The last day of 2017 brings with it much nostalgia, and hopefully, despite the craziness that was a tumultuous 2017, we all have memories, sad and bright, that lead us to do better things for ourselves in 2018.
I had the pleasure of traveling from Mexico City to Delaware with a brood full of dogs after a game changer involving a new position, new friends, new everything, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
One specific moment stuck out and I can’t shake, it, I am glad. Every year for the past few years I was lucky enough to serve as a Summer Camp educator at ASF in English. My last summer, little did I know was this summer, 2017. I was lucky enough to be paired up with educator Liliana Dominguez for the students that were now in first and second grade. When I first started this summer camp, I was like whoa, no way. I am . high school educator, kindergarten? First grade? Um, wow, I can’t….but yeah, I could, would and did, and that was due to some amazing support from classroom support like Lisa, to supporting leadership like John Powell, Patricia Montes, and Paloma Fuentes and the many amazing teachers that made up ASF summer camp. I was able to take the fundamentals of getting to know our community from Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots Program, and apply to the various themes of My City, My Culture, My Artists, My Authors, and this past summer, I was paired with Liliana. I had no idea what I was in for.
Liliana worked harder than I thought I ever would, she carried me through so many challenges and in turn helped me challenge myself, as well as the students. She was a creative guru I needed to carry on through the summer. From passports, to having every student get up in front and experimenting with presenting their final research and project, to having stamp-like passport stamps made that said Mexico – to coming up with countless ways to research all kinds of countries, combing Brain Pop presentations to the real books to the real lives of authors and artists, we had created the ultimate Maker Space every single day. Yes it was work, but it was FUN. This set in motion a respect for the things we attempted and created every single day for us as instructors as well as students. She pushed me and I was a better educator for the students as a result. Surrounded by amazing and motivated educators as well, it certainly took a village to make the summer camp be a utopia of possibilities. Liliana pushed herself as well. She worked SO incredibly hard outside of the ASF camp and I wondered how she brought so much incredible ideas to the lessons within the summer sessions. Yet she kept coming and coming for unending support.
The time we spent with the students, some from ASF, other from outside of ASF was priceless. The afternoons, questions, and innocent energy the students through into the chance to visit other countries without having to board a plane, having students create their own stories and books, processing their passports to be familiar with what it means to be appreciative and aware of other cultures – it was a learning experience, packed with work for both the learner and the facilitator and yet, it was FUN. The work was fun.
One specific afternoon, we were walking from class, M (keeping her identity secure) the magnificent grabbed my hand, we walked towards the cafeteria and she said to me, “Mr Harry? Do you know why so many people want to come to ASF and summer camp?” “I responded back to M., I am not sure?” (knowing she had a thought). “I think it is because we are unique!” I smiled looked down and had to say, “I know it is!” It was just as you would want to remember it, the sun was in our faces, we made our way to lunch, and it had been a FUN day and she was a star.
M. and Liliana reminded me of what education was always about. yes it was hard at times being in school right after a school year was over and it was summer. Yes it was work to plan, revise, review the planes we made. No it was not hard to make the lessons better when you had individuals like Liliana and M. in you day. It was amazing.
Life and education should go hand in hand, and if educator, and the student, are learning the work lends itself to FUN, and that BOTH will grow, education does not need to be in a specialized building or district, it simply needs to be an investment by all concerned.
I never can get M’s words out of my mind, that enthusiasm, investment and her amazing ability to create her own unique interpretation of the information presented to her. Of all the countries she could have chosen to focus on, she chose a city in the United States as her place to brag about and research. I wanted to be able to represent the United States in the future, for many to be proud of in how they see others, in our country and outside of our country. This enthusiasm filtered to the educators and it changed and reformatted the approach to what education means to everyone involved. This does not involve a special school, community, building or type of funding, it requires devotion and commitment to what education should look like to be FUN. I was lucky enough to have so much support, opportunity,
ASF, Mexico, and amazing students like M changed me as a person and how I looked at other cultures, other countries, and the gratefulness I had for being openly accepted as an outsider into another culture, another language, another country, another educational system is something that changed me forever. So it was with Liliana’s devotion to bringing amazing approaches to pushing students to be successful, as well as M. to be representative of how amazing students, learning, and education can be to your mind and your heart.