Monday, February 28, 2011

ESLtrail on Twitter!

ESLtrail is now on Twitter! I have quite a month ahead of me on the road. I will be spending  two weeks in the Middle East. Then I'll be home for a day-and-a-half before I go to New Orleans to the TESOL Conference. (I'll be presenting there, by the way.) Then I head to New York City for a week to visit schools who are piloting the Reading Horizons program. I figured my ESLtrail blog, as well as Twitter, will help me to stay connected. I will be "tweeting" while I'm on the road, so stay tuned!

Also, I'd love to hear from you! Don't hesitate to share your comments and "tweets"!

Phonics for Arabic Speakers in the Middle East

Today I reported to my colleagues at a staff meeting on my experience in India with Rising Star Outreach. I embark tomorrow on a new adventure that takes me to the Middle East. I will be visiting Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. I will be meeting with educators and administrators, including Ministries of Education, to discuss literacy strategies to help native Arabic speakers. I will also be attending TESOL Arabia in Dubai, as well as conducting a one-day workshop on the Reading Horizons method for interested educators, hosted by Knowledge Hub based in Dubai.

I have heard quite a bit of anecdotal feedback about the benefits of using phonics to teach Arabic speakers. (See my blog post entitled "Phonics for Arabic Speakers".) I'm looking forward to learning first-hand about the specific needs of EFL students in this part of the world so that I can learn more about how phonics fills these needs. I hope to be able to contribute to native Arabic speakers' learning of English and improving their literacy skills.

(See my posts on phonics in the Middle East here and here.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Abolishing the Stigma of Leprosy by Teaching Children to Read English

This is an interview conducted by Christine Bowman, Marketing Content Manager at Reading Horizons, about my experience in India. This information was used for a press release. As I move forward with other English teaching and training adventures (I depart for the Middle East next Tuesday!), I thought I would post this interview on my blog since it captures some highlights of my India experience.

Students at the Peery School using Reading Horizons
Recently our ESL/Curriculum Director, Heidi Hyte, went back to the Peery School for Rising Stars, sponsored by Rising Star Outreach (RSO), near Chennai, India. This amazing school for K-9 was created for the children who come from the outcast leprosy colonies.  

Heidi spent two and a half weeks with school administrators, teachers, and students to train, observe, mentor, and model teach literacy strategies from the reading program software that was donated by Reading Horizons a year ago. 

Students gathering in the dining hall
This was Heidi’s second trip to the Peery School, and she was overwhelmed by the small miracles that have occurred at the facility. To add to the excitement was the fact that a major American Idol star, So You Think You Can Dance judge, and world-renowned photographer were visiting the school at the same time. More importantly are the children - Heidi can’t forget the children.

This is a snippet of the interview that I had with Heidi last week.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Post-India: Thoughts on Service

I returned home from India a couple nights ago. Since this time, I've been processing the experiences I had in India quite a bit, some of which are really difficult to put in words. I plan to write some more blog posts over the course of the next week or so about specific experiences that readers of this blog might find insightful and inspiring. In the meantime, allow me to post some thoughts that are currently on my mind.

Navemani, one of the dedicated nurses
The thoughts of purpose, relationships, self-less service, and potential dance across my mind. I had the opportunity to visit a leprosy colony while I was in India. I was impressed with the doctor's and nurses' dedication, patience, and sincere compassion as they interacted with the patients. I was also touched by the willingness of volunteers to get on their knees and remove bandages and wash the feet of those leprosy-afflicted individuals without hesitation or complaint. There is something
Smiles from one of the leprosy colonies
amazing about serving those (and witnessing those who serve) individuals who are overlooked, shunned, and unknown by the world. It is a humbling experience to think that I have had the rare opportunity to interact with some wonderful individuals who most people in the world will never have the opportunity to meet because they are cast off--sentenced to live in leprosy colonies in remote communities in rural India. But once you see their smiles, you sense a feeling of familiarity, fondness, and friendship.

Gracie, one of the students
And when I think about the children who I have grown to love so much who come from these leprosy colonies, my love for these leprosy-afflicted individuals grows deeper. These colonies are the children's roots. Their heritage--coming from a leprosy colony--is why they are at the Peery School for Rising Stars. It is their fate, as posterity of the leprosy-afflicted in the leprosy colonies, that is also their boon--their blessing--to be students at the Peery School. Their faces shine with hope, conquering difficulties, and unconditional love.

At the Bindu Art School

I also had the opportunity to visit the Bindu Art School at one of the leprosy colonies where I saw several artists at work--leprosy-afflicted individuals who have discovered the beauty of bright colors and creative exploration. As I wandered around the community center, looking at each artists' work and offering sincere praise, their toothless smiles communicated their pride in their work. Although we couldn't communicate in English, the universal language of mutual appreciation through smiling was successfully communicated. A smile goes a long way.

In conclusion, I want to acknowledge that I know there are so many dedicated people across the globe who are in the trenches doing the best they can to contribute to helping their fellowmen reach their potential. I wrote of this in a blog post over a year ago. I know many of these kinds of individuals personally. To all of you, both those I know by name and those I don't, thank you for your service, whether you feel recognized and validated or not. We are all in this together...

(See other posts on my experience in India here and here.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More on a Day in My Life in India

My experience in India has been full of opportunities to teach, observe, mentor, and serve. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the teachers, house mothers, drivers, other volunteers and staff, and especially the kids. I've posted a few photos of some of the kids I've been working with. Pictures speak a thousand words, right?