Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bucharest, Romania

Stacy and I were accepted to receive professional development money to attend and present a session at the CEESA Conference in Bucharest, Romania. CEESA is the Central and Eastern European Schools Association, one of several regional associations of US State Department sponsored American Overseas Schools. BUPS is not a member of CEESA, but it is a great conference to attend to meet other international teachers from IB schools in this region of the world.

We were put up in an Executive Suite room in the Marriott. Our first night there we ordered room service and watched "Love Story," and had a girls' night in. The hotel:

The sessions we attended were inspiring, including the keynote speaker, John Joseph's address about brain research and reaching the emotional and imaginative "rooms" of our students, and NYU's Robert DiYanni's session about teaching poetry. He was truly a master teacher.

We also escaped to our room a few times to prepare for our presentation. Stacy preparing:

School had been so busy beforehand as this is the peak time of year for IB requirements, that we never had a chance to run through our presentation beforehand. We were given the very last time slot on the last day, but after some anxiety experienced in anticipation, our presentation went pretty well. It was a good first run, and we look forward to presenting it again someday. Perhaps meeting up at an English Teachers' Convention in the States. Our session is entitled, "The YouTUBE and You: Using Pop Culture in the English Language Arts Classroom." It consisted of a 2-hour session on how to use pop icons, filmclips, songs, etc. to provide a socio-historical context for studying literature, to practice higher level analytical skills by deconstructing the connotation of a media text and then transferring those skills to a literary text, fostering cross-cultural understanding by dissecting embedded values in media messages, and using a shared body of knowledge (pop culture) to connect with students and add fun to the classroom.

Unfortunately, it was such a small, broad conference that there were not many English teachers present to attend our session. But we had eight people come, a variety of math, technology, economics teachers. We received a lot of good feedback from them, and many were able to find some idea we presented as inspiration for their own subject areas.

As far as Bucharest goes, we didn't see much of it, as we were stuck inside fancy hotels the whole time. We did go out to dinner one night at a restaurant called, Poem, with 20 or so other international teachers we met from Macedonia, Norwary, and Romania. It was one of the most expensive restaurants in Bucharest. I had a very tasty lightly-fried salmon steak which I've never had prepared like that before. Romanian cuisine? I have no idea. Some other folks tried ordering Italian, and that was a disaster. They ordered gnocchi, and were served a pile of boiled potatoes covered in marinara sauce. Nice ambiance though.

The second night, CEESA had planned for us a fancy dinner and dancing at the Radisson Hotel. After we danced to the oldies, we snuck off and hit the town with some new friends. We wandered around the city, and came across this beautiful candlelight vigil being held in remembrance of a famous Romanian Pop star who had just died.

The city definitely had a Transylvanian feel; you could see how vampires could be associated with it. Especially the way it was lit up at night, the buildings with spotlights and harsh shadows.

All in all, a really great weekend of not enough sleep, good "girl time," being inspiring by other teachers, inspiring other teachers, and making friends from faraway places!

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