Meeting teachers here in Colombia has been a profound and intense experience, invoking deep curiosity, compassion, respect, celebration, mourning, and hope.
In just two days, I've had the opportunity to watch teachers interact with their students and with each other in three distinct school settings -- a public school serving students who live in significant poverty, a public school serving students of working class families, and a private school for which families pay around $2500/ year in tuition.
Through some conversation, panel discussions and observations, I find that these teachers serve as mirrors for me -- I see myself in them in many ways. I see dedicated, caring and creative teachers who are working to balance policy-driven initiatives with meeting the unique needs of their students in the classroom on a daily basis. I see teachers navigating though the stress and the strain of teaching. I see the qualities that I strive to emulate - humor, competence, confidence, connections.
I saw the reflection of how American teachers - like Colombian teachers, it seems - are often blamed for every problem in education. We shared our parallel frustrations with lack of parent engagement in our schools, in our classrooms, and in children's lives, especially as the students move away from elementary and into secondary grades.
Through these same interactions, I have been given the gift of seeing these teachers as windows, too. Through them, I have glimpses of how teachers are committed to the betterment of Colombia through education. I had a view of teachers at the private school working collaboratively, energetically, passionately, and joyfully and wanting for nothing when it comes to resources and materials and providing opportunities for their students.
Oh, I believe in teachers. I know that teachers are agents of change in the world. At yesterday's panel discussion, Ricardo Romero proposed that there are two paths for teachers to take: to either conform or to propose change to reality -- a teacher who is extraordinary has to inspire and generate change and promote curiosity. We teachers can generate the possibility for change and for something better.
I want to shout from the mountain-top - Monserrate in Bogotá and Sandia in Albuquerque - "I believe! I believe!"