Dragons instructor Stew Motta leading a discussion on complex and interconnected social issues. Indonesia Semester.

Posts Tagged:

Educator

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Dragons School Partnership Programs offer much more than an itinerary or the management of ground logistics; In our collaboration with a school, we are dedicated to an aim of fostering a more interconnected, aware, and empathetic student body, faculty, and parent community. The two voices in the following essays speak to the transformative potential that immersive international educational experiences can offer.

[caption id="attachment_152434" align="alignnone" width="1186"] The streets of Amman.[/caption]

Milton in Jordan: Transcending Limitations of the Classroom -- A Map's Edge Newsletter Feature

WORDS JOSHUA EMMOTT

THROUGH THE EYES OF AN EDUCATOR

One of the challenges teaching Middle East history to high school students is how to immerse them in a foreign culture, especially one they only know through the media depictions of war in Iraq and Syria or terrorist attacks in Europe. In our classroom at Milton Academy Massachusetts I have struggled to use texts, videos and Skype interviews with people in the region to move beyond a superficial understanding of culture, gender, religion and how modern day Middle Eastern societies work. Having lived and traveled in the Middle East, I am able to bring personal anecdotes to our studies. But I have felt that even though my students can converse intelligently about the politics and history of the region, they still leave my class feeling that Islam and Muslim culture are opaque and impenetrable topics that they do not really understand, and so they are left with little understanding of the diverse voices that are active and vibrant in the region. This frustration and inability to provide students with a holistic understanding of the Middle East led me to explore alternative ways to connect my classroom to the Middle East. This is how I found myself in Madaba, Jordan in March 2016 with nine other American teachers learning about experiential education for the first time. Having been a Peace Corps volunteer in Jordan and having traveled extensively in the region, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Jordan, only to discover that I was quite mistaken. In March 2017, I returned to Jordan with eight of my Milton Academy students for a ten-day cultural immersion into Jordanian society. None of my students had traveled to the Middle East before and one of them had never left the United States. From the moment we stepped out of the Queen Alia Airport into the hot desert air until our return home ten days later, all of our assumptions about what Jordan represented, who we were, and what it meant to be a citizen of the world were constantly being challenged, tested and affirmed. Our Dragons partnership course was deliberately designed to take everyone out of their comfort zone and provide time for each member of the group to process at their own pace. In Amman, my students would gather every night on the rooftop terrace of our hotel to passionately discuss and debate for hours the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on the stability of Jordan; what it means to be Jordanian; the role of Islam in Jordanian society; whether the tribal structure is a force for regime stability or an obstacle to democratic reform; and how to understand the role of women in Jordan. Questions abound in the moment, but for some, our ten days in Jordan also resulted in an overwhelming encounter with ‘the world’ that left them still processing the experience weeks after we had returned to Milton. To start our exploration of Jordanian culture and gender, our group was invited to lunch by a remarkable woman named Khaloud. The students and I spent an entire afternoon in Khaloud’s apartment with her two college-aged children and her elderly parents. Over the course of an hours-long feast, the students practiced their recently-acquired Arabic language skills; learned what it was like to be a young women studying science at a Jordanian college; and from Khaloud’s father, what it is like to be a Palestinian who lived in Saudi Arabia and now resided with his divorced daughter in Amman, Jordan. In our discussions over a mountain of kebabs, bread and grilled vegetables, the students shared their family stories and the role of elderly family members in their lives. We were all challenged to think about how the elderly are treated in the United States versus the Jordanian approach of having your elders move into your house when they become too frail to live on their own. After tea was poured—a sweet, sugary, aromatic mint tea that is the mainstay of all social interactions in Jordan—we all gathered around the family table while Khaloud shared her life story with us. Khaloud’s father arranged for Khaloud to be married to a Saudi man twenty years her senior when she was a young teenager. After her second child, Khaloud resolved that she was going to challenge the patriarchal structure of Saudi Arabia and run away to Jordan to get divorced, as there exists no such option to escape an oppressive marriage for a woman in Saudi Arabia. Khaloud then shared her story of building a new life in Jordan, and how difficult it is to be a divorced woman in a society where marriage is the norm. This powerful and personal experience of sitting in Khaloud’s apartment with her family as she shared her life story raised more questions than answers. After two hours listening intently to Khaloud’s story, the students paid respects to the family and we departed. We regrouped at Al Jadal café in Amman to digest and process Khaloud’s journey and better understand what this revealed about the role of women in Jordanian society. The power of our Dragon’s course in Jordan was that we never knew where the conversation was going to take us. Our visit to Al Jadal was meant to be a fun break from the heady discussions of the morning and an opportunity to learn the debkhe (traditional Jordanian dance). For over an hour, our group tried to follow the lead of our female instructor as we attempted to replicate the debkhe, which looks like a simple line dance, yet is deceptively complicated. After an hour of going right instead of left, we took a break to have a traditional Jordanian dinner cooked by Syrian refugee women working with an NGO associated with Al Jadal. After dinner the owner of Al Jadal sat down for tea and explained how his café was opened after the Arab Spring as a forum to debate the future of Jordanian politics and society. During our discussions, one of my students asked the owner of the café to explain an aside that he had made about the role of Islam in Jordanian society. Our discussion of politics suddenly took a turn and we found ourselves challenged to think about what the role of religion should be in society. Moreover, we were challenged to consider our individual role in creating a more equitable society. When should one engage in political protest or support the status quo? Is democracy the best form of government? This unexpected turn in our dinner discussion led to another late night on the rooftop of our hotel as my students developed a reading list of books they planned to read post-trip in order to better understand what was possible if one wanted to create a better world. From Amman, we crammed into a small Jordanian bus and traveled south to Wadi Rum and our four-day homestay in the desert town of ad-Disah. This was the first time we had left Amman and traveled into rural, conservative Jordan. After four hours driving passed flat sandy expanses, highway rest stops, and small settlements with twenty houses surrounded by endless brown landscape we passed through ad-Disah in the dark and arrived at Salah’s Bedouin camp at the entrance to Wadi Rum. Stepping out of our small bus into the darkness and silence of the desert, surrounded by the stone cliff formations of Wadi Rum, my group fell silent and nearly paralyzed in awe of the lunar-like surrounding where we would be spending the night. Sitting on the floor of the Bedouin tent we were treated to a traditional feast. As we ate, we again engaged in a discussion with our host Salah, this time on the role of tourism in Jordan and its impact on traditional Bedouin societies like that of ad-Disah, where each of us would live with a host family for the following four days. As we ate breakfast at Salah’s camp, the group was noticeably quiet and visibly nervous about the prospect of living alone with an unknown family in an unknown place. During our debrief before the homestay it was clear that everyone was very apprehensive about how they would spend four days with a family that did not speak English: How would they know what to do? How would they know what the cultural cues were? What if someone made a cultural faux pas? Our two Dragons leaders, Cate Brown and Elley Cannon explained how the homestay would work and patiently answered everyone’s questions. When the clock struck 10AM we all piled into the back of a pickup truck and headed into ad-Disah to drop the students off at their new home for the next four days. The truck ride into ad-Disah was the quietest I have ever seen my students. After a night in our homestays, we all congregated in the diwan (living room) of my host family’s house and debriefed our first twenty-four hours in ad-Disah. Two of the boys arrived in traditional Bedouin dress as their host families had taken them shopping in town. The two girls in our group were dressed in traditional Bedouin dress of head scarves and long robes as within this conservative society the female dress code is prerequisite for an immersive homestay experience. Right away it was clear that some of the students were having a great time and were forming bonds with their host families, and that there were other students who were completely overwhelmed, questioning whether they could spend another day in ad-Disah. The two female students in our group were struggling with the gender roles and how to reconcile their personal views with communal norms of ad-Disah.

