Just finished up our first of three weeks as visiting author/teachers at the Singapore American School. Every morning at 6:45am the wide smiling Mr. Ali pulls up to our hotel and whisks us off to the sprawling campus and then he deposits us back at 3pm a little bit tuckered out but always impressed with the work accomplished by the students during the day.
Singapore is a city state – think Manhattan with its towering buildings surrounding a green space. Now – get rid of all the trash on the streets of NYC and replace Central Park with a rainforest jungle complete with monkeys and boa constrictors and you’d be approaching what Singapore is.
This visit is really a gift to a couple of itinerant poet educators such as Sara and myself – set up by our friend Dr. Nancy Johnson an education professor at a state university in Seattle Washington.
Okay you’ve heard the old adage those who can do and those who can’t teach right? Well, first off it’s a pretty stupid adage – teaching is one of the toughest professions one can do and teaching teachers to teach is doubly so. One of the most deadly traps a teacher can fall into is losing touch with the goals of their profession. Whether it be dancing as fast as one can to prepare students for some barely relevant high stakes test sacrificing critical and deeper thinking skills or becoming so entrenched in the academic theory side that real classroom experience becomes something decades removed for the folks who are sending fledgling educators into the bubbling cauldron that is, for example, a middle school.
This is what makes our friend Dr. Johnson special. She has ditched her university job for two years to come to Singapore and teach 8th grade language arts. What many would classify not only a leave of absence but also the leaving of one’s senses is the embodiment of another much more applicable adage of walking the walk.
It is one thing to expound on classroom strategies or sing the praises of the difference a teacher can make while giving a keynote at a conference but it’s so much more relevant to lead by example wearing the shoes of the profession. So here’s another adage for ya, what have you done lately?
Well lately Sara and I have been privileged to work with Dr. Johnson and her teaching partner, Brian Arleth’s classes and we are so looking forward to the next two weeks with the rest of the 8th grade RLA professionals here at SAS. it is so very rare that we get to have this much constant contact with the same students.
So we’re going to take the weekend here to do a little bit of writing – recharge our batteries – (and maybe help Brian pick out a new mountain bike) so we can hit the classroom Monday (can you stand another adage?) bright eyed and bushy tailed as a long tailed macaque.