A few hours ago, I kissed my partner goodbye. He had helped me lug all of my baggage to the International Terminal in San Francisco. We chatted about Paula Dean, parental relationships, the wellbeing of the aloe plant that I am leaving in his care. Truth is that he actually lugged must of the heavy baggage and kept me awake with conversation. It also managed to keep me even keeled about this journey.
I was nervous: about the length of the flight, about my health (I am allergic to so many ingredients that are key to many dishes: gluten, dairy, peanuts, hazelnuts), about not having the language background that I usually have (even if it’s just the basics), about being assigned to teach the littlest of children when I have no training to do so, etc. I could go on as I was and am still nervous.
For those who do not know, I am headed to Sri Lanka. I am writing this mid-flight actually, on Cathay Pacific, which earns its reputation as a customer-centered airline.
While in Sri Lanka, I will be learning about the mission of the Christian Brothers there, in schools and in other community support organizations. You see, I am a Lasallian, which, to me, is descriptive of an approach to community, association, and education. Since I was in high school at West Catholic in Philadelphia, I have been learning about what it means to be of service to others in the Lasallian way, but it wasn’t until I came to St. Mary’s College of California as a faculty member in the Kalmanovitz School of Education that I started participating in formation opportunities. To that end, I have learned from faculty, Brothers, students, and staff around the table of Soup and Substance exchanges, delving into a common text about the Lasallian charism and association in Seminar style while sharing a meal together. I have also had the great fortune of participating in the first Symposium on Lasallian Research last year, which, while not a formation activity, did expose me to a number of Lasallian researchers in the US. We also developed together the central tenets of a white paper that talked about our common aims in Lasallian research. Last year, I was also sent to Rome to the International Association of Lasallian Universities to learn about the history of De La Salle, Lasallian pedagogy, the internationalization of the Lasallian mission, and more. This year, with a colleague, Liz Hamm, I am going to Sri Lanka to learn and to serve.
In my bags, I am also carrying so much in the way of educational materials for the different brothers, students and communities. I am also carrying technology, which has me still in a quandary. In my teaching work, I use technology all the time with my students. Is it fair to use the same technology and then, at the end of my time, take that technology back with me? I brought 4 iPads to facilitate group work and lessons. I suppose that this is alright. Educational technology usage is a part of me, a part of my approach to education. I expect that there will be days that I am teaching the same concepts using the blackboards and chalk. This is what I did less than 24 hours ago as I was teaching my last class for the Masters in Teaching program. We used technology in the way of Youtube videos and iPads when we were creating wikispaces and blogs for use in the program, but we also used poster paper, blackboards, discussion over common texts, the simple energizing strategy of moving around to meet with another group to confer and report out about findings. How will I use technology with students at the school where I will teach for a few weeks? I don’t know. I don’t know the context yet or the population or the curriculum.
And realizing that, I find myself even more nervous.