On day two of our homestay there was a wedding in the village, which created a lot of excitement among the students. Jordanian weddings are multi-day affairs where men and women celebrate in separate locations. For the men, the weddings are all-day affairs in which they sit under long tents and drink rounds of tea and discuss family and politics for hours on end. For my students, sitting for hours with a limited ability to speak Arabic, and having to politely drink dozens of cups of sugary tea, not understanding what the hundreds of men in the tent were discussing, turned into an endurance contest and a real challenge to embrace a way of life that moves at a glacial pace compared to Milton. During one of our many discussions under the tent, the students observed that all of the younger men in ad- Disah had cellphones and spent hours upon hours transfixed by the screens. This ultimately led the students to start discussing the role that cellphones played in their own lives, and how the absence of a cellphone in Jordan had made them rethink the role that technology plays in their lives back at Milton. Transference, in a way, had begun.

Our last night in Jordan was a magical evening spent out in the middle of Wadi Rum sitting in a circle under the stars discussing ways in which we could bring our experience in Jordan back to Milton. As it turned out, one of the female students in our group, Mollie, spent her final month of school volunteering at a local mosque helping with Ramadan preparations and furthering her understanding of Islam. One of the six boys in our group, Matt, returned to Jordan this past summer to teach English at a local school in Zarqa in far eastern Jordan. The rest of the students have all expressed a sincere desire to pursue Arabic and Middle East History this fall as they start college.

The most fulfilling part of this experience for me was during our final night in Jordan, as I sat under a blanket of stars in Wadi Rum listening to each member of the group articulate the ways in which he or she had been challenged on this course and the ways in which they had grown both as a person and in their understanding of Jordan. Back at Milton, in our final month of the course, I took immense satisfaction in listening to the eight students who went to Jordan help their peers to better understand the cultural complexity of the kingdom. My goal is to bring my entire Middle East History class to Jordan every March. The impact of this trip on their understanding of local culture and society proved that experiential education is not only measurable, it is transformative.

JOSHUA EMMOTT was a participant on Dragons 2016 Jordan Educator course. Following the Educator Course, Joshua helped formalize the first Dragons-Milton Partnership Course in Jordan the spring of 2017. He and his students are headed back to Jordan with Dragons again in 2018. Joshua first traveled to Jordan in 1997 as a member of Peace Corps. Later, he and his wife Anne started a business importing olive oil soap from Syria and carpets and jewelry from Yemen and Pakistan. Since 2003, Josh has lived and taught Middle East History at Milton Academy.

