Posts Tagged 'Melissa Gibson'

The New Normal

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Street art in Miraflores, Lima.

This summer marks the third College of Education faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Dr. Melissa Gibson and 11 of our students are studying and learning in Lima while also traveling the country. Their blogs are originally posted on Marquette Meets Peru, and we’re excited to share them with you!

By Melissa Gibson

Temblor: A new word in my repertoire to describe my experiences in Peru. Temblor: tremor, or what you feel during an earthquake. In the wee hours of Saturday-into-Sunday, Peru’s Amazon jungle was struck by an 8.0 earthquake, and here in Lima we woke up to a minute of door-rattling, bed-shaking temblores. To me, it was terrifying. My Peruvian friends have told me too many times about how Lima is overdue for a major earthquake and how damaging it will be to the poorer parts of the city, so when the temblores started, my heart raced to keep pace with the shaking—even though, by earthquake standards, the shaking was pretty mellow. When it stopped and Google’s disaster alerts told me everything I needed to know to be reassured, I still couldn’t sleep. Every rattle of a door, every creak in the mattress jolted my heart back to racing.

The next night, as I turned off the lights for bed, I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me, and I had to talk myself down: There was nothing to be nervous about. Go to sleep. Deep breaths to calm my racing heart. It’s not earthquake season. The epicenter was hundreds of miles away. Probability is in our favor. Eventually, I gave in to an uneventful night of rest.

So imagine my surprise when, Monday night, I am sitting in my bed finishing up my preparation for the next day’s seminar and: temblor. No more than ten seconds, but the shaking was now unmistakable. A 4.6 on the outskirts of Lima, barely perceptible to Limeños because, as my friend Marisol says, they happen all the time with the change of season. (In fact, I am reminded of my first time in Lima when the toilet started shaking, and I only realized it was an earthquake the next day when people were talking about it at school.) Yes, more precarious neighborhoods evacuated their houses Saturday night just to be safe, but on my street? The neighbors partied through the whole thing, cumbia band and all. And on Monday night, I gave myself a little pat on the back that my heart stayed at a normal pace and I was able to fall asleep, earthquake anxiety at bay.

This is what it is to spend time in a foreign country not as a tourist. So many things are anxiety-producing when you first encounter them: The traffic. The piles of ceviche. The fresh fruits and salads. The toilet paper situation. The jumble of Lima’s streets. The conversations in Spanish. The walks through crowded market streets with a group of 30. The visit to a pharmacy. The mysteriously uncooperative ATM. The temblores. But then a day passes, a week passes, and without realizing it, you’ve slipped from anxious unknowing to a new rhythm of daily life. New words, new ideas, new experiences.

This first collection of blog posts from our 2019 Marquette University study abroad experience, “Education in the Americas,” lets readers in on what this process of learning a new normal feels like. You’ll hear about the students’ host families, their first impressions of Lima, their muddled conversations in Spanish. You’ll also hear them trying to make sense of it all—because, after all, this is a study abroad experience. And that’s where I come in. Our month is designed so that students acquire the philosophical and pedagogical tools to make sense of what they’re experiencing and then to transfer those understandings back to their home contexts. I don’t just want them to know the word temblor, and I don’t just want them to roll with the experience Limeño style; I also what them to be able to articulate why that experience matters.

In this first week, our conversations in seminar have focused on naming the power dynamics and structures of inequality that we encountered, and trying to locate ourselves in those systems through Ignatian-inspired reflection. While I have assigned the readings and designed the experiences, the students have to bring all the pieces together for themselves, for their own sense-making. This can be challenging for me as the teacher. There’s so much I want them to know! But I remind myself that the purpose of our month abroad is not to make them experts in philosophy or sociology of education but to help them learn how to think critically about unequal social contexts of schools. Our purpose is, yes, to experience a new normal, but in doing so, I hope we will begin to see our own normal through new eyes.

The Jesuits here talk a lot about acompañamiento, the process of accompanying or being with someone as they experience and wrestle with life. Accompaniment is an act of solidarity, of partnership, of being in life together. When done well, from a spirit of humanizing and constructivist pedagogies, accompaniment is also what we do when we teach. In this month, I am accompanying my students on their journey into a new normal, and I am accompanying them as they then navigate back to our home contexts of schooling.

