By Dyanthi Tigarajan, Malaysia
The recent days spent at the ITD in Amherst, have marked a memorable impression indeed. The jitters, excitement, and expectations have been met with an experience beyond what I imagined. Having had the greatest hospitality, the icing on the cake would definitely be the course content of the program which has been laid out fabulously. The program started with Barbara Madeloni giving us an excellent overview of what the American Education system is like, issues faced, and several interesting discussions about pertinent aspects of the system that should be recognized for constructive reform. It was a good start to my learning journey here, as I established the relevance of the issues to that of what is being currently faced by many other education systems around the world. It also allowed me to distinguish similarities and differences in the issues discussed within the education system in my country, bringing about ideas on how it could best be dealt with to address the issue of equality in education.
We then ventured into the “woods” on an adventure with ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, presented by Katie Lazdowski, in a fun and entertaining session on Critical Pedagogy. A session I definitely enjoyed as it highlighted the possibilities of varied strategies that can be employed in teaching critical thinking, using the jigsaw reading method. The session imparted the importance of not just teaching students but our roles as guides and mentors in ensuring our students are enriched with the skills to think critically for the betterment of themselves in preparation for their future undertakings. I also loved the idea of micro-teaching, as it gave us a hands-on experience that allowed reflection on the efficacy of the jigsaw reading method in teaching language, in the context of our classrooms despite coming from differing backgrounds with different facilities. Apart from that, I attained several creative ideas which I intend to apply in the anticipated final project that is due at the end of this program.
Speaking of pedagogy, another related activity we were lucky to be involved in was a school visit. This was what I was most excited about and it turned out to be greater than I had imagined. We were more than fortunate to have had this exclusive visit hosted by the very talented and capable students of the Easthampton High School who were the members of the ‘We the People’ team of the school. The ‘We the People’ program in the school was something I was fascinated about. I never knew history could be taught in such an efficient and interesting manner. Indeed, I am set to explore the many exciting aspects observed during the school visit, in terms of school management, and classroom setups as well as how much more dedicated we could be to our jobs as teachers.
Well, as the saying goes, ‘all work and no play would make Johnny a dull boy’, so we headed out to watch a baseball match between the Woo Sox and the Rochesters at the Polar Park. Fret not said Bruce Watson, for he provided a thorough description of the game for many of us who lacked this prior knowledge. Not only did we enjoy this exciting experience, but above all we enjoyed the typical American snacks like hot dogs, fries, and fried chicken, that were available at the stadium. Despite coming from different countries and sports preferences, all of us appreciated the game by cheering and just having a jolly good time! I guess it just proves the fact that sports are one way to unite people.
The excursion to Deerfield Memorial Park was also something to remember in discovering the fascinating history and heritage of the Indigenous people. We were privileged to examine displayed artifacts and evidence of their struggles during the civil war and how they evolved and are perceived in the modern world. This walk definitely reminded me of the importance of preserving history.
Last but not least, we were treated to authentic American Ice cream that was to die for. What better way to end an excursion? Looking forward to the many adventures and informative sessions waiting ahead!
All opinions expressed by the program participants are their own and do not represent nor reflect official views from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, or of the Institute for Training and Development, Inc.