[caption id="attachment_152435" align="alignnone" width="1186"] Herds of sheep coexist with
upscale apartments and embassies in Jebel Amman, a neighborhood of the capital.[/caption]

Milton in Jordan: Discovering the Middle East -- A Map's Edge Newsletter Feature

WORDS & IMAGES MATTHEW MAGANN

THROUGH THE EYES OF A STUDENT

“ISN’T IT DANGEROUS?” That’s the main question I heard when I told people I was traveling to Jordan. By and large, the West’s conception of the Middle East centers around terror, and mentioning the region calls to mind the horrors of September 11th and Islamic State.

That isn’t the picture I got in Jordan. Fear never crossed my mind as I walked through the bustling alleyways of Amman. A mixture of people, shops and traffic filled the streets of the capital city, whose electronics vendors and cafés melded together with ancient souks and Roman ruins. I witnessed a dynamic and rapidly changing society, albeit one deeply impacted by regional events. Massive, repeated inflows of refugees have heavily taxed Jordan’s limited natural resources. Despite that, it remains a stable and vibrant nation, one of the most successful in the Middle East. I spent ten days this past March in Jordan as part of a Dragons Partnership program with my high school, Milton Academy. We flew into Amman, where we stayed for a few days before driving down to ad-Disah, a Bedouin village in the southern deserts near Saudi Arabia. Although I had studied the Middle East both in class and independently, I had never left the Western world before and little prepared me for the experience I had in Jordan. I saw scars borne of the conflict and turmoil that continues to plague the region, but I also found an audacity and an authenticity unlike anything I had previously experienced. As a tall, white, blue-eyed American, I clearly stood out on the streets of Amman. So I quickly learned that in Jordan nearly everyone bids you welcome. Whether alone or with our student group, people would spontaneously call out “Hello!” in English or “Ahlaan wa sahlaan!” (welcome) in Arabic. In possession of only the name of a restaurant and the Jordanian Arabic term wa’in (where), I managed to navigate through the labyrinth of Amman’s streets, each person I asked immediately pointing out the next few turns like a personal guide. I spent the most time immersed in Jordanian culture while staying with a Bedouin host family. They spoke little English, and I no Arabic, yet I felt immediately welcomed into their home. The children in my family weren’t quite sure why I didn’t understand Arabic, but they took me around the village, introducing me to their friends and cousins and inviting me to play soccer. For a region so often stigmatized as hostile and violent towards the West, I found Jordan unusually friendly and welcoming. I certainly met Jordanians who held political disagreements with America, but I never felt those tensions shifted onto me as an individual. Perhaps in a region where states are often artificial and leaders frequently lack the popular mandate, separating the individual from the nation comes more naturally. Or, as I suspect, the welcoming culture I experienced in Jordan extends to everyone, regardless of language or nation. Although the Middle East may not fit the violent stereotypes of the West, it has undoubtedly suffered through some of the worst atrocities of modern times. Jordan, despite its own stability, has had to deal with the impacts of the conflicts surrounding it. Most of the population is not native Jordanian. A majority have Palestinian ancestry, and the recent conflict in Syria has brought in nearly 1.5 million new refugees. A massive influx of Palestinians arrived in the wake of the 1948 war, and with some obstacles, Jordan has managed to successfully integrate them into society. The current Queen Rania of Jordan is Palestinian-Jordanian, for example. Unlike neighboring Lebanon, Palestinian refugees and their descendants can adopt Jordanian citizenship. Issues still exist surrounding Palestinian-Jordanians, but considering the sheer number of people involved, Jordan has had remarkable success in integrating refugees. In recent years, the Syrian refugee crisis has presented a new challenge. I met with multiple NGO workers helping the Palestinian-Jordanians, but considering the sheer number of people involved, Jordan has had remarkable success in integrating refugees. In recent years, the Syrian refugee crisis has presented a new challenge. I met with multiple NGO workers helping the Jordanian government to handle Syrian refugees. The refugees have created tension within Jordan, which accepted them on the premise that they would return to Syria at the close of the conflict. Unfortunately, the current situation does not lend itself to any sort of peaceful resolution. The tide of the war seems to have turned in Assad’s favor. While some refugees would contemplate returning to a state under his rule, for those refugees who had any involvement with the opposition return could mean death. The mass migration of Syrians has put a strain on Jordan’s social services, and many Jordanians dislike the prospect of permanently settling refugees in Jordan. Although the government welcomes material aid, relief agencies often come up against opposition when they try to integrate refugees into society. Like many others, I had read about the crisis in the Mediterranean and the controversies surrounding Syrian refugees, but the issue still seemed distant and detached from my experience. Visiting Jordan and speaking with both refugees and those helping them gave me a better grasp of the problem. It also humanized the crisis for me. These people were not faceless, helpless masses nor were they fanatical Islamists determined to bring down America. They were people not very different from myself. I met one man who had been a lawyer in Deraa, a rebel-occupied city in southern Syria and the scene of intense fighting. His life had not been that different from my own. He studied at the university and lived a comfortable life with his family. Then one day his home was bombed by Assad’s forces and he was forced to flee across the border to Jordan, where he now lives as a refugee, separated from his wife and children. Despite that, he volunteers his time helping less fortunate Syrians adapt to life in Jordan. His audacity in continuing to advocate for refugees was not unusual. I spoke with a woman who had fled an abusive arranged marriage, risking her life to do so. I met one young man who did not believe in god, putting his social standing and even his life in danger in order to stand for what he believed in. Even on a small level, I saw acts of courage, like the young Bedouin father who bottle-fed his baby son, cutting against traditional gender roles. We often rationalize the suffering of those in other cultures as divorced from our own reality, as not our issue. Spending time in Jordan broke down those barriers of culture and geography, revealing to me how fundamentally familiar and how fundamentally human the seemingly distant Arab world is. I still haven’t quite processed my time in Jordan. It’s been eight months now, but I still think about my time there. I’m now beginning college, and I’ve decided to study Arabic this year. I hope to return back to Jordan, perhaps this summer, to build on the experience I had. Something about the streets of Amman, with their traffic and little DVD stands and restaurants and car horns and the smell of tobacco and the long nights spent up on rooftop balconies talking through meaning and purpose and direction, impacted me deeply. My time in Jordan drastically changed the way I think, and it continues to challenge me, both as an individual and as a citizen of the planet.

