Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the category “Ukraine”

Art Exchange Success: Ukrainian American Connections

Today, I was so excited to pass out artwork that we received from our Ukrainian friends at the Zaporizhya Classical Lyceum. It turns out that mail between Ukraine and the United States is expensive and takes a long time. However, it was worth it! We are making some amazing connections between these two countries, one friendship at a time.

My friend Lydia and her students received our art last month, each accompanied by a photograph and write up. Our students illustrated various aspects that they identified of their personal culture.

In return, we got stunning artwork from these talented Ukrainian students.

Each piece of art was accompanied by notes and photos, which were equally poignant for our students to read.

Many of the Ukrainian students expressed a real sense of pride in their country.

And many students just drew their hobbies, favorite cartoons or video games, pets, and other interests — not so different from any of our students.

All in all, the experience of exchanging art like this couldn’t be more powerful. We did a similar exchange two years ago, but this year we matched individual students with a particular partner, so that they can get to know each other. Each student received the art made by the student who got their art, and we are hoping students exchange emails after this introduction. My students are a little shy, but a few students wanted to say their “thank yous” right away:

What’s next? Our afternoon classes are waiting for our partners in Bangladesh to finish up their art, and I’ll be seeking out more international partners for our next quarter’s classes. It’s never boring in Social Studies class!

Note: This project could not have happened without all the of the talented educators who helped make this exchange possible. Thanks to my partner teacher Katy Angelone, and my teacher friends in Ukraine: Lydia, Julia, and Lyudmila. I got to travel to the Zaporizhya Classical Lyceum as part of the Teachers for Global Classrooms program, back in 2012. You can read more about my time there by checking out my videos and blog entries posted here

Help solve the mystery of the global dolls

Today, while eating lunch in the teachers’ room, I got an unexpected phone call from the main office. A parent of some of my former students had arrived with a donation.

“Can she bring this donation to your classroom?” the receptionist asked. “She says she has some dolls from Nepal.”

I had no idea what to expect, but agreed to meet her. I have a few dolls from my travels, and they are fun to use in the classroom, in particular when we are discussing culture.

Ukrainian Dolls

Dolls that I got as a gift in Ukraine

A few minutes later, she arrived to my classroom with a big black trash bag. She explained that a good friend had passed away, and she couldn’t bear to see her friend’s collection thrown out. The owner of the dolls had been a big traveler, especially to Nepal, and the parent bringing them to me assumed the dolls were from there. As she took them out, I saw at least one pair of dolls that looked like they came from Nepal. They are beautiful — what looks like a couple carrying a heavy load at the end of a long day of work.Nepali Dolls

As we went through the other dolls in the bag, I realized that these were not all from Nepal. I have to admit — I have guesses for where some of them are from, but others are a total mystery to me. That’s where you come in. Help me, dear readers, to solve this puzzle. Where are these dolls from?

Mystery Doll Couple #1: They don’t quite look Tibetan to me…


Mystery Doll Couple #2: Are they dancers?

Mystery Dolls #3: How old are these?

Mystery Dolls 3

Mystery Doll #4: Does she live in the Andes Mountains of South America?

Mystery Doll 4

Mystery Doll #5: Is she friends with doll #4? Where will her baby grow up to live?

Mystery Dolls #6: What else besides dolls might be made of these materials?

Mystery Dolls 6

Ok, let’s see if the internet can work its magic. Please share this post with your global friends, and comment on the blog entry if you have any information to share. Let’s see if we can work together to figure out where these dolls come from.

Tibetan DollThank you for your help!

I’ll close out by sharing a photo of the very first global doll that I received while traveling. It was a goodbye gift from my first students, back when I was a private tutor for an American family traveling the world. This is a Tibetan doll bought in Northern India, in a town called McLeod Ganj, where the Dalai Lama lives. You can’t see in the photo, but under his hat, he’s got a long braid down his back.

