Tag Archives: FiftyFold

Jumping into the Beautiful Mess

16 Feb

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IMG_1104There have been so many wonderful things that have happened in these few months, so many insights and experiences, understanding so much pain but yet hope in educators, students and community members that express a desire for a change in the way things are now. One of the big things that have shaped my past few months has been ideas surrounding the school to prison pipeline.

 

I had never heard of this term before but essentially, much research has shown that there is a direct pipeline that we have created in the schools here for students, especially black boys, to go to prison. In the U.S., not only can children be sent to prison, but there has been an uproar in the communities because of the unfair treatment of Blacks in schools and in the justice system with the stories of Eric Gardner and Mike Brown moving the country to march and protest in the streets.

IMG_1103My first insight to the school to prison pipeline was during a teacher training session where ex-inmates – who had recently come out of prison after serving say 15 to 20 years since they were 12 – were facilitators at a teacher training session for teacher candidates at the University of Washington. Their stories of pain and hurt in the primary and secondary schools resonated with me. They said one thing was needed – a more human, a more relationally connected classroom. In one class at UW, a professor quoted, “I can’t teach you until I know you.” Yet when asked if they felt that their teachers knew them, no one raised their hand. So many students don’t feel that their teachers know them as humans and individuals as they go through 12 years of public school. It was the moment for me where I felt connected to the deep heartache and hopes in Seattle.

It’s been difficult to move to a whole new city and try to feel connected but there are some things that keep me real. Thursdays at the Southwest Youth and Family Services is when I get to hang out and walk alongside students who have recently dropped out of traditional high schools in Seattle or the neighboring city, Highline. Thursdays at Southwest have kept me grounded and to be honest, kept me still excited about being here. It’s these teachers and students that remind me why I’m in graduate school, why I’m in education and that what I do matters. It’s been a safe place where I can just be in community, listen and build real relationships before thinking I can jump in and “create change”.

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What has been wonderful about UW is that I get to think about research in a whole different light. In my Design Based Research class this quarter with Megan Bang and Phil Bell, we grapple with research actually getting involved in the beautiful mess of schools and classrooms; we talk about teachers as agents; we talk about not being afraid to get involved in the mix and to open yourself up to be changed by your own research and the interactions you have alongside those who participate in it. Research is not just the study of some phenomenon. It’s usually messy, filled with emotion but messy is good, messy is how the real world is.

I’ve learned that sometimes you need to be emotional to deal with the emotive and strong objectivity means that you talk about who you are, where you’ve come from and the lens that you are using to view the world, because who you are matters. And who I am is a collection of others because I’m only at this place in life because of other people that have pushed me and got me here. My humanity has depended on and been shaped by so many of you, just as how objectivity in research will depend on my ability to bring our voice, and the voices of those that we represent to it.

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It’s been a lot of growing and grappling but I’m so glad I have other teammates to grow alongside with. In Thailand, we are expanding the Tutoría network next week to our third school.This school, Sahasat, is so close to my heart. It is the school I’ve known and grown up with the Lahu community since I was 12. Now to be able to go back and affect teaching and learning there, in the community that planted the seeds that brought me to where I am today, is an incredible honor. As Phil Bell who quoted Brian Smith said, “Here we are building the future of education the night before it’s due.” I’m en route right now to Chiang Rai and jumping straight into that beautiful mess of designing alongside teachers and students the future of education the night before it’s due. I couldn’t be more excited, nervous and hopeful to build that beauty together.

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I will definitely write about that experience in the next monthly update as I’m sure the school will have incredible insights about learning that I want to share with you. Thank you all for keeping me in check and calling me out when I don’t write to you! I miss you all dearly and can’t wait to see some of you soon.

Some other fotos from STUDIO, Thailand in December and Seattle:

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Kao Jai – Learning for the Heart

5 Sep



Kiddos!

It’s been wayyy too long but I write to you from Seattle where I just moved to do my PhD studies in Education. It’s been a crazy couple of months just before I left and I finally found a place to move into and so I’m slowly getting settled.