MATTHEW MAGANN attended a 2016 Dragons Partnership program with Milton Academy in Jordan. Originally from the Boston area, he currently studies at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he is a writer for The Dartmouth and an active member of the Dartmouth Outing Club. He also works at the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory in Milton, MA, has volunteered at a number of archaeological digs, and has recently begun work at a Dartmouth ice core lab.

This article was featured in the Winter 2018 Edition of Dragons bi-annual Newsletter, The Map's Edge. Each newsletter explores perspectives from Dragons community through the voices of our Alumni, Instructors, Partners, Parents and our International Staff and contacts. Feel free to view our archive of editions of The Map's Edge or even submit a piece to be featured in our next issue by sending an email to [email protected]. [post_title] => Jordan: Through the Eyes of An Educator & Student [post_excerpt] => Please enjoy these two essays -- from the perspective of a teacher and a student -- on Dragons-Milton Partnership Course in Jordan. This article was featured in the Winter 2018 Edition of Dragons bi-annual Newsletter, The Map's Edge. Each newsletter explores perspectives from Dragons community through the voices of our Alumni, Instructors, Partners, Parents and our International Staff and contacts. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => jordan-eyes-educator-student [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-23 13:21:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-23 20:21:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 638 [name] => From the Field [slug] => from_the_field [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 638 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [parent] => 0 [count] => 57 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 4 [cat_ID] => 638 [category_count] => 57 [category_description] => Featured Yaks, Reflections, Quotes, Photo Spreads and Videos from the Four Corners. [cat_name] => From the Field [category_nicename] => from_the_field [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/from_the_field/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 675 [name] => The Dragons Journal [slug] => thedragonsjournal [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 675 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [parent] => 0 [count] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 20 [category_description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [cat_name] => The Dragons Journal [category_nicename] => thedragonsjournal [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/thedragonsjournal/ ) ) [category_links] => From the Field, The Dragons Journal )
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Here are some sneak-peek excerpts from the featured essays of our winter edition of The Map's Edge. Be sure to check your mail to get your hands on all the glossy pages of stories, photos, and updates from four corners of Dragons global community!
PAGE 4
BRAZIL
Princeton Bridge Year: To Have a Home
By JIMIN KANG
"I believe that there are qualities in each of us that can only be realized in different contexts. I discovered that Brazil brought out a version of myself that inspires me most. To this day, I miss the candor with which I greeted strangers on the street and told them about my love for acarajé, the fried bean fritters I'd eat with friends after hours of practicing Portuguese. I miss the music and the visual arts that flourish across Salvador, and the days I painted lampposts with spray paint oozing down my hands. I miss the confidence with which Bahians wear their own skin, and the way I felt more comfortable in my own body than I'd ever been. More than anything, I miss the people who greeted me with a "seja bem-vindo" (be welcome) and bid me farewell with a "volte sempre" (return always). People who taught me that home can be anywhere in the world, as long as there are people with space in their hearts."
PAGE 8
SIKKIM
Lepcha: Children of the Snowy Peak
By SHARON SITLING
"The Lepcha believe their people originated within these valleys. They call themselves 'Mutanchi Rong Kup Rum Kup,' which translates as 'Children of the Snowy Peak and Children of God.' The Lepcha are nature worshippers, whose religion blends animism and shamanism and is called bongthingism, or Munism. The tribe shares an inextricable relationship with nature as evidenced by their vocabulary, which contains one of the richest collections of names for local flora and fauna recorded anywhere, and reveals a vast knowledge of naturopathy as well as holy texts. By some estimates, there are only 40,000 Lepcha remaining in Sikkim; their language is quickly disappearing and they are fighting to preserve their lands and what is left of their culture."
PAGE 12
SENEGAL
Photo Essay: Between the Lens & Me
By CRYSTAL LIU
"I was hesitant to bring my camera with me to Senegal. I suppose I approached photography with more of a moralist's stance than a scientist's, and I felt some intuitive distrust of images and imagemaking as it related to my educational experience. I worried about the fraught relationship between subject and photographer. I didn't want to reproduce clichés and reduce people to flat, aesthetic purposes. At the same time, I wanted to remember what I would experience, and the fear of forgetting eventually overcame other qualms about the medium. I brought my camera, and I am both glad and regretful that I did."
PAGE 22
MOROCCO
Interview: The Beat of a Different Drum
By MOHAMED ARGUINE
"...after hours of trekking, Ben M'barek would take out his drum, sit on a rock and start playing whatever came to mind. He never thought his songs would attract the attention of tourists who didn't understand a word of the Tamazight language. [...] The guide explained that M'Barek was singing about his love for the High Atlas Mountains and that he hoped not to see what might be hiding behind them. The oxygen of his life, its meaning, flows down from the peak of the highest mountain to his soul through the drops of rain and flakes of snow-pure and white as his heart, and imbued with love for this region, which to him is heaven on earth."