TIPAWhen I look at this doll, I remember a time in my life that was full of growth and new opportunity. I remember drinking chai tea while listening to the Dalai Lama’s teachings. I remember watching dancers at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA), and roaming that Himalayan town looking for new types of birds. When I look at this doll, my heart is full of all sorts of memories.

I can only imagine what kinds of stories each of these other dolls holds. Please help me and my students start putting the pieces together.


Thanks from the Students

I got these photographs in my email today, just saying thanks from a little school in Ukraine to a little school in the United States.


We also feel so thankful for the ability to connect across the oceans. The creativity and courage of the Ukrainian people is inspiring.

To Lydia, Yulia, Lyudmila, and all the students at Zaporizhzhya Classical Lyceum — 

Дякую! Thank you!

Note: If you live in Massachusetts and want to see the art from the Ukrainian students in person, it’ll be on display on Friday night at our Middle School Art Show. We’ll also have art on display from OneWorld Classrooms, flown in from classrooms all over the world. Come check it out!

A Big Hug for Ukraine


Artwork by a 12 year old Ukrainian Student

“Thank you so much everybody for your support. Every word in your letters makes me smile. Because it is something special to feel that you are not alone and hear this not from politics or media but from you.”    ~Veronica, a student at Zaporizhzhya Classical Lyceum


Students marvel at the artistic talents of their Ukrainian peers

Today Ukraine entered the hearts of some very excited American students! It was a simple exchange — just a few pieces of paper sent in the mail — but it feels more powerful than any connecting we’ve done online. When the students looked at the photographs, letters, and artwork from their peers in Ukraine, the excitement in the room was palpable.

Ukrainian Hospitality

Me on my fellowship in Zaporizhzhya, with waitresses in traditional dress

We’ve discussed the crisis in Ukraine in class, and last quarter students wrote cards of support, which we sent to the Zaporizhzhya Classical Lyceum, where two years ago at this time I had just finished up my amazing exploration with the Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellowship. I was only in Ukraine for two weeks, but it captivated my heart in so many ways. Even though people on the street don’t offer smiles too freely, Ukrainians proved to be infinitely welcoming, kind, and resilient people. At that time, Ukraine wasn’t a country that people in the United States knew much about; today, it is in the international news every day.

Friendship Illustrated

Friendship Illustrated

Students understand that more than anything else, we need keep sending some love to Ukraine. This week, Ukraine is dealing with pro-Russian activists rebelling and Russian troops coming into the eastern part of the country, after taking over the beautiful region of Crimea earlier this year. The map below shows the areas of tension — in red, you’ll see the areas where Russians have entered: Crimea circled and arrows pointing to the areas where there has been conflict most recently. In purple, you’ll see the two cities where I visited with amazing educational leaders during my stay: Kiev, the capital, and Zaporizhzhya, where I visited my amazing partner teacher, Lydia, and the wonderful students and staff at Zaporizhzhya Classical Lyceum.


Reading the words of the Ukrainian students today, we were struck by their pride in their country.

Lydia and I visiting the Dneiper River

Me and Lydia visiting the Dnieper River

“I want you to know some facts about Ukrainians that differ us from Russians, cause as far as I know almost the whole world didn’t distinguish these two nations. In recent developments all of us became unite and Ukraine, as a country, has an enormous protection — its people. Because there’s no place in the world where live people with such strong spirit and love of freedom.” -Mary, grade 11

“We want to live in peace at our planet! I want to stress once more. I live in Ukraine. And I’m Ukrainian. And love my country. I don’t want any one to help us to struggle with our problems. We want to cope with them ourselves.” – Stas, age 12

A sweet drawing attached to a letter

A sweet drawing attached to a letter

“For the start, I want to explain you that our country is economically developed and has a rich infrastructure. The problem is that our country can’t get into “good hands.” So don’t think that Ukraine is a backward country. As for culture and traditions, I can say for sure, that they are very rich.” -Valentin

“Every country of the world has its own media, which unfortunately does not always show us the truth… Ukraine is not a part of Russia. It is an independent, strong country with the most friendly, easy going and peace loving people, with its own traditions and beautiful language. We want to be sure in the future, we want to see a smart man as a president.” – Arina

Some students also expressed fear and concern, even though not too much of the conflict has been in Zaporizhzhya:

Lydia's love for her students is easy to see! Photo from my visit in 2012.

