Thoughts from 35,000 feet above the Atlantic

June 18/19, somewhere over the Atlantic

Many people don’t enjoy transatlantic flights, and there are certainly many reasons not to. I, on the other hand, don’t sleep on planes, which usually gives me seven relatively uninterrupted hours to watch movies that I don’t get to watch during the school year. After a late start to Paris, and a questionable timeframe to make our connection to Munich, I settled in for some unremarkable plane food, and three movies. I watched Spotlight, All Roads Lead to Rome, which is a terrible Sarah Jessica Parker movie that I thought would be more about Rome than it was a really awful love story, and The Help. I also attempted to read, but that was at about 1am, when everyone who is normally-wired was trying to sleep, so the light was a little much.

Before I launch into my thoughts on the next two weeks, I should tell you a bit about the organization that is allowing me to participate in this opportunity; The Goethe-Institut is an organization with 159 locations in 98 countries around the world, seeking to increase knowledge of German language and culture, as well as create alliances with local organizations. Its head office is in Munich, and the primary US office is now centered in Washington, DC. One branch of Goethe’s commitment to spreading German culture and language is the Transatlantic Outreach Program, which is “a public/private partnership that promotes education about Germany, fosters intercultural dialogue, and provides the opportunity for North American social studies educators, STEM educators, and decision makers to experience Germany.” This incredible commitment to spreading the importance of modern Germany takes the shape of numerous trips to Germany for educators every summer. This summer, there are six study tours–five with social studies educators, and one with STEM educators. All six groups have different itineraries and focuses, and get to experience a wide variety of Germany cities and areas of study. It’s an incredible opportunity, and one I am happy to answer questions about–so teacher friends, please ask away!

Our group, known as TOP 2, had our orientation with TOP 3, which is a STEM group of educators who have a different itinerary and different focus than we do. They have the chance to go to a town built on completely sustainable, renewable energy, and visit an asparagus farm, which sounds like an incredibly unique experience. I’m really interested in finding out more about Germany’s vocational education system, especially as it relates to educating and caring for the whole person (Cura Personalis has become an important part of my ethos. Thanks Marquette!). I’m excited to talk with both German students and teachers about how they feel the liberal arts and humanities are a part of their education.

I hope it’s clear, even by this point in the blogging process, that I believe people are an essential part of the value of education. Seeking human-heartedness wasn’t just a really neat story I wanted to share with you from Korea, it was and is something that drives my teaching and hopefully my behavior generally. Watching The Help always reminds me of this; if not for the grammar, “You is Kind, You is Smart, You is Important” would be a life motto too. Convincing ourselves and others of that is half the battle.

Our tour, TOP 2, composed of social studies teachers from Maryland to California, and lots of places in between, will be focused on a variety of things, but will also include significant time and energy focused on the refugee situation in Europe, and in Germany in particular. What it means for Germany’s economy, education, healthcare, politics, among many other things, is what we’ll hopefully be investigating for the next two weeks. Along the way, there’ll be ample opportunity to see many beautiful things, eat quite a bit of good food, and get to know teachers who are interested, passionate, and care about making a difference. It’ll be a pretty great way to spend my first full weeks of summer, and will certainly be an inspiring experience.


We learned quite a bit of conversational German yesterday, and though I’m not sure much of it stuck, here goes the granddaughter of a German farmer, into one of her ancestral homelands, hoping for enlightening and engaging conversations, important cross-cultural exchanges, and let’s be honest, some good food and drink along the way.

MC Lean


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