It’s day 70 as I write this and spring break begins on Friday. It snuck up on me this year and I have a trip to Thailand planned along with some data crunching and writing. The days have really gone by so quickly that it is difficult to imagine that I am nearing the midway point of my journey. I plan a separate post about what will undoubtably be an unforgettable trip to Thailand upon my return, but I thought I would share a bit in this post about what I get to do every week.
We’ve been given immense control over our schedules by the caring folks at the Academy of Singapore Teachers (AST) who oversee the Fulbright Program. In the fall, they prepare to receive the Fulbright teachers from the United States and this winter they have been taking good care of us. Since our orientation, our “buddies” have gone with us to each new school attachment where they introduce us to school staff and fill them in on our schedule needs. They work to ensure that we get access to what we want to see and what we need to complete our project. I have three buddies that are there for me and I know I can contact them anytime with any requests.
I’ve also had at least two people assigned to work with me at each school - I’m at my second attachment now. We chat and they want to know what I would like to see and participate in. They also look for teachers that might be interested in my research and connect us. They schedule me to provide professional development for staff and, at this school, I will be conducting workshops on using board games across content areas, sketchnotes 2.0 (they already use sketchnotes and want to take it up to the next level) and using technology in the classroom. They take really good care of me. I’ve been brought food, taken out to lots of meals, invited to dinners — you see a theme here?
I go in to school 3-4 days a week and usually stay for 5-6 hours, depending on my schedule. I’ve been assigned a cubicle of my own complete with printer, phone, and cabinets for storage. Teachers don’t have a classroom of their own here, so they spend a part of their day in their “office” where they mark papers, meet with colleagues and prepare for lessons. In my first attachment, I was embedded in the HOD (Head of Department) section, but now I am surrounded by science teachers. That is letting me reconnect with my science roots.
Sometimes there is a special event going on, a class to observe, some kind of PD event to attend, or a staff meeting to attend. Other times I am analyzing surveys and interview responses related to my project or doing research. I get the time to read and reflect. Let me repeat that, I have time to read extremely interesting books, professional journals, blog posts and articles, and to really digest them. I also listen to podcasts related to games and learning and watch video lessons.
At the end of the day, I head back toward my apartment which takes 45 minutes to an hour. I may need to stop in at a market to pick up a few things, but I am hooked on delivery, so don’t need to do this very often anymore. If I am hungry or thirsty, there are too many options to choose from. I do eat in a few nights a week, it just depends on what time I get home. Just like in the US, when you settle in at home it is hard to go out again. If it is evening time, I will eat out. Options include a hawker center, a shopping mall, or more touristy restaurants. Being a foodie of sorts I have an app handy and wherever I am I can generally find multiple crowdsourced and recommended options.
I have a night class that I must attend on Wednesday evenings. It is a blended class, which means we meet online every other week in Blackboard. That is wonderful because the university is 70 minutes from my apartment. If I was coming from my school attachment, it would take me over 2 hours, so I don’t go in that day. We are asked to read three journal articles covering a particular learning theory and write a reflection in a forum. We also respond to two other posts. The following week we meet live to discuss the articles. Groups of 2-3 present the material and another group reflects of the theme discussions. I get asked to share what teaching is like in the US and everyone is very interested. The class is made up of educators in a masters program and doctoral students. It is an interesting class, but it does take more time than I would like to prepare for it.
In my proposal for the Fulbright, I included an option to work with teachers interested in using Minecraft not expecting to get any response, but turns out I was wrong. Aside from my attachment schools, I’ve visited three junior colleges and have another coming up. All are interested in the potential for using Minecraft in their curriculum or for training purposes. The master history teachers for Singapore are also interested, so much so that we have two exploratory workshops planned in April. I get to sit in and participate in designing Minecraft lessons with history and social science teachers at the Microsoft office downtown. I’m nerding out just thinking about spending hours with like-minded educators designing amazing Minecraft experiences for students throughout Singapore.
I’m part of many networks here as well. These folks are boss level experts using WhatsApp for messaging. I have 22 active streams right now. Everyone is connected and I think it is great. Finally, my week would not be complete without checking in with my colleagues Diem and Christine. They moved recently and are now just a few short blocks away, so we generally connect face-to-face each week.
I am feeling very happy to be where I am at this point and have nothing at all to complain about. It’s a stimulating and deeply enriching environment to be in everyday. I am around so many talented and dedicated individuals that I feel truly fortunate to be in this situation.