Lydia’s love for her students is easy to see! Photo from my visit in 2012.

“My life hasn’t seriously changed, but I can’t say the same about the thousands of refugees from Crimea. There is a partial mobilization to the troops, the prices grow every day, everyone is thinking about the war and everyone is afraid of becoming part of Russia. There is the growth of patriotism among the lion’s share of Ukrainians (and me as well :)).”  – Dasha, grade 11

“I feel sad and even scared a bit, because there is just nothing I can do but wait for the good times to come. I live in Zaporozhye, it’s a town on the southeast part of Ukraine. As you might know, the east part of Ukraine supports Russia and those waves of riots might affect even our town. But I hope that won’t happen here. God, I hope it won’t.” – Fedir, age 16

It was also interesting to hear what they thought of America. Some talked about stereotypes, both positive and negative, of the United States. For example, one boy wrote that some Ukrainians think Americans are fat and eat lots of fast food. Others had really fascinating, funny, or sweet reflections:


Another stunning piece of art by a Ukrainian student. Check out the eyes!

“You asked me about stereotypes of Americans. Well, we think that the US is a great country of democracy. Moreover after the release of films about Captain American all of us believe that you are like Steve Rogers.” -Olga, grade 10

“I wanna tell you big thanks for your support. It’s very important for us. You can’t imagine like it’s pleasant to read your letters, because I’m a patriot and I like when people in other countries support Ukrainians, because in peace and against the war. Especially, if that people from one of my favorite country — USA.” – Taya, age 14

The best treat was seeing their artwork. As I wrote a few weeks ago, our students are working with OneWorld Classrooms to exchange art with students around the world, but we also sent a bunch of our art off to Ukraine, along with the cards and letters from students in several different classes at Innovation Academy. Below is just a taste of the amazing talent that we received today:

Want to see more? Here’s the American students and their artwork. Click each name to see their photo and description open in Google Docs.

~  Jared  ~  Delaney  ~  Lily  ~ Madison  ~ Emily C  ~ Charlie  ~ Zach  ~ Davidson  ~ Leah  ~ Connor  ~ Taylor  ~ Therese  ~ Aidan  ~ Shayla  ~ Jidelys  ~ Finnbar  ~ Alex  ~ Khanh  ~ Sam  ~ Hannah  ~  Craig  ~ Andrew  ~ Owen  ~ Sonakshi  ~ Travis  ~ Malcolm  ~ Alyssa  ~ Adhiti  ~ Mia  ~ Tommy  ~ Owen  ~ Cameron  ~ Emma  ~ Heather  ~ Mea  ~ Grace  ~ Michael  ~ Emily  ~ Erin  ~ Aedan  ~ Cassie  ~ Marc  ~ Annie  ~ Colin  ~ Ben  ~ Logan  ~ Mariana  ~ Jonathan  ~ Alexis  ~ Matthew  ~ Liam  ~ Jordan  ~ Jordan  ~ Tess  ~ Kaleigh  ~ Julia  ~ Diego  ~ Anita  ~ Adam  ~ Ellie  ~ Eli  ~ Jessica  ~ Parker  ~ Connor  ~ Daniel  ~ Owen  ~ Matt  ~ Drew  ~ Rhiannon  ~ Athena  ~ Sam  ~ Jaden  ~ Matt ~ Georgia  ~ Rena  ~ Sophia  ~ Manny  ~ Savannah  ~ Ashlyn  ~ Josh  ~ Astrid  ~ Mia  ~ Sean  ~ Declan  ~ Jason  ~ Sam  ~ Josh  ~ Hudson  ~ Liv  ~ Jarred  ~ Gachau  ~ Adam  ~ Jack  ~ Ellie  ~ Sarah  ~ Patrick  ~ Dante  ~ Isabela  ~ Lauren  ~ Dalena  ~ Teshi  ~ Pyper