 If you didn't get one in the mail, here's the full digital issue!

 
Dragons bi-annual Newsletter, The Map’s Edge, explores a subject of interest to the Dragons community through the voices of our Alumni, Instructors, Partners, and our International Staff and contacts. Feel free to view our archive of editions of The Map’s Edge or even submit a piece to be featured in our next issue by sending an email to [email protected]
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    [post_content] => Teachers, alumni, students: Did you know you can bring a Dragons Instructor right into your classroom for engaging conversations on critical global issues? This might be one of the best things we do. We call it our Global Speaker Series. (And ps. it's free.)

Class Topics with our Guest Teachers Include:
  • The Forces Behind Migration from Central America
  • Introduction to Islam
  • Good Intentions with Complicated Outcomes
  • Urbanization in China
  • Structural Violence
  • Seeds of Culture
  • The Flow of River and Wealth
  • Woven Stories
At Dragons we see exceptional beauty in diversity. And we believe that the experience of connecting with unfamiliar cultures has something to teach everyone. We are dedicated to cross-cultural learning because we know that future leaders will be required to think beyond borders. Part of our educational mission is to bring what we’ve learned from remote corners of the world back home to share. With this mission in mind, each year we send our best teachers to schools across the United States to share their experiences, perspectives, and insights from years living abroad with students ready to engage with critical and compelling global questions. We invite you to look at some of the conversations our staff are facilitating in classrooms around the country. Whether you are a teacher of Language Studies, Geography, Science, History, Social Studies, Religion, or Art, we hope to have a topic of interest to you. If one of the following class titles piques your curiosity, please get in touch. We’d be happy to coordinate a visit from one of our teachers to speak to your class on the subject. And if there’s a topic you would like to address that’s not on this list, let us know. It’s exactly this type of question-based collaboration with students, schools, and educators that inspires us. The Global Speaker Series is sponsored by the Dragons Global Education Fund, in partnership with The Futurity Foundation 501(c)-3. PLEASE SHARE THIS BOOKLET with your teacher or school or call us to have one sent to you. Or just get directly in touch to learn more about our Global Speaker Series: 1800.982.9203
 
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Dragons Global Speaker Series (GSS)

Posted On

10/18/17

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Dragons HQ

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Teachers, alumni, students: Did you know you can bring a Dragons Instructor right into your classroom for engaging conversations on critical global issues? This might be one of the best things… Read More
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    [post_content] => On my Bolivia course this past summer, one of my students posed the question “Why should we care about diversity?” (thank you Rebecca!). Initially, I had a knee-jerk reaction to the query, thinking about the myriad and strikingly apparent reasons why diversity is something that we inherently want to value. But the more I considered Rebecca’s sincere and honest inquiry, I found myself increasingly tongue-tied. My efforts to produce an eloquent and comprehensive response to what seemed a self-evident human truism tugged at the very core of my being and values as an individual and as an educator. Rebecca’s question has remained ever-present in my mind these past months, and I have come to realize that it speaks to the fundamental nature of the work that we do as educators.

