Sunday, February 12, 2012

It Takes a Village

I recently “found” my cousin via Facebook. Over twenty years ago she moved to Ireland and we just kind of drifted apart. It has been so wonderful to reconnect and we’ve had fun Skyping and sharing memories of growing up as cousins. Our mothers were two of the eight sisters and one brother raised by my Grandma Grimes, which meant we had a whole lot of cousins and a whole lot of fun times to remember. While it has been lovely to reminisce, it’s also made me think about about what my own children are missing out on because of our decision to come and live in the U.S. I’m reminded of the ancient African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child.
 I know my husband and I have often missed the support and comfort of close family members to help us weather the storms life brings, and I began to panic at the thought of the eternal damage we must have done to our children by denying them the opportunity to grow up surrounded by their extended family. How much will our decision to emigrate cost us in therapy in the future? My panic subsides as I realize that they do, in fact, have a village. An adopted village that has grown around all of us as we have made friends and acquaintances that have sustained and nurtured us during the ten years we have lived here. It then occurred to me that it also takes a village to raise a teacher.
The first decade of my teaching career was spent in a small elementary school in a leafy suburb of Liverpool. I was fortunate to work with and learn from an amazing group of teachers whose combined teaching experience totaled close to one hundred years. Like a sponge I soaked up every tip, technique and strategy they employed to help students reach their full potential and they fostered in me a true passion for my job. Here in the U.S I have been equally fortunate to work with dedicated professionals at Birmingham Covington School and I have been able to connect, collaborate and create with my peers like never before. My lust for learning is fed by my personal learning network which I have been able to cultivate with the use of technology. Twitter, Partners in Learning Network, MoodelMeets, and Blogs are just a few of the tools I use to create the global village that is guiding and supporting me on my learning journey.
One of my goals in the last few years has been to help my students learn how to use social media to create their own global village and in the last few weeks I’ve discovered that we don’t have to look too far. For the second year my class is participating in Cyberfair, an international program that encourages students to use technology to research and share their learning about a particular aspect of their community. The topic we chose this year is local businesses, how they meet the needs and wants of the community and how sustainable they are. My students have connected with local experts who have embraced their pursuit of knowledge with a level of enthusiasm I never expected. Bradley MCallum thrilled a group with a tour of the basement of the famous Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. Ruth Kremer gave my students the royal treatment at the Detroit Receiving Hospital and Michael Hauser shared his extensive knowledge of the history of American theater while allowing three of my girls to do cartwheels across the stage of the famous Detroit Opera House .All of my students returned from their visits gushing about what they had learned and how exciting it was to learn beyond the classroom. These are the days they will remember. I sincerely appreciate the time our local experts took out of their working days to help me educate my students about their community in a memorable and authentic way.

We are lucky to be living in an age when technology allows us to reach out and make connections with people who can help us learn and grow. My own kids may well need therapy for something in the future, but it certainly won’t be for lack of a village to cherish, support and encourage them.

1 comment:

  1. It is true that we do indeed choose our families and communities. Oftentimes the most meaningful relationships we enjoy are not necessarily blood-related. The power of love, respect, and compassion are what guide us in community.

    Social media has brought people closer together and enabled us to share information in intimate and powerful ways. The opportunity to give our students access to these tools has certainly increased their engagement and motivation, and reminded them that learning can take place in all places at all times.