The PEC was a co-organizer of Seattle University's first-ever poverty immersion workshop on November 19th. This was a simulation for 100 participants of what it's like to live a month in poverty. The experience is based on the widely-respected model established by the Missouri Community Action Group. The workshop is a powerful experiential learning activity, useful for any class connecting to poverty, inequality, or social justice issues more broadly.
During the 3 hour workshop, participants were able to role-play a month in the lives of low-income individuals and families, meet others in the SU community who care about the issue, and explore the impact of poverty on the community while discussing collaboration and action.
Ben Curtis and Serena Cosgrove were in Bosnia-Herzegovina for a week in October on a trip funded by an Endowed Mission Fund grant. They were doing research for their book on global poverty, and preparing to lead a group of students to study conflict resoluation and peacebuilding in Bosnia next year.
While in Sarajevo, they received an invitation from the German government for Seattle University to be the American delegation to an international youth peace conference to be held in the city in June 2014 as part of the centenary commemorations of the start of World War One.
From Lindsay Mannion's blog. Read more by clicking here!
There are a lot of things to get used to here in Nicaragua. Some of them are really easy: the food (check!), sun (check!), cold showers (check!), crazy driving (check!). All of the easy things are external changes; I just needed to make up my mind that these things were okay. The harder things require an internal change, require me to give up some control and comfort.
School has really been the hardest part of being here. If you know me at all, you know that I am a type-A person. I like things organized. I like a clear plan. I want to know why I am learning what I am learning and why I am learning it the way I am learning it. I like being prepared for class. I like being responsible for myself. And I like when my classmates are responsible for themselves.
In Nicaragua, I have to rely heavily on other people. I have to constantly ask for clarification. Assignments are structured differently (or sometimes not structured at all!) I can’t read the readings as fast as my classmates, so when we do a reading in groups (yes, sometimes three people read one packet together at the same time!) I am the one slowing down the group. Sometimes I panic because I can’t remember if desafío means challenge or advantage (and that makes a big difference!) Class discussions can be a disaster for me! I if I stop paying attention for half a second (which is easy to do in those hot classrooms) I get lost. Everything takes so much more effort here, and sometimes it just feels like too much.
Sometimes I try to contribute in a group discussion and my group just kind of looks at me funny. I have the answer in my head, and I cannot find the right words in Spanish. Or sometimes I have absolutely no answer in either language because the question just does not make sense to me. It is times like this I get really overwhelmed. It’s enough to make me want to cry sometimes. And I have.
What am I doing?
Do I really know Spanish?
I feel like an idiot.
I was reflecting one day after a particularly rough group meeting, and I thought about how thankful I was that I have had many experiences where I have felt intelligent. I have had over fifteen years of experience in a context I thrive in, the American classroom, but how many people have spend their whole lives in a context that doesn’t work for them? They must feel pain and frustration similar to what I feel—probably worse! They may have only had a handful of experiences where their way of thinking was praised and rewarded.
Have you seen this before?
I can tough out this time in my life because I know that I am smart. But how awful it must be to go to school each day and have no one recognize the value of your way of thinking. How frustrating it must be when the language you think in doesn’t translate well into the language your teachers think in. How many brilliant ideas are we as a society missing out on because we think that all intelligence should come in the same neatly labeled box and contain test scores and a five paragraph writing sample?
Sure I can’t be type-A here, but I also can’t only be type-A when I become a teacher. I have to be type-A-Z and probably also type-57. Or at least design my class that way. Everyone deserves to know that they are smart—that their way of thinking has value. Maybe it’s better at math problems than essays. Maybe it’s better at making split-second judgment calls than long-term goals. Maybe it can convey feeling though music but can’t pass a standardized test.
And yes, it is important to be able to write, read, do math, and plan for the future. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try hard to get better at it, but the greater point here is there is no one correct way of evaluating intelligence. And I, for one, am very grateful for that!
Now let’s all try to convince our politicians!!
Katy Lapinski dancing during an assembly
An excerpt from Katy Lapinski's blog about her international internship experience in Zambia.
While most college teachers only see their students in class and during the school day, I am in the interesting position of living amongst my students. At times, it can be difficult because the boundaries between teach and student become blurred. But for the most part, it works out well because I have the opportunity to get to know them better. We often chat when they walk by my house, and sometimes they'll invited me to experience something that I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to do. An excellent example is the fact that one of my students invited me to watch Charles Lwanga's Cultural Dance Club practice. When I went, I was amazed by their traditional Tonga dancing, and I video-taped them. After a while, they invited me to join. When I did, I had to learn by doing; I watched what they were doing and tried to imitate it. To my surprise, they thought I was pretty good! They invited me to dance with them for the next assembly, which was in front of the entire college. I did, slightly concerned about what I was getting myself into, but everyone loved it! It was an amazing experience.
A blog post from Katy Lapinski, a senior Humanities for Teaching student completing an international internship in Chikuni, Zambia.
Learning by Teaching
Throughout my last three years of
studying to become a teacher, I have often been told that no matter how much
training you receive, nothing can fully prepare you for the first time you are
given the responsibility of teaching your own class. Over the last week, I learned
the reality of this statement as I began teaching my first ever course – a
course on writing at the Charles Lwanga College of Education in Chikuni, Zambia.
I began teaching this course to four classes, which each consist of 25-26
students. These classes were not only the first that I have ever taught without
a supervising teacher; they were also made up of students from a culture that
is much different from my own. Though it was the most difficult teaching
experience I have ever had, it also taught me unique lessons about culture,
education, and my own teaching style.
