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Monday, March 19, 2007

Global Awareness Day

Speaking of professional development...yesterday was Global Awareness Day in the Weston Public Schools. Unlike Art Day, this was an eight-hour endeavor — very elaborate in planning, development, and conception.

We began with a presentation about the forthcoming visit to Weston by seven teachers from Kasiisi Primary School in Uganda. Only one has ever been out of Uganda (he has a Ph.D. from Michigan State), so we expect a lot of culture shock for the other six. We were also reminded that Weston is not a typical segment of the United States.

Then there was a geography bee, which was a lot of fun; the contestants were divided into four teams, one each from the three levels of schools and one from the central administration. The Middle School won. But the High School came close.

Next was an amazingly diverse choice of seminars run by teachers who volunteered to share their knowledge and expertise. Ordinarily I wouldn’t bother to cite the entire list, but in this case it’s worth doing:
  1. Africa Today
  2. An Afternoon in South America
  3. An Introduction to Multicultural Folk Dance
  4. China’s Minority Peoples
  5. Examining the Chinese Cultural Revolution through the book Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
  6. Global Communications and SKYPE
  7. Global Warming
  8. Globalization of Indigenous Food
  9. Introduction to Mandarin
  10. Making Multicultural Books in the Classroom
  11. Pandemic/Avian Flu — Info for You
  12. Revive Your High School Languages
  13. The VERY Abridged Japan
  14. Uechi Ryu Karate Do
  15. Views of Cameroon
  16. Welcome, Uganda!
  17. What’s in the world’s water?
  18. Writin’ Numbers
I participated in #4, presented by a teacher who had traveled along the Silk Road last summer from Xi An to the border of Pakistan. Everything about the seminar was interesting, but I was most struck by how the Western Chinese terrain, architecture, and people all looked much more Turkish than Chinese. And indeed that’s what they are.

The seminars were followed by an amazing lunch. We were greeted by a cafeteria in which every table had been set with regular place settings — that is, if “regular” includes chopsticks, a large crock pot at each table, and a variety of ingredients. The lunch came complete with documentation at each place, as lunch always should. The menu was listed this way:
  • Vietnamese Pho Chicken/Vegetarian
  • Salad
  • Naan
  • Cookies
But the important part was the comprehensive instructions:
HOW TO MAKE YOUR SOUP

You will need to work together at the table. Each table should be set with a bowl for all diners. In the center of the table you should have a pot of soup (chicken-based), cut-up chicken, noodles, scallions, cilantro, bean sprouts, hot sauce, hoisin sauce, lime, and some bread (naan).
  1. Each person should place any of the following in his/her bowl: chicen, noodles, scallions, cilantro, and bean sprouts... (Those who are vegetarian will need to take their bowls to the front of the cafeteria to get vegetable-based soup.) You can further garnish the soup with hot sauce, lime juice, and/or hoisin sauce. ENJOY! Feel free to take seconds or to ask if you need more.
  2. Each setting should have a salad.
  3. etc., etc.
Wow!

All of this had been organized and prepared by the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Alan Oliff, along with the other administrators in the Weston Public Schools!

Anything after this lunch must be an anticlimax. We followed it with 6–12 department meetings and a high school faculty meeting. At the Math Department meeting we discussed a variety of topics relating to global awareness in math — more on this subject later, but I’m skeptical.

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