Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Trip Was Going Great Until……

I started visiting schools and then, all of a sudden, there was an even more exciting element added to The Loong Way Home! I can’t complain about the first 3 weeks of my trip. I cycled through a lot of wonderful places, was accompanied for parts, got a taste for cycling solo, and discovered the Dolomites. However, there was something missing. When I first started dreaming about this trip, there never seemed to be a good time to just drop everything, andgo. Most people would probably jump at the opportunity to take a year or two off from work, excited for an extended vacation. But for me, my job is a huge part of who am I, and the thought of not having my own classroom for a year was daunting.

The American School of Milan Grade 2
Kids wanted an autograph in Udine, Italy

Teaching is part of my identity. As my students and many of my colleagues at BFIS know, I always refer to myself in the third person, “Ms. Melissa”, in front of my class. Ms. Melissa thrives in the classroom. She has a lot of energy herself, but being around 20 plus kids all daylong, gives her even more! Their curious minds and excitement to learn inspires her to facilitate their learning. In an adult world, optimism can easily dissipate, but in the mind of a seven year old (and my own), anything is possible! I was reminded of this last week at the Udine International School when a first grader asked me if I have any special buttons on my bike, like to make wings come out so I could fly. 

ES Assembly at The Udine International School

Grade 2 Artwork, The American School of Milan
After my first school visits this week, all of a sudden my trip became even more fulfilling. As many of you know, it is very “Melissa” to try to juggle many things at a time with my incessant energy. However, I’d be the first to admit that planning a trip around the world on a bike is no easy feat. Therefore, most cyclists would never attempt to add another layer of complexity by visiting schools along the way and creating activities for students related to the trip. Crazy, I know, but adding the “Theacher on 2 Wheels” to my trip is definitely worth every bit of effort! 

IS Treviso, Year 3 Math Activity
Personally, there is something so familiar about stepping foot in a school. It doesn’t matter where in the world I am, a school is a comforting and welcoming environment for me. As a professional, I value the exposure; immersing myself in different classrooms, experiencing diverse teaching approaches, and interacting with students from all over the world. It’s powerful to see something so simple as a bike, excite and unite children. Their heads start spinning with questions and ideas, they are eager to share stories, and engaged in the activities and experiences related to The Loong Way Home.

IS Treviso, Year 2 Graphing Activity
The area I cycled through this week was heavily populated with international schools, which made for a lot of visits! School had barely been in session for two weeks when I visited grade 2 at The American School of Milan, year 2 and 3 at the International School of Treviso, Grade 4 at the Aviano Military Base DOD School, and the entire elementary school at Udine International School. I even had the entire elementary school greeting me outside and the local newspaper as I rolled up to Udine, an idea initiated by the principal and teachers. Kids at these schools were eager to ask questions, touch my bike, share stories, draw pictures of myself or them biking, and even asked for autographs. At Udine, they prepared cards and letters for students at other schools on my route and asked me to take them with me so that they could learn about children from different countries. The support from schools in my first week blew me away. Not to mention correspondence from former colleagues who were already spreading the world about my trip to teachers in different countries. I wasn’t expecting the idea of the “Teacher on 2 Wheels” to receive so much positive feedback! 

Udine International School, Grade 1
On the road, the most frequently asked question is “Are you traveling alone?” They have a look of fright and disbelief on their face. But in my opinion, you are really only as alone, as you choose. Because of the way I’ve structured my trip and the choice to keep connected with classrooms and teaching, I have yet to feel lonely or like I’m traveling alone. I know there are a lot of people out there following and supporting me, and when I roll up to a school as “The Teacher on 2 Wheels” it’s like I’ve never left home! Ms. Melissa is in her element! I've found a way to combine my passion to cycle and teach!

Student Translator for the Newspaper Interview, Udine International School

With the network of teachers out there, especially those working abroad, or who have worked abroad in the past, I invite you to share my website with your colleagues and friends. I hope to get more kids and schools involved in my project. I am also seeking more schools to visit along my route. It dawned on me this week, after the word spread about my project, that this trip could last a lot longer than 14 months. And for those of your who know, me,….you can imagine the possibilities spinning around in my head!

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