All this happened, more or less...

My name is G and these are the true stories of my adventures.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Merging of My Passions

The first time I traveled abroad, I was fifteen. I went to Monterrey, Mexico to do relief work in an orphanage for two weeks. The following year, I returned to Mexico, and when I was seventeen, I spent a month in Honduras. These early experiences with travel were central to shaping how I think about the world.

Massive Pile of Luggage

Any English teacher can tell you that we teach a great deal more than grammar and literature. We teach kids how to think about life, the universe, and everything. To some degree, that's true of all teachers -- I'm looking at you, Social Studies Department -- but in English class, this is at the core of what we do. What is literature, after all, if not a centuries-long conversation about the human condition? We let our kids in on what hundreds of voices from innumerable backgrounds have said, and if we're good, we encourage them to make their own contribution.

Flying over the US to San Fran

Because the time I spend traveling has such a powerful impact on me, I tend to tell my students stories -- sometimes comical, sometimes profound -- about the places I've been, the people I've known, the weird things I've done or seen or eaten. I consider it part of my job to pass along to them what I know of the bigness and richness of the world. Perhaps the most important part of my job.

This June, for the first time, I was able to do that in a very tangible way by taking a group of my students on a ten-day trip to Japan.

Out in Umeda

Not only did they get to experience first-hand a great cross-section of Japanese culture -- like a karaoke parlour and dinner in an izakaya and yes, even spotting a dreaded mukade -- they also got to see places I'd shown them photos of and meet some of the people who star in my best stories.

What's more, at quite a young age, they've already been to the other side of the world, seen a culture very unlike their own, and gotten a taste of what kind of adventures the world might hold for them if they're willing to go out in pursuit of them. I can't think of a teaching experience more rewarding than that.

Osaka at night