Many thanks to the readers of our blog posts – it has meant a great deal to us to receive your comments while we have been away.
Thank you to our teachers at ECELA who have helped us learn Spanish, who have modeled compassion when we felt frustrated as learners, and who have shared so many new teaching strategies we want to try when we return to Buffalo.
Thank you to the teachers and children of the schools we have visited in Santiago. Your incredibly warm and generous welcome to us each day we visited made us feel so special. The chance to learn from your practices and experience another system of education will help us to better understand our own educational system and improve our work as teachers.
Most of all, a thousand thanks to our UMayor friends and colleagues – the careful planning you did on our behalf, the wonderful receptions (we love the Chilean “once” – “tea time”!), and all that you have taught us. We hope we will see you again soon.
It’s worth it, even when it’s difficult. This weekend I was reminded of the courage it takes for students to participate in international exchanges and travels.
On Sunday, we left Santiago at sunup to travel to Cajón de Maipo for a trekking excursion in the Andes. Earlier in the week, it had rained in the city which meant colder temperatures and snow in the mountains. Sunday was beautiful – sunny with blue skies against the white-capped peaks that seemed to surround us as we began our hike. As we climbed, we saw condors above us (and then below us as we neared our destination) as well as one of the active volcanoes in the area. The students in our group had never hiked a trail as challenging, and it was hard going for the six-hour round trip journey. But, it was worth it. Reaching the top (called, “Mirador de condores” -- “Condor Look-out”) felt amazing and gave us a 360 degree view of the peaks above and the valley below.
It took courage for our students to take the first step onto an unknown trail, and it has taken courage for the IPDS student travelers to say yes to the chance to experience a new place with a new language, new schools, and new expectations. Traveling requires raising the money needed, being flexible and adaptable, and opening oneself to possibilities. I am so proud of the students in the way they have embraced this experience as an opportunity to teach and to learn. They have been wonderful ambassadors of Buffalo State.
One final note: also during the weekend, we visited Isla Negra, the coastal home of Nobel Prize poet, Pablo Neruda as well as Pomaire, a small artisan community. Please see the photos below to see these beautiful places.
(I am making two posts today – we have been so busy with so many interesting experiences, I am a little behind – I hope you will read about our travels over the past week – thank you!)
In the last blog post, I mentioned the friendships we are building in Chile; however, I didn’t fully realize the strengths of these relationships until UMayor held a special reception for members of past delegations who have visited Buffalo. There have been six groups who have traveled to Buffalo as well as four UMayor students who, through a scholarship from the Chilean Ministry of Education to study English, spent a full semester at Buffalo State.
It was truly one of the most special highlights of my professional career to see students from these various delegations who are now successful English teachers (and “all grown up” as the UMayor faculty commented since they were as pleased to see their alumni as I was). It meant so much to hear them speak about their jobs, their students, and their lives and also to learn how much the trip to Buffalo had influenced their work as teachers and as people. Many told me of the continued relationships they maintain through social media, and two recently traveled to Buffalo for the wedding of a student they met through this exchange program.
At one of our meetings with the UMayor faculty, we were discussing social justice, and I was struck by a comment Tamara Álvarez (Director of the English Pedagogy Program at UMayor) made – “Our interest in social justice is connected to our belief that English is a tool for social mobility, equality, and equity in Chile.” At the heart of this exchange between UMayor and Buffalo State is language and communication. By becoming better teachers of language, I feel we open possibilities for our students, and I am reminded of a favorite quotation by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Perhaps the IPDS programs can extend the world through language.
P.S. After writing the first draft of this blog post, we had our second visit to Colegio Lorenzo Sazié. The UMayor teacher candidate, Francisca Santander told us that after our first visit, the first and second graders we met were more motivated and attentive in English class because they had met “real English speakers.” She believed that our visit provided the children with an authentic and concrete reason to learn something that had felt a little abstract previously. Language matters 😊
We learn together – this is the spirit of PDS, and we are developing many new understandings through our school-university partnership with Universidad Mayor and its school partners. These mutually beneficial collaborations help us realize that we are better together than working individually because we share many challenges while having a variety of ideas and experiences that inform possible solutions.
