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Creating a Collaborative School Culture (Part 2)

Creating a Collaborative School Culture (Part 2)

“Lesson study is the way change has been able to come to elementary,” explained Shannon Watt. “We plan our lessons as a team. And we’ve done it, so if it doesn’t work it’s the team’s responsibility, not just one teacher. Lesson Study is what’s enabled us to open our minds, make mind shifts, to leave the traditional.”

As she spoke, Ms. Watt began to pull books on Lesson Study from the shelves in her office and slide them towards me over the desk. Lesson Study is a Japanese methodology where teachers plan and analyze their lessons together.

“And the best thing is that lesson study makes them open their classrooms, so now we have middle school teachers who go to see elementary teachers. Which is great because now they feel empowered. Observers come, and they are impressed and then they adapt what they see for older students. There’s more sharing ideas.”

But Lesson Study is a difficult system to get going in a school. In the West, teachers are famously attached to their autonomy. In a system that makes them feel embattled on all fronts, it’s often all they have to cling to. Even in a more affluent school like Southern Cross, teachers often invest a tremendous amount of personal pride in their particular way of doing things. Getting teachers to plan and evaluate lessons together, to get them innovating, is often a tremendous challenge. The “Team Time” in my first school back in 2006 often devolved into a round robin airing of grievances. Many of the teachers I’ve worked with over the past few years have shared similar experiences.

Lesson Study - International education

When Shannon Watt first introduced Lesson Study, she knew that she had to be delicate. She first started with a team she thought would be more amenable. Only after they shared how much they liked it, did she encourage the more skeptical teachers to try it out. There were problems at first. It’s only now, in the third year, that she feels Lesson Study is working as it truly should. All of the teachers are engaged and invested. They see how Lesson Study helps them. The issues with group work, which resulted in the slow but enthusiastic adoption of Kagan strategies, were originally surfaced in Lesson Study meetings.

Spending a day with Ms. Watt at Southern Cross, and talking with her teachers, was extremely illuminating. She seems to have created the kind of professional culture that many schools in the States aspire to with a kind of wistful idealism, an unstated recognition that the barriers are actually too great.*

More and more, people are beginning to realize that teaching needs to be a more collaborative profession. Just the night before, I was at a talk with a Chilean Education Professor who discussed how teachers’ tendency to view their classrooms as independent fiefdoms was one of the major barriers to reform. More collaborative faculties not only give people more opportunities to collaborate and share ideas. It also helps with morale.

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Ms. Watt’s approach to leadership is much more thoughtful. It’s characterized by a patient perseverance that is far too rare in most schools.[/pullquote]

In the last post, I mentioned that the Harvard Business Review has found that having opportunities for professional growth and feeling trusted by one’s supervisor are two of the most important factors for job satisfaction. A third factor highly important factor is having close collaborative relationships with one’s colleagues.

The importance of collaboration is something many schools in the U.S. seem to know without understanding how to make it a reality. Too often the strategy is to block off time on a calendar without any context or guidance. Ms. Watt’s approach to leadership is much more thoughtful. It’s characterized by a patient perseverance that is far too rare in most schools. And it’s an approach that’s created results.

As an 18 year veteran teacher I met at Southern Cross told me, “I’ve worked at a lot of schools. And what I’ve learned is that the role of the instructional coordinator is really very important.”

– Will

*There is a very real barrier in many U.S. schools though. Mainly the amount of time teachers are expected to be with students. At Southern Cross, the teachers told me they spent 27.5 hours a week with students. In many U.S. elementary schools that number is closer to 34 hours. Those extra 6 hours a week for things like Lesson Study can make a big difference.

Machu Picchu Without a Tour: Logistics and Highlights

Machu Picchu Without a Tour: Logistics and Highlights

It’s no wonder Machu Picchu was only rediscovered about a century ago – it’s not easy to get to.   We did the trip in 5 days and that seemed fast. Getting to the Incan city involves arriving in Cuzco (we did it by bus, but you can also fly), getting to the town of Aguas Caliente (we took a 4 hour train), getting from Aguas Caliente up to Machu Picchu (we took the 30 minute bus), and then the whole thing in reverse to get back.

And that’s only one way to do it. Some people hike the Incan Trail (a 4 day excursion) or stop in the Sacred Valley on their way from Cuzco. You can also skip the 30 minute bus ride and hike up to Machu Picchu from the town. These are not the only choices. Options and combinations abound!

