This blog is the first of a weekly series that Cindy Beams is writing for 10x10 about her adventures bringing American high school students to East Africa for service-learning projects. Cindy’s journeys in the developing world began in1969 when she was a volunteer teacher in Chile. Forty years later she and her husband have created cultural exchange projects for students and faculty at The Groton School. Her blog for 10x10 describes how at 60-plus, after a varied career in education, she has landed in East Africa as a journalist, photographer and philanthropist dedicated to improving girls’ access to education in Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda.
My journey through the “education territories” has taken me to East Africa this summer; it began when I was in elementary school, as an earnest student trying with all her might to please the powers that be. I have always liked people and learning new things. My formal education was followed by stints as classroom teacher, educational publisher, developer of international exchange programs, dormitory “parent” for groups of fourteen adolescent girls, and most challenging of all – as a mother.
I found that in their late adolescence, my own daughters, who had been educated at “the finest schools” seemed to know (and care) less about the wider world than I had at their age. Admittedly I’m a child of the ‘60’s who thought a lot about Vietnam during her formative years. But with globalization here to stay, I didn’t like the way this mother-daughter equation in my own family was shaping up.
To add insult to injury, I was surrounded by kids in my day-to-day environment at Groton School (where my husband has been a career teacher for 25 years) who could navigate electronic devices with breathtaking speed. Much of their communication flowed through electronic screens in a rapidly-changing cyber language I could never fully grasp. While planned obsolescence was doing a real number on me, I found myself wondering if these kids, who were students at the same “fine” schools my own daughters had attended, were aware that** Africa is NOT a country. **
And so I decided to embark on a great adventure: one I will share in episodes here; challenging my techno-phobia and testing my students' virtual communications comfort-zone. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Next week: The “Good Girl” Begins to Fall Off the Grid