At the center of learning together is relationship, and through the many friends we are making at UMayor, ECELA, and the six schools we are visiting, we exchange ideas, concerns, and stories from our experiences. The UMayor and Buffalo State students began their partnership through an electronic pen pal project back in December 2018. Then they met in person when the UMayor delegation traveled to Buffalo in February, and now they are meeting as fellow teachers and friends as the Buffalo State group visits Santiago. The time that the students spend together at schools, in methods classes, eating and laughing in each other’s cities/countries/continents helps them to see the world is a bigger place than they ever imagined with so many more possibilities.
Raquel and I are also learning so much through the relationships we are building with the UMayor faculty. We have participated in two faculty meetings to discuss the challenges we face – effectively evaluating student growth, motivating teacher candidates, building dispositional capacity, and documenting our work for accreditation purposes. Talking through these difficulties from our different perspectives helps us to see our own context through new eyes and new possibilities. We (the UMayor faculty, Raquel, Angela Patti, and I) have also decided to conduct a research project together to study the effects of this exchange program on new teachers. We will be using structured reflection and the Intercultural Knowledge and Competence Value Rubric from the American Association of Colleges and Universities with both groups to explore the ways the teacher candidates develop as a result of the exchange. The project will be presented at the PDS Conference in September (we invite you to attend the conference and our session on September 27!) in person by the Buffalo State delegation and virtually through video by the UMayor group. We also plan to submit a proposal to present at the National PDS conference in February and hope that we’ll be able to present together in person. We are excited to continue our relationship with our friends and colleagues at UMayor.
After spending our first week building Spanish skills and learning more about teaching from our Universidad Mayor partners, we began working in the schools today. It was exciting to visit classrooms and talk with teachers and other educators.
I joined Abby and Kayla at Colegio Lorenzo Sazié which is a wonderful public school of dedicated teachers who serve what Chileans call “a vulnerable population of students.” We began the day with introductions in the teachers’ room where everyone was busy with lesson preparations. Our UMayor teacher candidate host was Francisca who introduced us to her mentor teacher, Miss Scarlet. We loved watching and learning from them as the 2nd graders lined up after recess and the two teachers led the students in a song (in English) with gestures and movement to refocus and prepare for English class. Then, Miss Scarlet welcomed each student into the class with a greeting in English and a hug or handshake. We later learned that this greeting is called an “umbral” (the title of this entry). The teachers of this school, and the larger collection of schools with whom they partner, have all agreed to use the practice of umbral to connect with each child and to do a quick assessment of the child’s wellbeing. The umbral also serves as a marker between recess and the start of academic classwork. Although there is an average of 40 children in classrooms, this process took only a few minutes and set an important tone for the class.
Abby and Kayla were asked to stand at the front, and the children were encouraged to ask them questions in English. Throughout the class, Miss Scarlet and Miss Francisca managed behavior with songs and gestures. The children had also prepared a beautiful card with a photo at the center which was presented to Abby and Kayla.
After class, the head of the English Department (Miss Natalie) invited us for a coffee break and a chance to ask questions. In addition to the practice of umbral, we learned that each educator (teacher, administrator, etc.) in the building has a coach who supports him/her by providing professional development, demonstrations, and an ear to listen. This coach is a full-time position in the school. We also learned that one of the challenges the teachers face is working with parents in a collaborative way so that teachers and families can work together in the mutual support of children.
I left Abby and Kayla in the good hands of Miss Francisca to meet Krista and Kelly for a visit to Colegio Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna. This trip held a lot of meaning for me since it was the school with which I first partnered and helped to establish the Chilean version of the Global Book Project. Moreover, the mentor teacher who hosted us (Mr. David) was a teacher candidate from that cohort in 2011. It was wonderful to see him now mentoring a new teacher candidate, Miss Daniela, who served as our connection to UMayor.