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I just wanted to share one story that stood out for me during the last few months. I spent the months of July and August mostly in the schools in Thailand, to roll-out Tutoría in 2 primary and secondary schools. We began our work with FiftyFold in the province of Phitsanulok, then to familiar ground in the north in Chiang Rai. So far we’ve trained about 40 teachers and more than 300 students in Math, Thai, English, Science, History, Social studies, Chemistry, Physics and Biology. It’s been such a delight to work alongside wonderful teachers and students. One kid, Ongsin stood out.

Ongsin, a burly 16 year old at Chiang Rai Wittayakhom (CVK) was taking a bath when school started. It was pretty normal for him to come in late. His chemistry teacher was pacing the room where we were holding the Tutoría pilot, anxiously waiting for him to stride through the door. But he took his time.

When we were about 1 hour in, we saw a shadow of a towering figure outside the doors and she rushed out to pull him in. Ongsin has the sheepiest grin on his face. He sat down next to his tutor and leaned back so his could rock his chair back and forth on just its two legs. I liked him already.

The order of the day was that Ongsin would be tutored to learn about Petroleum extraction and the chemical makeup of petroleum and then have to tutor it to someone new.

So it began: His tutor asked him to read the various pages of his textbook. He scanned the pages and then gave up saying, “I don’t get it” or “Mai Kao Jai” in Thai. But his tutor persevered.

I watched the pair from afar. I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying but slowly I noticed Ongsin place his chair on all four legs, and burry his head in the book with absolute concentration, trying to read and re-read the information on petroleum oil rigs – he wanted to make sure he knew everything before he tutored someone else. They both sat down to reflect on the process and then a little anxiously, Ongsin asked his tutor to test him again and again to make sure he was ready.

His chemistry teacher noticed the pair and sauntered over to ask how he was. Ongsin has a glisten in his eyes when he looked up. “This is the first time I finally understood something. I didn’t just understand it, it pierced and went right into my heart!” He waved frantically and beat his heart as if a knife had penetrated it. He laughed.

You see, in English understand is more of a cognitive word. You understand with your brain. In Thai, understand literally means “Kao Jai” or to go into the heart – Kao – to go in and Jai – heart. So understanding is really, finding meaning that touches the heart. Ongsin brought that to life for me. It rang especially true for me this Teachers’ Day.

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So as I begin my life in Seattle and PhD studies in Learning Science and Human Development, Ongsin’s story guides my thoughts. I want to study more Ongsin-like experiences – the inner workings of not just the brain, but the heart, and how to dignify people through learning and dialogue.

I’ll also be working part-time to create a tinkering studio in West Seattle and I think that’ll just be a wonderful experience and opportunity to stay grounded to the city and her people. I’m excited to grow from this.

I miss home especially much on a day like Teachers’ Day (happy Teachers’ Day everyone!!) but know I’ll be back with more insight and more ideas on how to grow, refine our work and journey together as educators in Southeast Asia.

 

With love,

Meixi

 

Tutoría in Thailand!

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Grow Old Along with Me, The Best is Yet To Be.

1 Apr

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This April 1st has been such a treat.

Friends to be with you at midnight, going to school, seeing kids work in Tutoría, as surprise video the work at Shuqun, a wake-up phone call, celebrations with colleagues, crazy ideas on changing the world, so many messages from people who couldn’t be here, and a beautiful dinner with old friends.


There couldn’t have been a better day.

I’ve been wanting to write an update for quite a while and here’s a short but hopefully meaningful one.
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April 1 got me thinking about what growing up means and where life’s heading to. Last night at dinner with the Eagles’ folks, I saw a portrait of lives well lived, lives of a community engaged in work that matters, a community that has sustained itself for 45 years. There was laughter, talk of old days in secondary school, and despite good times and bad – they were always there for each other.

My prayer today is at the end of my life, I hope I can say the same about my community, when I’m 60.

Hearing the students and teachers both in Singapore and Thailand and how what we’re doing in schools has been worth it is also the cherry on top. It’s that community, sharing the responsibility of teaching and learning in class that I dedicate my years growing old to, this April Fools.

So this birthday, I’m trying to raise funds to support FiftyFold‘s work to expand out work with schools in Thailand and a Tutoría center in Singapore. If you’re willing to contribute a small gift to help bring this sort of learning to the kids in Southeast Asia, please shoot me an email!


To my friends- that is all of you on this email thread, THANK YOU for growing old along with me. I can’t wait for many more years of friendship and changing the world together. So grateful for you.

Love,
Meixi

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