Armchair Travel

This is the start of Spring Break in my school district. I have students who are traveling to visit relatives in the state, students who are heading south to warm beaches some who have left the country, and some, like me, who are staying put for a relaxing week at home.

My grandmother, would wisely say that it was possible to “travel the world” from her arm chair, just by reading a book. I feel much the same way, except now, thanks to technology, it is possible to travel the world by “virtually” following other people in their travels. As I mentioned in my last post, thanks to the blogs of fellow TGC fellows,  I have been able to climb up the steps of  Georgian castles, shop in Morroccan bazaars and marvel at vibrant blue buildings.

Question for students:

I would love to join you on your Spring Break adventures. If you are staying home how are you spending your time? What fun things are you doing? If you are traveling, where are you going? What new things are you seeing and doing!  Remember, there will be “prizes” to everyone who posts over break!

A Global Buffet

Imagine that you are invited to a buffet where each of the items offered are rare perfect foods that you have waited your entire life to try–but at this particular restaurant, you are only allowed to choose one!

I use this metaphor to describe how it felt to know the countries  that I , as a Teacher for Global Classrooms fellow, could be sent to: Morocco, The Republic of Georgia, India, Senegal, The Philippines or Colombia. When I learned that I would be going to Colombia, I was thrilled-but there was a part of me that kept thinking about what it would be like to travel to some of the other countries offered? Each of these would be an amazing and powerful experience.

I freely admit to being the sort of person who always is just a bit envious of what other people order from restaurants, no matter how wonderful my choice is. (My husband knows in advance that I will look longingly at his plate, irregardless of  how great my meal is!)

Fortunately, all of the TGC participants will be keeping blogs about their experiences, allowing me to follow their adventures around the world. The range of experiences and perspectives that these teachers are bringing to program are amazing!

Some of the blogs I have been following include,

  • At Mrs. G’s Global Gab by Stacy Gasteiger, a 3rd grade teacher in Pennsylvania who will be traveling to The Philippines in June.
  • Global Ed-Spiration and Adventure by Lauren Matsuda, a 4/5th grade teacher from Hawaii who will be traveling to India in July.
  • Teacher Travel Tales by Emily  Litman, a 5th grade teacher from New Jersey who is leaving for Morocco this week!
  • Fab History Goes Global by Wendy Morales, a middle school history teacher from New Jersey who is traveling to the Republic of Georgia later this month.
  • Grand Rapids Goes Global by Brielle Carlson, a middle school teacher from Minnesota who will be traveling to Senegal in April.


Question for kids: If you could go to any country in the world which would it be? Why?

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Eat Like A Local

imageOne of the best things about my placement to Colombia is I know almost nothing about it. One thing that comes up over an over again is the fact that the food is great, yeah!  But what is Colombian food?  I truly have no idea. This is why I was so excited to make a stop at Mekato’s Colombian Bakery  during a  trip to Chicago today. It was an experience!

We arrived at around 10:30 AM on a Saturday morning and it was packed. After a short wait we were able to get a couple of seats at the counter. The first thing we learned was that there was no menu. OK . The only Colombian food that I have heard of is empanadas so I imageasked for those, “con pollo”, (thank you Duolingo). There was also a poster with a picture of a tamale so I asked for one of those also. Everyone around us was drinking coffee, so we ordered this (plus hot chocolate for my two sons. )

The coffee was hot, (heated cups, thank you!)  The hot chocolate was spiced. The empanadas were like little dumpling made of cornmeal that had been deep fried, with a potato chicken filling. They were crispy and fresh, and best of all, my sons, who can be notoriously picky , loved them. The “tamale” was more like a corn pudding wrapped in a banana leaf with stewed chicken and potatoes mixed in. The waitress asked if we would like some “green sauce”–yes! of course! It turned out to be what seemed like pickled chilies that had been slightly sweetenen–delicioso!

As we ate we started noticing the bakery items in a display next to us–guava filled and imagecoconut covered pastries. We noticed fruit drinks–my son ordered the “orange one” , (it turned out to be passion fruit.) The costumers seemed to know the waitresses by their first names. Families were coming in and ordering bags of empanadas to go. It felt like I was taking my husband and sons on a little mini trip to Colombia. More than any guide book I have read, people I have talked to,  or movies I have seen, being in that bakery gave me a sense (or a taste) of my adventure to come!

Question for kids: Have you ever tasted food from a different country that seemed strange or new to you? What did you notice? What did you wonder?

Lost In The Right Direction

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Back home after three days in Washington D.C. The  Global Education Symposium was dynamic, exhausting, affirming, exhilarating and inspiring!

I was able to meet the other teachers who will be traveling to Colombia this summer. I was given the opportunity to consider a research question that I would like to focus on during my time there. My group shared a fantastic discussion about big themes like success, community, values and power. They clearly, thoughtful, smart and fun. They are going to be wonderful travel partners.