As I experienced in past visits, the girls (this is a public all-girls school) were so enthusiastic, warm and open to meeting us. We enjoyed observing Daniela’s 4th grade English lesson and loved the opportunity to work individually with the children as they worked. They call their teachers, tía (auntie), which is a sign of respect and affection.
I can’t wait to visit more schools this week and next. Through Rosa Delicio, the UMayor professor who makes all school placements, we have the opportunity to visit 6 schools in total.
Please view the photos from our weekend travels to Viña del Mar and Valparaiso (cities on the Pacific coast) and around Santiago (Santa Lucía, Plaza de Armas, la Moneda, and the Central Market). We’ve been busy!
Our classes at ECELA have been excellent. Through an immersion experience, we have all learned more Spanish vocabulary and grammar in ways that are fun and engaging. Instead of teaching us Spanish through the vehicle of English (which many of us experienced as middle and high school students), each class uses only Spanish but accompanied with gestures, images, and wonderful pedagogical strategies to help us understand. The central goal is communication, and since we want to be able to speak with our new friends in Chile, we have a very authentic reason for building our skills.
In addition to experiencing the value of immersion at ECELA, we also participated in a wonderful activity sponsored by Universidad Mayor English Pedagogy Department teacher candidates in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy – the Conversation Club. On Thursday we met with two leaders of the club who explained its purpose and the logistics. They showed us an example of the type of activity they use to engage participants in speaking. We were each asked to generate three questions that were then collected. Next we chose a card that corresponded to a different direction we were asked to take regarding the questions. Throughout the game, we laughed, learned more about each other, and used language in a variety of ways. Today, we met the full club which is open to all students of any major at Universidad Mayor as well as high school students. We began by introducing ourselves and then playing a Speed Dating Game. We closed the session with the game of Two Truths and a Lie. Once again, the games required us to use language in a low-stress/high-engagement way.
In speaking with the SUNY Buffalo State IPDS participants, we decided that we would like to start a Spanish Conversation Club beginning in the fall. We want to open it to all interested students and faculty as well as high school students from our nearby PDS partner schools. We plan to communicate with the leaders of the Chilean Conversation Club for more ideas to encourage participation. We hope you might be interested in joining us!
Experiencing language immersion as students and seeing it in action through the English Conversation Club will help us to be prepared for next week when we begin our practicum experience in six different schools in Santiago. We are so excited to meet the teachers and children of these schools!
Although we live on different continents, today’s events helped us to realize the many similarities we as Buffalonians share with our Chileans friends and colleagues.
The focus of the IPDS Chile program is to study teaching. By experiencing teaching in another country, we begin to more fully understand teaching in our own country and develop skills, knowledge, and dispositions that will make us more effective educators. We spend the first part of each day (9:00-1:00) experiencing excellent teaching in Spanish at ECELA with a conversation class and then grammar study alongside other Spanish learners from across the globe. We are realizing the importance of practice, mistake-making, camaraderie, and laughing as we become more comfortable with language learning. Each day, my conversation class begins by engaging us with questions that allow us to talk about what we know and care about – “What did you do yesterday? What did you learn about Chile?” Yesterday this was followed by a game of “Password” to build vocabulary and “What do you think?” to practice the subjunctive today. These games encourage us to try new language skills together in a group.
After a lunch of completos y papas fritas, we visited the UMayor campus. Half of our group joined the Curriculum class and half joined the Methods class. Through our discussions we recognized the important difference of class size (about 20-30 in the U.S.; about 40-45 in Chile); however, we discovered important similarities, too. These include our goals to develop engaging and effective instructional practices to help each child develop into a happy and successful adult. We also recognize similar challenges of assessment driving instruction; motivating learners; and managing classroom space, time, and behaviors.
