In June of 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to Antofagasta, Chile to present at DelTA UCN about using the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. When I first joined Joe Renzulli’s Three Ring Circus, I mean started the doctoral program at the University of Connecticut back in 2005, I had no idea where my journey would take me. But there I was 4,000 miles away and somehow still in the same time zone. When you are used to traveling primarily east and west, going that far south definitely gives you a new perspective. Here are a few key things that I learned on the journey.
Not speaking a second language is a real deficit.
When I landed in Santiago, I was a little disappointed that there was a Starbucks there. I was really hoping for something that felt much more international. That all changed when I arrived in Antofagasta where I encountered very few people that spoke English other than my hosts. Being there made me realize how little I knew about this part of the world and how not being able to speak Spanish put me at a real disadvantage. A trip to the convenience store to purchase water and snacks proved to be a rather stressful experience and pointed out to me how much I take for granted on a daily basis. Not knowing how to have a basic conversation was a humbling experience.
Google Translate is Pretty Amazing!
Back in 2010 as part of a 60 Tools In 60 Minutes session, I would often mention a developing app called Word Lens. It promised to be able to translate text from one language to another using your phone’s camera. It was an interesting concept that seemed incredibly futuristic and utterly impossible. In its early stages it failed to live up to what it promised to be. So, imagine my surprise to learn that the Google Translate app now encompasses this technology and (for the most part) it works really well! I had used the Google Translate website many times to read a website in a different language, but had never had the need to really use the app before.
Let’s just say that Google Translate app is incredibly handy when trying to read a menu. In case you haven’t seen this is action, you should download the app to your phone and try it for yourself. Simply point the video camera at text in a foreign language and watch in amazement as the words are translated right before your eyes. Ok, granted it is not a perfect translation, but it is enough to get a basic understanding of what it is that you are looking at. The Google Translate app also works with audio. This proved to be very handy when listening to announcements in the airport which were only broadcast in Spanish. Again, not a perfect translation, but enough to let me know get an ideas about what was going on.
Presenting With Professional Translators
This was also my first experience presenting a workshop with professional translators. I had a team of two who sat in a sound proof booth at the back of the room listening to what I was saying and then translating for the participants who were wearing headsets. At first it felt really awkward, but I eventually found a rhythm in my speaking that would allow for a good flow of information. Teaching is really about timing. I mean I knew this before, but I really did not know how much I rely on it. Making a point and getting an immediate reaction helps to build momentum. With the translators, there was about a 10 second delay in what I would say and it being heard in Spanish by the participants. It forced me to consider my pacing when speaking and really allowing the time for the information to sink in before moving on to the next point.
The Universal Nature of Teachers
More than anything else, this experience taught me that the world is filled with incredibly teachers who want to do what is best for their students. Over the course of our two days together, what I enjoyed most was seeing the teachers work together to solve problems and to share how they are working to create meaningful experiences for their students in their classrooms. I was grateful that I could help this group of teachers see the importance of providing what Joe Renzulli calls the ORE: Opportunities, Resources, and Encouragement. These three things based in students’ interests can meaningfully transform the classroom learning environment and inspire students to use their gifts and talents to go on and change the world.
Thanks to the amazing team at Tarpuq UCN for their hospitality and working to ensure that a greater number of gifted students have teachers who are trained in enrichment pedagogy. Thank you for showing me a part of your world and helping to broaden my understanding of just how big it is and how similar we all are.