As most teachers would concur, most of our daily energy goes toward teaching our students, supporting them, engaging them, listening to them, and empowering them. However, at the end of the day, for those of us who thrive on research and continuous learning ourselves, that component of our lives often gets pushed to the back burner. This is because we need to restore our energy or devote our remaining energy to the people we have at home, and then, turn around and be on our A-game the following day, and week, and month, and year.
I was part of the Global Gateway for Teachers program in 2015, and I completed my student teaching in Many Farms, Arizona, in the Navajo Nation. That experience later inspired my M.A. thesis exploring indigenous poetics and the impacts of settler colonialism. The OPET program inspired the location in which I studied and wrote my thesis- England.
After my first year of teaching high school English, I realized that I wasn’t finished researching. I wanted to learn more about the impact of neoliberal educational policies, not only in the States, but in western educational systems at large. I also knew that I didn’t have the time to adequately explore that field while I was teaching full-time. Through the OPET Program, I went to England for two weeks during the summer break to teach at Bourne Community College and to research the role of curriculum, the trend of neoliberal policies in educational reform, and pedagogical approaches to culturally responsive teaching.
A year after the OPET experience in 2016, I moved to London and completed my M.A. in Contemporary Literature, Culture, and Theory at King’s College London from 2017 to 2018. If it hadn’t been for supportive people at IU, I am not sure any of those experiences would have happened.
I worked with secondary-level students as they prepared for the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). My host family included an amazing elementary school principal, who was well-versed in educational policy changes, and her husband, who had built a boat for the National Art Project for the Olympics in 2012 and had worked in Canterbury Cathedral when he was a teenager. They were a phenomenal host family. I learned as much from them as I did from the teachers at Bourne. I went to England during a historically significant time. My first day was the celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. London put on a show for Her Majesty. Then, everyone voted on Brexit, which created a strained political climate (especially between the older and younger generations) along the southern coast. Later in my stay, it was the 400-year anniversary celebration of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. On the weekends, my host family and I explored literary stomping grounds from Chaucer to Shakespeare. They even arranged a dinner with one of the publishers for Penguin Random House. The entire stay was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.