I have traveled all over the world with my family. London, Paris, Rome, around Australia, and all of those trips were amazing! I saw and did things that I never thought I would. But it wasn’t until I took a trip to Peru that travel changed me as a teacher.
It was my first big trip without my family with me. No mum with her guidebook pointing out sights and herding us to museums. Instead I would be surrounded by a group of educators, most of whom I had never met before. It was a leap of faith, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass me by. A chance to see Machu Picchu, visit a continent and country I had never been to before, and dust off my rusty high school Spanish, how could I say no? What I didn’t realize is what a powerful experience it would be and how it would transform the way I teach.
Traveling to Peru invigorated my everyday teaching. I was in my first year teaching and at times I felt overwhelmed, exhausted and wondered what I had gotten myself into? As our trip date drew closer and closer I became more and more excited, not just about the trip, but about sharing what I was learning at pre tour meetings with my students. The trip reminded me how much I love to learn and share with others.
Cusco as seen from Saksaywaman
The trip invigorated my teaching in a way that no class or textbook ever could. I had real life experiences to draw on to create lessons. Rather than just talking about things I had read about, I had my own pictures, videos, and life experience to share. Not only that but I gained so much confidence by doing something that scared me just a little bit. I was quite nervous traveling with a group of people, of which I only knew two of from my school. It was a powerful experience to do something that scared me and live to tell the tale. It proved to myself that I was capable of more than I knew and that confidence translated to the classroom.
Students from two of the schools we visited on our tour.
I couldn’t wait to share with my students everything I had learned, it inspired me to make learning come alive. I turned a corner of my classroom into a rainforest, students used Google translator to write letters in Spanish to students I would meet, and students conducted research on animals found in the Amazon Rainforest in science. Students were excited and engaged in activities. All the hard work and extra time spent creating lessons and gathering resources was so worth it! It wasn’t long before I realized I don’t know how I could teach without traveling. Opening my student’s eyes to a global world made teaching come alive for me. I wanted them to know there was a world outside their small community.
First day in the Amazon Rainforest, an unforgettable experience.
Another way my trip to Peru transformed my teaching was learning how to blog for the trip. One of our requirements was to blog before traveling, during the trip and after we returned. Beyond my trip, blogging became a regular part of my lessons across the curriculum, and became a staple of how I taught. Now, five years later, I wonder how did I teach before blogging? Besides being a powerful tool for learning both in and out of the classroom, my classroom blog has also been a link to former students. It still makes my day when a former student, now in middle school, leaves me a comment on the blog. They say they can still remember when they were in 4th grade and that they are happy that I am still blogging. If I can have a lasting impact like that on the life of a student I must be doing something right, and I know it is all because I traveled to Peru.