Spending this week in Anaheim attending the Online Teaching Conference, and today spent a whole day in a Great Online Teaching Seminar, led by Michelle Pocansky Brock. It was such a rich day! Michelle teaches online herself as well as teaching online teachers, and her emphasis is on building community and empowering students. As a learner here I was very inspired by the environment Michelle created. It was a spacious opportunity to learn from the wisdom of the group and to dig deeper into what we value as educators. In that space we were all re-inspired. I have so many practical ideas for creating online learning environments, with students both in SF and in India. Feeling nourished!
In 2008 I was invited by a Fulbright Scholar Eric Lopez, and his then-girlfriend (now wife!) Jenny Pichardo, to come visit and spend time at an amazing new school in a small Roma/Gypsy village in Sajokaza, northeast Hungary, called Dr. Amedkar High School. Eric was researching the education of Gypsy youth in Hungary, and he came across The Jai Bhim Network, an educational project created by Janos Orsos and Tibor Derdak. In his research on Dr. Ambedkar Eric found the website for Jai Bhim International, our project in India which is also inspired by Dr. Ambedkar, and we started corresponding, and then spending the Summer, in Budapest and in Sajokaza, together with the Jai Bhim Network team.
There are so many overlaps between the experience of the Dalits/ex-untouchable communities in India and the Roma/Gypsy communities in Hungary, in terms of historic oppression and modern-day discrimination. Dr. Ambedkar believed in youth and believed in the importance of education. His vision has inspired all of us in this new circle of global friends, our students, their families and their communities.
Dr. Ambedkar High School has grown since I visited 9 years ago. They have designed a flourishing Arts-based curriculum, their team has evolved, they now have teachers from their own community, and they have graduated 100 students. This is quite an accomplishment for a community where 1% of students finish secondary school, compared to 80% in the the rest of Hungary. Our friends have made a 40-minute documentary about the Jai Bhim Network and the students at Dr. Ambedkar High School, including a student named Igor, who has returned to high school at age 30, and will soon be graduating! Angry Buddha is another good film to watch to learn more about this innovative educational community.
Click on the photo below to see a slideshow of memories, from Budapest and Sajokaza.
As a Teacher, I am always learning. This Summer one of my professional goals is to learn more about online learning and teaching, and so next week I am off to Anaheim for the 2017 Online Teaching Conference.
In preparation I am reading blogs, watching videos and scrolling through the websites of some of the leaders in the field of lifelong online education. In addition to creating online ESL courses, I imagine also teaching Buddhism, leading professional development workshops for our team in India, and creating online forums for fellow social entrepreneurs. I am learning so much about building community online. I am very excited to be a learner in a whole new content area. Beginner's Mind!
One of the things I love most about teaching is the cycle of the semester. Every semester has its own beginning, middle and end, and every class establishes itself as a unique learning community. Our Spring semester has now finished and Summer has begun! It is time for a new rhythm. I find Summers a very creative time. There is more daylight and more hours to enjoy. It's a season to do all the things I never have time for during the school year, such as unhurried afternoons with old friends, long swims at my favorite rooftop pool, more playtime with the kittens, more time to cook healthy food, more time to disappear into a good book, more time for bike rides around my city, more time for out of town excursions. It is also a time to reflect on what went well during the past semester, what was challenging and what I might improve. It is truly a time of inspiration. What inspires you most this Summer?