These blogs are an invitation to you, dear readers, to accompany us on our journey, as well. We invite you to read in solidarity with our experiences, however imperfect or partial our sense-making may be after only one week into the trip. Let us know through comments what you’re thinking as you read, what questions you have for us or want us to answer, or what perspectives you might bring to our experiences. Accompany us as we consider justice, education and Peru.


Everything You Want to Know About Our COED Study Abroad Program

As the spring semester kicks off, the application for our College of Education faculty-led study abroad is open. Dr. Melissa Gibson, faculty leader, has put together a list of frequently asked questions to help students decide if a summer in Peru is right for them!

Do you want to experience educational systems abroad? Do you want to learn or practice Spanish? Do you want to find a way to fit a study abroad experience into your busy life as a double-major? Then join us for our annual month-long study abroad experience, “Education in the Americas.” Need more information before applying? Check out the answers to Frequently Asked Questions below. If you still have questions, email the program leader, Dr. Gibson.

“Every education student should be required to go on this program! It’s life-changing.” — 2018 participant

My sentiments exactly.87

Who can come on the trip?

Any Marquette student, although you should have an interest in education. Most participants are in our teacher preparation programs or pursuing an Educational Studies major or minor.

Do I have to speak Spanish?

No. While Spanish is definitely helpful, it’s not required. The program is designed to accommodate even those with no Spanish background. In week 1, you’ll get some language training at our university partner to learn some subject specific vocabulary. Throughout our time in Lima, you’ll have opportunities to participate in intercambios with university students who are learning English. When our field experiences are not themselves bilingual (English/Spanish) settings, we either have a translator from the university who travels with us, or Dr. Gibson translates. Honestly, you will be amazed at how quickly you pick up survival Spanish! But you have to be willing to try.

What courses do we take, and who teaches them?

Our program counts for two required courses for Education & Educational Studies majors: EDUC 4240/Critical Inquiry into Contemporary Issues and EDUC 4540/Philosophy of Education. The courses are combined into a six-credit, experience-based course called “Education in the Americas,” where we engage in comparative analysis of the diverse contexts, policies, and philosophies of education in Peru and the US. The seminar portion of the course is taught by a Marquette faculty member (in 2019, Dr. Gibson), although all of the educators we meet and work with in Peru are also your teachers.

Where do we stay?

In Lima, students are housed with host families in the Pueblo Libreneighborhood where our university partner, Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, is located. Pueblo Libre is a residential, middle-class neighborhood in central Lima. Host families are typically experienced at welcoming American university students, and there is often someone in the family who is retired or who works from home and thus is able to tend to you. Students stay with at least with one other Marquette student, and possibly more. When a host family does not speak English, we make sure that at least one of the students living there has some language proficiency. When we travel to the Cusco region, we stay in tourist hotels in Aguas Calientes and Cusco city; in the small town of Andahuaylillas, we stay in a parish retreat center. All accommodations are included in the program fee.

What do we do for the month?

Our program includes significant field experiences as well as regular seminar meetings. For the first week of the program, we are based at Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, our Jesuit university partner in Lima. This week is designed to give us a bird’s eye view of education and inequality in Peru: we have guest lectures, language classes, and visits to various Jesuit social projects (like PEBAL and SEA) around Lima trying to attend to the needs of low-income and marginalized citizens. During the first week, we also begin working closely with Encuentros, a social project in El Agustino where we end up playing a lot of soccer with neighborhood kids throughout our three weeks in Lima. Week 2 is spent at La Inmaculada, a private Jesuit school serving middle- and upper-class students; we also continue working in El Agustino. Week 3 is spent at a public school in Lima. Your weekends in Lima are mostly free for you to explore, sleep, and eat all the ceviche you can handle. We then fly to Cusco, and travel up to a small town called Andahuaylillas, where we have a field experience with a Fé y Alegría school, a public/private partnership, that serves Andean and Quechua-speaking students. The remainder of our time in Peru is spent exploring the Sacred Valley: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu.