When I sent off the letters and art pieces made by our students for students in Ukraine, I had to fill out a customs form at the post office. The attendant asked me the value of the package, and since it was just papers, he wrote $0 on the form. After getting our gift in the mail today, I have to say — these letters and artwork are worth their weight in gold.


A big Thank you to the students and teachers at Zaporizhzhya Classical Lyceum, with extra special hugs to Lydia, Yulia, and Lyudmila, the English teachers who helped make this exchange possible.

Happy Back to School (where applicable)!

Getting to know some students during the summer of 2007 while volunteering at a school in Kati, Mali (West Africa)

Tomorrow is our first day back at Innovation Academy Charter School. I always have some first day jitters, but I’m really excited to meet my new classes. It makes me wonder — is it the start of the year in other schools around the world? In my mind, September always brings a fresh start, but in South Africa, the winter is just ending now. In China, it’s still the Year of the Dragon until February. I wish I could see for myself… what’s happening tomorrow at schools around the world?

Students in Sikkim, India during one of my first experiences volunteer teaching in another country (2001).

I came across an interesting article today… and I think it comes pretty close to answering my question. It’s called 20 Classrooms Around the World and I saw it thanks to one of my colleagues from the Teachers for Global Classrooms program, the talented David Burton of Oklahoma).  The photographs are amazing, showing beautiful diversity — from Argentina to Yemen… from the faces of the children to the desks and chairs they occupy. I feel very lucky to have captured some of my own photographs of schools around the world during my travels.  I feel equally lucky to be home, starting a school year in the one school where I want to be teaching right now.  It’s good to be here, but I also feel just a little bit closer to some friends far away.

Our beautiful building in Tyngsboro, MA

A public school that I visited in May in Istanbul, Turkey

My classroom, ready to be filled with students tomorrow!

Students at the School for Migrant Children in the Fangshan district of Beijing, China

A glimpse of our new track and field off in the distance! The workers are finishing up.

Sport facilities at School 57 in Kyiv, Ukraine

Peaches from trees in the IACS garden that I picked last Friday. They are now jam!

Last summer, I toured the garden of a school in Inhambane, Mozambique (and picked some eggplant)

Our majestic school library

A classroom library at a private school in Istanbul, Turkey

Student work is now hung up on walls (Homebase Gandhi made this for their Global Citizenship Project).

Student work on display at the Zaporizhya Classical Lyceum (Ukraine)

Looking forward to seeing these silly friends tomorrow…

And already missing these friends in China, wishing them a fabulous first day of school, whenever it comes!

Wherever you are, I wish you a fresh start on your journey ahead.  There’s a lot to learn this year.

Still Want a Penpal?

Never got a penpal in another country to write back? Here’s another chance. I got an email this week from a teacher in Ukraine who is looking for American students to match with her class.  Many  you have already written a letter that you could adapt to send here.  So, if you still want a penpal, keep reading. These students are eagerly awaiting responses!

Here’s the message that I received from the teacher:

Dear colleague: My name is Anna. I teach 10-12 year olds. My fourth graders were extremely excited and amazed about pen pals from the USA. Thank you for the opportunity to email you. I am sending you a recent photo of my students. They are very talented and creative. Thank you so much for reaching out. I hope your students will enjoy hearing back from their pen pals. Hope to hear from you soon.  Yours sincerely, Anna Ukhan, First City Gymnasia, Cherkasy, Ukraine

This is our friendly class.

