A Turkish sojourn
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, 01.07.2011
For many, a trip to Turkey is a once in a lifetime opportunity. For Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative High School teacher Michele Thomas, her two-week visit this summer will likely be relived over and over as she shares it with students for years to come.
Thomas is one of the two New Hampshire teachers joining 57 other middle school and high school teachers across the country that were also chosen to participate in the Teacher Study Tours program this year, which departed for Turkey on Sunday.
“This trip really fits into most of what I teach,” said Thomas in an interview on Friday. “I really feel honored that I was chosen — like I have been given this big gift.”
The program is organized and sponsored by the Turkish Cultural Foundation, in cooperation with the World Affairs Council of America. To qualify for participation, Thomas, a history and social studies teacher, had to come up with project ideas that would transform her cultural experience into learning for the students. Thomas decided to give her students live updates from Turkey through digital media, which she has called “Trekking Through Turkey with Mrs.Thomas.”
She has brought a new friend, a brand new iPad, along with her to record and share the experience with her students. Thomas said she is using the device to snap photos of the many cultural landmarks and regions of the country, which she will upload daily to photo website Flickr along with email updates during her 14-day journey.
“I’m not the most familiar with technology, but this past year my goal was to use online resources,” she said.
Her journey will start in Istanbul, Turkey’s capital, and take her across Western Turkey, where she will visit landmarks such as the Ephesus, the Basilica of St. John, the site of ancient Troy and Gallipoli.
On the tour, she will meet with representatives of civil society organizations, participate in workshops by Turkish artists and get the chance to meet fellow Turkish teachers and students during school visits.
She will use her experience to develop curriculum that will expand her student’s understanding of the Middle East upon her return. She will also be working with the World Affairs Council to share her experiences with students outside the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative and the local community.
Thomas said she has a “very experiential approach” to teaching and likes to let students learn outside of the textbook.
“The experience is the most important part of learning,” she said.
She has been a resident on Mont Vernon for nine years, but lived in Germany for a time and has traveled everywhere from Ireland to Australia. She had yet to visit Turkey before this week, something that she is very excited about.
“Turkey, because of its location, has been inhabited by more cultures and great civilizations than most people understand,” she said. “There are all these connections. When you go to Turkey, you see a long expansive time period of archeological treasure.”
Thomas said she loves experiencing new cultures and strongly believes in the idea of a world community.
“We have more in common than separates us,” she said. “The more we are exposed to each other, the better the world is going to be.”