Will I have homework?

Yes. You will have readings and seminars on most weekdays, although we try to build time into your days for you to do the readings so that your evenings can be free to spend with your host families. You also will keep a blog while you’re traveling that serves as a reflection on your in-country experience. When you return home, you’ll have a final project to complete. Remember, this is a six-credit course!

How much does the program cost?

In summer 2018, the program fee was $2300. In addition, students purchase their own airfare (typically $700–$1000) and pay tuition for six credits. The 2019 program will likely be similar in cost.

That’s a lot of money. What’s included?

Almost everything! The program fee includes all in-country transportation (airport pick-ups, private coach to our field sites, airfare to Cusco, train to Machu Picchu), all accommodations, almost all of your meals, and entrance fees to cultural events that are part of the academic program, such as our visit to Machu Picchu. It also includes the cost for academic expenses such as the use of wifi on campus, tour guides, guest lectures, seminar space rental, etc.

How much spending money will I need?

That’s hard to say. It depends a lot on you and your taste and budget. Many students have reported that they spent about $300 out-of-pocket beyond their program fee. This is for things like souvenirs, unplanned excursions, eating out, and taxis. If you are a big spender, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spend more, but most people in Peru live on what Americans would consider to be a small budget. If you don’t want to spend a lot, you don’t have to.

I receive financial aid. Can I still go on the trip?

You are encouraged to talk to your financial aid advisor. There are ways for financial aid to be applied to this program.

I’m a vegetarian/gluten-avoider/vegan. Will I be able to eat?

Yes, but the options may be limited. There are always rice, potatoes, avocados, and fruit. Your host family will be alerted to your dietary needs and should be accommodating with their breakfasts and dinners. You can also do some research ahead of time to find out where there are good spots to eat or grocery shop in Lima for your particular dietary need. But most of all, we recommend bringing a month’s supply of Kind Bars or other filling, protein-y snack to get you through the moments when pickings may be slim.

Am I going to get sick? Is the food and water safe?

Your best bet is to check out what the CDC has to say about health in Peru. In general, if you take precautions — such as drinking only bottled water, not eating uncooked vegetables, only eating uncooked fruits that have a think skin, washing your hands frequently, only eating well-cooked meats, and getting all recommended vaccinations before you leave — you lower your risk of getting sick. If you do get sick, through our university partner and our home stays, we have easy access to medical care.

Is Lima safe? Is Peru safe?

You can find official information on travel and safety from the US Department of State. Lima is a big city, and so you will face many of the same challenges that you do in Milwaukee or Chicago. You will be encouraged to use city street smarts: travel in groups, know where you’re going, don’t walk through unknown neighborhoods after dark, keep your belongings close to you, etc. Traffic in Peru is a challenge, and so as a pedestrian, you have to be extra alert in order to cross streets safely. Our neighborhood in Lima is a residential, middle-class area, and you are staying close to the university. We also have private bus transportation that takes us to all of our field experiences, and we always visit field experiences with someone who works in the community and acts as our guide.

Will I have free time?

Yes. In Lima, the program is designed so that your evenings and weekends are free, with the exception of Saturday mornings when we play soccer in El Agustino. We will often suggest or organize activities that you may choose to join. You can also do your own thing, or stay at your host family and relax. Remember, on the weekends, all your meals are included at your host family. Once we go to Cusco, your free time is less consistent, although you will have time to explore the city on your own.

Since this is a faculty-led, MU program, does that mean we’re going to be in an American bubble?

No! You stay with local families in Lima. We interact regularly with university students at UARM, several of whom will essentially spend the whole month with us. We will usually be the only Americans at our field experiences, where we’ll be working closely with local kids and educators. We have organized intercambios and meals with UARM students. However, when we travel to Cusco, we will be a much more insular group.

Are there other MU students in Peru at this time?

Yes! It looks like the College of Nursing will be running a parallel program to us, and we will be working together to find interdisciplinary opportunities. You may end up sharing a homestay with a nursing student.

I’ve never been out of the country. Is this too adventurous for me?