Over the past four years, I have spent approximately 610 days in the field as an instructor with Dragons. That works out to be just over 40% of my life in that period, not counting the additional days and weeks that I’ve spent preparing for courses, pouring over paperwork, doing administrative work at the office in Boulder, scouting new program areas, staffing instructors, liaising with potential students and families, outreaching with our local contacts, and participating in Dragons orientations and trainings. I think I can safely speak for our wide community of instructors and administrators when I say that we do this work for reasons that drive us spiritually, emotionally, and intuitively as human beings. We work long hours, late nights, we get sick and exhausted, we travel and sweat and sometimes pull off feats of theatrical and improvisational educational acrobatics in rugged cross-cultural settings. And we love what we do.
The ethnosphere, a notion perhaps best defined as the sum total of all thoughts, beliefs, myths and intuitions made manifest today by the myriad cultures of the world. The ethnosphere is humanity’s greatest legacy. It is the product of our dreams, the embodiment of our hopes, the symbol of all that we are and all that we have created as a wildly inquisitive and astonishingly adaptive species. -Wade Davis, Light at the Edge of the World
Over the course my years as an instructor, my work with Dragons has poured over into other elements of my life, influencing my relationships and community, driving my schedule, and molding in significant ways the manner in which I perceive and interact with the world around me. My husband would say that I live and breath Dragons and, in that regard, I am very much not alone. There are many of us, some much more devoted than I, who are dedicating their professional lives to living against the grain, jumping from course to course and continent to continent, traversing cultural and conventional boundaries and redefining, every single day, the potential of experiential education and meaningful cross-cultural engagement to touch and (hopefully!) transform the lives of young people. Every single one of us is engaged in this work because we believe that it has the power to break down prejudice, to connect the sometimes seemingly disconnected threads of our planet, to redefine the contours of our human relationships and global interactions in ways that are more compassionate, meaningful, and productive for humanity and the planet that cradles us. I know that for me personally, my early travels left a profound mark on my identity and life trajectory, and contributed in countless ways to the path that led me to my home in Bolivia. As instructors, we do not claim to change lives, but we believe that placing young people in situations of inter-cultural dialogue, reflection, and exposure to the planet’s mind-numbing diversity – and vulnerability – can do just that. We are motivated by living a life of intention, constant exploration, boundless curiosity, and a profound respect for difference. As instructors, educators, mentors, guides, teachers, friends, and cultural translators we work ceaselessly, improvise daily, and demand incredible resiliency from ourselves and from our students. The work of an instructor with Dragons is an incredible leap of faith. Each student arrives to our programs with different life experiences, perspectives, expectations, world-views and ways of absorbing and making sense of new experiences. Over the course of our programs, we consciously and intentionally challenge those world-views and push our students out of their fields of physical, mental and emotional comfort. In return, we hope the places and experiences they encounter will plant a small seed of understanding that may in some way influence their future attitudes, decisions, and interactions with the world around them. On a basic and aspirational level, the seeds that I would like to scatter into this world have one elemental goal: respect for diversity, both human and natural, and the right of all beings to dance, to dream, to flourish in ways that cherish the magical and dizzying colors and variations of our planet. More often than not, we have no idea if those seeds will ever take root, if the experience will stay alive and resonate out into the world or be swallowed by other forces beyond our reach. It is impossible to measure the impact of our work, to quantify our accomplishments, and at times, the meaning of this journey may only manifest months or years down the line. But that leap of faith keeps us going in forests and villages, on buses and riverboats and across mountains and deserts around the globe. It is a daunting and sometimes terrifying task. We seek to build moral characters while knowing full well that we are flawed and fallible individuals ourselves. We teach to and probe some of the fundamental questions around human nature and difference. We challenge conventions around privilege and prejudice, legacies of violence and oppression, and our role and responsibility as engaged human beings in a fragile and complex natural and socio-economic landscape. And we ask ourselves, at every turn, how we can be better teachers and educators and more compassionate human beings. It is a constant dance of perpetual planning, experimentation, big questions, and the winds of spontaneity. Was I patient enough? Did I ask the right questions? Are my students being awakened by the beauty and tragedy at every turn? These themes were thrown into stark relief this past week during our excursion into the Amazon, a place where the myth of our isolated human experience is lifted at every turn. There is perhaps nowhere on the planet where you are more immersed in diversity and fragility, where the minute interconnectedness of our natural biosphere washes over us, where the delicate threads that make up the texture and brilliance and intricate quilt of our world wrap around us in a suffocating and at once liberating embrace. The Amazon rainforest is the apothecary of our world, the source of so many of our remedies and resources, while also posing exhilarating threats. It is a place where the fate of the planet and our place within it stands on a precarious and unfathomable precipice. As young people in the face of unprecedented challenges, it is our lives in this ultimately miniscule moment in time that may determine the winds of that scale. The healers of the Amazon forest claim to be intermediaries between our species and the secrets of the animal and plant world. They unlock the healing properties of the forest while reminding us of our beautiful and fragile condition as humans. Traditionally, those healers have navigated and in some ways maintained that intricate and invisible balance – between humans and the natural world, and between the spiritual and physical realms of being. If you ask an Amazonian healer how they learned of the healing properties of the forest, he or she will tell you that the plants spoke to them, that ultimately we are an integral part of the forest and it will speak to us if we only know how to listen. On one of our last days in the jungle, the sky opened up and we were relieved, for a time, from the oppressive heat and insects. A group of us found ourselves out on an excursion to a nearby lake, and we were swallowed up by a torrent unlike anything we’d ever experienced. Engulfed by the depths of the tropical rainforest, we were humbled and overwhelmed by this majestic force of nature. We stripped off the layers that were nominally protecting us from the insects, and allowed the water to wash over us. I was struck by the sensation of feeling like a tiny, insignificant drop of rain on this infinite and multi-chromatic planet. I think that all of us that day also felt connected, awakened, involved in something beautiful and fleeting and altogether significant. It was a moment that cannot be planned or scripted, when forces beyond our control come together overwhelmingly to remind us to be grateful, to dance in the joy of a magical and unrepeateable moment, to revel in the abundance and diversity around us. A moment when feeling small also means feeling a part of something greater. As the strength of the storm diminished and the rain settled into a steady rhythm, the six of us trudged through the jungle soaked to the bone, knee deep in water, but also with a bounce to our step. Nothing significant was said, but we all knew in our silence that something special had passed between us. And I realized that those magical, unplanned, irresistible moments are the real joys and lessons in this life, the seeds that we hope to plant but sometimes just fall over us like water from the sky. We were cleansed, invigorated, exhilarated by the storm, by the majesty of the jungle, and by our utter gratitude at being here, together, on this altogether mundane and extraordinary day in the Amazon. Nature spoke, and for an ephemeral moment in space and time, we listened.   [post_title] => Confessions of a Dragons Instructor [post_excerpt] => We work long hours, late nights, we get sick and exhausted, we travel and sweat and sometimes pull off feats of theatrical and improvisational educational acrobatics in rugged cross-cultural settings. And we love what we do... 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    [post_content] => Where There Be Dragons resolutely rejects hate, bigotry, and white supremacy, and firmly stands with victims at Charlottesville. As a community of passionate global educators and students, we are committed to teaching and working toward a more just world.
    [post_title] => In Solidarity
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Watch Daniela at her TedEx Talk speaking to the difference between being a social business founder and a system change leader, or read the full article below...

WHY WE NEED TO MOVE FROM “THE SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR” TO SOCIAL IMPACT

REPRINTED FROM THE STANFORD SOCIAL INNOVATION REVIEW ON 2/23/2016 (WWW.TACKLINGHEROPRENEURSHIP.COM)
Step aside, Superman, there’s a new kind of superhero in town. We’ve entered an era of heropreneurship, where reverence for the heroic social entrepreneur has led countless people to pursue a career path that promises opportunities to save the world, gain social status, and earn money, all at the same time. In business schools across North America and Europe, the longest waiting lists—once reserved for investment banking interviews—are now shared by entrepreneurship training courses and social impact events. The coffers of social collateral have shifted, and starting a social business is at the top of the Type A student’s to-do list. I’ve watched this shift first hand, first as an MBA student, and now through working in a business school and speaking with students at universities around the world. I’ve witnessed a significant increase in the number of students listing their career ambitions as “being a social entrepreneur,” a growing stream of new social entrepreneurship training courses, and increasing numbers of students graduating and jumping straight into launching a social venture. As I’ve watched more and more students focus their ventures on problems they haven’t lived, such as building an app for African farmers when the founding team has neither farmed nor been to Africa, my worries have grown about the way we teach, fund, and celebrate social entrepreneurship. I wondered whether others had the same conflicting feelings as me: excitement about the good intentions, but concern about how they were manifesting. So I decided to do some research. I conducted more than 40 interviews with educators, funders, and entrepreneurs, and had dozens of conversations with students. Many noted that the term “social entrepreneur,” which began to gain popularity more than 20 years ago, used to refer to people who had first-hand experience with a problem and went on to work on solving it. These people shifted how systems worked through collaborative cross-sector efforts, and though generating income was part of their work, their efforts and influence far outreached the size of their businesses. Many educators and funders share my concern that the focus now is on a distilled and mass-produced version of the promise of the social entrepreneur. In this “everyone an entrepreneur” era, hack-a-thons, accelerators, business incubators, and social entrepreneurship training courses are around every corner. They mostly focus on training people with the skills they need to start a social business, neglecting the many other skills required to fully understand a problem and fuel social change. To really change a system, I believe people need a more holistic set of skills, including systems thinking, an understanding of collaboration tools to further collective impact, and lateral leadership skills suchtake a leadership or strategic role in solving a problem, they need a deep understanding of the reality of that problem. Unfortunately, all too often, the people who get the funding to try their hand at solving global challenges haven’t lived those problems themselves. This comes from a range of biases. Donors, for example, often fund people they can relate to, and as the Dunning-Krugar effect explains, we often think the problems we know less about are easier to solve. The obsession with becoming “a founder” also arises from a lack of diverse educational funding programs. For example, most universities offer competitions or funding to help students start a venture, but don’t have contests and tools to support them in learning about and then “apprenticing with” the problems they care about. [caption id="attachment_151437" align="aligncenter" width="1304"] PHOTO Daniela speaking at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship’s Emerge Conference at Oxford with her son Skye Thornton, born September 2016.[/caption] We—the educators, social entrepreneurship training program designers, social impact funders, and university professors who give money and accolades to students to go out and solve problems before we’ve given them the tools to understand those problems—are largely to blame for this phenomenon. We’re wasting limited resources on shallow solutions to complex problems, and telling our students it’s OK to go out and use someone else’s time and backyard as a learning ground, without first requiring that they earn the right to take leadership on solving a problem they don’t yet understand. My conversations led me to a number of ideas for how we could work to redirect this plethora of good intention. Here are a few: We need to provide funding for learning, not just solving. A good example of this is the “Apprenticing with a Problem” funding (inspired by Peery Foundation Executive Director Jessamyn Shams-Lau, who first introduced me to the term) that I helped launch at the Skoll Centre at Oxford’s Saïd Business School. Only applicant teams that have lived the problem they are trying to solve or can prove that they have “apprenticed with” it can apply for funds to startup a venture. But others can now apply for funds to go out and learn more about the issue they care about—to support an internship with a social impact organization in a similar challenge or geography, for instance. We also need to create more incentives and tools for students to learn about problems and to identify a range of ways they might contribute to solutions—beyond their business ideas. Our ecosystem mapping competition at Oxford’s Saïd Business School, for example, aims to reward students for their understanding of problems they care about, and I have developed an Impact Gaps Canvas, which others can build on, to help students think through the solutions mapping process.