As I taught, I inevitably noticed
many differences between education in America and education in Zambia. Some of these
differences are as simple as how classes are organized. While Seattle
University students often have different classrooms and different classmates
for each course, Charles Lwanga students are grouped so that they have every
course in the same classroom and with the same classmates. In addition, Charles
Lwanga students attend all subjects – about 25 classes – for one hour each week,
unlike SU students who attend 3-4 classes for about five hours each week. But
beyond these differences in course structure, I noticed deep ideological
differences, such as how religion is approached in the classroom. I was taken
aback when one of my students stated that the purpose of writing is to express
the word of God, until I recognized that my surprise came from the fact that
America so firmly separates church from state. Noticing these differences helped
me realize that there are many approaches to education beyond what I have been
accustomed to in America.
An equally important realization for
me was that there are actually many similarities between education in Zambia
and education in America. The most prominent similarity that I noticed is that many
students in both places hold similar misconceptions about writing, like that
the most important part of writing is its technical correctness. In the same
way that some students at SU think that the Writing Center is an editing
service, some students at Charles Lwanga initially thought that my class was only
about editing. To overcome this misconception, I spent the first week of classes
introducing writing as a five-phase process that most importantly allows us to
develop our thinking. I found it difficult to introduce these concepts in
Zambia because students have never been taught writing as a process, and
students must hand-write their papers so they are inevitably concerned with
more technical issues like handwriting and spelling. These differences helped
me realize that I am privileged to have received an education that taught
writing as a process from a young age and offered resources like computers that
allowed me to focus more on revising my ideas than correcting my spelling and
handwriting. Since the students in my classes have not had these experiences, I
have spent the week trying to reconcile how I work with writing in America with
how my Zambian students can most realistically work with writing based on their
experience and the resources available to them.
Adjusting my teaching to fit the
needs of students from another culture forced me to practice many important
presentation skills. For example, the language barrier between me and my
students caused me to slow down my speech, rephrase important concepts in
different ways, speak with terms that I knew the students were familiar with, accompany
my speech with gestures, and use examples that were relevant to the students.
Though these practices are especially helpful – even necessary – when teaching
students from another culture, they are helpful regardless of the culture of
students. I found that teaching in another culture led to many realizations
about teaching that are applicable in all cultures. For example, I found that each
class has unique dynamics, even though I am teaching the same content to all
four classes. I also found that teaching the same course four times in one week
allows me the opportunity to improve, but this improvement is not always
linear; I may improve my explanation of one concept in my second class only to
find that I did not explain other concepts as clearly. To determine how to
improve my teaching each class, I have found it helpful to reflect on the
questions that students ask. These insights will help me improve my teaching
not only as I continue to teach my students in Chikuni, but also when I return
to the United States and begin to teach my own class there.
students at Charles Lwanga have warmly welcomed me both in and out of the
classroom, even inviting me to participate in extracurricular activities such
as the cultural dance club. Last weekend, they invited me to come to Choma to
support the volleyball team in a tournament. Here is a photo of some of my
students (and others) celebrating their victory:
From Lindsay Mannion's blog!
In an effort to be a more consistent blogger, but without the time or energy to write a finely crafted blog post, I present my Monday musings, which are just a jumbled assortment of things that are interesting to me, over which I tried to put a crafty title (alliteration!) to distract you from how disjointed it is.
This weekend I went to la Concepción with my friend David, where I ate delicious gallo pinto for both dinner and breakfast; met up with Juliana and some other friends at la Laguna de Apoyo on Sunday; got a bad sunburn (even though I swear I put on sunscreen!); and took no pictures. I’m a bad tourist. I know.
I have started confusing English and Spanish—talking in Spanish to people who speak English and talking in English to people who speak Spanish. (Is this a step in the language acquisition process? I sure hope so!
One night about two weeks ago, a bunch of bats showed up at the house. Now they come every night to eat the mangoes. They are very messy eaters and constantly drop their mangoes on the metal roof, resulting in a very loud bang.
School here has continued to be very group-work-centered. When we have readings, we don’t just do the reading. We have to prepare a group presentation on the reading. (And presentations here mean putting lots of text (copied right out of the reading) in a powerpoint presentation and reading right from the slide. Where are my Socratic seminars!?
Every morning I have delicious Nicaraguan coffee with breakfast. It’s okay, you can be jealous.
Practically everyone here has facebook, but they pronounce it “fay-boo” or sometimes they just say “fay.” It took me weeks to understand that “mándame por fay” meant “send it to me on facebook”. It didn’t help that I didn’t know you could send documents through facebook. How fancy of you, fay-boo!
And perhaps the most exciting news of all: I have a new favorite Nicaraguan food, güirilas! They are tortillas made from sweet corn, and they are oh so delicious! I would like to clarify, however, that I am not replacing gallo pinto, simply adding güirilas to my list of favorites. In fact, do you know what would be the absolute best? Eating gallo pinto in a güirila! I’m hungry just writing about it! Second lunch?
During this Fall Quarter, the Matteo Ricci College will be keeping up with two of our students who are having international experiences!
Katy Lapinski, a senior Humanities for Teaching student, is completing an international internship in Zambia. Katy is teaching at the Charles Lwanga College of Education in Chikuni, Zambia.
Lindsay Mannion, also a senior Humanities for Teaching student, is studying abroad at la Universidad Centroamericana in Nicaragua. La UCA is a Jesuit university, and is Seattle University's sister school.
As they post their stories on their blogs, this webpage will also update. You can find the blog links at the bottom of this post!
Katy - Zambia - http://sueducationabroad.wordpress.com/category/zambia/
Lindsay - Nicaragua - http://mannionl.wordpress.com
On May 11th, the Poverty Education Center hosted "Jesuit Universities Engaging Poverty: Perspectives from Seattle and Managua." The event brought together students, faculty, staff, and community members to hear from Seattle University and la Universidad Centroamericana about how they were engaging poverty in their communities.
Poverty Education Center