Not at all! Our first group had several students new to international travel, and they had a fantastic time. The program is designed such that you should feel supported at all times.

I want to go to graduation, though. Can I still study abroad?

Yes! This year, we will depart on Monday, May 20, 2019, with programming beginning in Lima on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

I have to work during the summer. Doesn’t that make participating impossible?

Not necessarily. We return home from Peru on Sunday, June 16, 2019. In past summers, most students have gone on to work summer jobs in Milwaukee or their hometown without a problem. As long as you can finish your final project while you are employed, there is nothing about the course preventing you from working once you return to the US.

I have to take other classes this summer, too. How will that work?

Marquette’s Summer Session 2 begins after we return from Peru. In addition, many students have taken on-line classes during the summer, some of which overlapped with our time in Peru. They simply made their own time to complete work for that course.

I want to stay and travel after the program ends. Can I do that?

While we recommend that students arrive and depart on the same days, it is ultimately up to you and your family to decide.

How do I apply?

The application is through Marquette University’s Office of International Education. Typically, the application opens around January 1, and applications are due by February 1. For more information on the application process, consult the Office of International Education.

How can we plan our schedules if we don’t hear if we’re accepted until spring semester has already started? What if I’m not accepted? Then how will I take those required courses?

Students are always nervous about this. In the past, we’ve been a very small group, and everyone who applied was able to go. If you’re nervous about your application due to past grades or disciplinary problems, please talk to Dr. Gibson before scheduling your spring semester. In general, though, it’s less likely that you wouldn’t be accepted than it is our group would be too small. The program requires six students in order to run. So drum up some interest among your friends to make sure we have enough students to go to Peru!

Becoming a Social Studies Teacher

This post originally appeared on Dr. Gibson’s Medium page.

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“painting of man” by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

By Melissa Gibson

The other night, I had an anxiety dream. In it, I was conducting research at an international school on its approach to civic education (you know, part of what I do in real life). My host was a teacher I know well, with whom I’ve worked in Peru. But before I could get started, he said I needed to meet with the principal. I entered her office, where another social studies teacher was waiting; across from us, the principal sat at her large desk, her head slung down while she napped. Worst nightmare of a job interview EVER.

Eventually, the principal jolted awake and leered at both of us. Our college transcripts were in front of her. She inspected each, and then looked at us with disgust: “Why would I hire YOU, either of you, to teach social studies when you do not even have good survey history courses on your university transcript? How can you even pretend to be social studies teachers?!” The other woman, who was clearly interviewing for a teaching job at the school, began to explain how her high school offered a plethora of college-level survey courses, and so when she got to college, she was able to move into advanced history seminars. She showed off her flashy knowledge of dates and names, and then went down a wormhole about some 1800s Navy admiral she was obsessed with. She ended with a summary of her students’ AP scores for the past twenty years. The principal nodded, clearly assuaged.

Then she turned to me. “What about you, little miss interdisciplinary?”
I gulped. I began my usual explanation of what it means to have studied Women’s Studies as an undergraduate, the various social science lenses on the same questions. I showed her on my transcript the “surveys” of sociology, history, literature, political science, but how they were all focused on questions of gender. And as I explained what I had studied, I grew more animated in my explanations of how I study these topics. The principal seemed unimpressed.

Gathering steam, I tried to give a narrative of how I came to this place in my intellectual career: I talked about not seeing myself in the curriculum (or in my classmates) and seeking academic spaces that honored the questions I was asking as legitimate intellectual inquiry. I talked about questioning dominant narratives, and moving back and forth between the various disciplinary cannons and critical theorists and scholars. I talked about my discovery late in life of how thrilling history can be when it is more than a collection of dates and names. I may have shown her the syllabus to my methods courses. I definitely showed her the documentaries and podcasts and blogs that my students have written in my social studies classes.

