Last year (2018), a very dear friend of mine told me he was going to be in Tanzania for the month of July. To say I was green with envy is the understatement of the century. I was quite jealous and loved seeing his social media posts of his time there. I knew it was definitely going to be a bucket list item for me for some day.
Well, some day came faster than I thought it would. On Saturday, February 9, I just happened to be browsing through social media and one of the pages I follow on Facebook posted a link for LRTT and their summer fellowships. Little did I know that clicking that link was going to change my life.
When I realized this was something very similar to what my friend had done (not knowing at the time that it is the same company), I immediately filled out the application. Within a couple of hours I had a phone call from them asking me to set up an interview with the team leader. Of course I accepted. I was quite pleased to be told they often do not get applicants who have the credentials or years of experience that I have. I hoped this would be a leg-up for me.
The following Tuesday, I had an interview with one of the team leaders. I hate to call it an interview because it was pretty informal and she was super nice and down to earth. Alas, that's what they call it -- they have to be sure the person on the other end of the application isn't crazy or going to try to be the boss of the applesauce or whatever. She let me know that she would be sharing my interview with the other team leader and they would let me know within 48 hours.
The following day, I had a phone call from the other team leader welcoming me aboard. I can't lie....I am BEYOND excited. Yes, it will be nerve-wrecking to leave my family for a month, but this is an opportunity of a lifetime. Summers 2020 and 2021 are going to be packed full of graduation and college stuff as my two littles (who are not little anymore!) graduate high school and leave me an empty nester. This is really the best possible time for me to do this.
One of the questions that I was asked was what did I hope to gain from this experience...and I flat out said this is probably not an answer you'd expect from someone who has the credentials and experience that I have, but I expect quite honestly to gain some humility. In the USA, we like to gripe that we have it so bad when it comes to teaching (and don't get me wrong -- there is a lot to be desired in our profession as far as how we are respected and how we are paid), but we don't have 60 students in a classroom with very minimal resources like is the norm there.
Every US teacher knows our classrooms are mostly teacher funded. But if you are like me and work in a Title 1 school, you DO get access to other materials and resources and of course, my current school is 1:1 with iPads which opens up a whole different scenario compared to folks who have little to no technology. In fact, I would argue that (at least where I am) we have money that is spent on resources that end up sitting in a closet or on a shelf because there is such a sense of urgency to spend the money or lose it that decisions are often made haphazardly rather than with input from the people who are expected to use it.
Truth be told, I love teaching. Despite the ups and downs of being an educator, I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. But I also realize my time in a classroom is probably coming to an end -- I want to make a bigger impact than I can make in one classroom with 20-30 kids (and yes that is a range I've experienced, even in the last 5 years!). I want to coach teachers and support them as they support their students. And this experience is going to give me such a wonderful perspective in reaching those goals.
Some day I will probably be a principal or a school leader of some kind. In the meantime, I would really love to do more work with coaching. As I get more involved with Leading Educators and helping provide PD to my colleagues, it just fuels this for me -- the gains we are seeing across our school this year are phenomenal and I have no doubt it is in part due to the PD we are focusing on. Working with OUR kids and OUR situation and then making adjustments to our instruction within those parameters. It's pretty awesome to help teachers realize they can do so much more than they think with the resources they have.
There is a lot of red tape to work through as I prepare for this amazing opportunity (vaccines, visas, etc) but I am excited. I think it is going to give me such a renewed sense of purpose and excitement for the work I do every day. I can't wait to see how I grow alongside their students and teachers.