Boys: (from left to right)

  1. My name is Zhenia.  I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is riding a bike. I have many friends.  I have a pet . It is a dog. Its name is Alik. My family is small. I don’t have any sisters or brothers. My dream is to be helpful to people.
  2. My name is Oleksii. I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is swimming. I have a pet. It is a fat cat.  Its name is Ryzhik. My family is big. I have a brother.
  3. My name is Vlad.  I’m  ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is riding a bike and swimming. I have a pet it is a dog. Its name is Palma. I like to play with it in my free time.  My family is small and friendly.
  4. My name is Nikita. I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is playing computer games. I have a pet. It is cat. Its name is Sniezhka. My family is big and friendly. I don’t have any brothers or sisters, but I have many cousins. On Sundays we spend time together.
  5. My name is Vova. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is swimming in a pool. I have a pet. It is a dog. Its name is Jack. My family is big. I have a sister and a brother. They are my cousins.
  6. My name is Dan. I’m nine years old. I’m the pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is sport. I have a pet. It is a dog. Its name is Sabrina. My family is small and happy. I have a sister. She is funny and cool. She is one but she knows some English words.                                                                     


  1.  My name is Milena.  I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is gymnastics. I’m the best pupil in my class. I have only excellent marks.  I have a pet. It is a cat. Its name is Luksia. My family is big and friendly. I have a sister.
  2. My name is Anna. I’m ten. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is drawing and dancing. I have a pet. It is a cat. Its name is Kuzia. My family is small and friendly. I don’t have any brothers or sisters.
  3. My name is Tatiana. My surname is Dudko. I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is reading and drawing. I go to the church with my parents every Sunday.  I don’t have any pets. My family is small. I have a little sister.
  4. My name is Polina. I’m ten years old. I’m pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is dancing disco and hip-hop. I have a pet. It’s a cat. Its name is Ryzhik. My family is small and friendly. I have two sisters and one brother.
  5. My name is Sophia. My surname is Snesar. I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is dancing. My favorite subject is English. I have a pet. It is a parrot. Its name is Kesha. My family is big. I have a sister, and brother. My family is friendly.
  6. My name is Emma. My surname is Shtyk. I’m ten years old. I’m a pupil of the First City Gymnasia. My hobby is dancing. I also like to spend time with my friends. I have a pet. It is a big white dog. Its name is Bobik. It is very funny. My family isn’t big. It’s a pity, but I don’t have any brothers or sisters.

Want to be an American penpal?  Sign up here.

Note: This option is only open to Innovation Academy students, and you’ll have to sign in with your IACS google docs account in order to see the details.

Blog Round Up

If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably know my student Anna.  Her comments after each entry truly demonstrate what this blog is meant to be: a conversation.  If done well, each entry should begin a dialogue that inspires learning about living well in a world of diverse cultures.  I am proud that many students, in addition to Anna, have gotten involved.  They’ve been commenting on entries, doing research beyond this site, and talking to each other.  Some students even started a global action club at our school, which I am helping to get off the ground.  This blog isn’t meant to be about me, but about them.  As I continue writing from China this summer, I hope to experiment with even more creative strategies to get young people involved in this exploration of global citizenship.

I interviewed Anna and two other students, Sarah and Juliano, about what they’ve learned through this site. It’s always best to hear directly from the experts, so please view their video blog debut here:

Readers: What have you learned from this blog?  What ideas do you have to continue building this site and get more voices involved?

Students at Innovation Respond

I am back at Innovation Academy and have begun sharing my experience with students in person.  It’s been wonderful to see how the students were able to learn through my experiences in Ukraine and Turkey. They really are starting to think of themselves and our school as part of the global community.  Check out what they had to say after reading the blog:


An Innovation Academy student checks out Cossack dolls that were gifts from staff members at Zaporizya Classical Lyseum

“I found it surprising that in many schools in Ukraine parents have to pay in order for children to get a grade or so their children will get accepted.  I found it interesting that they learn a lot of languages (from an early age).”

