Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Symposium Realizations

On February 17-18 I attended the TGC pre travel symposium in Washington D.C.  It was an amazing and at times overwhelming experience.  I came away from the weekend with two realizations.

1.)  You can meet your heroes!
There are many who say that meeting those you've admired from afar will only bring disappointment.    One of my cousins admired Jimmy Carter for many years before standing in line at a book signing near her home.  She apparently caught him on an off day or moment and came away completely uninspired if not totally disillusioned.  A music journalist friend of mine had a chance to interview one of his all-time favorite musicians, Neil Young.  He ended up so nervous that he was mostly incoherent throughout the interview.  During the online course portion of TGC, there were so many amazing people and resources introduced to us.  The Symposium brought several of these superstars of global education to sessions and a resource fair.  They did not disappoint!

  • Craig Perrier:  Craig was our online instructor and guide through fantastic resources and challenging assignments.  Craig and I sat at the same dinner table the first night and I so enjoyed talking with him!  He has a great sense of humor and I found him to be interesting and interested-two traits that don't always go together.
  • Julia De La Torre : Julia presented a webinar to our class on global education that was phenomenal.  It was informative, practical, and dead-on!  She was received so positively by our online community that I actually feared that meeting her in person would be too much for us all.  When I caught up with her in-between sessions, she couldn't have been more gracious, smart, and just all-around awesome.  
  • Susanna Halliday Miller and Kristin LaBoe:  Susanna and Kristin are two of the most visible of the TGC team.  They were so helpful to me throughout the course and in setting up travel and negotiating with my district.  I worried a bit about our meeting after my many questions and "situations".  They are lovely and incredibly competent women.  I am so happy to get to travel with Susanna, in three days!
  • TGC Fellows:  What an interesting group of truly dedicated professionals.  I could have spent most of the weekend looking at and discussing the work they are doing in their classrooms or their fascinating schools and lives.  I feel fortunate and humbled to be included in this outstanding group. 
2.)  Wearing a name tag with a fact on it is a great way to get your head around something BIG.
My symposium name tag said:  Meg Riley

Yes, the word, Arizona, prompted many conversations about the state of education and politics in our state and district.  More importantly were the comments about my future travel.  Over and over I heard, "You're going to Ghana!"  My response became, "Yes, in two weeks."  I have known that I am going to Ghana since December but hearing it over and over again made it real.  It was an incredibly effective way to keep something in the forefront on my mind.  So effective, in fact, that I've considered wearing a name tag like this as a way to process all the major events and impending dates in my life.  My name tag could say things like:                
                                                        Meg Riley
                                                        Mid-Quarter grades are due on Friday
                                                        Meg Riley
                                                        Capstone Project due in October

or  even                                           Meg Riley
                                                        My daughter will be a teenager (officially)  in 1.5 years.

Right now my name tag now says, "school starts in one hour" and "you have at least 3, 000 to do before leaving for Ghana in three days".  Thanks for reading, my next post will hopefully be written in Accra, Ghana.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


This is my first attempt at blogging:  a requirement for Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) fellows.  TGC is a program under IREX (International Research and Exchange Board), a division of the U.S. State Department.  TGC is a course designed for secondary educators who are working on globalizing their teaching.  I am proud to be one of 60 some fellows who make up the inaugural group of this amazing program.

The title of my blog may require some clarification.  It is not an international real estate site or the latest HGTV program.  Instead, it is a mash-up of recent conversations with colleagues and the way in which my brain processes and functions best (?).  I am a dedicated, and at times, compulsive list-maker.  I write lists on scraps of paper or in various books made expressly for that purpose. Lists bounce around in my brain, and I even use a method described by one of Amy Tan's characters involving assigning one item to each fingertip.  Lately I've had several conversations about the best method to present information such as a department budget or a justification for an international professional development opportunity.  We've wondered whether people really read narrative or are they more likely to read and comprehend information presented in bulleted format.  I don't know that I will be able to answer this question definitively, but the list format makes sense to me for now.

Another interpretation could be made based on a definition of listing:  to incline to one side; careen.  This is one of my mom's favorite words. She uses it when we have one of our inspired room rearranging sessions usually involving picture hanging.  At first, global leaning seemed to underestimate my current work, worldview, and overall commitment to global education.  Through my TGC coursework, I realize I have work to do.  It is important for me to think critically about my practice and use the tools I have been provided to evaluate and reflect on what I am doing.  I'd like to think of listing as heading in the right direction-a way to get from here to there.

Finally, listing connotates an instability or imbalance, even discomfort.  In my experience, feelings of discomfort are a crucial part of changing behavior and practice. Change is difficult, often confusing, and uncomfortable.  This is the beauty of it.  As I work on globalizing my classes and hopefully assist others to do so as well, there will be those moments of imbalance and discomfort.  Does growth ever come without these feelings?  I will keep this close as I prepare for my upcoming trip to Ghana:  a journey that will undoubtably provide many moments of imbalance and discomfort and ultimately growth.