Friday, August 15, 2008

IB Training in Las Vegas, New Mexico

Here are some pictures of my IB (International Baccalaureate) training at the United World College near Las Vegas, New Mexico in June. It was like summer camp for adults. Several buses picked up teachers who had flown in from all over the world to the Albuquerque airport, and took us on a 2-hour bus ride away from all major towns, passing by Indian reservations, towards the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Out of nowhere, a castle appeared from within forested hills. We pulled up to the Montezuma Castle, an old hot springs resort built in the late 1800s, and were welcomed by several recent graduates of this international boarding high school (students from Zambia, Uganda, Niger). They welcomed us to their "home away from home," and whisked off our baggage to the dorms.
Over the course of the five-day training, I attended workshops with 18 other English teachers from Africa, Europe, South America, and the Middle East. Our workshop leader, Anne, had a background as a linguist, and so other than teaching us the layout of the IB assessments and syllabus, she steeped her instruction in "how words work" as we will be teaching English literature to students as a way to boost their literacy and fluency in the English language.
The most interesting part of the workshop included a look at how our language is affected by our culture. For instance, in English-speaking countries (especially the U.S.), we teach students to organize their writing as such: This is what I am going to tell you. Here is my first point, my second point, my third point. There, now you have it. It's very straight forward, concise, and wastes no time getting to the point. Whereas, in Latin American countries, you will find students' writing to be full of tangents, exploring the beauty of the language and the fun in its stories, as that is how their culture operates; they're in no rush to get from point A to point B. They want to have fun in the journey. Another example is Middle Eastern student essay writing- it is very wave-like and full of rhythm, modeled after the rhythm and poetry of the Koran. I just love thinking about language and culture, so it was all very interesting to me. I am excited to try to learn Turkish, and see how the language connects to the culture. And I am curious to see how my Turkish students' writing will differ from my Montanans'!

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