Our Own Personal Paris

We spent yesterday afternoon with Antoinette of Paris Personalized. If you find yourself fortunate enough to visit the city of light, make sure you take one of her tours. They range from food-based, to historical, to musical … Antoinette is a great story-teller and will introduce you to places in Paris that you never would have known about.

Antoinette and Cory sitting in the beautiful garden of the Expiatory Chapel. Never heard of it? That's why you need Antoinette!

Antoinette and Cory sitting in the beautiful garden of the Expiatory Chapel. Never heard of it? That’s why you need Antoinette!

Connecting Kids Now More Important Than Ever

Yesterday I rode a yellow school bus to Newark airport to meet students and teachers visiting from Konstanz. This marks the 12th year since Gary and I began running student exchange programs between a US middle school and schools in the UK and Germany. We had considered ourselves “retired” from this enterprise, but were convinced to host one more exchange this year to stave off many disappointed young travelers.

It’s a challenge — working with nervous school boards, negotiating the least expensive airfare, handling paperwork, making reservations — Gary and I have noted that there’s a reason we leave this to younger teachers nowadays! But seeing 50 ecstatic exchange partners greet each other last night for the first leg of their exchange visit reminds me why we do this: it’s an experience most students never forget and a critical foundation to cultural understanding.

In light of recent events, it’s more important than ever to help our kids feel connected to other cultures.

First US experience -- riding the big yellow school bus!

First US experience — riding the big yellow school bus!


The Ultimate License Plate Game

An 8th grader was sharing during social studies class that her family has spent the last few years playing the License Plate Game, attempting to find all 50 states. “So a few months ago, we were down to 10 states,” she explained, “and my dad said that whatever state was the last one, we would go visit over spring break.”

“Last month it was down to two states: Hawaii and South Dakota. We got really excited because we figured that there was no way we’d see a Hawaii plate.”

“So …” asked the teacher, “what happened?”

“So in March, we’re visiting South Dakota.”



School is over. Learning begins.

Off to Morocco

Off to Morocco with the same red backpack since Kindergarten.

So, in one of the most wonderful/awful parenting moves ever, I recently put my daughter on Royal Air Maroc flight to Casablanca so that she can live in Morocco for 2-1/2 months. She’s doing a gap year between high school and college. Because she has some significant goals (learn to speak Arabic and understand Arab culture), we concluded that the best way to do that was to go live there for a while. Of course that was six months ago and the whole thing felt safely far away (both geographically and chronologically).

However, September 1st eventually rolled around and the next thing we know, we’re at JFK waving goodbye as she walks through security. Sending your 18-year-old off for several months in Rabat is not the same as moving them into a college dorm, believe me.

But we didn’t do this foolishly … we used Projects Abroad to provide a connection to a family, Arabic teacher, and volunteer project placement. They gave her lots of preparation advice before she left, met her at the airport, and have provided a support group to help her learn her way around and understand how to be an American living in a different culture.

And sure, it’s been a hard first week. But Cory’s blog is really funny – and she promises to write longer, more thoughtful posts when she can get her computer to the internet café this weekend. In the meanwhile, check it out.

So as an educator, this confirms my belief that schools and curriculum are missing some major opportunities. We only really learn when we take risks, embrace challenges, and consider all that the world has to offer. It is imperative that we create these kinds of opportunities for our students, our children. Not everyone has to fly off to Morocco, of course. But we have to push kids out of their comfort zones in whatever way we can.