“Ms. Krakauer went to visit a church in Ukraine.  She said that there are a lot of bells ringing, and the church was painted with bright colors!  This could be similar to our religion because in Catholic churches they ring bells (that’s hung in the church) to show when it’s noon or 6 pm, to announce funerals, and to celebrate a wedding!”

“On Orthodox Easter, Ms. Krakauer ate at a restaurant and it was clear that people eat a lot in Ukraine.  The video mentioned that it is custom to eat until you are stuffed.  It also mentioned that it was good luck if the egg you received wasn’t cracked first, showing some possible superstitions.”

An Innovation Academy student holds up a letter from a Ukrainian student he is going to write to

“I loved looking at Ms. Krakauer’s post about the weird food she tried.  I would love to try cherry varenyky.  It sounds really yummy with the honey. I would also like to try salo because I love bacon!”

“I feel that Ms. Krakauer was very brave to try lard.  I find it challenging because it is a new food that I would never go near.”

“One thing that Ms. Krakauer did that I think would be fun was visit Khortytsya Island because it sounds like it’s a historic place and it sounds like a beautiful place! I would love to see a wild boar!  It sounds so much fun to use a bow and arrow.”

“I was surprised that there was a type of therapy room.  I have never seen one in America. It was so cool looking!”

“She had Easter in Ukraine. It was different than the US Easter. They had a feast and did Pysanky eggs there so elegant compared from what I made.  I would like to make Pysanky eggs.”

“I think something challenging that Ms. Krakauer had to do was watch and try to understand a play.  It would be challenging because it could be in a different language.”


Students were excited to get little gifts from Ukraine and Turkey, including this evil eye “good luck” pin.

The Turkish Hamam was a sort of spa-like place with face masks and saunas.  They had a full body peeling.  Ms. Krakauer says in her blog that since people don’t have bathing rooms in their houses, they go to a public place to bathe.  This shows that the Turks practice old traditions, since this hamam idea dates back to the Ottoman Empire.”

“Ms. Krakauer had an experience of a riot over a football game. I think it would be challenging because it would make me feel worried because I would get hurt.”

“Ms. Krakauer was wondering if she would offend the Muslim religion and their people if she wore short sleeves or a tank top.  This would be different than my Catholic religion because we wouldn’t be offended.”

“There seem to be a lot of mountains in Turkey — tall mountains.  Ms. Krakauer’s hotel was built right into one of them!  That shows that the people who live there use the resources they have.”

A sweet thank you note!

“One thing that Ms. Krakauer did that I think would be challenging is trying to figure out what bus to go on, or what it costs to go on on the bus.  When I was in New York, I had trouble figuring out which bus to take, and figuring out where to get off.  I would find it challenging because I wouldn’t know the language, so I wouldn’t know what things to say, or what some people say.”

“She saw Turkish taffy and Turkish cheese is white.  She also saw fish and some sort of meat.  Their food is different from ours.”

“In Cappadocia there were underground cities where people used to live to escape getting killed during the many battles.  There are hundreds of underground cities all over Cappadocia where people lived. They carved out the cities from the basalt rock left over from years of volcano eruptions.”

“Ms. Krakauer encountered Turkish culture in the Istanbul marketplace when she was haggling over prices.  This shows that the Turkish shopkeepers want to get the most amount of money possible.”

And if you didn’t get a chance to check out Nate’s video response to the students in Zaporizhya, check it out here:

Students in Zaporizhya recorded their own video responses here and here. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of the relationship between countries.  What other ideas do you have for ways that our school can connect with others globally?

Want to learn more? I’ll be holding Global Gab sessions at Innovation Academy for any interested students, parents, or teachers.  Come join us from 3:30-4:30 on Tuesday, May 22 (to learn about Ukraine) or Tuesday, June 5 (to learn about Turkey).

Loving School

A new friend I made in Goreme, Turkey

Throughout my trip, I visited 7 different schools in Ukraine and Turkey. I saw schools that serve pre-school kids all the way up through high school, and schools that work with kids who are gifted, special needs, or average.  Each school was different from the others in some way. All of the schools that I visited had teachers who really cared and wanted to be there for the students.

