Sunday, November 16, 2008

Global Citizenship Summit, and other updates

Hi everyone! Wow- didn't realize it had been nearly a month since I last wrote! When time's not crawling around here, it flies. Sounds strange, but I think it's something about Bali, or living on an island in general, that makes time go by differently. With only two seasons a year (wet and dry), it's easy to feel confused!
So, where to start? Much has happened since the last time I updated the blog. I guess I'll begin with what's gone on most recently...this past weekend, Green School hosted the first ever "Global Citizenship Summit." Over 60 people were in attendance, most of which came from international schools from Asia, as well as all over the world. Those who weren't educators came from international development or humanitarian agencies. The purpose for the summit was to discuss Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship Education. While both these are relatively new terms, they are becoming increasingly important in international education curriculum. The summit was a nice place to brainstorm what these concepts actually mean, how they are relevant (and necessary) to today's education, and how we can translate these ideas into our curriculum through tangible lesson plans.
The summit was a success- a couple of the workshops/speakers that I found to be the most interesting included David Begbie's poverty simulation, which kicked off the night on Friday. David is the director at Crossroads Foundation, a humanitarian/aid agency based out of Hong Kong. David discussed a particular situation that he has come across in Nepal of families who make and sell paper bags to survive. They earn far below minimum wage, and must work as fast as they can to produce a certain number of bags a day. The simulation basically involved all the participants breaking off into groups of 6 or 7. These groups became our families, and we were allocated a 5 x 5 meter tarp to sit and work on- this represented our "slum." Every family was given several sheets of newspaper and told to make as many bags as possible in 3, 10 minute time periods. After completing 10 bags, one member of the family (usually me) would go and beg to a local shopkeeper to purchase the bags. Sometimes the shopkeeper would be forgiving and sympathetic to the family's situation, but more often than not, the money provided for the bags wasn't enough to buy food for a week.
Once the ten minutes of each simulation was up, we had to count our money in hopes that we could afford food and rent for the week. If we were really lucky, we also had the option of paying for sanitation and education (by the end of the whole simulation, only one family had saved enough for education because they sold a family member). Anyways...without going into too much detail, I found the simulation to be very interesting and thought-provoking. While I was cynical of the idea at first (how can anyone living the way I do begin to understand what it feels like to live in poverty?), it really was interesting the behavior and ideas that came out of the whole thing. For example, I surprised myself at just how competitive I got when I was begging to the shopkeeper. Several other participants would run to the keeper at the same time and all of us would be begging together, doing anything we could, offering whatever we could to the keeper in order for him/her to look at our bags first and pay us. I started yelling at people, accusing them of cheating, etc. My family also stole bags from another family because we couldn't afford to buy new ones.
Of course, all of this was acting and a simulation, but it really was an interesting glimpse at the pressures of living in such a situation. (* A note: perhaps what I found most interesting was the occasional development aid representative that was acting in the simulation as well...while working tirelessly to complete the bags, every once in a while an announcement would come on from some NGO person that would offer "free sewing lessons" or something else that was totally useless to me or the rest of my family at the moment- just kind of went to show how such organizations often don't benefit the needy at all)
Yesterday, I visited a couple other interesting workshops and speakers- one of which was a presentation by two teachers from United World College in Singapore. They spoke of their "global concerns" program, which is student driven and inspired and facilitated by faculty. While Green School lacks the funding that UWC does at this point in time, they gave good ideas about how to incorporate larger global issues into the curriculum.

I didn't realize I had so much to say about the summit! If anyone has any questions about some of the other workshops I attended, or is just curious about the summit in general, feel free to email me more specifics.

In other news, my last day working at Green School will be Thursday, Nov 27. This might come as a shock to some of you, and not to others, I have thought about this decision carefully for several weeks now. While I am an avid supporter of the mission and vision of Green School, I've decided that teaching kindergarten is really not right for me. This doesn't mean that I will give up teaching entirely- in the future, I wouldn't be suprised if I ended up teaching again, maybe at another international school, but to an older age group. I will remain in Bali/Indonesia for the first few weeks of December, and then am off to India. I was offered a job in Chennai (formerly known as Madras) in Southern India which starts at the beginning of January. I couldn't be more excited for the position! I will be joining up with RIN, Rural Innovations Network, an NGO in Chennai which was started by an Ashoka fellow (if you don't know about Ashoka- check out The position is a 3 month long internship in which i will be conducting research on social entrepreneurship. RIN is collaborating with IIT-Madras (Indian Institue of Technology, a very prestigious and well-known university) to design a college course on social entrepreneurship. For those of you who aren't familiar with that term, SE basically refers to creating innovative solutions to some of society's problems. This is similar to "socially responsible business", etc. While most of the research I do will happen in Chennai, I will also be traveling throughout the state of Tamil Nadu, as well as possibly traveling further throughout India. I'm thrilled to go to India, as I have heard many a terrific, and could I say interesting? story about it..
It will truly be a period of transition, and perhaps not as smooth as would be ideal, but I feel ready to step up to a new challenge, which I feel the job in India will be for me on a professional as well as personal level.
I won't be there for another month, but as the date nears, I'll be sure to send out my address- I'm sure a care package or letter around the holidays would be greatly appreciated! :)
All for now- I had a lot to catch up on!

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