Teachers as Students – A Study Tour of Europe Reflection

Teachers At Work

As educators, we call it “professional development,” but it is our opportunity to return to the role we most cherish: the learner.  As you see in the posts from my colleagues – all teachers at Western PA high schools – they relish learning. They absorb culture, history, politics and government, geography and language. They seek it out in their “free time” and they enjoy “ah ha moments” of insight in conversation with one another and with presenters.  As educators (I was the college professor in the crowd) we value opportunities to expand our own learning and also opportunities to reflect on our teaching, devise new curricula, consider pedagogy, and expand our horizons. In short, teachers love being students . . . and we love helping students learn what we (as educators) loved learning, seeing, and experiencing.

For six intensive days, that love of learning was focused on “Europe.” What that means today as government in the form of the European Union, as a foreign policy and trading partner for the United States, and what it means for international organizations that make their home in “Europe.” This included the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA & CTBTO), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  These may not be front-page newsmakers to American audiences, but they are backbone of diplomacy, trade, and engagement on a host military and technical issues we (Americans) care about across the globe.

Listening at the Leopold Museum

How do we excite a new generation of leaders – our high school students – to study, understand and engage in a global dialogue about these pressing issues? The colleagues with whom I traveled and that share their excitement in the other blog entries here are the key transmitters of knowledge, excitement, even career opportunities to a future cadre of American decision-makers from voters to soldiers and diplomats to entrepreneurs. The World Affairs Council is a vital partner in this effort with programs that engage students in their schools during the academic year, summer high school institutes to bring students and college professors like me into sustained dialogue, and teacher professional development here and also now abroad to ensure that schools have curriculum-leaders with firsthand knowledge to share with students and with other teachers.

Teachers are invited to stay in touch with WAC for curriculum guides and activities posted by the participants on this trip, programs for the 2011-12 academic year, and a rich array of speakers they will enjoy on their own.

Allyson Lowe, Chair
Dept of Political Science

Carlow University