I was able to see the results of globalized lesson plans in the form of student work samples from the classrooms of other cohort members. Seeing all of these ideas and theories put into PRACTICE  was one of many highlights of this experience. The work samples helped bring the ideas of global education down to a real and tangible level.

Excellent speakers addressed topics like cultural awareness, the need for global citizens and practical ways to apply this to our teaching. I was able to collect resources from National Geographic, The Peace Corps, IEarn and a host of others that I can share immediately with my teaching peers.

I was so grateful that Jayne Heffron, my principal  was also able to be there. She immediately grasped the urgency and importance of this work. It was an invaluable chance to talk through ideas and possibilities for our school and district.

For all of the learning of these past days, I feel like I have left with even more questions than when I started.  They are big questions–How can I take all of the learning of these past few days beyond my classroom to my greater school community?  What research question will have the greatest impact both on my experience in Colombia and my work in my own school district? It will take a while for all of my thoughts to settle.  Meanwhile, I think that the quote above says it all!


Question for kids: What do you think it means to be “lost in a good direction?” 

 (Use the comments section to share your answer!)

Room 218 Goes to D.C.



I am taking my class to Washington DC—at   least I am taking one member of my class–Bandit, a stuffed raccoon who also happens to be our class ambassador! The kids chose a raccoon because this is an animal that they have seen in Whitefish Bay.  (Start local, right!) We, (my administrator Jayne Heffron) and I arrived late in the afternoon with time to do a bit of sightseeing before the Teachers For Global Classrooms symposium officially started. It was an easy decision for both of us to head to the Library of Congress.

It is such an awe inspiring building, but even more than that, it is a powerful reminder of the fact that a  functioning democracy depends on informed and educated citizens. One highlight of our visit there was the discovery of a young readers center–how great is that! Back in corner of this grand and prestigious building there is a space where kids can go and actually sit down with a good book. Bandit loved it there too!

Question for kids: Can you find Bandit on the sofa?  you recognize any favorite book characters sitting around him? (Use the comments section to share your answer!)

The Rainforest Comes to Life!

This week our class read and re-read the Lynn Cherry’s classic, The Great Kapok Tree.  I have read this story many times to many groups of students, but this was by far the most engaged that I Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 7.35.40 PMhad seen kids be with this book. The most obvious explanation for this is that they could sense MY excitement as I read it. The idea that I might have a chance to actually have the experience of being in a tropical rainforest this summer caused me to notice  details that I had missed in previous readings. The description of the sounds the different animals made–the density of the vegetation, the sheer number of birds. What a great pleasure to read an author who is able to describe a with such vivid and vibrant detail. As a teacher of 2nd graders, often my focus is on teaching my students skills that they will need to comprehend a text: paying attention to the story elements, inferring the main idea, using context clues to understand vocabulary. I was reminded this week that if we are doing our students a disservice if we reduce the experience reading to only teaching those skills. It is so obvious (but also easy to forget) that when we are passionate and excited about what we are teaching, our kids will learn more.

Question for kids: If you went to the rainforest, what animal would you most want to see? (Use the comments section to share your answer!)


One of the first things I did after I learned that I would be traveling to Colombia this summer was download the free app, Duolingo.  A Spanish teacher who is also part of the Teachers FoScreen Shot 2016-01-31 at 5.58.37 PMr Global Classrooms program had recommended it so I thought I would give it a try. The first step was to take a placement test where I learned that I was 1% fluent in Spanish! Clearly, I have a ways to go! The app works like a game. You decide how much time you want to spend on it each day, (I chose ten minutes). As you proceed through different lessons you “unlock” new skills and even earn “lingots” when you pass through new levels of the program. It is always a great experience for a teacher to be put back into the role of a student. I am finding that I can only learn so many new skills before I need to go back and review those I have previously learned. This makes me think of the students in my classroom. How much time am I giving them to solidify their understandings of new concepts? How often do I teach a lesson and then just move on without giving them the practice they need to integrate their new learning. It can been very humbling to try to learn a new language. I have found that I can practice speaking with the app, (there is a function that listens to your pronunciation) but when I have the chance to practice with an actual Spanish speaker I am tongue tied! I have also been reminded of the value of “chunking” learning into small time periods. I find that I am able to absorb the information best when I  spend 10-15 minutes a day on the app. Another reminder  that my students are no different. If I have been talking more than 15 minutes, they are surely not listening. One of my favorite things about the app is the feedback that I get about my progress. After a month am now happy to say that I am 7% fluent. Yo so muy orgolluso!


Welcome to My Blog!

This has been a very exciting year in my 2nd grade classroom. Thanks to the learning and connections that I have been able to make as a Teachers For Global Classrooms fellow, I have been “breaking” through the walls of my classroom and helping my students to better appreciate and understand the world they live in. This blog will be place for me to share my learning as well as my adventures as I prepare for and then actually take part in my field experience to Colombia this summer. I invite comments and questions from community members, fellow educators and anyone who is interested in the question of how to foster a sense of global citizenship in elementary aged learners.