I am fascinated by different cultures. I find it interesting how over centuries our food, communication, religious rituals, and every other preference we call “normal” became normal. In my travels on five continents I have had my sense of “normal” challenged and confirmed. Sometimes I leave an experience wishing my culture placed a higher importance on relationships rather than efficiency. And other times, I feel proud that second chances and forgiveness are normal and commonplace in America.
I love the paradox of complexity and simplicity that travel reveals to the traveler. Though people from different cultures are very different in many ways, in many other ways they are the same. I am enamored by both what makes us different and similar. It keeps me from taking myself too seriously and inspires me to empathize with and love liberally those I am supposed to see as “them.”
This interest in the world and the people with who we share it led me to apply to the Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) Fellowship through the US State Department. I am honored to have been accepted into the program. Even if I hadn’t been, I would be so pleased that our State Dept. has such a program. It seeks to develop the skills needed for a better global community in teachers who can then help develop them in students. So far, it has been a great learning experience. After completing the first phase of the fellowship in the fall, an eight-week intensive online course, I head out for Washington DC this week for the second phase. I look forward to meeting the other TGC fellows and continuing this great learning experience.
I know I join all of the other fellows in eagerly awaiting the international field experience phase. In March, I will travel with 11 other teachers to the Republic of Georgia to meet yet another “normal” that is different from mine, but not. I can’t wait to see what the paradox looks like this time.
"This blog is not an official U.S. Department of State blog. The views and information presented are the grantee's own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program, IREX, or the U.S. Department of State."
Stephen Blan teaches US History at Fort Worth Country Day in Fort Worth, TX and is a 2015 Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow.