At the half-way point of this programme I continue to have an extraordinary time. The cultural exchange aspect has been immensely rewarding and I have loved getting to know and share educational ideas with my sixteen colleagues from around the world as well as the wonderful US teachers and university faculty we have been working with.
My research has been focused on improving the recreational reading habits of adolescents and I am enjoying working with families from the local high school and observing a peer reading programme designed to inspire reluctant readers. While there are some clear cultural differences it seems some aspects of being a teenager are fairly universal – many of the students here face the same issues and dilemmas as those in Aotearoa. Watching them experience how reading can help understand and negotiate some of those difficulties is lovely to see.
The biggest challenge to being here so far has been trying to juggle the enormous number of activities on offer. Every night there are plays, bands, lectures, concerts, operas, exhibitions, special events and sports to go and see. The cultural opportunities are staggering and inevitably many great looking events have to be missed. The diversity makes for a number of great highlights and spectacular contrast: visiting an Amish community and then going to New York; hearing Tony Bennett sing and the next day returning to the same auditorium to hear legendary Civil Rights activist John Lewis; having a conversation about education policy which includes teachers from America, Botswana, Morocco, Finland, Singapore, India, Chile, Taiwan and Mexico.
The opportunities have been amazing and I’m looking forward to putting all the new pedagogical and cultural knowledge to use back in the classrooms of Aotearoa New Zealand.