A newer challenge facing Chilean teachers is the support of immigrant children, especially those who do not yet speak Spanish such as recently-arrived students from Syria and Haiti. In the Buffalo schools, over 80 languages are spoken, so today’s conversation was an opportunity to share ideas and successes for working with children and families from a range of linguistic backgrounds.
Our visit to UMayor ended with a presentation from the English Pedagogy Students Council who are working hard to build community, encourage their fellow students to take advantage of opportunities, and to recognize the very public role of teachers as advocates for children. Buffalo State Future Teachers Club leaders in our IPDS Chile cohort recognized the challenges of motivating peers to participate and get involved.
Thank you for reading!
When we began the partnership between SUNY Buffalo State and Universidad Mayor in 2011, we never imagined the many directions our collaboration would take. Today in 2019, the IPDS Chile program has organized five exchanges with delegations from UMayor traveling to Buffalo (in the heart of lake effect winters!) and cohorts from Buffalo State traveling to Santiago to explore language learning, participate in field placements, learn about the realities of becoming a teacher in North and South America, and build friendships across national borders. These experiences have influenced all of us by helping us to more closely examine and expand our teaching practices as university faculty and teacher candidates.
The IPDS Chile process begins by connecting electronically with a pen pal from the partner university so that when the group arrives each person feels that he/she already has a colleague and a friend. The hosts then help the guests during the visit as they travel to schools, participate in pedagogy/methods courses, experience campus life, and learn about the host city. We learn from each other through informal conversations over coffee and onces as well as through formal presentations about the current state of education in our respective countries.
As we prepare to travel again this year, we are so excited to see our UMayor colleagues and friends with whom we have been actively working together to address the challenges we both face. In both settings, the Global Book Hour has developed into the Global Literacy Engagement Project to meet the needs of all learners in Buffalo and Santiago. This project now includes the Global Literacy Channel which offers families and teachers short videos with suggestions for how to build children’s literacy skills. Many thanks to Patty George for her tremendous efforts with the Channel! Please visit https://globalliteracy.buffalostate.edu/global-literacy-channel to watch.
We are also excited about a new collaborative research project that will examine how the use of Applied Learning and structured reflection influences the cultural competency of participating teacher candidates. UMayor and Buffalo State faculty and teacher candidates hope to present the findings at the PDS Conference in September and the NAPDS Conference in February. (For more information about the SUNY Applied Learning Initiative at Buffalo State, please visit: https://collegesenate.buffalostate.edu/applied-learning)
Additionally, we are thrilled to announce that, thanks to our wonderful international partners around the globe, the IPDS programs were honored to receive the 2018 National Association for PDS (NAPDS) Exemplary Achievement Award and the 2019 NAFSA Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award. The Director of English Pedagogy at UMayor, Tamara Irupé Álvarrez Sepúlveda, helped to make these awards possible by writing, “The benefits of this partnership in our teacher education program goes beyond the exchange of multicultural experiences, educational field experiences and boosting the foreign language. It has allowed us to improve our own academic practice by observing different realities and strategies; identify strengths and weaknesses of our Study Plan in order to prepare successful XXI Century teachers; develop and carry out the Global Book Project following the experience observed by our teachers at Buffalo with immigrant communities in Chile which have not been able to learn Spanish nor English and require help developing linguistic and cultural strategies for immersion…The impact of our partnership on the children and teachers from Chilean Schools who have interacted with the Buffalo State teacher candidates is priceless.” In turn, Buffalo State has been enormously influenced by our UMayor partners. In the spirit of PDS, which values mutually beneficial partnership, we believe and hope that the children in our U.S. and Chilean classrooms will benefit from these teachers who have taken a giant step to learn more about the world.
On a more personal note, I want to express my thanks to IPDS Chile Co-director, Angela Patti, who is not able to travel to Santiago this time around. I am very appreciative of her tremendous support and contributions to the program. We will miss you!
To readers of this blog, thank you for your interest in our travels – we welcome your comments!