A student at Zaporizhya Classical Lyceum says hi

The last school that I visited at the end of my time in Istanbul was the first private school that I saw.  It was very apparent that they had money to get the best for their students.  The facilities were beautiful.  If you watch the video below, you’ll see just a glimpse of their amazing resources — computer labs, projectors, gym spaces, giant chess sets and ping pong tables in the open areas, great food for lunch, etc.  It was truly impressive.  Even more  amazing were the people, who come from all over the world to teach there.  It made me stop for a minute to consider a move to Istanbul to work there.

Don’t worry — I won’t really move to Turkey.  I love my community and my job too much. I feel lucky to work at a school like Innovation Academy that fits me so well, and I don’t think that money buys a good school.  This private school, for example, still has to teach the Turkish national curriculum, and they still need to spend large portions of their time preparing for standardized testing.  In the elementary grades, they are able to do really creative, interdisciplinary work, but once students hit middle school, they need to focus on preparing for exams. Hearing the teachers talk about this problem made me think of our challenges at IACS, trying to balance MCAS preparation and more holistic projects that have real-world application. Some issues are universal to all schools, no matter where they are.

I love working at Innovation Academy, and I am thrilled to go back to school tomorrow after this three week trip.  It’s been a long time and I am excited to see all my students and coworkers.  How many students love going to school? This whole experience has made me wonder, “What does make a good school?”  Is there any universal answer that would be true around the world? Any readers out there have a magic answer? Please share your ideas!

A master teacher and some of her students in Kyiv







A Sad Day in Ukraine

Today was a sad day for Ukraine.  If you read the news this morning, you would have seen that there were multiple bombing attacks in a town called Dnepropetrovsk in Central Ukraine. This is about an hour and a half drive from Zaporizhya, and I passed very close to there last night on my overnight train to Kyiv. Several dozen citizens were injured; the bombs went off in a regular town, near a movie theatre and tram stop.

The articles that I’ve read online say that nobody is sure who set off the bombs or why. Maybe by the time you read this, the investigations will reveal who did it. Right now, they think it might have been to make some political point. Unfortunately, Ukrainian people are suffering because their government is a mess, and this may be yet another sign. I have grown to love these people and this rich culture, and I am so sad that this happened.

Today is also my last day in Ukraine, and this is another reason why I’m sad.  It is hard to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made here. I’m sad to leave a community of teachers who inspire me. When I first learned that I was going to Zaporizhya, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed.  I read that it was an industrial city and other teachers were getting to go to the Black Sea or beautiful countryside villages.  I was so wrong.  Zaporizhya is a small, friendly city with a rich history and a lot of green space.  I was lucky to spend a week calling it home.  I’ve been wanting to share some of my favorite photographs from the Zaporizhya, and today seemed like the best time since I am leaving tomorrow. I hope these photographs capture what a special place it is.

The Beauty of Zaporizhya:

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I’m going on to Turkey by myself — first stop: Cappadocia.  I have to admit that I am feeling a bit more scared than excited now. There are a lot of unknowns in Turkey and I have felt very cared for in Ukraine.  I am reminding myself that the best experiences come from stepping out of our comfort zones.  We learn the most when we challenge ourselves.  So, while I am excited for this journey, I am also bracing myself for the challenges that will come from exploring a new culture alone.

Today, I got an email that I needed to call Turkish Airlines.  After a while fumbling with my phone and international calling codes, I had to wait on hold while I listened to a recording in Turkish.  Eventually, I found out that one leg of my flight is running fifteen minutes late.  Whew!  No problem.  Now, I just need to manage my bags onto the plane.  Hopefully, that is going to be my biggest challenge tomorrow.  Wish me luck, but don’t worry about me!  I’m ready for the adventure.

And I will take a piece of Ukraine in my heart as I board the plane.

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