Sunday, March 24, 2013

“Why Malta, Miss?"

I wasn't sure if I was going to do a 6 month recap/blog entry but after doing my lesson on New York a couple of weeks ago, my students have continued questioning me about why I came to Malta.  Honestly, it has really made me reflect on the last 6 months.

I can't help but think about where and who I was when I first arrived and the person I am now.  Gone is the unsure girl that arrived in Malta in September, who second guessed her decision to move 5700 miles away.  Here now is a girl not yet ready to end the adventure that has been her life in Malta for the last 6 months: breaking cultural barriers with her students in her secondary school, struggling to create a viable university course syllabus with her roommate and co-lecturer, traveling, developing friendships, volunteering, experiencing, living and breathing in this beautiful, simple and calm life that this tiny 17 mile island has afforded me, all the while blogging to tell about it.

Yet, I can't help but continue to think about my student's question...“why Malta, Miss?"...6 months ago the easy answer would have been that for a Fulbright fellowship, it had no language requirement.  Today, it's a much more complicated answer.  I am here for the experience of something new, opposite of the norm that has been my life, to test my own limits, and finally “spread my wings", as they say.   I can end this blog today and say mission accomplished.  Done.  We can all go home. But I still have 10 weeks.  

10 weeks to take in the beautiful sunshine and warm weather that has been making a slow but steady return. 10 weeks to smell the salty air and stare into the ocean just outside my balcony.  10 weeks to do all I have not yet done and to repeat as many times as I can the things I love doing like lunch on the beach, walks along the promenade, people watching while enjoying a great meal at my favorite restaurant, and photographing it all along the way.  10 weeks to prepare for my return home where family, friends and my dogs, oh my dogs how I miss them, await. 10 weeks to eye roll the Arriva bus drivers just because they remind me of what I wish not to remember about New York.  10 weeks to enjoy loud staff room conversations and teachers constantly apologizing for speaking in Maltese then translating in English, only to then jump back to speaking Maltese-HA!  10 weeks to enjoy Sunday morning runs to the market for fresh, hot “bagel" bread,  seeing “Captain Jack" as I call the man who sits outside of the pub on the corner and wears a Captain's hat, Army Wives marathons, making fun of the “Bangkok style" neighborhood that is Paceville, Pumpkin pizza at Piccolo Padres, Chicken and pumpkin Ftira at Gululus, Falafel and Sweet potato pomegranate salad at Mint, hikes along some of the most picturesque land and seascapes, boat rides, wine bars, Gozo, Comino, and of course, gelato! Lastly, 10 weeks to give Malta a proper but heartbreaking goodbye and thank you:-(.

The upside is I get to share this special place, yet again, with some very special people who are visiting in May.  I get to play tour guide of a place that has become home to me in it's own way.  In talking with my sister today about Malta, she kinda nailed it when she said “Malta touched my heart and that doesn't usually happen to me, but it really did, it really is a special place".  I think that's what I've been trying to say all along.

So to my student's who will continue to ask “why Malta, Miss?"...after all I've written in these last 6 months, I think my response to them will be why the heck not!

Until next time,



Saturday, March 16, 2013

Making Strides...and loving every minute of it!

As I sit in my living room on this chilly Saturday afternoon, I can't help but reflect on my time here in Malta and the amazing week I've had.  A week that proved to me that it will be very difficult to leave Malta come June.  I keep thinking about how I was when I first arrived, all of the things that stressed or frustrated me and all of the moments since then that have made those moments seem so minor. I keep thinking about how far I have come with my students and I realize now more than ever, how important it is to me to be doing something with my life that actually has an impact on others and I feel completely blessed to know that is exactly what I am doing.

This past week was a perfect example of that.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have a very difficult class and also difficult students scattered throughout other classes.  My girls, though I love them dearly, are tough and rough around the edges, but they are my girls, girls I can relate to because I know what it is like to come from the “not so great" part of town.  It hasn't been easy trying to bring that message across, but it has finally happened.  My girls know that I am from New York and immediately correlate that to being rich and posh.  I am neither and it was time to prove it.

The unit this week in English class was Holidays (vacations).  We reviewed vocabulary, different holidays one can take, different situations that can occur on a holiday and various modes of transportation.  In other words, I was in my glory.  As I have said time and again, I love to travel but more importantly, I think it is imperative that people make it a priority to do so as well.  Now I know it takes money to travel and by no means am I saying that one should always make a point to travel luxuriously or even frequently but the reality is that we live in a globally connected world and it is important that our future generations to come are exposed to life outside of their norms.  As a teacher, it is my responsibility to expose my students to the world and to help them understand that it is okay to dream big and to have a desire to see and experience the world.  That is how they will grow and evolve and find what it is they are truly passionate about.

In following with the unit, I decided to conduct a lesson on New York.  The girls are always asking me what it is like and why I would leave to come to Malta so I figured it was time to show them.  Each class is vastly different and each class responded differently with different questions but all were completely enthralled.  They were at the edge of their seats, screaming, raising their hands, asking millions of questions...and they were looking at the pictures ...daydreaming, in complete awe of  a life they wish they could live and experience for themselves and I was there telling them they can.  One student said that she will never understand why I would ever leave such a great city to come to Malta.  Teaching point at it's finest.  I explained to her that although New York is great and offers endless opportunity, it is important to see the world, experience different cultures and traditions because you may find that the idea you have of one place may not suit you at all.  They looked at me inquistively like a lightbulb went on in their heads.  I explained how there are plenty of ways for young adults to travel economically and why it is so important to focus on school work and learning English so that they will be able to take advantage of these opportunities and it clicked...just like clicked!

These girls never imagined life away from this small island was possible or felt confident enough to believe that they could one day experience something other than their norm but now they do.  This lesson extended to questions about how expensive it is to travel, ways to budget, scholarships, student travel programs, all things that equate to OPPORTUNITY!  The cherry on top of this week was seeing the reaction I got from my most difficult class and students.  To have my most difficult student walk up to the board and ask me to go back and forth on different slides so that I could explain things further and to have me explain a map of the 5 boroughs when she asked if one has to take a plane to each borough (true story) became that moment for me that made my being here clear to me.  I am a vessel in which to expose my students to a life otherwise unknown to them and I am completely okay with that!  She began to laugh and smile and even got comfortable enough to begin to ask me questions about my life (some too personal but she quickly understood I wouldn't answer) but to hear this student who is tough and hard ask “do you miss your mother?" and “will you miss Malta?" and to see her eyes widen when I answered yes to both questions but that I will also miss her and the rest of the class because they are my students and I care about them and want the best for them, almost brought me to tears.  To hear her say “Miss, when you get married I want to be a bridesmaid, thank you for this lesson"...gave me my “aha" moment and made me feel as if I'd won the lottery.

I'm a Bronx girl that has had to work for everything I have and all that I have managed to accomplish, all on my own, and my mission is to share that with my students, to show them that anything is possible because, damn it, it is. As an educator, it is my duty to instill this belief in my students, to help them build the confidence they need to go out and experience and take on the world.  I will continue to be their biggest cheerleader, if their only cheerleader, because every student deserves that.

Until next time all,