Some people hire a tour company to put together portions or all of this trip. Knowing this would be one of our most expensive excursions, Will and I decided to do Machu Picchu without a tour and put together the whole thing ourselves. Here’s what we booked.

Our Trip Breakdown:

Item US$ Total Tips
Lima to Cuzco Bus Ticket

$63 x 2 tickets

$126

We did an overnight bus. You can read about it here.
   
VIP House Hostel (Cuzco) $21.72 x 3 nights $65.16 Right across from a supermarket – a life saver!
   
Peru Rail Train Tickets $154 x 2 round trip tickets $308 Expensive, but a high class affair.   Go to the bathroom before you board – it’s too bumpy to use the onboard facilities.
   
Ecopackers Hostel (Aguas Caliente) $29.53 $29.53 4 person dorm was perfect for 1 night.
   
Bus ticket to Machu Picchu from Aguas Caliente $24 x 2 tickets $48 You can buy them day before at the bus station starting at 2pm. Be in line by 4:30am to get on the 5:30am bus if that’s your plan!
   
Machu Picchu Tickets w/ La Montana $45.58 x 2 tickets $91.16 Make sure you print your tickets! The extra hikes sell out early.
   
“Machu Picchu: The History and Mystery of the Incan City”Edited by Harasta & River $0 with Kindle Unlimited $0 If you go without a tour, purchase some sort of guidebook so you know what you’re looking at.
   
Cuzco to Arequipa Bus Ticket $42 x 2 tickets $84
 
Taxis to and from Bus Station: $6Train Station: $14 $20
 
Total: $771.85**

 

**We spent another $130 on food in Cuzco and Aguas Caliente combined. We ate out for dinner but made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Breakfast was included in both our hostel stays.

 

Highlights:

Trying New Foods in Cuzco

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Coca Tea: Made from coca leaf, this tea is used to calm altitude sickness – which we greatly appreciated! Our hostel offered an endless supply in the form of loose leaves and hot water.

Alpaca: We paused for a second when the filets came out medium rare, but I’m so glad we threw caution to the wind, because it was tender and delicious. Better than elk (Will tried it at Yellowstone).

Quinoa: Unlike any quinoa we had tried before! Creamy, cheesy, with potatoes. I can’t wait to figure out how to make this at home.

Cuy (Guinea Pig): Our guinea pig arrived with an orange pepper in its mouth, perched on top of a larger, stuffed pepper. After setting the platter down, the waiter crowned it with a little vegetable hat and offered to take our picture. The guinea pig was then returned to the kitchen to be quartered for sharing. It tasted a lot like rabbit, unsurprisingly. This traditional Peruvian food is obviously quite celebrated – we saw it depicted in several Peruvian churches on the table at The Last Supper.

The Vistas in Aguas Caliente

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Aguas Caliente is lost in time – a tiny city nestled between rainforest covered Andean peaks. The streets are connected by bridges, and trains (the town’s only connection to the outside world) run through the center. Our hostel had a rooftop bar that felt perched in paradise. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

Seeing the Ruins (almost) Alone

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What’s better than gallivanting around cloud-ringed ruins by yourself as the sun comes up? You feel like the original explorers, discovering something ancient and mysterious. You get to have one on one encounters with the resident llamas. You get to see the views without all those people in the way. We had to take the first bus to get up there in time for this experience– which meant a 3:45am alarm. We also bypassed the ruins near the entry gate, where many tour groups get held up, and made a beeline for deeper locations. Being at Machu Picchu almost alone? Worth every effort.

Summiting an Andean Peak (La Montana)

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When I read the description, it said that the climb up Machu Picchu Mountain (La Montana) was a moderately challenging hike on a wide path, following an old Incan road. Well, Incan’s didn’t really build roads as much as staircases. This hike was a 2 hour staircase up a mountain.

I didn’t consult Will when I booked our Machu Picchu tickets with the La Montana hike included. I told him it was the easiest hike available (which I believe it is…yikes.) About half way through he turned to me, exhausted, and asked, “Are we SUMMITING this mountain?” Luckily, he was excited to do it.

Worth it. From multiple points along the way, we saw Machu Picchu from above, in addition to the surrounding landscape. Not to mention the accomplishment of summiting a mountain in the Andes! I successfully didn’t throw up.

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More pictures coming this week!

