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Pen Pals from Across the World
“Mr. B, my pen pal said he plays floorball. What is floorball?”
I responded, “It is a popular sport in Europe like floor hockey. It was really popular in Prague while I was there this summer.”
“What does my pen pal mean when she says, ‘I go to school walking, between fire by bike?’”
“I don’t know, maybe Vantaa, Finland is like a post-apocalyptic world where there are random fires in the streets that the students have to weave and dodge their way through on their way to school.”
Of course, the students do not have to walk or ride between fire by bike in Finland, but that statement did provide a fun learning opportunity for both Antti, the teacher in Vantaa, and myself, as to the shortcomings of Google Translate.
I met Antti through a website that facilitates teacher connections with the intent of developing a pen pal relationship between students. When I reached out to him, he was very excited at the opportunity to connect the students he teaches in Finland with our students at St. Timothy’s School. We developed topics for the letters like what the typical school day is like, what books and movies are favorites, and describing a favorite home cooked meal.
Antti was one of three teachers I connected with. His class is paired with Ms Jernigan’s class in fourth grade. I connected with a teacher in South Korea, and another in China. The teacher in South Korea is from New Jersey and teaches English. She has been a great resource to get a non-native perspective of a culture the students, and I, know little. Her class is connected with Mrs Mense (formerly Ms Lynn). The teacher in China had so many students interested we ended up being able to connect 3 classes, Ms Donohue, Mrs Pfeiffer, and Mrs Scully, with various classes in her school.
The idea behind developing pen pals came out of my summer travels in Prague with a group of 20 teachers from NC. We traveled with two professors from NC State and another from Auburn. The goal of the Saturday classes leading up to the trip, and the trip itself, were to help teachers appreciate and experience other cultures and learn how to help our students connect with other cultures in a meaningful way.
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