVE YOUR STUDENTS Nancy Echeverri, our host teacher during our stay in Armenia, was imagea master teacher in every sense of the word. As the week went on, the respect that she had garnered from her colleagues and students become more and more apparent. Multiple times when we were walking down the streets of downtown Armenia former students would stop to hug her and tell her what was happening in their lives. She not only taught preservice teachers at the school where we were working, but taught at the university as well. She had not only traveled to the USA on a prestigious teaching fellowship, but had studied in England and India as well. It was not until the last day that we learned that she had helped to write the national English Language curriculum. I could go on and on. But the thing that stood out the most to me about Nancy, was the genuine love and respect that the paid to all of her students. She hugged and kissed every student we met. When a student was speaking with her, she gave them her full and absolute attention. She spoke of multiple former students whom she had helped to place in extended training, special projects and courses. This was something we saw with again and again with the Colombian teachers we met. A deep an abiding affection for the children and youth that they worked with. The clearly cared more about who their students were, than about what they could do.


EVERYTHING IS EASIER WITH A  PARTNER  My teaching partner Ryan Linton  kept me buckled in laughter for most of the trip–He also had an excellent sense of direction. I would probably still be wandering around Armenia if he had not been by my side.  There really are no words to describe how helpful it was to have someone to plan with and to go over the days experiences with. Ryan is such a skilled teacher and presenter.  He works at a school with a very different student population than my own, but we still found so much in common in our planning and goals. I will stay in touch and continue to find some way to collaborate with him next year—-And to top it off, he is a GREAT writer! I encourage you to check out his blog:

LET KIDS STRUGGLE.  During these weeks, even with the help and support of our host teacher, Ryan and I were left to figure a lot of things out. Mostly these were seemingly simple things, (like ordering breakfast–on our first few days we thought we could only order one thing–so we had a few days of eating only fruit for breakfast) I found that some of my best memories of this trip were when Ryan and I  were on our own, without a Spanish speaker to help us.  Once we did solve a problem, it was immensely satisfying. I have been thinking about this a lot, especially in relation to the independent learning that we observed in the rural schools that we visited. Their teacher was available to help, but only after they had tried to figure out a problem both on their own and with the help of their peers. It is one of the hardest things for me to do as a teacher–but I am going to try to “stay out of the way” as much as possible.

BE BRAVE Teach a lesson about “family life” to a class of 37 first graders. Serve as a judge for a high stakes spelling bee. Present at  an inservice for the city’s secondary English teachers. Try to dance salsa in crazy Colombian night club. Ride a Colombian roller coaster! Each of these things was terrifying to me for  different reasons, and I got through them all!  As this TGC  fellowship comes to a close I have been thinking about ways to extend this experience in a way that will reach and impact more elementary teachers. The idea of setting up such a big project is–no surprise–terrifying to me but I would hate for fear to be the reason I do not do something. I will just remind myself that I survived the roller coaster!


Question for kids: When is a time that you did something scary? How did you feel afterwards?




6 thoughts on “Packing

  1. Julie Sherlock

    Hello Jennifer! I am a 2017 TGC Teacher, and will be traveling to Armenia! Nancy will also be my host teacher! I live just across the lake from you, in Ludington, Michigan,and teach elementary music. I’ve been studying every detail of your blog, and am tremendously excited about my upcoming trip. I am just getting started on my blog, and yours is a great source of inspiration.


    • Jennifer Wilkinson

      Hello Julie, first you are so lucky to get to work with Nancy. And you will love Armenia. Do you know what hotel you’re staying at? Please let me know I have some suggestions about that. Have you found Ryan Linton’s blog?


      • Julie Sherlock

        Nancy recommended apparently the same hotel you stayed at, the Hotel Zuldemaya? Do you agree? Do you have another suggestion. I found a good rate for the Zuldemaya on Expedia.


      • Jennifer Wilkinson

        Julie, I am SO sorry that I did not get back to you sooner. In the past month I accepted a job in Washington State, (where I am from) and my family is in the process of moving and selling house, plus I am going to Morocco tomorrow! The Hotel Zuldemaya is very convenient for Nancy–she does not have a car. The people there are SO nice. It is not the fancy luxury five star experience, but it is clean, and it started to feel like a family by the time we left. You will need a bit of a sense of humor at times. You must be getting so excited for your trip. It will be incredible. Please tell Nancy hello for me. If you have a blog, I would love to follow it! I miss Colombia! It was AMAZING!


      • globallyrica

        No problems! we went ahead and booked there, and there are actually four of us staying there this year, so we should all have a sense of humor. Congratulations on your new job! I JUST started my blog tonight! My husband had cervical spine surgery yesterday (yikes) and I’ve finally had the time to sit and get things ready. My blog is in its infancy, and needs a great deal of tweaking. Here is the link:
        Good luck to you!


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