Cheers,

Elizabeth

The Perfect Pack: What’s in Our Bags for the Next 10-Months

The Perfect Pack: What’s in Our Bags for the Next 10-Months

I began research on what to pack for our around the world trip almost a year before the trip began.  I wanted to create the ultimate efficient travel wardrobe – smart, versatile, compact.  I wanted to carry the perfect combination of technology items to maximize convenience and minimize bulk.  Finally, I wanted it all to fit into a reasonable sized backpack.  I was on a mission to achieve The Perfect Pack.

The tricky thing about this ambitious goal is that you don’t really know exactly what works best for you until you are on the road.  In the past 4 weeks, I’ve already changed out some of my toiletries and replaced several clothing items.  I expect this evolution will continue, so I will refrain from reviewing any items or packing strategies now.  This post merely chronicles my first attempt at The Perfect Pack, and I will certainly update you on it’s effectiveness as the trip progresses.

What you can find in this post:

1. Photos and lists of our packed items

2. A video of how I’m packing my bag

3. A list of websites I used to research The Perfect Pack

 

Her Bag: Deuter 60L Women’s

What to bring traveling

  • 5 t-shirts, one of them dressier
  • 1 tank top
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 1 button down shirt
  • 1 light weight sweater
  • 1 sweatshirt

What to pack for a round the world trip

  • 2 dresses
  • 1 long skirt (converts to a dress)
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of convertible outdoor pants
  • 1 pair of leggings (for under dresses, sleeping, and working out)
  • 1 pair of shorts (for over the bathing suit, sleeping, and working out)
  • 1 bathing suit

shoes for a round the world trip

  • 1 pair of Tieks (for looking more professional when we visit schools)
  • 1 pair of flipflops (double as shower shoes)
  • 1 pair of Chacos
  • 1 pair of Salamon hiking shoes

what to bring traveling

  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 LL Bean winter jacket (folds into its own pocket)
  • 1 water bottle
  • 1 sleeping bag with compression sack

toiletries to bring traveling

  • moisturizer
  • sunscreen for face (I have sensitive skin)
  • hair elastics & bobby pins
  • solid shampoo and conditioner
  • hair clip
  • dry shampoo
  • 2 diva cups
  • bar of soap
  • q-tips
  • contacts & solution
  • dry brushing mit
  • emery board
  • razor
  • scissors
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • floss
  • regular sunscreen
  • deodorant & a deodorant crystal (I prefer the crystal, but it requires water, so I have a backup)
  • make up

what to pack for travel

  • travel towel
  • bandana (mosquito repellant)
  • malaria pills
  • diarrhea kit
  • year’s supply of contacts & birth control
  • hat
  • two pairs gym socks, 1 pair wool socks
  • underwear (2 bras, 1 strapless bra, 1 sports bra, 10 pairs underwear)
  • Not pictured: small stash of Advil, Zantac, bug spray, tissues

what technology to bring traveling rtw

  • Surface 2, keyboard, charger
  • screen cleaner and wipe
  • wireless mouse
  • smartphone & charger
  • headphones
  • external hard drive
  • water purifying wand
  • mini SD card
  • universal adapter
  • tablet sleeve

What to pack for extended travel

  • Nikon D40 & case
  • Timbuktu day bag
  • wallet
  • hairbrush
  • money belt (for when we are in transit)
  • passport
  • eyeglasses (not pictured: sunglasses)
  • notebook & pen
  • small, foldable backpack (for day trips or when we are in transit and checking our big bags)

His Bag: Deuter 65L Men’s

Will has many of the same items that I do – same technology,  toiletries (minus the female only items), and gear like a water bottle, sleeping bag, and meds – so they are not re-pictured here.  I’m just listing his clothes and items not already pictured.

Clothes for a round the world trip

  • 1 undershirt
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 1 button down t-shirt
  • 3 button down shirts
  • 1 button down, vented hiking shirt (Ex-efficio)

What clothes to bring traveling

  • 1 hoodie
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 winter jacket
  • 2 khaki pants
  • 1 convertible hiking pants
  • 1 shorts
  • 1 bathing suit
  • Not pictured: 3 pairs socks, 10 pairs underwear

What I need for a round the world trip

  • 1 Chacos
  • 1 Teva hiking shoes
  • 1 camel-skin satchel
  • 1 hat
  • Buff bandana (I have one too)
  • Spanish grammar book
  • notebooks & pen
  • belt
  • Martin Backpacker travel guitar

How all this fits into our bags…

The Perfect Pack Research Resources

Travel Fashion Girl Packing Lists

The Art of Simple Travel

Half the Clothes

Her Packing List

A Little Adrift

Adventurous Kate’s Travel Resources (scroll to Travel Gear)