Eventually, she relented, agreeing that while my training was non-traditional, I clearly knew how to ask questions and get students to do some work (there may have been a tirade about lazy millenials and the ills of technology). She looked about to nod off for a nap again (and I really wanted to ask a snide question about what work she did if she spent so much time napping), so I mustered the courage to ask permission to conduct my research, which she granted. The next thing I knew, the dream had morphed into a murder mystery complete with chupacabras, and instead of conducting research on civic education, I was helping high school students escape some murderous blob-ghost thing, which liked to strike during football games. Also, there were rickshaw rides and a lack of child care for my own children so…definitely an anxiety dream.

School is finally back in full swing here in Milwaukee, and we are hunkering down at Marquette to dig into the meat of our courses. And on the eve of these intellectual journeys, I guess my sub-conscious needed to pause to reflect on what it means to be a scholar of social studies education, especially when one isn’t a traditional social scientist or historian. I talked my own imposter syndrome down in the dream, as evidenced by the principal’s relent, but I woke up aware of that always present feeling of self-doubt. Which, believe it or not, is important for me to hold onto. Not because it’s a valid self-critique but because it reminds me of how my pre-service teachers may feel in my methods courses and in their placements—not quite the real deal. And that self-doubt can be paralyzing. Part of my job as their methods instructor is to help them see the multiple ways that we can become scholars of teaching, and that our most powerful intellectual tools are the questions we ask.

This publication, which we will add to throughout the school year, is a record of their journeys learning to ask good questions. Along the way, they will uncover resources, stories, places, and instruction that just may help you become a better social studies teacher, too—whether this is your first year teaching, or your fortieth.

This is social studies. Not a collection of dates and names, but a way of inquiring about the world. We hope you’ll join us on our journey.

Up In the Andes: Dr. Melissa Gibson

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Dr. Melissa Gibson

What does a just education look like here, this world so different from Lima…and yet so much more similar to what foreign tourists imagine when they think about Peru?

The parish retreat in Andahuaylillas, where we stay.

Up in the mountains of the Cusco region is a small town called Andahuaylillas. It is framed by the hills of the Andes, a greenish yellow ground cover reflecting the high altitude rays of the sun. A tiny plaza sits outside a masterpiece of a church, and by day, the plaza is rimmed by a dozen vendors of woolens and jewelry and llama-themed tchatchkes. After three weeks in the traffic and smog and fog and noise of Lima, Andahuaylillas is a still oasis.

If you’re lucky, you might catch a traditional celebration on the steps of the church, percussion leading the dancers who wear the furs of baby llamas on their backs. If you’re even luckier, you’ll get to know the people who live in this town. As part of our program, we spend a few days here, hosted by the local parish in their retreat center, and welcomed by community members: The directress and students of the local Fé y Alegría school, which consciously offers up a Quechua/castellano education for highland children to try in its own small way to counteract the anti-indigenous forces that demean and degrade the communities of the Andes. The youth workers and participants in the Wayra Ludoteca, a rowdy after-school program where kids from all over Andahuaylillas come to get their wiggles out and their artistry on. The residents of the even-higher village of Cuyuni, who welcome us at 14,000 feet to their community dining room, to their homes powered by recycled biofuel, and to their ceremonies of offerings to pachamama. And members of the Jesuit social projects that have renewed local churches on the Baroque Route, including Andahuaylillas’s own “Sistine Chapel of the Andes.”

A mural in Andahuaylillas depicting indigenous communities and celebrations.

Andahuaylillas is a quiet, reflective time in our trip—partly because of altitude, which forces us all to slow down and adjust, but also because it is so different from the world of Lima we just spent three weeks in. And, the educational context is different. The languages are different (Quechua). The constraints are different (three-hour walks through the high Andes to get to school). The resources are different (isolated, small town lacking teachers). What does a just education look like here, this world so different from Lima…and yet so much more similar to what foreign tourists imagine when they think about Peru?

In this round of blog posts, the students consider these questions as well as similarities they see between race in the US and ethnic and indigenous groups in Peru. And while I’m not there with them (I made it safely home to where my family has now taken over my nursing), I am delighted to read that they are still learning and thinking together in Andahuaylillas.

A celebration in anticipation of Corpus Cristi, outside the church of Andahuaylillas.

