Bringing My Passion into the Classroom

I graduated from UMass Amherst in 2013 with a Master’s in Education, B.A. in History and a minor in Classical Civilizations. I was ready for the workforce. I was ready to change lives with students. I applied EVERYWHERE in Massachusetts (even a couple in southern New Hampshire and Maine). I bought the outfits, went over all possible questions, did the whole she-bang!

Unfortunately, a job in education wasn’t in my near future after college. I began to feel disheartened. Did I really just work my butt off for 5 years to not get a job? What am I supposed to do?

Well, the beginning of the school year came and I still had no job. I found myself substituting at my old middle and high school and working as a hostess and waitress in Foxboro.

Although teaching wasn’t in the cards for me immediately, something was: Travel. My ultimate passion.

Don’t get me wrong, education and teaching is a true passion for me. New adventures with my students, generating new ideas, having a blast with the #worldgeochat crew. But traveling and actually experiencing the cultures that I so badly wish we could dive more deep into in school is my high calling.

I was bit by the travel bug in 2011 when I studied abroad in Rome. I loved every moment. Buying my first Venetian mask, hiking a volcano, exploring the ruins of Pompeii, saying hi to the Pope every Sunday morning, plus so much more. If this is what traveling was, I wanted more.

With a lack of a teaching job after college, I seized the opportunities of traveling. My year and a half of traveling consisted of the following:

  • March 2014: Month in Cusco, Peru volunteering to teach girls ages 5 to 21 English. Hiked Machu Picchu, tried cuy (guinea pig…), and fell in love with the Peruvian culture. One month was way too short.
  • August 2014-October 2014: Backpacking through Europe. Began in Edinburgh, Scotland and ended in Rome. We experienced Auschwitz, Oktoberfest, human stacking in Barcelona, and celebrated my birthday in Bruges.
  • October 2014-March 2015: Teaching in Suphanburi, Thailand. A dream come true. Ziplining through Chiang Mai forests, exploring islands like Koh Samet and Koh Phi Phi, and coming face to face with elephants.
  • March 2015-May 2015: Backpacking through Southeast Asia and Australia. Started in Singapore, ended in Melbourne, Australia. My younger sister flying out to Bali, Songkran in Thailand, cruising along Ha Long Bay, and walking through the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh.

Shameless plug: Check out my travel blog at smandevilletravels.weebly.com. It’s not complete (yet another summer project)

I’m not writing these to show off where I’ve traveled. But being a world geography teacher and having traveled to a large variety of places has it’s perks:

  • World Toilet Day: explaining to my students what it’s like to use a squat toilet as well as why you shouldn’t drink from the faucet in Peru. Students truly are fascinated by World Toilet Day. If you can take a day to talk to your students about water, toilets and sanitation, do it.
  • Using experiences to emphasize concepts: Hiking along the Inca Trail in Peru and showing the pictures that I have helps students understand the differences in vegetation, temperature, and altitude. Explaining to students that the porters who carried our equipment were used to the lower oxygen levels while my track-running friend struggled to get to the top of the mountains.
  • Not just experiences, but photos: I use photos from just about every location I’ve traveled to. For example, this year, we focused on the Holocaust to help our students further understand the importance of Days of Remembrance. I used my own photos and experiences of what it was like to walk amongst the ghosts of Auschwitz and Birkenau. How Krakow is still impacted by the Holocaust.

I love bringing my passion into the classroom. I literally get to talk about the world each and every day. Obviously, I need to hit my standards. That’s a definite must. But most times, students are interested in what I have to teach them. From the past two years, I’ve asked what students wished they learned more about. Each year, students say they wanted to learn more about countries, not so much concepts.

So this year, I’m going to try to give them just that. Extra side projects that are focused on what THEY want to learn. @Jim_dEntremont and I worked together to create interactive maps in which students will learn about the cultures of countries. We shortened the list of options to begin with so they understand the flow of it. But as the year goes on, we hope to lift the limit on the countries. (Side question: Other than your typical “country projects,” what sort of activities have you done to help students learn more about cultures in different countries?)

Bringing the world into my classroom isn’t just about the technology and the activities. I’m a big part of that as well. I try to bring knowledge and experience into the classroom so that it’s real for students, not just information taken from a webpage or a textbook. That’s my passion in education. Making things tangible, relatable, and realistic.

What’s your passion? Have you brought it to the classroom?

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One thought on “Bringing My Passion into the Classroom

  1. Students could use Newseum’s website to follow the front page of a country’s newspaper over a period of time. Students gain an interesting perspective on world events in addition to seeing aspects of culture.

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