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Foreign teachers to end visit to Aurora schools

By BOB GAETJENS | REPORTER Published: April 19, 2017 1:00 AM
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AURORA -- A group of international teachers are concluding their visit to Kent State University and Aurora High this week.

Observing teachers at AHS as part of the International Leaders In Education Program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Mouhamadou Diop of Senegal, Leonardo Dalbosco of Brazil and Syeda Mansur and Afroza Sharmin of Bangladesh also have spent time since January taking education courses at Kent State.

Aurora High teacher Rose Brown serves as the district's liaison for the program, which also brings teachers to observe in several other area districts.

"They're here from January to May, and they're in our school 18 days," she said, adding the last visit is April 20.

Brown said the teachers are learning how American schools function, how teachers teach and how they can take some of what they learn and adapt it to their home schools.

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Her high school students, as well as those of AHS teachers Mary Pat Pavocic, Conni Hilton and Pam King, get a chance to meet someone from the opposite end of the earth, which produces varying reactions from students.

"Some of them come in very open and welcoming, and some come in hearing xenophobia and isolationism at home, so this kind of opens them up a little bit," said Brown, adding students ultimately learn the teachers from overseas aren't that different, as people, from their American teachers.

The visiting teachers' "English skills are phenomenal," said Brown, but students sometimes have to listen carefully to understand their accents.

"Mostly, it's just a matter of making sure my students say, 'I'm sorry. I didn't catch that,' and sometimes asking the scholars to slow down," she said.

Brown said there are many differences between AHS and the American education system, and those they come from.

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"In my curriculum, I have state standards and the Common Core that we all hear horror stories about," she said. "I have to teach those skills, but without a particular piece of literature being taught on a certain day. A lot of their countries state that on day one, it will be this lesson; on day two, it will be this lesson. There's not a lot of room for creativity."

Diop, who is observing Brown's classroom, agreed the American education system is "very different" from what he's used to.

"In my country, English is a second language," he said. "I learned a lot about how to study a poem or book and how students do some projects after each reading."

He said he'd like to find a way to upgrade the technology in his home school, which does not have one-to-one technology. Instead, the school has a computer lab which the whole school shares.

"The only thing we have is a blackboard and chalk," he said. "Sometimes, we use smart phones just to be creative."

A desire for improved technology was a common strain among the international teachers. Mansur said the 400 students at her school share a lab with 16 computers.

"I might use the kids' computers," she said. "They may have one computer to be shared by the family, so they can use that."

Sharmin said she gets a chance to use computers once a week and plans to try to improve access to technology when she returns to Bangladesh.

"One thing I'll miss is you are very blessed with technology, and that's one thing we don't have in our country," she said. "We need to use (computers) every day, so we can share things more frequently. Definitely, I will raise my voice."

The teachers said they are also interested in finding ways to conduct more group projects at their home schools, but their classes range in size from 40 to around 100.

"Classroom management is going to be a real issue with that," said Diop, whose classes average around 45 students.

Dalbosco, whose classes are around 40 students, said he likes the idea of group work and having a flexible floor plan within a room, depending on activity.

"I'd like the students to move around, like in here," he said. "The idea would be to divide the classroom in two and then sitting in groups rather than in rows."

Brown said the teachers learn about constructivist education -- teaching by providing "real world" activities for students and encouraging students to be self-directed in their learning -- and then seeing the theory in practice at Aurora High and other area schools.

When they head back to their home schools, they often are able to implement change, said Brown.

"Teachers have been able to make changes," she said. "The less advanced the school is they come from, the more change they can make. A lot of them receive job advancements when they get home. Within their countries, this is a huge boost for them."

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4188

Twitter: @bobgaetjens_rpc

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