Ancient shrines, elegant arch bridges, divine cherry blossoms, artistic pagodas, spiritual temples, and breathtaking landscapes are all images one congers of the Asian continent. Beyond these captivating and soul stirring landmarks, there exists a delicate culture based in beauty, honor, tradition, and a quiet strength that gives this unique society its understated power. This culture, who highly values discipline and educational development, has lead the world in scientific and mathematical discovery for thousands of years. Asia is still the champion of academics today. According to international educational studies, Asian students out perform all other nations in their understanding of mathematical concepts. As a math teacher, I proposed a grant to visit several math classrooms across Asia, meet with teachers and learn about the rich Asian culture in order to gain insight on how we can achieve similar academic success in the United States. I proposed and was awarded a large sum to fund a six-week journey across seven Asian countries which helped me gain insight and develop an appreciation for the Asian culture and heritage with which I can share and inspire my students.
I teach 7th grade and I know how first hand accounts and personal experiences have helped my students gain perspective and broaden their understanding of the world in which they live. This age group does not connect to mere facts listed in a book, but are easily engaged with authentic accounts and personal reflections. Asian history is a major standard of the 7th grade curriculum. Throughout the year they will learn about all of the countries I visited this summer. I have already had the opportunity to share my prospective and experiences with them on the subject. I cherish opportunities that help me use my knowledge of various civilizations to teach my students and make them more informed and aware citizens of the world.
Although I have traveled extensively in the past, this trip was my first experience in an eastern culture and it challenged me personally as an explorer. It literally broadened my horizon and helped me realize that, with God’s amazing grace, love and provision, I can accomplish even more than I could ever imagine. I relish the growth and experience this summer provided. I tell my students that if your goals don’t scare you a little, then you are not thinking big enough. This summer I took this motto to heart! This summer was the definition of intimidating. In the course of 7 weeks I visited 7 Asian countries, 15 cities, slept in 18 different hotels/ hostels, took over 19 different flights, and experienced 22 custom check in/ outs. I accomplished all of this with ease without knowing the language or the traditions and customs of this incredibly unfamiliar land. Most importantly I loved every minute of it. This summer, I overlooked the incredible skylines of Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. I explored sea caves in Thailand. I rode an elephant in Cambodia and explored ancient temples at the Angkor Wat complex. I hiked up The Great Wall of China, and visited the ancient and mysterious Terracotta Warriors of Xi’An. I visited Guiline, and its awe-inspiring 20,000 peaks along the River Li. I experienced true hospitality in Korea, and saw the tranquil golden pavilion of Japan. Instead of staying in my comfort zone, I dared to dream big, I aimed high, I sought out opportunities, and God provided in each and every way!
This summer was both intellectually stimulating, professionally motivating, and emotionally renewing. It not only provided me with new teaching tools, concepts and applications for my classroom, but it also developed my understanding of the world. This project gave me inspiration, direction and a renewed enthusiasm for the mathematics content that I love so dearly. It also challenged me as a world explorer and transformed me into a more informed, well-rounded person and teacher. Overall my goal is to inspire my students to be productive, informed citizens that feel connected to the world around them. This project helped me accomplish that goal. In the next few weeks I hope to share some of those lessons and experiences with you. So stay tuned!