Who Is the Teacher?: Dr. Melissa Gibson

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Dr. Melissa Gibson

Mural at El Lugar de la Memoria, la Tolerancia, y la Inclusión Sociale.

Unless you’re in my line of work, studying teaching and education, you probably don’t spend a lot of time wondering, “Who is the teacher?” That may in fact seem like an absurd question to you. I could ask the question differently to try to get at some of what I’m questioning: Who was your favorite teacher? What made them so? Who have been your most impactful teachers outside of the classroom, and why? What is good teaching, and how do you know?

In the context of this study abroad course, we’re asking these questions not as a matter of policy or to dictate instruction, but as a philosophical question. Because we’ve also been philosophizing about learning—not the neuroscience of cognition but the human experience of learning.

Félix, a community educator in El Agostino and one of the many fantastic teachers we’ve met on this journey.

There are plenty of reformers, educators, and individuals who are rolling their eyes at me now. Who would tell me about job preparation and test scores and knowledge and cultural literacy and on and on. And here is what I would respond, just as I tell my teacher education students:

Learning is a relational and emotional process. The emotional parts of our brain are involved deeply in learning. Thus, the teacher and the student are in a relationship, and the quality of that relationship directly connects to the students’ learning. But they’re not alone in that relationship; they are in a community of learners, the classroom and the school. So what is the nature of a teacher/student relationship and a learning community that actually cultivates learning and deep understand? Questioning and critical thinking? If a teacher is always the omniscient, all-knowing sage leading the classroom, what does that mean for these relationships? And if students can repeat all sorts of information, is that the same thing as learning?

Neuroscience can help us answer these questions, as can instructional design and educational research. But for me, these are at their core philosophical questions. So in this round of blog posts, the students are starting to grapple with these questions to answer, Who is the teacher?

Perhaps a recipe at the heart of good teaching?

This Is Not a Service Trip: Dr. Melissa Gibson

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Dr. Melissa Gibson

As students of education, we are trying to understand the relationship between pedagogy and the social contexts of schooling.

In Pamplona Alta with Luís & Yisella.

People keep asking us, What are you doing here in Perú? We are not volunteering. We are not missionaries. We are not voluntourists. What are we then? There doesn’t seem to be a familiar paradigm for answering that question, and we always get a bit of a cock-eyed look when we explain, We are here studying education in Peru. Researching, do we mean? Teaching about education, do we mean? Practice teaching, do we mean? Nope. We are studying education in Peru.

Why, then, the trip to Pamplona Alta, where families opened up their bathrooms to us to show us the engineering marvel of a dry/compost toilet? Or why keep going back to El Agostino to play soccer and jump rope? What is this, if not slum tourism or voluntourism?

Pamplona Alta, a pueblo jóven, or informal settlement. Lima is over-populated and unplanned, and there is a shortage of livable space. Pueblos jóvenes were settled by folks living in other parts of Lima or in the highlands who wanted homes of their own. From nothing but a dusty and rocky mountainside they’ve constructed, from scratch, a community. This one, Nueva Rinconada, is especially tightly knit and committed to the gradual improvement of living conditions. With only one public school serving all of Pamplona Alta—much of which is inaccessible by car and without running water—the question of context in education is especially pressing.

As students of education, we are trying to understand the relationship between pedagogy and the social contexts of schooling. I guess you can do that theoretically, but those relationships become clearest when we are actually immersed in differing contexts and when we can actually begin to experience different philosophies of education put into practice. Because we are working with a Jesuit university partner while we are here, we are lucky to get to visit and learn about various Jesuit social projects. So in Pamplona Alta, Luís, a biologist working with PEBAL, walked us around to show us his work—which included installing fog catchers and dry toilets. In El Agostino, Patí and all of her Encuentros programs welcome us visitors to get to know their work with children in the neighborhood. Through partnerships and relationships, we learn about not only the different neighborhood contexts of Lima but also about how different people are approaching their work in these contexts.

Legos, ping pong, foosball, soccer, and scooter riding. Every kid’s dream of how to while away an afternoon.

