Tag Archives: tutoría

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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Guy, the I’mpossible Kid

24 Dec

Help us reach more kids next year by donating or getting involved with FiftyFold. 

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I think if I had to put a finger on what I consider a good education, a good radical education, it wouldn’t be anything about methods or techniques. It would be about loving people first. And that means all people everywhere, not just your family or your own countrymen or your own color. And wanting for them what you want for yourself. And then the next is respect for people’s ability to learn and to act and to shape their own lives.

–       Myles Horton, We Make the Road By Walking

I somehow stumbled upon this quote again, and it puts into words all that I believe in, and all that I want to do with Tutoría both in Singapore and in Thailand.

I recall my teaching days and sometimes I felt that it was easy to lose sight of this, chasing students for deadlines and homework, scolding and yelling in class or wishing I had a fiercer face so that kids won’t muck around during lessons or that I could control the class with a stare.

While I understand that discipline is love, I also knew I didn’t always act that way. Sometimes I was disciplining because of me, my ego of winning an argument that seemed to get the better of me. And they knew how to get to you. Other times it was just difficult to love. Kids with anger management problems blowing up and affecting the class (yes, names are coming to mind) or kids who just simply defiant, with irritating behaviors that irk the hell out of you, offensive, hurtful or still can’t seem to get it when you’ve got a gazillion other things to do and you’re not sure how else to explain the word ‘twice’. I hope other teachers can identify, or maybe it’s just me who struggles with this.

What I learned in Mexico began to topple these ideas of control – as scary as it sounds – and deal with the person in a one-on-one relationship, at their time and emotional state, and then go beyond that to believe that each one of them can do the same for someone else too. And they can do it, and there is a way to train them to do so.

I saw just that in Padoongrasdra School in Phitsanulok. This was my 3rd visit already to do training with the teachers and students in English at the Primary 4 level. This time was the most fun because after training pockets of students, we were finally rolling out the lessons into the main classroom. Armed with 16 trained student-tutors, we brought in the class of 40 to receive Tutoría training from their fellow classmates. We wanted to live out their school name – that many hands hold education – with students taking ownership and driving learning at school in a very real way.

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The class came in, group by group and got seated. When the last group walked in, I was introduced to Guy as ‘the kid who was kind of impossible to teach.’ Teacher Mu said he had the shortest attention span and it’s so hard for him to remember anything. I said hi and his teacher seated him a bench of his own. He sat there without a partner, probably thinking, I’m not going to learn today, again.

As I was organizing the class, Teacher Mu sat down with Guy and began tutoring him. I moved over to him and saw Teacher Mu helping him with the flashcards of various places in the Tema called, “My Hometown”. She told me, he’ll only learn the 5 words instead of the original 9. I nodded and sat down next to Guy.

Teacher Mu had left to help another child and left Guy with the five flash cards. I asked him what he was doing and he fell silent. Shyly, he showed me the bus and said ‘bus…’. Then he scrunched up his face and curled up, almost in agony in trying to remember what that place was. Suddenly he lit up, saying  “Bus-ketball!” And then looked puzzled as that didn’t sounds right. He gave up, saying ‘I can’t remember.”

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Slowly we worked together and mastered 3 places – the bus station, supermarket and zoo. I told him, if he learned them well enough, he could tutor some of his classmates. He just said, oh, I can’t be a tutor. I can’t do it. I just said when you’re ready, I’m sure you can.

I tried asking him to write the Thai phonetics or the thai translation of each of the places but Guy said, “Oh, Thai, I can’t – I can’t read Thai,” and then went back to the new flash cards. I then gave Guy a two-minute break to just relax. During those two minutes, I expected him to run around or doodle, but he took the cards again, with his head lowered and repeating under his breath, “bus station, zoo, temple, supermarket.” Another girl came around and read some of the cards. She stopped at one and then asked Guy, “What’s this?” Guy looked up, and proudly said, “Bus station!” I beamed in delight – that was exactly right.

Guy was so delighted, that when she left, he went through all the cards again, just over and over again. Out of the pile of 5, he glanced at the remaining stack of cards on the edge of the table. “How about these?” he shyly asked. I felt my heart about to explode with joy. He wanted to learn.

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That’s the power of feeling worthy of learning and learning make you feel like you’re worth it. Today for a moment, I saw Guy, filled with that joy. And it’s those moments that you know that Tutoría empowers in the tiniest but most powerful way through the simple opportunity to share knowledge with someone else and empower them to do the same for another. Its FiftyFold.

If we could do more of that in our schools, our students would be in a very different place right and so would our world. With the new FiftyFolf team in Thailand, beginning in 8 schools next Jan, we’re slowly but surely well on our way.

HELP US expand the tutoring network in Thailand – Donate to FiftyFold.

We’re trying to raise $16/ kid for 2014 – Join the Movement

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