HEROPRENEURSHIP (noun): THE PROMOTION AND HERO-WORSHIPING OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS THE ULTIMATE SIGN OF SUCCESS, LEADING US TOWARDS A WORLD WITH A PROLIFERATION OF REPEATED AND DISJOINTED EFFORTS AND TOO FEW PEOPLE LOOKING TO JOIN AND GROW THE BEST ORGANIZATIONS

We need to celebrate a range of social impact roles. Many students believe that entrepreneurs are at the top of the impact careers hierarchy, but this isn’t the case. We also need people to join and help grow those startups, as well as people to take roles in more traditional businesses, governments, and organizations to help transform them from the inside. Educators need to highlight a range of high-impact career options and role models, spread out the accolades, and help students identify a range of roles where they can help replicate, connect, and redesign broken systems. To do this, we launched a Social Impact Careers Conference at Oxford; are planning an Alumni Award; and are bringing in a wider range of role models to inspire our students to apprentice with the problems they care about. For example, the unique journey of people like Avani Patel—who apprenticed with education problems, first as a teacher and later as a school administrator, before taking a role managing philanthropic educational investments—serves to inspire others seeking ways to contribute to the social change. We need to ask collaboration and learning questions. If we want to create solutions to global challenges that are grounded in a deep understanding of those problems and primed to fuel collaboration and collective impact, then we need to fund only the ones that are primed to do that! But many funding applications and accelerator programs ask more questions about business competition than collaboration. What if every social impact funder asked startup applicants this: “What five organizations working in the same sector, within the same geography, or with the same demographic have you spoken with, and how have you built on the lessons you learned from their successes and failures?” If we encourage and celebrate “building on,” we will hopefully end up with fewer innovations designed in a vacuum, and applicants will feel less pressure to prove they are unique and more pressure to prove they’ve learned about the problem and current solutions landscape before building their business solution. As with any other systemic problem, tackling heropreneurship will need to be a collective effort. How do you think we can better channel good intentions into collective positive impact?

Daniela recently wrote Tackling Heropreneurship (www.tacklingheropreneurship.com) and is currently co-authoring a book on Learning Service (www.learningservice.info). DANIELA PAPI-THORNTON has been a partner in the development of Dragons Cambodia programs since 2007. She is the deputy director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford’s Saïd Business School. She previously founded a social venture built on solving a problem she hadn’t lived, and she now works to share the lessons she learned in social entrepreneurship education and volunteer travel in an effort to try to help others apprenticing with problems before starting an organization to try to solve them.

This article was featured in the Spring 2017 edition of Dragons bi-annual Newsletter, The Map's Edge. Each newsletter explores a subject of interest to the Dragons community through the voices of our Alumni, Instructors, Partners, Parents and our International Staff and contacts. Feel free to view our archive of editions of The Map's Edge or even submit a piece to be featured in our next issue by sending an email to [email protected]. [post_title] => Tackling Heropreneurship: A Map's Edge Newsletter Feature [post_excerpt] => "As I’ve watched more and more students focus their ventures on problems they haven’t lived, such as building an app for African farmers when the founding team has neither farmed nor been to Africa, my worries have grown about the way we teach, fund, and celebrate social entrepreneurship. I wondered whether others had the same conflicting feelings as me: excitement about the good intentions, but concern about how they were manifesting..." [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => tackling-heropreneurship-maps-edge-newsletter-feature [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-07 09:01:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-07 16:01:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 655 [name] => Continued Education [slug] => continued_education [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 655 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Transference. [parent] => 0 [count] => 10 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 3 [cat_ID] => 655 [category_count] => 10 [category_description] => Continued Education, Webinars, Curriculum, Transference. [cat_name] => Continued Education [category_nicename] => continued_education [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/continued_education/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 700 [name] => For Parents [slug] => for_parents [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 700 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [parent] => 0 [count] => 39 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 5 [cat_ID] => 700 [category_count] => 39 [category_description] => Blog posts specifically curated for parents wishing to know more about Dragons culture, programs, company, and community. [cat_name] => For Parents [category_nicename] => for_parents [category_parent] => 0 [link] => https://www.wheretherebedragons.com/news/category/for_parents/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 675 [name] => The Dragons Journal [slug] => thedragonsjournal [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 675 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [parent] => 0 [count] => 20 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7 [cat_ID] => 675 [category_count] => 20 [category_description] => Archives of The Dragons Journal (formerly known as the Map's Edge Newsletter). [cat_name] => The Dragons Journal [category_nicename] => thedragonsjournal [category_parent] => 0 ) [3] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 640 [name] => Dragons Instructors [slug] => dragons_instructors [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 640 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [parent] => 0 [count] => 27 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 8 [cat_ID] => 640 [category_count] => 27 [category_description] => Featuring the words, projects, guidance and vision of the community of incredible staff that make Dragons what it is. [cat_name] => Dragons Instructors [category_nicename] => dragons_instructors [category_parent] => 0 ) ) [category_links] => Continued Education, For Parents ... )
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