The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm calls us to cyclically move through an investigation of context, experience, and rigorous reflection. We are, therefore, here to experience a context both similar and different from our own; our seminar readings provide some structure and prompts for our reflection. We continually cycle through these three phases of Ignatian pedagogy, knowing that the final two components—action and evaluation—will come later, in our own context, where we are actors and agents and not visitors.

So no, we are not volunteers or missionaries or teachers or researchers. We are not here to fix anything, to engage in charity, or to feign to have the answers. We are also not here to ogle. No, we are here to learn, and we are lucky to do so in partnership with communities and individuals who are so deeply involved in positive social and educational change.

We are students, and we are here to learn.

Looking down on El Agostino from the losa, or slab, in the mountains where we played soccer and practiced our Spanish with neighborhood kids.

Marquette Meets Peru

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Dr. Melissa Gibson

 “So in the first two days of seminar, my job is to make the familiar strange—and to make the strange familiar. It’s the students’ job to start making their own sense out of this, which is what you’ll read about in this next installation of blogs.”

Now that the initial excitement of the first few days in Peru has morphed into a weekly routine, it is time for us to get down to academic business. Our university partner here in Peru calls our program, “Diverse Contexts of Education in Peru,” and that is exactly right. The course syllabus describes our task this way:

This course will examine the philosophical underpinnings of various educational approaches in the US and Peru, as well as the key issues, policies, and practices that are part of global debate about what constitutes a high quality and equitable education. The course will combine educational field studies in Peru with traditional seminar meetings in order to link theory, research, and practice. Students will work comparatively between the contexts they are encountering in Peru and the contexts they may know intimately in the US. Topics addressed will include [1] the social context of schools; [2] theorizing and distributing educational aims; [3] educational (in)equity, neoliberalism, and school reform; [4] race, class, and language; and [5] approaches to educational change. Students will articulate their own emerging philosophies of education, and they will comparatively analyze an educational issue facing Peru and the US.

To do this (which is a mighty big task for our month!), and after throwing ourselves into the broader context, we hunker down with some key topics: What kinds of schools are there? What are the challenges that schools are facing? And what makes a school or educational program good or just?

To investigate these questions, we visited two schools—one, a prestigious private American school; the other, a Jesuit public school (you read that right!) serving working and middle class students. We also considered the global privatization of public schooling, which is rapidly occurring here in Lima, and the push to redefine a high-quality education around twenty-first-century skills and around liberation and social change.

Our first seminar.

The visit to Roosevelt is a hard one for me, as the instructor. Especially after spending time in El Agustino and meeting students at UARM, who are generally not from Lima’s elite, the extravagance of the Roosevelt campus can be disheartening. How can this one school community have so much, and millions of Peruvians have so little? That’s a hard inequality to stomach—and as the students note this week in their blogs, it’s an inequality that made them deeply uncomfortable. As it should.

But. That inequality is not that different than what we see back in the US between, say, privileged suburban schools and low-income schools in segregated neighborhoods. It’s just that the inequality is so much more visible at Roosevelt. It’s a challenge to help my students recognize this about our home context.

But also. Roosevelt is a pedagogical exemplar in some ways. Thanks to their “sky’s the limit” resources, they get to do what so many other schools feel is out of reach: deep dive inquiries. personalized learning. experience and travel. interdisciplinary curriculum. entrepreneurship. And they are trying to do all of this in the service of socially responsible students who can lead lives of integrity. The global elite exist. So how should we be educating them in the service of justice and equality? Can we even do that?

A tiny taste of learning at Roosevelt. A student’s outline for his documentary on the Peruvian music industry, made during an in-depth unit on economics.

It can be hard for my students to see past the makerspace and the lush playing fields to the underlying pedagogy and philosophy.Yet this is what we’re here to do: to connect context with philosophies and pedagogies. And by doing so here, in a place so seemingly unfamiliar but also kind of like a distant cousin to the US, we ultimately should be able to turn that critical and hopeful gaze back on our own context.

So in the first two days of seminar, my job is to make the familiar strange—and to make the strange familiar. It’s the students’ job to start making their own sense out of this, which is what you’ll read about in this next installation of blogs.

What is a Marquette Educator?

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